Surfboards 101: Ensuring You Have The Right Surfboard for your Ability

Surfboards 101: Your Guide To Picking the Right Surfboard.

There are plenty of different shapes and sizes when it comes to surfboards, some are big and bulky with only one fin, and others are tiny with sharp edges and 5 fins. Why are there so many different shapes? How do you know when to use what board? When you’re starting your surfing journey, this can be a challenging task and might become overwhelming. In this video, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked surfboard questions.

Which surfboard is best for beginners?

Generally speaking, for beginner surfers: The bigger, the better. For beginners I’d always advise soft top surfboards from 8ft and up. The bigger the surfboard, the more stable it is in the water and the surfboard will offer a beginner surfer more of a chance to stand up and keep their balance on the surfboard while riding the wave. These surfboards are ideal for small, beginner friendly conditions. They have a lot of volume, so this means the board floats very well and offers the surfer more ease when paddling.

How much does it cost for a surfboard?

Surfboards can become rather expensive toys once you start building up a collection of different shapes and sizes. Depending on the shaper, the material and condition of the board (2nd hand), prices can range from $50 to well over $1000. 

It is all up to you to decide what fits your budget and what you want to experience out of your surfboard. When starting out, don’t spend a lot of money. Look for a good second hand mini mal or longboard or rent different boards each session until you know what you would like to buy. These boards will offer the beginner surfer more opportunities to catch waves and better their skills. 

Once your skills become better, you will understand more about what board you would like to ride in different waves and conditions. That’s when it’s worth spending the extra moolah to get the right board for your specific needs.

What size surfboard do I need?

This will all depend on your own weight, height, skill level and the type of waves you are going to surf. I will provide my own summary and conclusion on my journey since I started surfing, and what boards I use today to give a more clear understanding to how you can pick the right size surfboard for yourself.

I was riding waves for 16 years and then I started stand up surfing. Yes, I rode waves on a bodyboard for a long time before I started exploring the world of fibre glass carpets. The sponge still has its place in my inventory for when the waves allow it. But surfing has definitely helped me to be in the water much more often. 

I started on a 6’10 mini mal with approximately 40L of volume. This board was easy to paddle with and I caught waves very easily. This was blissful for the shoulders and getting into the stand up side of things. I got frustrated when I wanted to surf better waves, as the board didn’t like turns or cut backs, and was more of a cruiser for soft waves like Muizenberg or Longbeach in Cape Town.

I moved down to a 6’4 with about 37L of volume and this is where I felt most of my improvement. I could catch more waves in a variety of conditions and felt my confidence building in each session. Although this board is epic, I felt it was lacking on the performance side where I wanted to go. More speed, control and flare in sections that offer potential for moves.

Then I moved on to a 6’1 thruster, 31L of volume. Your typical high performance board. It was horrible to say the least. My skill level wasn’t nearly good enough to use the board for what it was made for. I couldn’t get into waves. I fell a lot when I did manage to get into the waves,  the end result was a bruised ego and taking a knock of confidence. Something I have learnt is that every board has its conditions.

I then discovered the amazing Fish. A 5’9 twinny (twin fin) with roughly 33L of volume. The game changer for me personally. A much smaller board with lots of manoeuvrability and buoyancy. Paddles like a dream, catches waves easily and you can use it in most small waves, points and soft beachies. The only problem I’m finding is that when it gets a bit bigger, with very little rocker I eat shit on slabby take offs. My local wave when it gets bigger has a nice little step on the take off that gets me almost every time. 

The last board I’m going to discuss is the good old log, the long board. This is where it started, way, way back. Most will say they started surfing on a longboard. It’s the easiest and one of the funnest ways to ride a wave when the conditions allow it. When it is a thumping closeout shore-break and a heaving slab, it is not advised to use this kind of surfboard. It is more suited for small long running waves or point breaks that are considered mellow.

How do I know what fins to buy for my surfboard?

You get two main different kinds of fin boxes (the area you insert your fins): futures or FCS. Once you know whether you have Futures or FCS, take the board with you to a surf shop & have them help you pick out the best fins for you and your board.

1 Fin or 5 fins? Longboards are more suited for a single fin and then your shorter more performance based surfboards will mostly use thruster (3 fin) setups or quad (4 fin) setups. 5 Fin setups are rare, but on occasion you will find that one speed dealer in the line-up trying to reach mach 5, if you know what i mean. Then most of your fish surfboards will have twin (2 fin) setups. Each of these fin setups will offer the surfer a variety of speed and control in different wave conditions. It’s up to the surfer to choose what fin setup will help their surfing the most. The best is to use what you know, until your experience increases and you will have more of an understanding of what they will do for your surfing.

Is a 6 foot surfboard good for beginners?

No it is not, unless it’s a 6 foot soft top surfboard and you are is 4ft tall. Bigger boards like longboards and soft tops from 8ft and up are ideal for beginners that are learning to surf. You need more surface area and volume to be able to keep your balance when starting out. If you are using a board not suited to your skill level, it will discourage you from returning to the water. Start right to keep the stoke high.

Keen for an unforgettable guided surfing experience in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations? Get in touch with South Africa Surf Tours. We’d love to hear from you.

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