Learning to surf and trying to figure out the best beginner surfboard to buy? Here’s everything you need to know about picking the right board for you!
When it comes to learning to surf, picking the right best beginner surfboard for you is going to make a huge difference in your progression, learning curve and ultimately the amount of fun you have as well!
So from board lengths, to shapes, fins and brands – here’s everything you need to know about picking the best beginner surfboard for you!
What Makes The Perfect Beginner Surfboard?
Ok so the first thing you’ll quickly realise when choosing a beginner surfboard is the fact there are a huge range of sizes and surfboard shapes to choose from. If you want to simplify it there are 3 main categories of surfboard when it comes to length – longboards, mini mals and shortboards.
So what’s the difference and which should you choose?
Anything above 9 foot in length is generally considered a longboard or a log. These are great boards for all levels of surfer and can handle a huge range of wave size too. Longboarding is all about style and grace – so it’s a great option if you simply want to cruise and have fun!
Longboards are also a great option for those on the taller and/or heavier size, although anyone can ride one.
One of the biggest draw backs of choosing a longboard as a beginner though is the fact they are more difficult to handle and control in the waves, especially when it comes to paddling into the lineup.
- Epic wave count
- Surf in all wave sizes
- Super stable
- Can be difficult to manage in the water
- Not as responsive
- Harder to handle in bigger waves
- Heavy to carry down the beach
- You’ll need a roofrack
When it comes to the best beginner surfboard the mini mal is easily the best choice. Size wise the mini mal family consists of boards between 7 and 9 foot in length.
They’re easier to handle (both on the beach and in the water) than a longboard, but still retain a large chunk of the stability.
Although not as performance orientated as a shortboard, a good mini mal can handle a range of conditions and provide the range of performance needed to progress from beginner to intermediate.
- Much easier to handle than a longboard
- Range of sizes/volumes to suit every surfer
- Lots of board shaper/types/styles to choose from
- More responsive
- Can handle large range of wave types
- Hold their value
- Not as responsive as a shortboard
- Still harder to manage in bigger waves
When you think of a typical surfboard in your head, the chances are you’re thinking of a shortboard style surfboard. Generally speaking these are anything up to 7 foot in length, usually pointy on the nose and more often than not a 3 fin, thruster setup.
Shortboards are great for tricks and progressive surfing – but they do require a lot more skill to use, so on the whole they aren’t going to be the best beginner surfboard option!
It foes give you something to aim for though!
- Can fit inside your car!
- Easy to carry
- Ability to duck dive
- Very responsive
- Lots of progression
- Harder to get your wave count up
- Not as stable
- Not ideal for small waves
- Needs a more advanced skill set
What Type Of Surfboard Construction
Geez there’s a lot of things to take into consideration hey?! Yup not all surfboards are made the same and this can really effect your decision too. The 3 most common constructions are soft top, epoxy and the traditional polyurethane (PU) construction.
So lets quickly run through the pros and cons of each…
As the name might suggest, these have soft coatings and are boards most commonly used by surf schools. This soft coating means they’re pretty durable but also a lot safer too as one of the most common ways to get injured whilst surfing is being hit by a board – both other peoples but also your own!
Softboards are generally at the cheaper end of the spectrum and are great for learning, but do lack performance once you hit a certain level. That being said intermediate and advanced surfers still froth on a softie session and companies like Mick Fanning Soft Tops have started producing some higher performance soft boards.
- Really durable
- Soft top/rails make it a lot more safe
- Stable and easy to ride
- Cheapest price point
- Not as many options to choose from
- Cheaper options with plastic fins aren’t as responsive
My personal favourite construction is epoxy – as its light and super durable. Companies like Firewire (who make the Firewire surfboard I’m currently riding) produce a huge range of epoxy boards from beginner surfboards right through to high performance boards. More affordable beginner brands like NSP and Bic are also built of epoxy, although aren’t as high end.
If you’re looking for something that can take a knock and last for ages epoxy is a great option.
- Super durable
- Large range of boards to choose from
- Great for travelling
- Some epoxy boards can be heavy
- Feel of the board can vary a lot between brands and construction
Traditional Polyurethane (PU)
The most common and traditional surfboard construction is polyurethane – aka PU. PU boards are essentially a foam core (known as a “blank”) which are then wrapped in fibreglass and resin.
As the most widely used construction there are a huge range of PU boards available all over the globe, for all levels of surfer an style of boards.
They’re lightweight and easy to repair – but are less durable than other options, so you have to be a bit more careful.
That being said if you do treat your PU bard with care it’ll still last for years!
- Heaps of options available
- Custom options
- Quick and easy to repair
- Not as strong as epoxy of soft tops
- Easily dinged
Just to make your options even more complicated – there are a variety of fin setups too!
- Single fin = 1 fin, usually for longboard and retro surfboards
- Twinnie/Twin fin = 2 fins, usually found in fish shape boards
- Thruster = 3 fins, the most common fin setup
- Quad Fin = 4 fins, great for speed and newer shapes
I’ll be totally blunt here – unless you’ve opted to go the longboard route (single fin for the win!) stick with a thruster setup on your first surfboard. They’re a great balance of speed, performance and stability.
