Ultimate Surfboard Selection Guide: How to Choose a Surfboard with Confidence

surfboard selection is important to help progress your skill level
Learning how to choose a surfboard is vital to help progress your skill level.

Surfboard selection is important to help progress your skill level

They say surfing is the ‘sport of kings’—a dance with the ocean’s timeless rhythms, an exhilarating embrace of nature’s power. If you want to surf like a king but don’t know how to choose a surfboard that suits you, keep reading.

But in this mesmerizing ballet between human and wave, one partner holds the key to an unforgettable performance: the surfboard. The right board can make your heart race with each cresting swell, while the wrong one might leave you stranded, out of step with the sea’s majestic choreography.

‘Out of water, I am nothing.’

Duke Kahanamoku

Indeed, when you ride the waves, your surfboard is your closest companion in those fleeting moments. So, let’s embark on a journey to unlock the secrets of selecting the perfect board—one that matches your skills, aspirations, and the limitless blue horizon.

Whether you’re a beginner just stepping onto the sand or a seasoned rider seeking your next wave, your chosen surfboard will shape your odyssey. Let’s dive in and find the perfect board for your skill level.

What is a Surfboard?

Ahoy, wave riders!

Ever wondered what’s beneath your feet as you glide effortlessly over those azure waves? That’s right—it’s the surfboard lol! But let’s not just skim the surface; let’s dive deep into its essence.

A surfboard, my dear friend, is not just a piece of equipment. It’s an extension of your soul when you’re out there in the vast, unpredictable ocean. A surfboard is a meticulously crafted plank, shaped to help surfers catch and ride waves back to shore. Think of it as your dance partner in the rhythmic waltz with the waves.

There are various types of surfboards, each with its unique shape, size, and purpose. From the long, graceful longboards, perfect for leisurely and nose rides, to the agile and swift shortboards designed for sharp turns and aerial tricks.

Then there’s the funboard—a delightful mix of both worlds. And let’s not forget the fish, the gun, and the hybrid boards, each with their own tales to tell.

The Importance of Buying a Surfboard That’s Right for Your Skill Level

Choosing a surfboard that aligns with your skill level and goals is not just about aesthetics or following trends; it is about optimising your surfing experience on multiple levels.

Firstly, committing to a board matching your abilities allows smoother progress in learning and developing essential skills. Beginners benefit immensely from larger boards with added stability, buoyancy, and forgiveness when attempting to catch waves and maintain balance.

Advanced surfers thrive on smaller boards designed for greater maneuverability to execute intricate tricks and ride more challenging waves.

Secondly, riding an appropriate surfboard reduces the risk of injuries caused by using equipment that surpasses one’s capabilities.

My mini mal surfboard

A board too small or too advanced for an inexperienced surfer can lead to frustration, discouragement, or even accidents in hazardous conditions. Conversely, proficient wave riders who opt for oversized boards may find themselves limited in executing advanced maneuvers due to lack of responsiveness.

Reasons You Need to Know How to Choose a Surfboard

Now, you might think, “It’s just a board; how complex can it be?” Oh, but it is! It’s like choosing a dance partner. If they’re out of rhythm with you, the dance falls apart. Similarly, the board you choose can make or break your surfing experience.

  1. Safety First! – The ocean is unpredictable. A board that doesn’t suit you can be more than just a hindrance—it can be dangerous. You wouldn’t wear shoes that don’t fit, right? The same principle applies here.
  2. Learning Curve: The right board can accelerate your learning. It’s like having training wheels when you’re learning to cycle. A board that’s suited to your skill level provides stability when you need it and agility when you crave it.
  3. Maximize Enjoyment: Ever seen someone struggling with a board that’s too advanced or too basic for them? It’s not a pretty sight. The right board amplifies the joy of surfing. It’s the difference between fighting the wave and riding it.
  4. A Boost in Confidence: There’s a certain swagger in the step of a surfer who knows they’ve nailed their board choice. It boosts your confidence and enhances your overall performance.
  5. Economic Sense: Surfboards aren’t cheap! Investing in the right one from the get-go can save you money in the long run. It’s better than buying multiple boards in a short span because you got the first one wrong.

