Beginner Surfboard Guide: Must Read BEFORE Buying!

When you start surfing, choosing a surfboard is a daunting task since there are so many boards out there.

Trying to get the right board that suits your needs and will be a good surfboard to help you progress and get better at surfing while also having fun, is crucial.

You also do not want to waste time and money on a surfboard that is not suited to learning to surf on, which is something that many people and their surfing progression really suffers as a result.

So, here are the key points to know when buying a beginner surfboard:

  • Think about hiring to start
  • Get the right length – not too long or too short
  • Wider boards are more stable
  • A rounded nose is best for beginners
  • Don’t spend too much on it
  • Find a soft ‘foam’ surfboard
  • Think about how often you will use it
  • Consider the waves you’ll be learning on
  • Think about how you will get it to the beach
  • Consider storage options, especially for bigger boards

So, that’s the key points in brief, but obviously there’s a lot more to be said on these points as we go into detail – so let’s have a look at that now!

Do You Have to Buy a Beginner Surfboard?

Over the years, I’ve seen quite a lot of people who want to start surfing and rush out and buy a board that does not work for them or is just really poor to try and learn to surf on.

In fact, if you look at many Craigslist or Facebook marketplace classified ads for surfboards you will often see people suggesting that their reason for selling is ‘too small for me’ or words to that effect.

So let me be crystal clear here. When you are first learning to surf, you don’t always need to buy a surfboard!

Surf Schools

There are surf schools in many beaches who offer safe lessons on ideal beginner surfboards. Going down this route then means that you can get a feel for surfing without having the financial commitment of buying a surfboard.

A surf lesson costs around $60 to start, which includes all the gear and hire of a board. This means you get to try out a surfboard and learn from an instructor. It’s also about a third of the price of the cheapest beginners surfboard, so it’s not like you’ll be spending a huge amount on it.

If you just want the board, you can hire one for a surf session at about $20 for 2 hours in most beaches, so an even cheaper option that gives you just what you need.

From this, you can get a feel for the kind of board you’ve hired and 

Borrow from Friends

Chances are that you might also know someone who has a surfboard that you could borrow. This would mean that you could both save yourself time and money by trying out yet another surfboard.

Clearly, you will only want to borrow a board that is well-suited for learning to surf on, and we’ll look at the kinds of shapes that are best for this below.

You can usually just ask if anyone you know has a beginner surfboard, with the easiest being on social media.

Most surfers are very protective of their boards so think about this when asking to borrow a surfboard. Just try to make sure that they know that you will take care of it, and do just that!

This can also help you to have a conversation with that person about boards and get some insider tips from someone who is likely ahead of you in learning to surf.

However, if you’re still adamant that none of the above will work for you, then let’s look at the other options to consider when buying a beginner surfboard.

Getting a Beginner Surfboard with the Right Length

The length of your beginner board is a crucial part of finding the right fit for you to make the best progress in the surf.

How long should a beginner surfboard be?

Ideally, for an adult, a beginner surfboard should be around 8 feet in length. This is because this will be long enough for you to learn on but not so long that it becomes a problem for you.

Surfboards that are anywhere from about 8 feet to just under 9 feet in length are often called ‘mini mals’, short for mini Malibu, the surf spot in California where these kinds of boards first became popular in the 1950s and -60s.

Surfboards in the the 8 feet range are generally ideal for adult beginners. This is also the general size of most surfboards that you will see in surf schools wherever you go, which gives proof that this size is the right one for most beginners.

How long is too long for a first surfboard?

Anything surfboard that is 9 feet in length or more is probably too long for most beginners. This is because these boards, usually called ‘longboards’, can be harder to control and weight a lot, making them one for an intermediate surfer or above.

The might also be less well suited to learning on since they will likely be thinner and more for  people who want to turn on them and ride the nose. 

The only time when a 9 foot board might be suitable is for adults who are over 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds (90kg) in weight. But even then, most adults could still learn on a board that is under 9 feet in length.

Is a 7 foot surfboard good for beginners?

A 7 foot surfboard can be good for beginners but this would be more for lighter adults, under about 120 pounds (50kg) in weight. 

These can also suit children who want to learn to surf in the 100-120 pound weight bracket, provided that they are over 5 feet in height themselves.

This is because being a bit shorter means that the board will be hard to paddle on and catch waves, so it could take you longer to learn on a surfboard that is 7 feet in length than one that is 8 feet.

