How important is board selection when learning to surf?

David Williams

Resident 'Bear Grylls' for Getfrank.

Have you tried surfing? If so did you stop because it was too difficult, or has your learning curve become a plateau? When learning to surf it is very important that you have the appropriate board to match your objectives or it is more than likely you will flag it into the too-hard basket. This article will explore the significance of the board you are using by explaining the different purposes boards have, and which board is best suited to you.

The key element that will aid your surfing progress is having regular successes. The most common reason why people stop learning to surf is because they are not feeling a sense of achievement frequently enough in order to fuel their ambition to get to the intermediate level of surfing. So having the appropriate board will allow you a far better chance to experience just why all these crazy people get up on a winters dawn to be the first one out in bone chilling water just to get that indescribable feeling of controlling a stick of foam on one of nature’s marvellous wonders.

Standing up was quite the success for Matt.

Your goal may be to rival Kelly Slater on the world tour, or just to be able to have a lot of fun with friends and family on the beach over your holidays and weekends; either way with the right know-how on board selection you have a much greater chance of success.

The two types of boards most commonly used are shortboards and longboards or Malibu’s. Longboards are generally 9 feet long or larger, and are the more traditional style of surfing. If you want to be a longboarder then it is far easier to be matched with a board as people of any size can ride them. The only real alteration made is the amount of volume through the board. Volume will make it more stable and easier to paddle but generally will limit manoeuvrability of the board. If you can stand without too much trouble and have reasonable coordination you will not need extra volume unless you have a more ‘robust’ frame. Generally if you weigh more than 110kg a longboard is the better option.

To become a shortboarder board selection is extremely crucial because if you try to go too short too quick, or the opposite and stay too big too long then your progression rate will suffer. To learn to ride a shorter board you must first learn the right techniques on a larger board. When starting, if you weigh around 70kg then it is good to start on a mini mal, at around 7 foot 2 in length. If you are fairly coordinated and have experience in other board sports then a 6 foot 7” - 7 foot funboard is a good option. Funboards are a full volume short board that is easier to paddle and catch waves and often has a more rounded nose than a shortboard. If you weigh around 100kg then it is best to start on a longboard around 8 foot 6” - 9 foot 2” and progressively work your way smaller. Again if you’ve done other board sports and have good coordination then you may go 5 or 6 inches shorter. If you are anywhere between those weights, for example 85kg, a good board length is 7 foot 8” - 8 foot 2”.


Which board?

These lengths are a guide only and it is recommended that whenever buying a board you talk to the shapers or manufacturers and explain in detail (be honest!) your experience levels and objectives. Once you are confident and feel like your board may be too big and you want something that is more responsive and easier to get under the waves, then it is a good idea for your next progression to be a board with less volume and around 4-8 inches shorter depending on the original length of the board. A good time to asses whether you may need a new board is once you have had it for a season. You should not lose much money because mals and mini mals have a good re-sale value.

The correct board is an essential element but I can also not express enough the importance of proper guidance and technical advice. Check the links for more information.

Happy Surfing! ask for Ben when in Newmarket shop or:

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  • Tony says
    Great article - also worth to note that fin size plays an important part, cheaper than buying a new board, change the fins. Makes a hell of a difference!

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