In essence, selecting the right surfboard is a rite of passage. It’s the bridge between you and the waves, ensuring a bond that’s harmonious and pure. And as we navigate further into this guide, we’ll equip you with all the knowledge you need to make that perfect choice. Ready to ride?

The Benefits of Using a Surfboard That Matches Your Abilities

When you choose a surfboard tailored to your skill level, numerous advantages unfold before you like waves gently breaking on shore.

Firstly, matching your abilities with an appropriate board promotes optimal progression in learning fundamental techniques while building confidence along the way. Beginner-friendly boards offer a stable platform, allowing novices to focus on developing balance, paddling techniques, and wave reading skills without being overwhelmed by a lack of control.

Furthermore, using a surfboard that suits your skill level enhances overall performance. Intermediate surfers who transition to more maneuverable boards experience improved agility and responsiveness in executing turns and carving through waves.

Similarly, advanced surfers thrive on performance-orientated boards that offer greater speed and responsiveness for executing complex maneuvers such as aerials or deep barrel rides. Selecting the right surfboard for your skill level is an essential step in embarking on an enjoyable surfing journey filled with growth and progression.

By understanding the importance of choosing an appropriate board and acknowledging the benefits it brings, you pave the way for enhanced safety, increased learning potential, improved performance, and ultimately relishing the pure joy of riding waves.

So let us delve further into understanding various surfboard types and shapes as we explore how they align with different skill levels in our quest to find your perfect match.

Understanding Surfboard Types and Shapes

When it comes to choosing the right surfboard, understanding the various types and shapes available is crucial. Surfboards come in different sizes, lengths, widths, and thicknesses, each designed to cater to specific skill levels and wave conditions. The three main types of surfboards are shortboards, longboards, and funboards.

The Characteristics and Purpose of Each Type


Shortboards, with their sleek designs and agile nature, are the Formula 1 cars of the surfing world. These boards are typically narrower, shorter, and have a pointed nose, designed for maximum manoeuvrability and high-performance capabilities. Advanced surfers love them because they can ride quickly, execute sharp turns, and slice through the waves with precision.

The “Hypto Krypto” by Haydenshapes is a globally renowned shortboard, loved for its versatility across various wave conditions. Another classic is the “Black & White” by Channel Islands Surfboards, which offers a balanced mix of control and performance.

Purpose: Shortboards are designed for those who’ve surpassed the beginner stage and are looking to tackle more challenging maneuvers on steep waves or in powerful surf conditions.

One of the shortboards in my quiver


The gentle giants of the surfboard world, longboards are all about grace and style. Recognized for their stability and ease of use, longboards are often the go-to choice for beginners or those looking to cruise along waves with a relaxed approach. Their extended length and wider nose area provide excellent buoyancy, ensuring that catching waves becomes less of a struggle and more of a pleasure.

The “Nose Rider” by Robert August Surfboards is a classic longboard, perfect for those looking to hang ten. Firewire’s “Special T” is another fantastic longboard model designed to offer a smooth ride.

Purpose: Longboards are ideal for those starting out in the world of surfing or surfers who enjoy a laid-back ride, focusing on elegant maneuvers like cross-stepping and nose riding.


Funboards are the perfect middle ground, taking the best features from both the shortboards and longboards. They’re versatile, adaptable, and as the name suggests, a lot of fun. With a size that fits between the longer longboards and the shorter shortboards, they give surfers a unique blend of stability and maneuverability.

The “Mini Bird” by Rusty Surfboards is a popular funboard, known for its balanced design that suits a wide range of wave conditions. Torq’s “TET Funboard” is also an excellent choice for those looking for a blend of performance and ease.

