Not sure about the best surfboard to match your surfing?
Buying the wrong board can harm your bank balance and your surfing progress.
Let’s cover everything you should consider before you get your next stick in our definitive guide on how to choose the right surfboard.
What To Know Before You Pick Your Board
There are heaps of different kinds of surfboards, each with their unique characteristics.
But it’s critical to get a board that works with you, not against you. Let’s take a top-level glance over some of the most common shapes you’ll find at your local beachie.
- Shortboards: Typically used by experienced surfers in powerful waves, these are the definition of a high-performance sled.
- Longboards: These are larger, longer and more stable, making them a good choice for smaller, slower waves.
- Fish surfboards: Shorter and wider, with a wider tail and more volume. They’re designed for speed and manoeuvrability in small to medium-sized waves.
- Minimals: Condensed longboards that make for a good beginner surfboard.
- Grovellers: Compact shortboards that help you stay fast and responsive in average surf.
Now we’re familiarised with the top players, let’s move on to how you can pick a tail shape that will compliment your surfing.
How Long Should My Surfboard Be?
The ideal length for your board depends on how you’re going to surf and your current ability level.
I always recommend at least 8ft+ at a bare minimum for adult beginners, and you can up that considerably if their height and weight are over average.
On the other side of the scale, having anything over 10ft+ is unnecessary when you’re just starting with longer boards providing diminishing benefits.
Longer types of surfboards are undoubtedly more cumbersome, but their extra flotation is perfect for catching and standing up on your first wave.
As your surfing progresses, you’ll be able to reduce the size of your board before eventually moving on to a performance shortboard.
Width & Volume
Hang on, what’s volume? Don’t worry, we’ll explain.
Surfboard volume (measured in litres) refers to the amount of space inside the board and helps us work out the board’s buoyancy and stability.
A board with a higher volume will be more stable and easier to paddle, boards with less volume are harder to paddle and catch waves on, but they’re more manoeuvrable and responsive on the wave.
I’d aim for 40 litres at a bare minimum for anyone learning to surf, with anything above that being ideal.
It will give you that stable platform to help you stand and feel stable on the board.
Width also plays a massive part in how stable you’ll feel. Thinner boards are much harder to balance, so you’ll want to avoid them to start with.
As I’ve hit my 30s, I’ve found that a bit of extra volume in my boards has made catching waves easier.
For reference, I used to ride around 28 litres, but by upping it to 30.5, I’ve caught way more waves and even surprised myself with how much extra paddle power you get.
*Quick tip – Remember that epoxy surfboard designs have a little more float, so you can add 0.5 – 1.0 litres when comparing them to a traditional PU fibreglass surfboard construction.
How do you use a volume calculator to help choose the right board?
You can use volume to help when buying a board; calculators make determining how much volume you should aim for is easy.
Just add details like your height, weight and ability, and it’ll help you pick the amount of volume you should aim for.
Here are some of our favourites:
*Pro tip – Check the bottom of your board between the fins to find the volume, or if you’re looking at a board online, it will nearly always include volume as a specification.
What’s The Best Tail Shape For Me?
The shape of your tail plays a key role in how your board will perform underfoot and directly affects how it cuts through the face of the wave.
We’ll cover some of the most common tail designs and how they’ll affect your surfing so you can pick one that suits your specific surfing style.
|The widest point of the board is pushed back towards the tail, creating a wider tail
|Versatile, good for all-around performance, provides stability, and allows for easy turns
|Straight lines and sharp edges create a flat surface area
|Stability in small waves with plenty of down-the-line speed but less manoeuvrability
|Narrow and pointed tail
|Control and manoeuvrability in large waves, suited to a higher level of surfing
|Rounded shape, similar to the pin tail but with a wider tail block
|A balance between manoeuvrability and stability in all wave conditions
|Two points at the end of the tail, creating a split tail design
|Manoeuvrability and control in smaller waves but can be less stable in larger waves
*Pro tip – As a beginner, you want lots of board volume, and an ideal surfboard will have a chunky tail with plenty of foam.
Fins can be daunting at first, but it’s easy to pick the perfect board when you understand how each setup affects how you’ll surf.
Fins attach to the underside of your board by fixing and screwing into fin plugs. They come in one of two systems called FCS and Futures.
The intricacies of surfboard fins are too much to get into here. Still, I strongly advise picking one of the two and sticking with it as the two systems are not interchangeable, so you’d need to double down on your fin collection, which can quickly get very costly.
|One large fin in the centre of the tail
|Stability and control, good for cruising and longboard-style surfing
|Two fins, one on each side of the tail
|Speed and manoeuvrability, great for small to medium waves
|Three fins, one large centre fin and two side fins
|A balance between speed, manoeuvrability, and control, perfect for a high-performance surfboard
|Four fins, two larger side fins and two smaller inside fins
|Speed down the line, good for fast barrels and beating sections
|It can be used as either a thruster or quad setup, with the option to add a small centre fin
|Versatility and the ability to adjust the fin setup based on wave conditions and your preference
*Editors Pick – Our personal favourite is Futures due to their simple design and slightly lower price point (sorry, FCS!).
