Best surfboards for beginners 2020: take on the waves without getting wiped out

Whether you’re a total surfing novice or looking to improve, these surfboards will enable you to catch more waves and look like a total beach hero while you’re doing it

Best surfboards for beginners
(Image credit: Getty)

Totally tubular, dude! If you want to learn to speak like that, and take on waves as tall as your house, you've gotta start somewhere, and that's with the best surfboards for beginners. Summer will be here soon! 

Speaking of jargon, surfers have a word for those poor souls who dare enter the water with limited knowledge of the sport: 'kook'. As you can imagine, it's not really a fond term. It's aimed at the individuals who put their wetsuits on backwards, the folk who fail to respect the unwritten rules of the 'line-up' (the bit where everyone sits and waits for waves) and anyone who is seen carrying a bright blue foam surfboard around. 

So don't be a (total) kook. Read our handy my-first-surfboard buying guide…

How to buy the best surfboard for a beginner

Ignore the big boys anyway: user-friendly, foam soft-tops are what any self-respecting newbie should opt for until they're skilled enough to move up to the standard epoxy and hand-shaped boards favoured by the pros.

That's because they are light, present fewer risks in the water – have you ever been hit by a surfboard? It hurts – and are deliberately fashioned to be as buoyant as possible, meaning you catch more waves and learn faster.

Luckily for those who prefer to avoid surf culture insults, many of these beginner boards now come in much cooler shapes and designs, offering greater speed and manoeuvrability than the standard foam long boards, as well some neat colours and logos that ape the cool resin tints and hand-drawn elements of the more expensive bespoke offerings.

The plethora of shapes, sizes, dimensions and volume figures associated with surfboards can make choosing the right piece of equipment confusing and often extremely daunting.

Surfers boasting a good relationship with their local 'shaper' will benefit from years of hydrodynamic knowledge and awareness of the customer's ability, local wave conditions and requirements, resulting in a bespoke product that is designed to perform exactly as intended.

But for those just starting out, it's best to start with something a little more 'off the shelf' because it's likely to get bashed around and ruined within seconds.

Generally speaking, the longer the board, the easier it will be to catch waves, which is why you often see foam boards (or foamies/soft tops) in lengths from around 7ft to 9ft.

What these goliaths lack in manoeuvrability, they more than make up for with the aptitude to cruise in poor conditions and a stable ride that suits wobbly beginners.

Slightly more advanced novice surfers might want to consider a fish (those with a vee in the tail) or a performance short board design, but make sure it has plenty of volume to aid stability and float.

Material is also important, as beginner boards will typically be fashioned from foam or a basic epoxy resin.

The former is designed to be as safe as possible and even the fins underneath are made from flexible material so not to obliterate swimmers or other learners in the water.

The tough epoxy designs are robust and can withstand the inevitable knock or drop, but they will be more painful if you take one to the face.

Take a look at the suggested rider height, ability and weight that's typically associated with each board when it comes time to buy, so you get a good idea of its suitability.

What is the best surfboard for beginners?

All of the boards below are way gnarly, but the most tubular of all is the Hold Fast Mini Mal 7ft Foam Surfboard, which can be had for under £150. It's light, safe and catches waves like a happy salmon.

The best surfboards for beginners, in order

Hold Fast Mini Mal 7ft Foam Surfboard

1. Hold Fast Mini Mal 7ft Foam Surfboard

The best surfboard for beginners, even if it's not the most stylish

Fins: 3, rubber, non-removable
Construction: Closed Cell Foam
Ability: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Soft and safe+Light+Easy to catch waves
Reasons to avoid
-Difficult to manoeuvre

This foam Mini Malibu creation (Mini Mal, for short) is a great compromise between enormous long boards and the easier to wrangle 'fun boards', which tend to be slightly shorter.

It's designed with absolute beginners in mind, so comes fitted with sealed rubber fins – meaning you don't have to worry about taking them off or losing one in the water – a soft deck to avoid injuries and a stable platform to learn on.

Also designed with fun in mind, this thing will catch just about any wave imaginable thanks to its floaty construction, while the slick bottom hull means it generates speed without the need to 'pump' like a professional.

The package includes a basic leash (the rope you attach to your leg), which means you won't be swimming after your board when you inevitably wipe out.

Although lacking in some wave-face manoeuvrability, this board is perfect for those just starting out or when conditions are particularly poor, which they often are in the UK, let's face it.

Osprey 6ft Wood Foamie

2. Osprey 6ft Wood Foamie

The next step up once you've mastered the absolute basics

Fins: Rubber, included
Construction: EPS Expanded Polystyrene
Ability: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+More performance+Great price+Looks cool
Reasons to avoid
-More difficult to master

The shorter length and more performance orientated outline of Osprey board will make it slightly easier to perform trickier manoeuvres on the wave face – such as 'cutting back' and 'pumping' to generate speed – than the Hold Fast.

That said, it's still no Kelly Slater pro model and is designed primarily with beginners in mind, meaning a soft foam outer shell to inspire confidence in the water and plenty of volume so it easily catches waves with minimal paddling effort.

The shorter size will make it more difficult for a heavier adult to master, but it’s a perfect choice for kids, teenagers or those of a slight build.