Purpose: Funboards are perfect for intermediate surfers who are not yet ready to transition to a shortboard or those who want the best of both worlds, combining the stability of longboards with the agility of shortboards.

Assessing Your Skill Level

Surfing Abilities: A Candid Evaluation

When choosing the right surfboard, one must start by evaluating their surfing abilities honestly. This self-assessment allows surfers to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and skill levels accurately. It may be tempting for beginners to overestimate their abilities or for advanced surfers to underestimate them.

However, an objective evaluation is crucial in finding the perfect board that will enhance progression and enjoyment in the water. Begin by reflecting on your experience in the water.

Consider how often you surf and for how long you have been doing so. Are you a novice who has just caught a few waves or an intermediate surfer who has gained confidence but still working on consistency?

Or perhaps you are an advanced rider comfortable with various maneuvers and challenging conditions? Assessing your time spent in the lineup helps establish a starting point for determining your skill level.

Next, analyze your technique and wave-reading skills. Beginners might struggle with basic paddling and pop-up techniques while catching unbroken waves remains elusive.

Intermediate surfers typically exhibit more control over their turns but may still face challenges when it comes to executing more complex maneuvers like bottom turns or cutbacks. Advanced surfers possess refined skills that allow them to perform aerial tricks, navigate barrel riding with ease, and make critical decisions on wave selection effortlessly.

female surfer

Determining Skill Level: A Guidepost Towards Improvement

To better understand where you stand in terms of ability, consider utilizing a skill level scale or criteria widely recognized within the surfing community. Such guidelines can provide valuable insights into identifying your current standing amidst other surfers’ proficiency levels.

One commonly used scale places beginners at Level 1, intermediate riders at Level 2-3, and advanced surfers at Level 4-5 based on various criteria such as wave-catching consistency, repertoire of manoeuvres, and comfort in challenging conditions.

However, it’s important to remember that these scales are not set in stone and should be used as a general reference rather than definitive labels. To further determine your skill level, take into account your confidence level in different surf conditions.

Beginners typically feel most comfortable in small, mellow waves with slower speeds. Intermediate surfers are more adaptable and can handle a wider range of wave sizes and speeds.

On the other hand, advanced surfers thrive in larger waves that demand speed, quick reflexes, and precise timing for critical maneuvers. By evaluating your abilities honestly and using recognized criteria or scales as guideposts, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your current skill level.

This accurate self-assessment will enable you to make informed decisions when selecting the appropriate surfboard that aligns with your proficiency while allowing room for growth and improvement. Remember that honest evaluation leads to enhanced learning opportunities in the water while ensuring a safe and enjoyable surfing experience.

Matching Your Skill Level with Surfboard Dimensions

The Importance of Board Dimentions

Choosing the right surfboard is a lot like finding the perfect pair of shoes; it has to fit just right. Let’s take Malibu, California, for example. Here, the First Point break is a haven for longboarders.

Why? The waves roll in with a consistent, gentle pace, making it an ideal spot for those long glides. When you see someone effortlessly cruising on a 9-foot board there, you begin to understand the importance of matching board dimensions with skill level.

Here is a link to a surfboard calculator.

Beginners: Stability and Buoyancy with Longer and Wider Boards

If you’ve ever been to Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, you’ll notice it’s a playground for novice surfers. Many of them start their journey on long and wide boards. These boards, often resembling the traditional “alaias” used by ancient Hawaiians, range from 7 to 9 feet, sometimes even stretching to the 10-foot mark!

Why is this the case?

Because for individuals new to surfing or still in the early stages of learning, these dimensions provide the stability and buoyancy needed to foster confidence. Think of these boards as the training wheels of the surfing world. With a broader shape, they offer a forgiving platform that allows newbies to focus on mastering the basics, like balance and paddling.

Ever wondered why surf schools, like those in Byron Bay, Australia, always start beginners on these hefty boards? That added buoyancy ensures the board stays afloat and glides better, making it easier for learners to catch those gentle, rolling waves.

