Whether you're looking to score your first waves or finesse your skills, the best beginner surfboard will help you get there. Becoming an accomplished surfer takes hundreds of hours on the water, catching – or attempting to catch – as many waves as possible. A common mistake that many beginners make is to start with a board designed for far more experienced surfers. Instead of taking this approach, it's well worth investing in a beginner board initially, because picking a more advanced model will almost certainly drastically reduce the number of waves you catch, and it'll take you longer to learn as a result.
While it may be a while until you’re ready to ride a high-performance shortboard like the Pyzel Phantom, fortunately, there are plenty of modern beginner to intermediate boards that will not only help you grab tons of waves and progress your surfing as rapidly as possible, but will also look pretty sweet under your arm too.
We think the best surfboard available for beginners right now is the Log from JJF By Pyzel. This is brilliant board for scoring maximum waves and having a blast while you do it. Unlike many beginner boards, it's got a fantastic pedigree and looks pretty damn cool to boot. It might not suit everyone, though, so we've included a range of options and alternatives in our guide. We'll start with some advice on what to look for, then head into our official 2023 ranking of the best surfboards for beginners.
While you're getting yourself kitted out, make sure to also check out our guide to the best wetsuits to keep you warm while you're practicing. Less essential, but still super hands, are one of the best dry bags (for a place to keep your valuables protected from the sand and surf) and a pair of the best water shoes, designed for hopping in and out of the sea in comfort.
The best surfboard for beginners: what to look for
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When buying your first board, it's tempting to step up from the surf school foamies you'll have no doubt ridden at surf school sessions to a fully fledged 'proper' fibreglass or epoxy surfboard. A far wiser move though is to go for a soft-top board. They're 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 maneuverability 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 find the best surfboard for beginners confusing and 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 beginner surfboard in 2023?
Boards for novice surfers used to be heavy and horrible foam planks that were only good for riding in straight lines to the beach. Nowadays there's a host of models from world renowned shapers that are not only easy to catch your first waves with, but are also designed to help you progress with your surfing too. The Log is one of the latest and greatest examples of this new breed of learner boards, which is not a surprise as it's designed by John John Florence – a two-time world title winner and one of the best surfers of the current generation, and John Pyzel – one of the most respected shapers on the planet. The Log is really easy to catch waves on, but manoeuvrable enough to allow you to trim along the wave face, turn and perform cut-backs.
Being a fairly traditional longboard shape, the 9ft Log is ideal for beginners, though it also comes in 8 and 7ft lengths for smaller riders or those who prefer a shorter board. The deck and rails are covered with a soft EVA skin that can take plenty of knocks, but is far less likely to damage you or anyone else the board may collide with in the water. Fin-wise, the Log runs a traditional longboard centre fin, plus two smaller side-bites.
While there are tons of soft-top surfboards around, Tiki's Epic range are some of the best we've seen. Solidly constructed using a traditional foam core with a wooden stringer for extra stiffness, the core is then wrapped in two layers of 6oz fibreglass, then finished with a 4mm soft yet sturdy EVA deck skin and a hard bottom for increased speed. Being smaller and easier to handle than a longboard or mini-mal, this 6' 6", 53 litre board here is one of the best beginner surfboards for kids or anyone under 70kg. The Epic range also includes 7', 7'6", 8', 8'6" and 9' lengths for bigger surfers, as well as 6' and 5'6" fish that are best suited for more experienced surfers to have fun on. All the boards come with flexible FCS fins, allowing you to upgrade to hard fins as you progress.
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.
Next up in our guide to the best surfboards for beginners 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 9ft 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 10 over the front.
If you're a longboard or mini mal rider looking for something more manoeuvrable that won't put a serious dent in your wave count, the Torq Modfish is a brilliant choice. Despite being a super-fast on the wave and way more responsive than a mini mal, with loads of foam under your chest, the Modfish paddles really well and feels pretty stable when you get to your feet. It comes in a range of sizes from 5'11 to 7'2 designed for surfers from 35-65kg to 60-100kg, so there's an option to suit all sizes and abilities. Skilled surfers generally ride fish type boards that are two to six inches shorter than them, but the best surfboard for beginners is at least a couple of inches longer than their height. The Modfish is also available as a soft top and in various hard constructions – from the basic epoxy here to a super lightweight version with a carbon stringer.
Okay, it's not really one of the best beginner surfboards – this one is for intermediate surfers, and would make an absolutely excellent first 'proper' shortboard. Lost Surfboards' shaping supremo, Matt Biolos, took a Mark Richards classic and redesigned it to create the Lost X MR California Twin. The result is an incredibly versatile shortboard that will help weekend warriors surf score just as many waves as the saltiest of locals.
A relatively flat nose rocker combines with a wide mid-point, nose and tail help to give the California Twin plenty of useful glide in the weaker surf that typically reaches British shores. A flat deck helps provide stability and makes the board more forgiving for less skilled surfers, while the performance tail rocker and Mark Richards' proven 'soft down' rails gives easier take-offs in steeper waves and enables more experienced riders to pull precise turns.
Whether you want to pull screaming turns down the line or stay tight into the pocket, the California Twin is an excellent choice for almost every condition – though it goes best in open-faced waves from waist to head high. Head to our Lost X MR California Twin review to find out more.