Don’t know which surfboard suits you and your surfing best? Then this is the guide for you! Here’s everything you need to know when buying a board, whether you are new to surfing or have more experience in the waves.
How do you choose the right surfboard? In this guide, we walk you through the best board for you, whether you’re a beginner or intermediate surfer who’s about to buy your first board or a more advanced surfer who wants to expand your quiver.
There is a sea of surfboards to choose between and the process of picking just one can be overwhelming, especially if you are about to buy a board for the first time. Knowing what to look for is important to get the best board for you. In this guide, we’ll help you understand the size and volume, which shapes of boards you can choose between, and everything else you need to know to find the surfboard for your style and level.
What you need to know when buying a surfboard
This guide covers all the basics you need to know to find your perfect board.
- Which is your surf level?
- Which surfboard shape fits your surf style?
- What is your fitness level?
- Surfboard size and volume
- Surfboard tails
- Surfboard rails
- Surfboard noses
- Fin systems and fins
- Important parts of the surfboard
Your surf level: How experienced are you as a surfer?
First thing first, knowing roughly which level your surfing is will help you a lot to find the best board for you. There isn’t a carved-in-stone-clear definition of the levels but are usually categorized as beginner, intermediate or advanced. Which of these levels fits you the best? Put your ego aside now, if you buy a board that’s too hard for you then you will have a harder time progressing and surfing will just be infuriating for no good reason. Or even worse, the board just ends up as a dust collector in your quiver.
If surfing is completely new to you or if you only stood on a board a few times then a beginner board would suit you best. Beginner surfers spend their time practicing catching their waves in the white water and need a lot of stability for their board. The board of choice here is a high-volume board that will make it easier for you to paddle and balance as you get up on the board. Softtops are preferable to learn to surf with.
This level fits you if you:
- Never surfed or only surfed a few times
- Just got introduced to surfing
The intermediate category might just be the category that is hardest to define since the definition is very subjective. An intermediate surfer is often defined by their ability to paddle to the lineup and catch green, unbroken waves. Depending on the style of your surfing you have a wider selection of boards to choose between than the beginners have. When it comes to the volume you can use a medium-volume surfboard if you want, remember that volume is your friend!
This level fits you if you:
- Surf green, unbroken waves
- Do confident takeoffs
- Have started doing your first top and bottom turns
This level is for the big guys and gals who feel comfortable surfing any wave and condition. You have control over your surfboard and can do different maneuvers. For this level, it’s up to the swell, wave size, and your personal preference for which board you want to get.
This level fits you if you:
- Feel comfortable in most waves
- Can do duck dives
- Can do more advanced maneuvers like roundhouse cutbacks, re-entries and floaters
Psst! If you don’t know which level suits you, then a piece of good advice is to bring a surf coach or experienced friend with you to the beach and ask if they can observe you as you catch a few waves and then give their opinion.
Your surf style: What kinds of waves do you want to ride?
Are you more of a casual cruiser who wants to ride along smaller waves on a longboard or do you want to catch bigger and faster waves on a shortboard? Different types of surfboards serve different purposes and that should be taken into consideration when choosing a board. Let’s look into our selection of different boards and their characteristics.
Surfboard shapes: Which kind of surfboard suits you best?
The shape of your surfboard will decide which style you can surf with it and it should match your needs. Unfortunately, there isn’t one perfect board for every type of wave and style, so you’ll need to compromise some qualities to get the right board. If you want to surf different types of waves it could be a good idea to build a quiver with boards in different shapes.
Here are some of the most popular kinds of surfboards on the market:
Shortboards are meant for a more advanced surfer who wants a great performance board with top maneuverability. These boards have a pointed nose, sharp rails, and low volume. The lack of volume will make the board harder to paddle with and more difficult to catch waves on than bigger boards. Powerful and clean conditions are perfect for shortboards.
A hybrid board is, as the name reveals, a board that has merged together the benefits of different surfboards. The hybrid has a slightly fuller shape than a shortboard which allows the surfer to paddle with more ease. The hybrid is the closest to an all-around surfboard that we can get and it is a great choice for an advanced surfer who wants to play around in the smaller waves.