When you see a beginner on such a board, it’s not just about the size; it’s about matching their skill level with the board’s dimensions, ensuring they’re set up for success from the get-go. It’s the same reason you wouldn’t throw a new driver into a high-speed racecar; starting slow and steady is the key.

So, the next time you spot a newbie on a longboard at spots like Waikiki or Byron Bay, know they’re on the right track, equipped with the best tool for their skill level.

If you want to find out the top surfboards for beginners, look at this in-depth article.

WeightRecommended Volume (Liters)
50-60kg (110-132 lbs)40-50 liters
60-70kg (132-154 lbs)50-60 liters
70-80kg (154-176 lbs)60-70 liters
80-90kg (176-198 lbs)70-80 liters
90+kg (198+ lbs)80+ liters
Example of weight to volume to be used as an general guideline

Intermediate Surfers: Increased Maneuverability without Sacrificing Stability

As surfers progress from beginner level towards intermediate proficiency, they often look for boards that offer increased maneuverability while still maintaining stability.

Slightly shorter boards become suitable choices at this stage as they allow surfers to start exploring more dynamic turns and maneuvers with ease.

These intermediate-level surfboards typically range from 6 to 8 feet in length.

While they may sacrifice some stability compared to longer boards, their enhanced maneuverability enables surfers to experiment with different maneuvers such as cutbacks or bottom turns without compromising control.

WeightRecommended Volume (Liters)
50-60kg (110-132 lbs)35-45 liters
60-70kg (132-154 lbs)45-55 liters
70-80kg (154-176 lbs)50-60 liters
80-90kg (176-198 lbs)60-70 liters
90+kg (198+ lbs)70+ liters
Example of weight to volume to be used as an general guideline

Advanced Surfers: Enhanced Performance with Shorter Boards

For advanced surfers who have honed their skills and are looking for boards that offer high-performance capabilities, shorter boards with narrower dimensions come into play. Advanced-level surfboards usually range from 5 to 7 feet in length.

These boards maximise speed, manoeuvrability, and responsiveness on the wave face. The reduced length and narrower width allow for quick turns, tighter arcs, and increased control in critical sections of the wave.

While these boards may be less forgiving and require a higher level of skill to handle effectively, they offer advanced surfers the ability to push their limits and take their surfing to new heights. By understanding how board dimensions correlate with skill level, you can make a more informed decision when selecting a surfboard that aligns with your abilities.

advanced surfboard shaper

Remember that these guidelines serve as general recommendations but can vary depending on personal preferences or specific conditions. Finding the right balance between stability and performance is crucial for an enjoyable and progressive surfing experience.

WeightRecommended Volume (Liters)
50-60kg (110-132 lbs)25-35 liters
60-70kg (132-154 lbs)30-40 liters
70-80kg (154-176 lbs)35-45 liters
80-90kg (176-198 lbs)40-50 liters
90+kg (198+ lbs)45-55 liters
Example of weight to volume to be used as an general guideline

Alternatives to Traditional Surfboard Selection Methods

So, we’ve talked a lot about the traditional ways of picking out the perfect surfboard. But hey, we’re living in the 21st century, right? Just like how we now rely on apps for everything from ordering food to tracking our fitness, there are modern methods to help us in our quest for the ultimate wave-rider.

Using Technology and Apps for Board Choice: Ever heard of the term ‘surf-tech’? Okay, I might have just made that up, but the fusion of technology with surfing is real! There are apps available that, based on your skill level, body type, and local wave conditions, can suggest the ideal board for you. It’s like having a personal surfboard consultant right in your pocket.

Renting Boards Before Purchasing: Remember how you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it? The same goes for surfboards. Renting different types of boards gives you a real feel for what suits you best. Plus, it’s a budget-friendly way to dip your toes into the vast ocean of surfboard varieties before committing to a purchase.