One you’ve started progressing though have a play around on some different fin setups and find what suit your style.
Personally I love quad setups and apart from my log, that’s all I ride now!
So What’s The Best Beginner Surfboard?
Personally if you’re looking for the best beginner surfboard the mini Mal is the way to go, especially one in either a soft top or epoxy construction – making them super forgiving when it comes to bashing them around!
For complete beginners a soft top is certainly the safest option, although the cheaper ones come with really crappy, flexi fins, which does make turning and progressing a bit harder. If you’re serious about surfing paying the extra for a surfboard with a proper fin setup will certainly allow you to push the surfboard and your skills further for longer.
If you don’t fancy a soft top or have progressed past that stage an epoxy mini mal opens up a huge range of styles and choice, whilst still retaining all the elements you’ll want as a beginner – stability, durability and of course the performance too.
But if you do want the largest choice in terms of styles and designs then the PU option is still a good one, just be aware they’re much easier to damage – both in the water, on the beach and carrying them to and from your car.
The bottom line here though is if you’re just starting out a 7 foot mini mal will suit pretty much everyone, with taller or heavier people being suited to the 8 foot size range.
Top Tips For Choosing The Best Beginner Surfboard
- Don’t go straight for a wafer thing shortboard, you’re not Kelly Slater yet!
- Volume is your friend
- You WILL ding up your first surfboard, so go for function over fashion
- And with that in mind you don’t need to spend heaps!
- Mini mals are always great options
- You’re looking for a board that will help you learn, but also progress
- Try before you buy – rent a few different sizes and styles to see what suits you before you buy!
Top Beginner Surfboard Brands
Mick Fanning Surfboards
This range of softtop boards from 3 times world champion Mick Fanning are super fun!
For those just getting started and wanting something a little longer to ride the Beastie is an ideal choice, with the Little Marley being an excellent option for those wanting slightly more performance or the shorter lengths being ideal for lighter people and groms
If you’re a slightly more advanced surfer its also worth checking out the Little Marley, Eugenie and DHD collaborations as they’re heaps of fun in a wide range of surf.
All the Mick Fanning surfboards have the option to ride with flexi plastic fins (a bit safer) or full FCS fins if you want more control and performance – making the whole range great for both learning and progressing.
Another great value, soft top option the Softech range is another safe and stable range of boards which are ideal for beginner and progressing surfers, as well as for surf looking for some forgiving, small wave fun!
For beginner surfboards check out their original series with models like Roller and Zeppelin offering lots of volume and stability.
For those who are slightly more advanced and starting to surf unbroken waves the Performance Series has a variety of models like theBomber designed to help you progress and practice your turns.
Championed by pro surfer Jamie O’Brien (aka J.O.B – if you dont know who he is check out his YouTube!) the Catch Surf range includes the Odysea models which include a wide range of styles and lengths to suit everyone, including beginners.
Much like the Mick Fanning surfboards they can take ‘proper’ fins for improved performance, and the soft top style and volume make them amazing for high wave count and stability.
Ah the good old NSPs – the tanks of the surfing world! Their solid, epoxy construction makes them almost indestructible and ideal for learning! In fact I learnt to surf on a 6’8 NSP once upon a time and it was actually the board at least 3 of my buddies also ended up owning and learning on too!
Their range now includes soft top, PU and epoxy options so you’ve got a wide range of boards to choose from, however I would avoid the Protech options (advice for both beginners and everyone to be honest!) as I’ve personally seen them crease in half after a week in the water – they dont seem to be built anywhere as near as well as the other styles.
Not a name you’d really associate with surfing (yes this is the same BIC that make your biro pens!) these pop out, moulded boards are ideal for those wanting a seriously durable board at a really good entry level price point.
With everything from a 6’0 “Wegg” through to a 9 footer there’s plenty to choose from and their dura-tech range and soft range are ideal as beginner surfboards.
Buying Second Hand
If you’re only just getting into surfing, the chances are you’re not fully sure what you want to be riding or if you’re actually going to love it enough to invest a big chunk of coin. With that in mind the second hand surfboard market is the ideal starting place for grabbing your first beginner surfboard.
There’s a huge range available both in surf shops, websites like GumTree and a range of Facebook groups and Facebook market place too – so lots of options to choose from.
Do your research and haggle on the price and you’ll nab yourself a bargain!
…of course eventually you’ll want to buy your own, brand new board – there’s nothing quite like the feeling of buying a fresh one off the rack or ordering your first custom surfboard!
What Board Will You Be Getting?
Phew that’s a whole heap of info there hey?!
If you have any questions about choosing the right beginner board for you then chuck them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
And once you’ve decided what to get let me know too – always stoked to hear what everyone is riding and a few new suggestions to add in to the post!
What beginner surfboard did you choose?
Let me know in the comments!