The Ultimate Surfboard Guide

Surfboarding isn’t just a gear; it’s your surf soulmate. Forget the one-size-fits-all approach, and don’t settle for cool-looking useless boards. In this post, you’ll know what things to look for while choosing the right surfboard. Ride the one that’s as hot as your passion!

Now that you’ve finally decided to dive into the world of surfing, you need to do a little brainwork before choosing the perfect board. The first and most important thing is to be honest with yourself. Start by assessing: What skill level are you on? How many times are you planning to surf every year? And what kind of waves are you planning to take on?

One little mistake and it will be like driving a Kawasaki Ninja without a driver’s license. So, when it comes to choosing a surfboard, skip the big logos, bright colors, or the ones that’ll take big bucks right out of your pocket. Only buy the one that tunes with your surfing style.

The surfing industry is growing at a rapid speed. In the U.S., about 400,000 surfboards are sold every year, and according to Research and Markets - The global surfing market is anticipated to surge to $5.5 billion by 2030. With tons of big names in the market, it kinda becomes more complex to choose the best fit for yourself.

Chill! You’re not gonna get dragged into a math class. This simple guide will help you decide what kind of surfboard could be your next adventure sidekick.

Understanding Your Skillset

You just saw a pro surfer ripping those epic waves on his shortboard and decided to get one for yourself…Umm, bad idea! Chances are you’ll end up hurting yourself or have a clueless surfing session. Buying a board will highly depend upon your abilities and skills to surf, so try and make a realistic and genuine decision.

For Beginners

You need a board that provides balance, comfort, and safety. Opt for a longboard that extends approximately 3 ft beyond your height. These are easy to paddle, and an 8-9 ft surfboard is highly recommended for surfers looking to catch their first wave. Also, do check your weight before buying a surfboard.

For Intermediates

Now that you have mastered the basic skills and have moved on to the next level, you need to tweak things a little. Check what kind of waves you paddle most. Are you riding smaller 3-foot waves or chasing those bigger swells?

Choose a board that suits your physique. Play around with single fins or twin fins, equipped with a flat rocker and soft rails for those laid-back, flat waves. Switch it up to a more curved board when diving into the curves and hollows for more challenging waves.

Funboards, aka mini malibus, are highly recommended for intermediates as they provide more stability and give you a chance to try out some basic maneuvers.

For Experts

Pro surfers ride the waves like bosses because they’ve nailed down the perfect board after loads of trial and error. In the end, it's all about performing awesome maneuvers and enjoying quality waves.. 

Seasoned surfers opt mostly for shortboards with a sleek look, a bit of curve, and fins in the back. Pintails or swallowtails at the end give them that extra edge in controlling the waves. However, experts are all about waves, and they can customize the board they want as per their individual preferences.

Types of Surfboards

Do you feel overwhelmed by all the different kinds of surfboards when you enter the shop? Even if you're a total novice, you can easily pick the best board for yourself. Just remember to stay honest about your surfing abilities and let the shop guy guide you through. Check out the different types of surfboards you can buy.

Longboards

Source: fairplay.pt

You can enjoy a classic surfing session on longboards. They are well… long! But don’t be intimidated by their big size. They provide higher stability and balance for beginners who are afraid to fall. Longboards are usually 8 to 12 feet in length with wide tails and a round or blunt nose. If you talk about buoyancy, they are pretty good, which means you can easily enter and leave the wave.

Gun

Surfboard Guide
Source: everydaycalifornia.com

Guns are ideal for big-wave surfers as they are longboards with a narrow or pointed nose and feature a fin setup. Because of its size, surfers might find it a bit tricky to turn the board, but its super speed works best when you’re being chased by a monstrous wave.

Malibu/FunBoards

Surfboard Guide
Source: tahesport.com

Not too long, not too short, these mid-sized funboards are good all-rounders. With a sweet length of 6’ to 8’, these boards provide a balance between maneuverability and stability. Even though most beginner surfers love this board, even intermediate and pro surfers can enjoy it on some mellow swells.

