What to look for in a beginner surfboard

Learning to surf is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Offering not only a great new activity to do, but surfing offers loads of health benefits.

We recently wrote an article are surfing lessons worth it, where we go into depth about choosing a surfboard. However, that’s not the purpose of this article. Here we want to cover the best boards to buy and how to choose a board for a beginner.

Whether the board is for yourself, your partner, or your child. You want to make sure you’re buying the right thing, nothing is worse than having to sell a second-hand surfboard.

As of the time of writing this article, we don’t actually sell boards ourselves, we're not biased. Surf Nation wants to offer you expert advice, with no ultimatum.

There are thousands of boards on the market, if not tens of thousands. To make things worse, most of those are targeted at the beginner market. I mean just google “what are some good surfboards for beginners?”. You’ll be overwhelmed with information.

You want your board to last a long time, be a great entry level starter, and be easy to paddle on.

The general guide below gives a pretty good guide to what might work for you.

If you’re after more information though, keep reading.

Kids

Kids are easily pleased, you could give them a McDonalds serving tray to surf on and the majority of them would be pleased. But, that would be quite hard to learn on. Which is why buying the right board is important. It makes it easier to paddle, stand, and catch waves.

Age: 6-12

Choosing a beginner surfboard for kids largely comes down to their age. If you’re, or your child is under the age of 12. Get a soft surfboard. Being soft means if you fall on it, it’s less likely to hurt.

Building confidence in young children is of high importance. Having them fall on a hardboard is discouraging, soft tops make for soft landings.

Known as a foamie surfboard, the soft boards are sized from 5’6” and upwards. For kids under 12, something around the 7ft mark is ideal. If they're on the taller side, something around 6’6” or 6’2” in a fish surfboard. These are perfect for aiding progression in the early stages of learning.

Choosing the right surfboard that has enough buoyancy or “float” helps in aiding paddling. Typically on a soft surfboard, they will come with soft fins, you shouldn’t need to order any fins with these boards.

Age: 13-18

Being a young beginner surfer makes your choices so much easier. You have the choice of foam boards, fun boards, or mini mals. If you’re a little more experienced, or a fast learner a great beginner surfboard is classic Fish.

Surfing anything from 6’8 to 7’2” is ideal, a wider base. Using a slick bottom makes it easy to surf white water.

Finding a beginner surfboard for anyone in their teens comes down to weight and height. Mini Mals and fun boards are the common suggestion. This is due to their high volume, and practical shape for extended progression.

Foamies tend to be a little more restricted in terms of progression. This is due to their unusual shape but make the perfect beginner board.

Choosing the right fins for a grom is important though, making sure to have small fins. Fins that support your weight and desired riding style make all the difference.

Adults

Finding a beginner board for an adult comes down to many factors. Your age, experience, height, and weight, as well as your fitness level and surfing frequency. Knowing this information is a great start.

Being a beginner though, you might not know your frequency or fitness. But you do know your height and weight. It largely comes down to volume.

A great guide though is as follows:

Surfing less than 2 days per week:

Surfer Weight (lbs) Surfer Weight (kg) Surfboard Length Surfboard Width Surfboard Thickness
100-140 45.4-63.5 6′2″-6′4″ 18¾″-19¼″ 2¼″-23⁄8″
140-160 63.5-72.6 6′4″-6′8″ 19″-20″ 23⁄8″-2½″
160-180 72.6-81.6 6′6″-6′10″ 19½″-20½″ 2½″-25⁄8″
180-200 81.6-90.7 6′10″-7′4″ 20″-21½″ 2¾″-3″
200 + 90.7 + 7′4″ + 21½″-22½″ 3″-3¼″

Surfing more than 2 days per week:

Surfer Weight (lbs) Surfer Weight (kg) Surfboard Length Surfboard Width Surfboard Thickness
100-140 45.4-63.5 6′0″-6′4″ 18½″-19″ 2¼″-23⁄8″
140-160 63.5-72.6 6′2″-6′6″ 18¾″-19¼″ 23⁄8″-2½″
160-180 72.6-81.6 6′4″-6′8″ 19″-19¾″ 2½″-25⁄8″
180-200 81.6-90.7 6′8″-7′2″ 19½″-20½″ 25⁄8″-27⁄8″
200 + 90.7 + 7′2″ + 20″-21½″ 3″-3¼″

The hardest part for someone new is finding that happy medium of having enough float, yet is easy to catch waves. Offers great paddle power, and gives enough room for progression.

Be sure to have chosen the right surfboard fins for your board. Understand your riding style, as well as having chosen a supportive traction pad, and board wax.

So you want to skip those beginner boards?

Skipping the foamies, and fun boards isn’t a bad thing. If you’re athletic, pick things up quickly, and dedicated to learning. Buying a board that you will have for the next couple of years, that lasts the test of time is a great way to go about it.

Any surf school will recommend you look at a mini mal. Mini mals have a rounded nose and sit in the mid-sized board range. Ranging from 7’2” to 8’6”. Going shorter than a mini mal and paddling becomes more difficult. Go any bigger and you’ll find the board is heavier than you’re.

If you’re still a grom looking to move up then a solid board is definitely the way to go. Solid boards give more maneuverability, strength and offer greater drive.

Making sure to choose the correct leg rope, this depends on your board's length.

How much should I spend on a new board?

Budgeting regardless of what you’re wanting to purchase is important. Buying a surfboard, a beginner board doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Just your soul. Just kidding.

Foamies (Foam boards) are definitely the most competitive value for money board on the market. If you’re looking to save money, get yourself a foamy from a big, reliable manufacturer. These range from $200-$400.

Moving out of a foamie, are your epoxy constructions, and fun boards. These come at a higher price but offer better stability, lifespan, and progression. Both Epoxy and Fun boards range between $300-$700.

Upwards from those are PU surfboards, or otherwise known as Polyester construction boards. These offer a lightweight alternative to your heavier fun boards, yet still offering a strong build. Ranging from $400-800.

These are a lot more cost effective than your high-performance boards. A good high-performance board range from $600-$2000.

If you’re buying for a friend or a child. Take a look at our in-depth guides to purchasing a surfboard. We offer many guides to not only better your shopping experience but your surfing experience as well.


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