Minimal surfboard, mini mal, mini malibu, mals, the names go on, but the iconic design is unchanged.
Mal surfing has been in the surfing eye since the early 1960s when it stormed beaches in Southern California.
Since then mini mals have gone on to take their place in the surfing hall of fame as one of the most ridden shapes in the world.
Let’s take a deep dive into our complete guide on mini mal surfboards to see what makes them so popular with surfers of all abilities.
What are mini mal surfboards?
Mini mals originated from the traditional Malibu board that was popular in the 1960s throughout California.
The malibu was similar to traditional longboards but featured a slightly narrower template and a pulled-in nose and tail section, providing extra manoeuvrability.
Despite being lighter than a normal longboard they were still too heavy and cumbersome for women and children, thus the minimal malibu was born.
Normally in the 7ft to 8ft range, the mini mal has all the functionality of a longboard with a much shorter profile, making it easier to transport and carry.
The width all the way up to the nose makes paddling and catching waves much easier than traditional high-performance shortboards.
But a pulled-in tail and narrower rails mean that performing surf tricks like craves and cutbacks requires much less effort and leg strength than it would on a 9ft+ longboard.
They’re great fun for surfers of all abilities and body types and are just as well placed in an experienced surfers quiver of boards as they are under the feet of someone learning to surf for the first time.
As a travelling surfer, your mini mal and your HP surfboard are a combo worth having allowing you to surf most conditions on your surf trip from tiny knee-high peelers to challenging reef passes.
What are the best mini mal conditions?
The best conditions for mini mal surfing are small waves that offer a relatively slow ride and a gently sloping wave face.
Any surf in the 2ft to 5ft range is surfable on a mini mal as long as the waves aren’t too steep or barreling.
Try to avoid powerful slabs, reef break waves and shore dumps where the mini mals wider template will negatively affect your ability to navigate steep take-offs and heavy drops.
Point break waves, ideally sand-bottomed are normally a good spot for minimals, giving you plenty of room to cruise down the line and easy paddling without the need for too many duck dives.
First Point in Malibu, California is probably the most famous surf break in terms of mal surfing.
On a mellow day, long walling rights peel gently down the cobble point with crowds of surfers waiting eagerly to catch more waves.
Waikiki in Honolulu is another great spot for cruising on a mal with the main peak offering long rides and crystal blue water.
Should you buy a mini mal surfboard?
Yes, mini mals are the perfect board to start your surfing journey or to have fun as an advanced surfer.
Buying a mini mal surfboard can be one of the best investments board-wise purely because of its resale value.
Much like house prices they seem to be on a consistent upward trajectory.
They appeal to a massive audience from the best surfers to complete beginners so it’s a competitive market, keeping second-hand prices high.
Their high volume means that children and adults can both use the same surfboard and they’re a perfect fit for a family who doesn’t want to invest in individual surfboards.
Different types of mini mals
Even amongst the mini mal family, there is a few different types of board. The best board for you will be based on your current surfing ability and your budget.
PU or polyurethane mini mals are what you would consider a traditional fibreglass surfboard.
Most surf shops will have a few stock mini mal boards in the rack and you’ll find lots available if you’re looking to buy a second-hand surfboard.
The major downside to PU boards is they do tend to suffer from pressure dings and cracks in the fibreglass of the board.
Over time these can let in water and reduce the board’s buoyancy so it’s important to know that you may need to take a trip to the surfboard repair shop if you go with a PU minimal.
Epoxy boards are a more recent advancement in surfboard technology, they’re lighter, more durable and lack a stringer (the thin piece of wood that runs down the middle of traditional polyurethane surfboards).
Epoxy mini mals are the most expensive construction but can last for years thanks to their sturdy, resistant construction.
Pop out’s are mini mals that are made in factories at scale. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a pop out and they’re much more affordable than PU or epoxy boards.
Perfect first boards, soft tops often referred to as foam surfboards or foamies are the cheapest type mini mal surfboard on this list.
As the name suggests the deck of the board is made of foam which is perfect when you’re a beginner and the risk of falling onto your surfboard is very high.
Most surf schools and private lessons will use soft top mini mals so if you loved your rental board chances are you can get something very similar with a soft top.
Custom hand-shaped mini mals
Probably the most expensive type of board on this list but well worth the money if you’ve got it.
Speaking to a surfboard shaper and talking through exactly what you want and need is always going to be the best solution for your new mini mal.
Shapers are experts at creating bespoke boards but they’ll normally need input from you as the surfer so they’re not always the best option for complete beginner surfers.
The pros and cons of mini malibu boards
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of taking a mini malibu board out for your next surf session.
What makes the mal a great choice:
- You can get some dream rides in small clean surf
- Surfing mini malibu boards is a great way to improve your surfing
- Perfect as a first board for someone learning to surf
- Great for surfers of all ages and sizes
- Holds its value for resale
What are the main areas that let the mini mal down:
- Not great for surfers trying to progress to snaps and progressive surfing
- Hard to duck-dive under incoming waves
- The larger size can name travelling with a mini mal hard work
On the right waves, mini malibus are the perfect board, they can generate speed down the line, perform turns and tricks and hold their resale value.
Don’t miss our other surfing guides below packed with tips on how to get better at surfing and catch more waves.