Fine-tuning Your Board Selection

Wave conditions can influence board selection

When it comes to selecting the right surfboard, one of the crucial factors to consider is the wave conditions you’ll be riding.

Waves vary in size, power, and shape, and each requires a different approach. Understanding how wave conditions influence board selection is essential for maximizing your performance and enjoyment in the water.

When choosing the right surfboard for your needs, it’s equally essential to understand the unwritten rules of the waves; dive into our Comprehensive Guide to Surf Etiquette to ensure you ride with respect and awareness.

Small waves require more floatation provided by longer boards

In smaller waves, where there is less power and speed, choosing a surfboard with increased floatation becomes crucial. Longer boards provide greater stability and buoyancy, allowing you to generate momentum even in weak waves.

Their larger surface area enables easier paddling, ensuring that you catch more waves effortlessly. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer facing smaller swells, opting for a longer surfboard will provide the necessary lift and glide required to make the most out of these conditions. If you’re a woman looking to embrace the thrill of the waves, don’t miss our special feature on Women’s Surf Camps – Ready to Unveil Your Inner Surfer? Empower and Embrace!

Big waves demand shorter boards with increased manoeuvrability

Conversely, when confronting larger and more powerful waves that pack a punch, maneuverability takes precedence over floatation. Smaller boards with reduced length offer improved control and responsiveness during critical maneuvers on steep faces or in hollow barrels.

These boards allow advanced surfers to precisely execute quick turns while maintaining their balance through fast-paced sections of the wave. The reduced length helps navigate challenging sections rapidly while providing enhanced control for handling more significant drops confidently.

Uluwatu, Bali. Surfer taking off on 6Ft wave

Taking it to the Next Level: How to Upgrade Your Surfboard

Ahh, the thrill of progression! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of outgrowing your old board because you’ve just gotten that good. But when is the right time to switch things up?

When and Why to Upgrade: As you evolve in your surfing journey, your trusty old board might start to feel a bit, well, limiting. If you find yourself craving for sharper turns, more speed, or dreaming of tackling bigger waves, consider an upgrade. Trust your instincts and, importantly, listen to the ocean’s feedback. The waves have a way of telling you when you’re ready.

Keen to get more waves and better conditions ?!?

Have a read over this article How to Read a Surf Report and Get More Waves – Become a Wave Master!,

Other Factors

surfer reading the ocean

Wave conditions alone do not solely dictate board selection; other local factors also come into play. Factors such as specific breaks or surfing spots within an area can have distinct characteristics that influence which type of board is best suited for optimal performance. Take Uluwatu in Bali or Pipeline in Hawaii, for instance; these breaks are renowned for their steep takeoffs, necessitating a shorter board to generate speed in a snap.

Currents, too, play a pivotal role. If you’ve ever tried paddling out at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa or Snapper Rocks in Australia, you’ll know that understanding the direction and strength of the currents is essential. It can help determine the size and shape of the board necessary for navigating these renowned breaks effectively.

Moreover, wind patterns, like the offshore winds of Trestles in California or the gusty conditions of Jaws in Maui, can significantly affect wave quality and shape. Such winds can either groom the waves to perfection or make them messy, thus influencing the choice of surfboard to match these unique circumstances. When selecting your board, always consider these environmental nuances of the place you’re surfing.

Knowledge of the local conditions can make the difference between an epic session and a frustrating day in the water.

Choosing your first surfboard is a milestone in every surfer’s journey. As a beginner, you’ll want a board that complements your skill level and helps you progress quickly. But while you’re navigating through the vast world of surfboards, you’ll encounter various surfing terms that might seem confusing at first.

Whether it’s the ‘rocker’, ‘rails’, or ‘tail’, understanding these terms can greatly influence your board selection process. To help you decode the language of the waves and make an informed decision, we’ve compiled an in-depth guide on Surfing Lingo Explained: Unveiling 111 Surfing Slang Words. You can dive into it to help your surfing knowledge and make sure you pick the perfect board for your needs.

