Whether you're looking to score your first waves or improve your skills, our pick of the best surfboards for beginners will help you get there. Make no mistake, surfing is a seriously hard pursuit to get good at, so it's a fortunate thing that catching waves of any description is loads of fun – even if you're constantly wiping out while you do it. What is far less enjoyable though is paddling around on a surfboard and struggling to catch anything. This can often be the case with surfing newbies, usually because they are attempting to ride a board that's designed for someone with superior surfing abilities, or they picked something to look cool with while they hang out on the beach.
There's an old saying in surfing: the best surfer is the one having the most fun. We want that surfer to be you after reading our guide. You may not find the most cutting-edge shortboards here, but we've picked out a selection of beginner boards that you're guaranteed to catch tons of waves on, help you progress to the next level and have heaps of fun while you do so.
We think the best surfboard for beginners right now is the Log from JJF By Pyzel. This is a brilliant beginner 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. But it might not suit everyone, so read on for a range of options and alternatives. While you're here, you might want to check out our pick of the best wetsuits to keep you warm while you're practicing.
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The best surfboard for beginners: What to look for
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 surfboard for beginners?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 beginners should look to go 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.