Hybrid/Groveler/Fish

Source: surfnomade.de

These babies are a cool version of a classic shortboard. Designed like a fish, these boards are great for small and mushier waves. Fish boards are short, flat, and have a swallow tail. They are 5’ to 6’ in length with wide nose and tail areas. These boards feature a twin fin set-up, and with enhanced speed and maneuverability, these bad boys cruise effortlessly in medium-sized waves.

Short Board

Source: lapointcamps.com

Shortboards are mostly carried by advanced surfers. They are usually around 5’ to 7’ feet in length. If you're looking to ride faster, challenging, and unpredictable waves, then shortboards are ideal for ya.

They are good for duck-diving and turning. Go ahead and try out all the maneuvers you have stored in your head and experience the unique thrill of surfing. 

Material and Construction

Soft-Top (Foamies)

Soft-top used to get a bad rep for being flimsy and cheap, but guess what? Tech upgrades flipped that script. Now, surfers of all levels enjoy riding on their favorite foamies. They aren't just budget-friendly; they’re buoyant and steady.

Some top-notch ones even pull off sweet maneuvers and respond like high-quality surfboards. No need to worry about getting hit by your board in the head; these soft-tops make the experience less painful in case of a wipeout. In addition, they require minimal maintenance and waxing. 

Wooden Surfboards

Wooden surfboards have been there for ages and are the most environmentally friendly option. They were first crafted in ancient Hawaii and were known as papa he'e nalu. They’re a little more expensive than soft tops but provide more stability. 

They work great under choppy waves. It can be used by all kinds of surfers, but you might not love it if you want to put on a surf show. Due to their heavy weight, they are quite hard to turn and maneuver. Wooden surfboards can be a great addition to your quiver as they are durable and can last a lifetime. 

Polyurethane SurfBoard

Polyurethane (PU) foam boards are easy on the pocket and easy to fix when the inevitable happens. They’re a bit more flexible than the fancy epoxy ones and a bit more heavy, which is kinda nice when waves get choppy.

One drawback is that they can get dented pretty quickly, but with some super simple and quick repairs, they are back in the game in no time. It's not a beginner-friendly option, though, because of its extra weight.

Epoxy Surfboard

If you’re planning to spend a little, the epoxy surfboard can help you glide through the waves like a real surfer. Crafted with polystyrene or expanded polystyrene foam core, coated in fiberglass and epoxy resin, these boards are lighter and more durable than other boards.

Though they may be less stable in choppy seas, the lightweight feature benefits beginners in wave-catching and allows advanced surfers to tackle smaller waves with ease.

If you value control, easy repairs, and a more budget-friendly option, poly boards are your go-to. But if you're into durability, buoyancy, and eco-friendliness, go for epoxy.

Surfboard Dimensions

Source: surfindonesia.com

Have you ever seen some numerals written under your surfboard?... They are the dimensions, the little numbers that define your surfboard. Wanna know how to read'em? Let's check it out.

Length

The first value written on your board is the length of the surfboard from nose to tail. You can find all sorts of surfboards ranging from 5 ft to 12 ft in length. To choose the right surfing buddy, you need to assess your weight, height, and fitness level. If your height is 5 ft, you can buy a board that is 8 ft in length. 

Pro tip# Select a length that is 3 ft longer than your original height.

Width

The next 3 numbers written on your surfboard would be its width, that is, the width of the nose, the center part between edges (the widest part), and the width of the tail. A wider board provides more stability and makes floating easy. Pro surfers usually prefer a 17-inch wide board, whereas a novice would go for a 21-inch board. 

Keep in mind that some shortboards only give you one-width value, and that’s for its widest spot.

Thickness 

The last value written on your surfboard could be its thickness. Thicker boards work best for beginners as they are more buoyant and provide a good balance, whereas advanced surfers opt for thinner boards to enjoy the real action.

Volume and Your Fitness Level

The volume of the board is measured in liters, which shows the floating tendency of a surfboard. Higher liter values indicate more buoyancy. Your weight and volume of the surfboard are compared side by side to choose the perfect board.

If your weight is 80 kg, then you can go for a surfboard with 80 liters in volume. However, this approach works best for beginners. As your skill advances, you can pick a board with around 50% of your body weight in volume. The smaller the volume, the easier it is to duck dive.

You can also use different tools like surfboard volume calculators to make a better purchase decision. 