Is a 6 foot surfboard good for beginners?

A 6 foot surfboard is only good for beginners if the rider is under 100 pounds in weight (45kg) and shorter than about 5’2 in height (1.57m).

As such, 6 foot surfboards only really work for smaller adults or children.

If you have seen a 6 foot surfboard that you think might suit you or the person you are buying for, then read the product description to see if they give an ideal rider height/weight as more and more surfboards products show this kind of information these days.

Wider boards are more stable

As well as going for a longer surfboard, remember that wider surfboards are more stable and so they make for great beginner boards.

If you are looking at learner boards, you shouldn’t need to worry about the width too much as the width is usually proportional to the length.

For instance, the soft foam surfboard I have for small days and fun is 8 feet tall by 22 inches wide. This is plenty and floats me extremely well; I’m 6’0 (1.83m) and around 165 pounds (75kg).

A rounded nose is best for beginners

If you look into beginner surfboards online, you will see the most common shape is one with a wide, rounded nose and tail.

The width in the nose of the board makes the board catch waves more easily and provides more stability when riding it.

Surfboards with wider noses catch waves more easily because they have more planing surface at the front of the board, helping them to glide along the surface of the water. Being able to catch waves earlier means less effort when paddling and therefore improves your chances of catching more waves in a session. To be clear, the more waves you catch, the quicker you can learn to surf, so any board that helps you do this is a big help.

The wider nose on a beginner surfboard also makes them much more stable when you are up and riding. This means that you won’t fall off your board as easily and have a better chance of a good ride.

Just as with catching waves, the longer you are able to stand up on a surfboard the quicker you can learn and improve your ability.

The different kinds of boards with rounded noses are mainly longboards, mini mals, funboards and eggs.

Any of these will be stable although, as explained above, longboards are not best suited to beginners given how long they are.

Having a surfboard with a rounded nose also has another advantage, namely that it is not a sharp point like with some of the more advanced surfboards on the market.

When falling, as will happen often when learning to surf, the rounded nose will hurt a little less if it hits you or someone else while you are in the surf.

Don’t spend too much on it

Remember that a beginner surfboard should not cost the earth because it will be something that you are starting on but probably not a board that you will want for more than a few years.

Try to go somewhere in the middle of the price range for beginner surfboards.

I’d always suggest avoiding the cheapest surfboards on the market as these will likely break quite easily and won’t last that long.

Although the cheapest surfboards will be fine to learn on for many riders, their build quality and lack of durability would be the main things to think about before buying one.

Even if they don’t break, what tends to happen with the cheapest boards is that the glue and seals on them can be extremely weak and can easily come apart after a few months. 

This is obviously something to be aware of before buying and is not something that you can see in advance, so think about this when pricing up your beginner surfboard.

How much does a beginner surfboard cost?

Anywhere from $100-300 (US) is about the right price for a beginner surfboard. This is because you only need a simple board to get you started and the softer boards are cheaper to buy and come in at a lower price point.

Here are some examples of the cost of the most popular beginner surfboards in US dollars:

  • WaveStorm 8’ Classic (Soft Foam) Surfboard: $199.99
  • Kona Surf Co. Malibu Softboard: $209.99
  • Rock-it 8’ Big Softy Surfboard: $299.99
  • South Bay 8’ Verve (Soft Foam) Surfboard: $415

As you can see, even in a soft foam surfboard of the same size, the price ranges from just under $200 to over $400.

Although spending more will probably mean that the board lasts longer, it might also be a bit too much to go over the $300 mark on your first board in case you don’t like it.

Remember that these prices are just an example – you might get lucky and find these boards on sale and get yourself a bargain.

Buying a Used Board from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace 

Again, let me remind you that you can save a lot of money by getting a used beginner surfboard on websites like Craigslist of Facebook Marketplace.

These sites have lots of surfboards on them at any one time and can keep your spending down while also helping you to find a great board.

The nice thing about these kinds of sites is that they can be easily filtered by location. This means finding a local surfboard in your area.

If someone is selling a great beginner board nearby then you can go and check it out.

It’s always good to be able to touch and feel a surfboard before buying, so buying in this way is really helpful, especially when starting out.

Why Not eBay?