If you need some inspiration for beginner surf spots, Australia has some epic spots that I’ve reviewed here.

Wrapping Up and My Experience With Choosing Surfboards

selection of longboards in tropical location

Ah, the joys and pitfalls of the surfing journey! As we approach the shore of this guide, let me share a slice of my own misadventure. In my early days, fueled by passion and a dash of naive enthusiasm, I dove into the world of surfing using a friend’s old board. “If you want to surf, here you go, now keep up,” he chuckled, handing me what was probably the worst choice for a newbie.

That board was way too advanced for my greenhorn skills. I mean, think trying to run before you can walk! And boy, did I struggle. My attempts at riding waves resembled more a clumsy dance than the elegant glide I had imagined. In my head, I thought, “I have to get good on this board, and fast.” But the truth? I just ended up floundering around for way longer than I should have. Every wipeout, every failed wave, became a lesson in humility.

But here’s the kicker: I stuck with that board. Why? Perhaps a mix of stubbornness and a misguided belief that struggling on that small, volume-deprived board would somehow make me a pro faster. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. It took me years to harness its potential, years I could have spent progressing much faster had I chosen the right board from the start.

So, here’s my two cents: Don’t be like me. Don’t let pride or peer pressure dictate your choice. Embrace the journey with the right equipment; trust me, the ocean will be much more forgiving. Follow the advice in this article, and you’ll find yourself riding waves with grace and confidence much sooner than you think. Surf’s up, and may your adventures be as thrilling as they are rewarding!

Are you an experienced surfer? Share your insights on choosing the right surfboard in the comments below! If you’re a beginner, feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts. Let’s build a community of surfers helping each other make the best surfboard choices.

After you’ve confidently selected the perfect surfboard using our ultimate guide, it’s essential to know how to maintain its integrity and performance. Even the best boards can encounter dings and damages. Don’t let minor setbacks hinder your surfing journey. Dive into our comprehensive ding repair guide to master the art of surfboard maintenance and ensure your board stays wave-ready!

Wait ….. Before you paddle out, make sure you know how to navigate through the waves. Don’t sweat it if you’re unsure about how to duck dive or turtle roll, especially with your new board! Learn how to master the duck dive and turtle roll techniques. It’s a must-read for every surfer, ensuring you’re not just riding with style, but also with safety and confidence. 🌊🤙

FAQs on Beginner Surfboards

Q: Is it worth buying a beginner surfboard?
A: Absolutely. Investing in a beginner surfboard tailored to your needs can significantly enhance your learning curve, provide better stability, and ensure safety as you get acquainted with the waves.

Q: What first surfboard should I buy?
A: For most beginners, a soft-top longboard in the range of 7 to 9 feet is recommended. They offer great stability, are forgiving during mistakes, and allow easy wave catching. However, individual preferences and physical attributes can influence the best choice, so consider consulting with local surf shops or instructors.

Q: How do I choose a surfboard for beginners?
A: When choosing a surfboard for beginners:

  1. Volume & Stability: Opt for boards with good volume and width, ensuring stability.
  2. Material: Soft-top boards are generally recommended for their safety and durability.
  3. Length: A longer board, often a longboard, helps in catching waves easily and provides a stable platform.
  4. Tail & Fin Configuration: A wider tail and a tri-fin setup can help with stability.
  5. Consultation: It’s always beneficial to talk to experienced surfers or instructors for tailored advice.

Q: How much should I spend on a surfboard?
A: The cost of a surfboard can vary widely based on brand, material, and craftsmanship. For beginners, you can find quality soft-top longboards ranging from $200 to $500. However, it’s essential to prioritize quality and durability over cost, as a well-maintained board can serve you for years. Consider reading reviews, seeking recommendations, and visiting local surf shops to find a board that fits your budget and needs.

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