Tail and Nose Shapes and Rockers

Source: wildmex.com

Surfboard Nose Shapes 

You can see two kinds of nose shapes: Pointed and Round. Pointed noses cut through the water, reducing drag, while wider and round ones increase buoyancy for efficient paddling.

Tail Shapes

In general, your surfboard may have any of these 5 kinds of tails articulated below that play a crucial role in determining how the board performs in the water.

Pin Tails

Pintail surfboards are made for riding bigger waves as they provide maximum control and speed. However, it's difficult to perform maneuvers with this one.

Swallow or Fish Tails 

In small, mushy waves, fish or swallowtails are your go-to. The "v" cut from the square tail makes them awesome for tight turns. Their wide design helps speed through slow sections effortlessly. 

Square or Squash Tail

Square tails serve as speedy release points for water, enabling sharp turns in low to medium waves. That quick maneuverability has made them a top pick for most pro surfers.

Round Tails

If you wanna feel "loose" in the water, try the round-tail surfboard. They feature less surface area, making it easier to submerge the boards for smoother turns. Try them for longer and flowing turns rather than rapid and sharp ones.

Asymmetric Tails 

It's not the most common type, yet it’s a pretty useful design. Surfers turn differently on front-side vs. backside waves. Toeside turns are smoother, so there's a round tail, while heelside turns are sharper, hence a square or fishtail.

Rockers

The rocker is the curved area kinda like a banana on your surfboard's bottom from nose to tail. The more rocker a board has, the more curved it is. More rocker means a board needs more speed to get on the water's surface. Once up, the pronounced curve lifts more of the board, reducing wetted surface area for increased efficiency. 

Fin Setup

Often overlooked, fin configuration can significantly affect your surfing experience. They come in different materials and heights. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

SingleOnly one FinSmaller slower wavesSmooth flowing ride
TwinTwo FinsSmaller to medium-sized wavesEnhances speed and maneuverability
Thruster3 equal-sized fins with 2 fins placed forward and center one at the backVersatile and suitable for all kinds of waves 3 fins, but center fin is bigger
2+1 3 fins, but the center fin is biggerGood for choppy conditions or small to mid-sized wavesHighly stable and maneuverable
Quad4 fins, 2 on each sideLarger WavesMaximizes speed and provides excellent control

Are Surfboards Costly?

The answer is Yes! In the beginning of your surfing, it might seem like a heavy investment, but the experience it provides is truly priceless. The price ranges from $200 to $1000 depending on the length and material of the board.

Soft tops are a budget-friendly option, costing around $200-$300, while epoxy longboards top the price chart. Shortboards are cheap as they are less material-consuming than longboards and may cost you around $500-$900.

If you're a bit low on the budget, check out these tips and tricks below to help you choose the right surfboard.

Tips for Buying The Right Surfboard

Buying a surfboard can be an easy decision when you know exactly what you are looking for. Check out a few tips and tricks you can use to buy yourself a perfect surfboard.

  1. Always research before you buy anything. Look for reviews and seek advice from experts.
  2. When you are learning, choose a longboard.
  3. Don’t run after reputable brands. Assess your skill level and choose wisely.
  4. If you’re not a regular surfer or if you are uncertain about your surfing abilities, invest in a used board. There are plenty available in the market.
  5. Test before you buy through rental programs.
  6. Set the budget accordingly. Include the price of additional accessories as well like a leash, traction bag, or board bag.
  7. Inspect the board thoroughly before buying.
  8. Opt for physical purchases rather than online buying.
  9. Always pick the board and configurations according to the waves you are about to surf.
  10. Stay patient and realistic.

Conclusion

Now you know the basics, like surfboard materials, dimensions, and tail shapes. From soft-tops to epoxy boards, everything is broken down for ya. And those numbers on your board? Now, you know what they mean.

To sum it up, finding the right surfboard ain't that difficult. Consider your skill level, the type of waves you’ll tackle, and of course, your personal preference. Whether you’re into beginner-friendly longboards or advanced-level shortboards, there’s a fit for everyone.

Finding your perfect board might take some time, but when you do, those waves are all yours!

James Davis

Written by James Davis

I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.

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