A groveler board usually has a significantly wider nose and tail than a shortboard and sports a flatter rocker, which is convenient to catch waves with more ease. They are, however, much harder to catch waves with than a funboard or longboard. There are many different shapes of a groveler and the size is usually between 4-6 feet (similar to shortboards). The board has good maneuverability and stability while still being super fast. It is a great board for a bit more advanced surfers who want to have fun on small days, or intermediates not really ready for a shortboard yet. You could say that the grovelers are the most beginner-friendly performance board and can therefore be a good next step after riding a fun shape board.
Longboards are used by intermediate surfers as well as more advanced riders and are great in calmer conditions and smaller waves. Longboards are often between 8-11 feet, have a rounded nose and are a good choice if you want to surf all year round. They provide good stability and flotation for smooth rides. These boards are harder to move around due to their larger sizes and they aren’t made for quick and powerful turns, instead, it’s all about the gliiiiide. Take your time and enjoy cruising through the lineup. Paddling on the other hand is much easier on a longboard than on a smaller board and you will have a lot of stability.
As a beginner, the softtop surfboard is your best friend. They have lots of volume which will allow you to practice the basics of surfing while keeping your balance, paddle without getting exhausted and do a pop-up with much more ease than on a smaller board. These boards will provide you with control, and stability and make it easy to catch waves in the white water.
A midlength surfboard is usually between 7-8 feet, so they are neither on the smallest nor on the biggest side. It offers more freedom than a longboard and more stability than a shortboard. These boards have a good compromise between maneuverability and how easily you can catch waves on them. They work great in small and medium waves. Intermediates stepping down from longer boards tend to enjoy the maneuverability. Experienced surfers looking for more drawn-out turns and grin-filled sessions are also notable fans.
Funboards, or fun-shape surfboards, are a good choice for you who want to move from a longboard to something smaller and easier to turn. This board can be described as something between a longboard and a shortboard, provided with the stability of the longboard and the maneuverability of the shortboard. It’s a great board for intermediate surfers in small and medium-sized waves. It is usually around 6-8 feet long with a round shape.
Your fitness level: How comfortable are you in the water?
Surfing is a physically challenging activity that requires more or less strength and endurance from the surfer. If you are new to surfing and your fitness level isn’t the best, then you may consider using a board with more volume that will help you paddle easier. As you get stronger and more comfortable in the water you can then advance to a smaller surfboard.
Surfboard size and volume
Your surf level, your surfing style and your fitness level are the key factors in deciding which size and volume you should have on your surfboard. Your height and weight are also important to know. The surfboard size is measured in feet and inches. The volume is measured in liters and is determined by the thickness, length and width of the board.
Calculate surfboard volume
To calculate the volume of the surfboard you multiply the board’s length, width and thickness. These calculations can be tricky to do and are therefore often done by the shaper by using computer simulations. The volume determines the board’s efficiency to paddle, speed and stability.
You will often find the board’s information looking something like this: 6’2” x 21 ½ x 2 ¾” – 32.1L, which means that this board (a fish in this case) is 6 feet and 2 inches long, 21 ½ inches wide, 2 ¾ inches thick with a volume of 32.1 liters.
Surfboard tails – which is best for me?
The back of the surfboard is called the tail, there are different kinds of tails and they all have their own purposes for the performance of the board. The shape of the tail is important for the control and speed of the surfboard. Some of the most common tails are pin tails (common for big wave-boards), round tails, rounded pin tails (common for longboards and high-performance shortboards), squash tails (common for shortboards) and swallow tails (common for fishes). In general, a wider tail gives you more speed (as the rail outline becomes more parallel and you have more surface area to plane on) and a narrower tail provides more hold and control.
This tail is suitable for big wave-surfboards and provides more control and stability.
The round tail is good for steep and fast rides and provides the board with more maneuverability and speed than the pin tail, but it also makes the board more unstable.
Rounded pin tail
The qualities of this tail are a mix of the speed of the round tail and the stability of the pin tail. They work especially well in steep barreling waves.
This tail is common for shortboards and has a square-ish shape with rounded corners. It’s a great mix of speed and control, which has made it a favourite for advanced surfers looking for both speed and hold.