Alternatively, it will make an extremely fun little board for those more experienced surfers looking for something cheap and easy to lug around during the crumbly summer months.

(Image credit: Surftech)

3. Surftech Robert August What I Ride Softop 9ft surfboard

Durable with slightly spongey deck and plenty of grip

Fins: Single fin with FCS II side bites
Construction: EPS foam core, epoxy resin base with EVA soft deck
Ability: Beginner to advanced
Reasons to buy
+An iconic shape with a soft deck+Genuinely ideal for all abilities+Ding and damage resistant
Reasons to avoid
-It’s not cheap

This is a soft decked version of longboard legend Robert August’s hugely popular What I Ride board. Unlike the standard model, this Softop version has a durable and slightly spongey deck which is easier on the knees and gives plenty of grip so doesn’t need to be waxed like a regular board. 

The soft EVA covering extends over the rails to reduce the likelihood of damage to anyone in its vicinity as well as protecting the surfboard itself. The base is finished with Surftech’s Tuflite epoxy construction which is renowned for being massively ding resistant too.

At 22.5in wide by 3.2in thick, the 9-foot board is a touch wider and thicker than the standard epoxy version, but performs just as well as its hard-topped stablemate. The board can catch the smallest ripple making it ideal for beginners, but can also handle itself in waves of more consequence too. A concave section under the nose will help experienced surfers to walk the board and hang a toe or ten over the front.

Softech Flash 5ft 7 Soft Surfboard

4. Softech Flash 5ft 7 Soft Surfboard

This surfboard is another step up the performance (and price) ladder

Fins: FCS II Thruster
Construction: EPS Foam Core
Ability: Beginner to experienced
Reasons to buy
+Lots of performance+Great look+Rugged construction
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive-On the short side

When you feeling like you can take your surfing to the next level, look no further than the Softech Flash. 

This short, fat performance board is perfect for those wanting to generate a bit more speed or tackle waves with steeper faces, as its stubby outline and increased rocker underneath are designed to do just that.

Better still, it benefits from a proper FCS fin set-up, which means it has more drive and stability on the back foot, offering the rider the ability to carry out sharp turns and more explosive moves.

It'll be a tough cookie to master for complete novices but an absolute barrel of laughs for those with some skills. Plus, it doesn't matter if you drive it into the beach or smash it into a rock because it's all soft and squishy.

(Image credit: Softech)

5. Softech Mason Twin 5FT 6 surfboard

Fins: FCS II twin
Construction: EPS foam core with composite stringer
Ability: Improving surfers and beyond
Reasons to buy
+Easy wave entry+Goes well in weak, junky waves+Bombproof build
Reasons to avoid
-Too small for larger surfers-Not for absolute beginners

Designed by Mason Ho, top pro surfer and general wave hooligan, comes this turbo-charged performance foamie from Softech. Aimed at improving novices and intermediate surfers (it’s a great board for kids too), the Mason Twin is an excellent choice for surfers who have just moved on to regularly catching green waves and are planning to eventually step up to proper PU or epoxy shortboards.

At 35l (a 31l 5’2” version is also available) the board gives you plenty of volume under your chest for easy paddling into waves. Once you’re up and riding, its decent planing surface, well-shaped rails and fish-tail, twin fin design enable you to accelerate quickly as you race down the line.

The Mason Twin comes with soft FCS II fins, which are unlikely to hurt you or anybody else should an impact happen in the water, and there’s a vast range of hard resin options to upgrade to when you start to require more drive and precision from your fins.

Torq Fun Soft & Hard 7ft 6 Surfboard

6. Torq Fun Soft & Hard 7ft 6 Surfboard

Surfboard for those crossing over to 'intermediate' level

Fins: Futures Thruster
Construction: EPS core with Biaxial fibreglass cloth/Epoxy resin/Extruded PE foam deck
Ability: Beginner to Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Good performance compromise+Stylish design
Reasons to avoid
-More pricey

As the slightly erotic name of the Soft and Hard suggests, this Torq board is in the middle ground between a soft and safe option for fresh-faced wave catchers and a more accomplished offering for those who have mastered the basics.

The soft deck keeps the all-important aspects of safety and durability, but the biaxial fibreglass cloth and epoxy resin afford it some extra stiffness, which means it can cope in larger waves.

It's suitable for riders weighing between 70-100kg and the removable Futures Thruster three-fin combination means there's the option to experiment with varying fin set-ups… should you reach that level of surfing nerdery.

Cortez Funboard 7ft 2

7. Cortez Funboard 7ft 2

More life a real surfboard, but still suitable for confident newcomers

Fins: FCS Thruster
Construction: Three Phase Epoxy
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
Reasons to buy
+Feels like a real surfboard
Reasons to avoid
-Harder and potentially hurtier

Despite sporting a spray tan that makes Donald Trump look pasty, this sharp offering from Cortez doesn't quite scream "kook" like some of the foam-topped models we've mentioned already.

With a staggering 45.8-litres of volume, it has enough float and buoyancy to handle heavier surfers, yet the epoxy resin technology is designed to mimic the boards that leave the shaping bays of the major players.

It's a cool step-up model that doesn't quite cost as much as the more bespoke creations from the big names, while the Cortez epoxy technology is designed to withstand a huge amount of battering, which will majorly increase its sealife.

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