I have left eBay off this list as eBay is often harder to find boards in your local area than the two marketplaces listed above. This would then mean arranging for packaging and delivery, which is expensive and risky with surfboards.

You might find some surfboards on eBay in your local area but it will certainly be harder than on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

Find a soft ‘foam’ surfboard

A soft foam surfboard is going to be the best option for learning to surf on for many of the reasons mentioned above.

This again comes back to safety and ease of use. Soft foam surfboards are more forgiving when you are out in the water

Are soft top surfboards easier?

Yes, soft top surfboards are easier to learn on than most standard fiberglass surfboards because they float better and are designed to be thicker and more learner friendly.

This kind of design and construction makes them some of the easiest boards to learn on and can help you to speed up your progress to 

Should I buy a soft top surfboard?

Yes, definitely look at a soft top surfboard for learning to surf on as they are really well suited to beginners and are a heck of a lot of fun to ride. Their construction also means that they are some of the cheapest surfboards on the market.

All of the above makes soft surfboards the best option for beginners who want to progress quickly and safely.

Think about how often you will use it

Before you buy a board to learn on, be realistic about how often you will use it. If you live miles from a beach, rarely go to the coast and don’t have your own transport, then a cheaper surfboard option might be better for you.

However, if you are close to the beach, have waves regularly at nearby spots and can picture yourself going often, then you might want to spend a bit more on your learner surfboard since you will get more use out of it more quickly and it will need to be stronger to withstand the daily wear and tear.

You will probably have a good idea of how often you go just think about that and let it guide you in terms of which board to buy.

Consider the waves you’ll be learning on

As well as thinking about how often you will go, try to think about the kind of waves that you will be learning to surf on and, specifically how powerful and mellow the waves are.

Now, even if you don’t know much about surfing, you can get a good idea of how strong or powerful the waves are at your intended surf destination by simply observing or googling.

A clear sign of weaker waves that are good for beginners is that there are surf schools at that beach. This is because surf schools only go to locations that are safe and good for learning to surf. If the surf is dangerous and more advanced, they won’t take learners there, generally speaking.

By contrast, an indication of more powerful and advanced waves is from seeing lots of surfers on smaller boards or crowding into smaller spaces. Usually you can tell instinctively from looking at the surf to see if it is an advanced spot, but if you can’t go there check out webcams for the spot online.

If you are lucky enough to be learning in a spot with perfect, mellow waves, then you can probably get away with a slightly cheaper surfboard as these will not need to be that strong. However, if the only local spots you have are more powerful and intense, consider spending more on a beginner board to make sure that it will be durable enough to take a beating and help you to stay out in the water.

Whichever way you learn to surf, make sure that you do it safely and always judge the conditions before paddling out!

Think about how you will get it to the beach

Beginner surfboards are generally bigger and wider, but this will only work for you if you have a way of actually getting your board to and from the beach!

For example, if you have a tiny car and a big board, you might struggle to get your board in the car if it is over 9 feet in length!

The same goes for a surfboard that is really heavy to carry as, if you can’t carry it more than a few feet, it might not be a good board for you.

Consider storage options, especially for bigger boards

Again, thinking about bigger surfboards and some of the issues you might face, consider the length of a board and your storage options. 

Try to figure out where you will store it and then consider the size of the board compared to the space you have available.

If you only have a small space, then think about going on the smaller end of the scale in terms of the length of the board. Although this might mean it takes you a little longer to learn, it will still be better in your day-to-day living since the board won’t be a constant problem for you and those around you.

This is a problem I have experienced first-hand because my wife went out and bought herself a 9’2 longboard yet we can’t stand it upright in our low-ceilinged apartment! That means that it’s stored at an angle and is a bit of a problem in our house (but I won’t go into that right now! 🤣).

For more tips and insights on taking care of your board and how best to store them, be sure to read my detailed guide on the topic!

Summary: How do I choose my first surfboard?

So, to round up, when choosing your first beginner surfboard, make sure that it is the right size for you, is not too expensive, suits the type of waves that you will be learning on and is not so cheap that it won’t last long.

Think about the storage options you have, as well as your height and weight, to help you get a surfboard that is going to give you the best chance of progressing quickly.

Last thing: resist the temptation to go for one of the new and trendy surfboards on the market as this will only slow down your progress and mean that you need to probably buy another board on top!

Learning to surf should be fun and it will be fun if you follow this guide and get the right surfboard!

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