This tail is common for fish boards and gives you great speed, especially when the waves are somewhat lackluster.
The edges of the surfboard are called rails. The rails go from the nose of the board all the way to the tail and they influence how the board flows in the water. There are two different types of rails, soft rails and hard rails. The names don’t refer to the hardness of the material but rather to the hardness of the shape.
- Soft rails are smooth and rounded, they help with stability and make it easier to paddle. A fitting choice for longboards.
- Hard rails are sharper and more squared (harder edges), these are good for quick turns and higher speed. These rails are less forgiving than soft rails and require more skills from the surfer.
Surfboard noses – which shape is best for me?
The tip of the board is called the nose. The shape of the nose will influence how the board behaves in the water when it comes to its moveability and buoyancy. The nose is either round, pointed or round pointed. Noses are rounded on longboards and funboards and more pointed on fishes and shortboards. Pointed noses are better for performance surfing while rounder noses are good for catching waves.
Roud noses are good for stability. The round nose will provide the front of the board more buoyancy which will help you when you paddle. This is a good shape for beginner surfers.
These noses are common for high-performance boards. You will have a harder time paddling with a nose like this but on the bright side, you will have more maneuverability. This is a good shape for advanced surfers.
Round pointed nose
This shape of the nose is a mix between the round and the pointed and provides a bit of both stability and agility. This is a good shape for intermediate surfers.
Fins – the systems and setups
At the tail on the bottom side of the surfboard you’ll find fin plugs. This is where you’ll attach the fins. The fins differ from one another and your body weight will decide which fin size you should get for your board.
Body weight and fin size
|Body weight||Fin size|
|55 kg or less||xs|
|55 to 70 kg||s|
|65 to 80 kg||m|
|75 to 90 kg||l|
|85 kg or more||xl|
There are a few different fin systems to choose between, make sure you know which ones you have on your board before you buy fins. Some common fin systems are:
- FCS (Fin Control System)
- FCS 2
- US Box
Then it’s time for your fins! Just like there are different fin systems, there are different fins. They come in a big variety of shapes and sizes and are important for the water flow, speed control and the steering of the board. Here are the most common ones:
More important parts of the surfboard
Each and every part of a surfboard serve its own purpose to ultimately provide you with the best board possible for you to surf. There are countless different types of boards and variations of them, but these parts and names apply to them all:
The main parts of a surfboard
- Leash plug
- Fins and fin plugs
The rocker is the curvature from the nose to the tail of the surfboard; how much the surfboard bends up when looking at the board from its side. The rocker is important because it helps to turn the board. The more dramatic the curve, the slower the board, but a dramatic curve also makes the board easier to maneuver. The formation of the rocker is commonly described as steep (more sharp curve) or relaxed (less sharp curve). A relaxed rocker is more suitable for flatter waves. The general rule of thumb is: hollow, bowly waves – a steeper rocker and soft crumbly waves – a flatter rocker.
The underside of the surfboard is called the bottom. Many boards are made of a combination of different kinds of bottom contours, but the main categories are concaves, convex and flats. The shape of the bottom plays a big role in controlling how the water flows and how the board performs. The different bottom contours interact with the waves in different ways.
- Concave bottom: If a part of the surfboard’s bottom is lifted above the rail line, then you’ll know that it’s a concave bottom. This kind of bottom gives the board a lift, better glide and helps you to snap your rails to the face of the wave. There are different concave bottoms, like single concave and double concave.
- Convex bottom: If a part of the bottom is dipping below the rail line, the board has a convex bottom. Convex bottoms are good for stability and transitioning from rail to rail and are normally found on longboards. There are different convex bottoms, like Vee or belly. Most modern shortboards also incorporate some rolled Vee after the last fin, especially when there is deep concave on the rest of the bottom which help transitioning from rail to rail.
- Flat bottom: As you may have guessed, a flat-bottomed surfboard is flat and stays the same level as the rails. This bottom will help to provide speed generation but it doesn’t do much for performance.
Enjoy your new board!
Now you know the basics of what to think of when buying a new surfboard. It comes down to your style and preferences, we suggest that you pick the board that you will have the most fun on and that allows you to catch the most waves. Happy surfing!