How To Choose Your First Surfboard

How To Choose Your First Surfboard

Like a musician learning a new instrument, a new surfer needs the right equipment. With all of the sizes and styles available today, it can be challenging to choose your first surfboard. To get you out on the water learning the basics, we've put together a surfboard guide for beginners weighing their options.


The Shape of Your First Surfboard

If you're entirely new to surfing, don't get too caught up on tail shape or how many fins it has. Those features make it easier for experienced surfers to maneuver, making the learning curve steeper for new surfers.

The best beginner boards have wide, rounded noses and thick and wide square tails. This beginner design allows you to catch a bunch of waves due to the high buoyancy of the board. It will enable you to paddle quickly on top of the water as you tune in your paddling muscles.

Surfboard Sizes and Length

The first thing you'll want to determine is how long your new surfboard should be. Your first surfboard should be about 7' - 9' long. However, you need to consider a few factors such as height, weight, and fitness. 

As an example:  

7' Surfboard is a good start for someone that is 80lbs - 120lbs 

8' Surfboard is a good start for someone that is 120lbs - 160lbs 

9' Surfboard is a good start for someone that is 160lbs - 200lbs

Remember, this is just a rule of thumb, but the longer the board, the easier it is to paddle and catch small waves. The shorter the board, the more challenging it is to paddle when catching small waves. 

If you've taken some lessons, it's a good idea to ask your instructor what size board you were riding. If you have not taken surfing lessons, it's a wise choice to rent a few different sizes to find the perfect board before making your initial investment.

A good starting place is the INT Classic surfboard. Ranging from seven to nine feet long, it's a well-rounded board perfect for beginners and allows for a bit of progression.

Surfboard Width

Your new surfboard should be around 21" - 24" wide, no matter your size. 

Many entry-level surfboards are usually in that range. The wider the board, the more stable a platform you have to ride the wave on, reducing its maneuverability or performance. A long wide board is a perfect combination for your beginner surfboard.


Thicker, the better! Foam is your friend as a beginner surfer. Your first board should be at least 2.5" thick and could be as thick as 3". Remember, foam is your friend, and adding thickness is the easiest way to increase the amount of foam in your board to create more buoyancy. 

The thicker the board, the easier it will be to recover from the bumps and bobbles while learning and increasing your wave time. 

If you plan on surfing a lot, you're going to be carrying your surfboard to the beach often, so you want to make sure your board is comfortable to carry!

Surfboard Construction 

Now that we've talked about what your first surfboard should look like, let's talk about what it should be made of. Today, surfboards can be made of various materials, each with its own pros and cons.

Foamie or Soft-top

A foam or soft-top surfboard is perfect for testing the waters literally and figuratively. They're soft, buoyant, and often the least expensive types, meaning they're great for unsure beginners and children. They're the most durable, but they will need the proper care to increase their lifetime like anything.


Though they've become more popular in recent years, epoxy surfboards were first produced in the 1950s. Largely mass-produced using molds, epoxy boards are lighter, durable, and generally more expensive than soft-top boards. They also require little maintenance, making them an excellent choice for a beginner board for someone that wants something that wants a traditional surfboard feel and look.


Like epoxy boards, poly surfboards are light. They're made with a polyurethane core wrapped in fiberglass and covered with protective resin. The way poly boards are manufactured creates a consistent flex pattern. This construction is the industry standard in surfboard manufacturing. 

However, poly boards are more accessible to damage than epoxy. On the plus side, they're relatively easy to repair.


A beginner probably shouldn't buy a wood surfboard for their first one. They're eco-friendly, beautiful, and durable, but they're also heavy, expensive, and require maintenance. Save this investment for later in your surfing career.

Consider Your Surfing Conditions

With all of that being said, if you've had some lessons, you may have developed some preferences. For instance, maybe you prefer to keep cruising small waves while improving your skills set. In that case, a longboard like the J. Brazie Captain's Log or the Doyle Noserider is the perfect choice for the smaller days.

If you're getting the basics down and ready to take the next step into your surfing journey, a shorter board like a 6'4 Full Nose Fish by AJW Surfboards would be a great choice. 

Just remember to be honest about your skill set before making a jump to your second surfboard.

Research Your Local Beaches

Different weather types and geographical features mean there's a long list of wave types out there. If you live near a long, sandy beach, you're likely to encounter a lot of mellow beach breaks. For rocky coastlines, fast point breaks dominate and aren't well-suited for beginners.

No matter what kind of board you decide on, always do your research. Talk to surfers and local surf shop employees. 

Like other passionate hobbyists, most are thrilled to help beginners. Make some new friends and learn to love the sport of surfing!

Shop South Swell Surf Shop

In 2008, our passion for surfing led us to purchase a surf shop in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, that was going out of business. Since then, we've rebranded, re-organized the inventory, and breathed new life into an east coast surfing institution. Shop our surfboards online or in-store and if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

At South Swell, we're surfers who remember what it was like being new. Let our experience help you break into the exciting world of surfing.

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