How To Pick A Board Based On Your Skill Level
We’ve put together what we think is the perfect progression through different board types as your surfing skills progress.
If you are a complete beginner surfer, I recommended starting with a minimal. Sometimes called mals or mini-mals, these scaled-down longboards have great stability without being too big to handle.
I would also recommend a foam construction, they’re cheaper, easily available to rent, and you’re less likely to hurt yourself or others if you collide.
Wavestorm has been going for 15 years now, and if you’re looking for a great, affordable first board that will fast-track your progression, this is the perfect surfboard.
As an intermediate surfer, you can start experimenting with shorter board choices. I’d recommend getting any of the following:
- Daily Drivers
They’re shorter and wider than HP shortboards, providing more stability and speed. All these boards will be lower in volume than your minimal, but they’ll let you sink the rails and develop your carves and cutbacks.
Advanced riders use these boards in smaller, less powerful waves. They can help get into the wave, and a wider surfboard is good at dealing with flat spots and choppy conditions.
Advanced to pro
At this point, the world is your oyster. There are heaps of different types of surfboards you can choose from.
You’ll be adept on most boards, and you can either go down the high-performance route with smaller, more refined blades or cruise on lengthier bits of fibreglass.
It’s really going to come down to your personality and surfing style as to which way you go from here.
We have the basics of which surfboard is good for what. Now let’s finish with some final tips before you shoot off to buy a brand-new stick.
What Should I Think About Before I Get My Next Board?
We’ve bought a few boards in our time, and it’s easy to make a costly mistake and get stuck with the wrong board for far too long.
Here are some important things to consider before your next purchase.
Physical fitness & ability
The less often you get out in the waves, the more help you’ll need when you do.
We’re all guilty of overestimating our abilities, and as we get older, it’s helpful to add a bit more foam. Finding the right balance of wave-catching ability and responsiveness will be key, especially if you fall more under the weekend warrior category.
And this doesn’t always mean a board with a lot of volume. Just because a board is lower in volume doesn’t mean it will be harder to surf and catch waves.
A lot of how a board performs comes down to where the volume is. Lots of foam under your chest will do wonders for your paddling but might not translate to the nose or tail.
Your local surfing conditions
The type of waves you surf regularly should act as a guiding light for your next surfboard.
If you usually surf small waves, you need a board that gives you that paddle power and wave-catching ability.
If you’re lucky to live somewhere drenched in quality waves, you can start looking at those high-performance blades we all see on the world tour.
Should I Buy A New Or Second-Hand
This really boils down to personal preference, but in my experience, each has a few simple pros and cons.
Buying a new board lets you pick exactly what you want, but much like cars, they don’t hold their resale value. You can knock 30% of the value off just by taking it out for a surf, which increases substantially with every little ding and dent.
Pre-loved surfboards let you search for bargains and haggle, but you could wait a while for your exact board specifications. There’s also a risk of picking up a damaged or heavily water-logged board that could negatively affect your surfing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Last but not least, let’s look at some of the internet’s most pressing questions about choosing the right surfboard.
What factors should I consider when choosing a surfboard?
When choosing a surfboard, you should consider your skill level, the type of waves you’ll be riding, and your personal preferences. Choosing a surfboard that matches your abilities and the conditions you’ll be surfing in is going to make life a whole lot easier.
What is the difference between a shortboard and a longboard?
Shortboards are typically smaller and more manoeuvrable, while longboards are longer and more stable. Shortboards are better for experienced surfers who want to perform tricks and manoeuvres, while longboards are better suited to anyone who wants to ride smaller waves.
How do I determine the ideal volume for my surfboard?
The ideal volume for your surfboard depends on your weight, height, and skill level. Generally, a surfboard with more volume is easier to paddle and catch waves on, while a surfboard with less volume is more manoeuvrable. Check out our volume calculators above for a guiding light.
What is the best surfboard size for a beginner?
The best surfboard size for a beginner depends on body type. Generally, beginners should choose a surfboard that is longer, wider, and thicker than a typical shortboard. This will help give you the stability you need to master riding waves.
What is the advantage of a fish surfboard?
Fish surfboards are shorter and wider than traditional shortboards, which makes them more manoeuvrable and easier to ride in smaller waves. They’re great for intermediate surfers starting to try new tricks.