What Size Surfboard to Learn On?

Starting surfing needs gear, and once you get into it a bit more, will come time to get a surfboard to learn to surf on. 

This is a crucial step, as you don’t want to rent a surfboard for more than a couple of sessions, and once you’re sure that surfing is for you, then it’s time to get that first learner surfboard.

However, you probably have the following question; what size surfboard do I need for learning on? Get a surfboard that is two feet longer than you are tall, and that is wide and round, ideally made of a soft-foam construction. 

You can get a used board, to be sure. Now that’s it in brief, but let’s have a look in a bit more detail below at more of the specifics of choosing the right learner surfboard for you. Let’s get to it.

Length of Learner Surfboard

As mentioned above, go for a learner surfboard that is two feet longer than you are tall. If in doubt, go a little bit longer than that. 

Ideal learner surfboards lined up at a surf school
Photo Credit : Anastasia Hofmann on Unsplash

This is because the length of the surfboard makes it much easier to learn on a longer surfboard and catch waves, paddle, and be much more stable. 

You will have much more fun on a longer surfboard than trying to learn on a shorter surfboard. Yes, some people can learn on shortboards, but it will take them five times longer to learn, and learning to surf will not be fun on a shortboard. 

For this reason, I say add two feet to your height and get a board that matches it.

If you go any longer, you might struggle to carry the board under your arm because the width will be proportional to the length of the board. 

For example, I am six feet tall and I struggle to carry a nine-foot longboard under my arm. My wife is only five foot three, and it’s her nine-foot longboard, and she really struggles with it. 

In fact, she tries to carry it often with a shoulder strap to make it that bit easier. So for her, the ideal length of learner surfboard would be seven three up to about eight foot. 

Now there’s more factors as we’ll look at below, but for the length of your learner surfboard, two feet longer than you are tall.

What shape of learner surfboard should you get? If you go for a board that is the right length, as mentioned above, so two feet longer, then you should find that most of these boards are in a Mini Malibu type shape or a longboard shape. 

So Mini Malibu is a short version of a classic longboard, which was also called a Malibu surfboard because they were popularized in Malibu, in California. Mini Malibu surfboards are also called Mini Mal surfboards for short.

These are the ideal type because they are not so long, like a longboard, that they become heavy and cumbersome to get back and forth to the beach in cars, and just carry up and down the sand. 

But they’re also long enough and wide enough to make them the ideal shape for surfing on as a learner. Mini Mals have a wide nose, which helps you to paddle into waves very quickly and easily.

Compare this with a shortboard, which has a pointy narrow nose, and they do not get into waves quickly at all, meaning you have to paddle a lot more on a shortboard than a Mini Mal surfboard. 

So you use more effort to get fewer waves on a shortboard, whereas on a Mini Mal, less effort, more waves. It’s an excellent choice.

You can recognize these by the wide, rounded nose and also a similarly wide and rounded tail. They look a little bit like a whale in shape, whereas you might say a shortboard looks a bit like a shark. 3

So to remember it, you want to go for the whale, not the shark.

Get a Soft Foam Surfboard to Learn On

The construction of your learner surfboard is also really important. Where possible, I strongly recommend you to get a soft-foam or soft-top surfboard to learn to surf on

This is because they are much more forgiving when you fall, and learning to surf will mean falling a lot. 

Soft-top surfboards are also slightly cheaper because the materials used and the construction process is not as complex as for a fiberglass or polyurethane standard surfboard.

They are also strong enough to last learning to surf, so they won’t break. Although they don’t last as long as a fiberglass surfboard, they will last you many years and be worth it. 

I should add that I have been surfing for 20 years and I recently bought a soft-foam surfboard and actually love it. So don’t think you will want to sell it as soon as you learn to surf. 

You might want to keep it for fun, small, summer days, and have a lot of waves and fun on them for a long time into the future. You can also check out my dedicated post on the best learner surfboard brands here for more.

Alternative Construction Learner Surfboards

If you can’t find a soft-top surfboard, then you can go for a fiberglass surfboard to learn on, but again, make sure that it is the right shape and size for you, because if it’s too big, it will be more hassle than it’s worth. Save money and buy a used surfboard to learn on. Something I recommend to all learners is to actually buy a used surfboard to learn on because it is about half the price of a normal or new surfboard.

You can find these on sites like Craigslist or any other directories like Facebook Marketplace, and there are usually lots of surfboards available at any one time. Surfboards devalue, just like cars. 

As soon as you buy it, it’s worth about 50% of what you paid for it. So buying used is a sensible option, especially if you’re not 100% sure that you’re going to go surfing all the time. Again, look for a board that is in good condition, and that is the right shape and size as we’ve discussed earlier.

Further Tips on Buying a Used Surfboard to Learn On

If you do go and buy a used surfboard, make sure you pick it up and feel it’s weight. If it weighs too much, then it might be waterlogged, and that is a board that you do not want because once the water gets in, it is very hard to get out and it will have a limited lifespan. 

On the other side, look for any cracks, dents, or any kind of bruises, which we call dings, because these, again, will let in water. 

Even if the board doesn’t feel heavy, you would either need to get them repaired professionally or do the repair yourself, which is a messy and difficult job. 

This is another reason why buying a soft-top surfboard is nice because they don’t really ding in the same way, although they can de-laminate and get waterlogged if treated poorly.

Buying dedicated learner surfboards comes with bonuses. Another reason to buy a specific learner surfboard is that they often come with a starter surf package

By this I mean fins to put in the bottom of your board to help you control it, a leash to put around your ankle and keep you connected to your board for safety at all times, and a rear traction pad to help you with grip, if a fiberglass surfboard. 

You don’t need traction pads for soft-foam or soft-top surfboards. These are all nice added features and help to save on the cost.

So look for a learner surfboard pack if you can find one, as more and more brands are offering this. You can see these on Amazon, for example, with some very good deals out there. Even, some include a surfboard bag as well, which is a nice added feature and can save you 50 to $100.

Final Thoughts on Learner Surfboards

Once you’ve done all the research on the points above, you should be in a position to get yourself a good learner surfboard and be ready to hit the waves. 

Remember to go to the right spots and also check the conditions before you go, using the guides elsewhere on this site, and stay with it. It does take longer than you think to learn to surf, but you will enjoy it and have so much fun along the way. 

Just stay positive, be nice, and follow the rules, and it will all be good. Remember that you’re learning to surf because it’s a fun activity, and don’t let anything get in the way of that.

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