How to Choose a Surfboard
If you ask me, almost nothing beats the feeling of catching the perfect wave, and being on top of the right board makes it all the better. Choosing the right surfboard for your ability and for different wave conditions can be confusing. No worries though … hopefully, I’ll unravel all your questions here, so you can choose the perfect board with confidence.
Let me start off by saying, you can use many different style boards on a lot of different wave types. I will break it down, first, by wave type and secondly, go over what board shape, style, and size will suit your ability level.
Knee- to Waist-High Waves
Smaller waves do not have as much power as a wave with more size. In this type of surf, I would recommend riding a longboard. It has a lot more volume, which simply means it floats better in the water. A longboard will give you the ability to catch these smaller waves, paddle out deeper and faster, and get nice long rides. If you tried to use a performance short board in knee-high waves it would not have enough float to catch them; and if you do catch the wave, it will not have enough power for a fun ride. Knee- to waist-high waves are fun for riders of all ability levels. They are great to learn on and also fun to hang ten.
If you are a beginner to surfing and still looking for your first long ride down the line, I would recommend a longboard that is 7-8 feet in length with three fins; it will be easier to handle than a 10-foot board. This will make it much easier to get out in the lineup. Also, a leash is a must! I would recommend something like the Modern Surfboards Blackbird Longboard.
If you are an intermediate surfer, the board should be around 8-9 feet in length. Being that it’s a little shorter than a 10-foot board, it adds to the maneuverability. If you are looking for something that may be a little easier to surf and really like pumping down the line, I would go with a long board that has 3 fins giving you better maneuverability on the waves. You could also go with a single fin depending on the type of surfing you are looking for. I would recommend something like Surftech Robert August What I Ride Surfboard.
If you are an advanced longboarder, you may enjoy a single-fin long board ranging in size from 9-10 feet. Single fins are killer for cruising, big wide turns, and walking the board so you can hang your toes and heels off the nose. Some riders really make it look like a dance. Style is everything! I would ride something like the Modern Surfboards Retro Longboard Surfboard.
Waist- to Chest-High Waves
I would recommend riding a hybrid or fish, which is shorter and thicker style of board. I like riding a shorter board in waves with a little more size and power. This give me the ability to make turns on the wave, and get in tighter steeper sections that might be more of a challenge on a long board.
If you are a beginner but looking to step up your game, I would recommend a 6-7 foot hybrid-style board. The smaller board will make it easier to duck dive or turtle the board. Something with 3 or 4 fins would give you good grip and stability on the wave. I would recommend something like the 7S Super Fish 3 Carbon Vector Surfboard. It will take a stronger paddler to get out in stronger/bigger surf so don’t push it and start small, know your limits!
If you are an intermediate surfer, I recommend a 7-foot board with three fins. As always, the additional fins will make it easier to handle. This board feels nice and stable so you can hold your speed down the line. I would recommend something like the Surftech Takayama Egg Surfboard. If you were looking for a fish or fun style board, I would recommend something around 6 feet. This board can have 4, 3, or 2 fins. If you go with a quad (4 fins) you will feel super stable and feel the board hold in steeper sections like never before. Thruster (3 fins) will give you the ability to carve up the wave like Andy Irons and a twin (2 fins) will give you the classic feel of a twin fin. Something like the Lib Technologies X Lost Round Nose Fish Surfboard would be a solid choice.
If you are an advanced surfer, I would recommend riding something around 7-8 feet in a hybrid. Fin options can vary on the style of ride you are looking for. A big single with two smaller side fins, a three fin setup, or a single would all be epic. I would pick something like the Creative Army Huevo Surfboard (7ft6in). If I was riding a fish, I would ride something around 5ft5in to 5ft10in. This board should have two fins. I would suggest the Album Surf UTF Surfboard.
Chest-High to Overhead
I would take out my short board because when the waves have that much size and power, you need the control and tend to surf them more aggressively. A short board allows you to rip down the line, get into critical positions and, hopefully, in the barrel. Short boards are perfect for off-the-lip surfing. Having a board that is 7 to 8 feet becomes more difficult to duck dive and get in critical spots on the wave.
Honestly, I would recommend that if you are a beginner, you should stick with waves of a little less strength and power. Trying to surf chest-high to overhead waves your first day would be super unsafe. No one is Kelly Slater their first time in the water. It takes practice. But when you feel you are ready, go for it!
If you are an intermediate surfer you can go with something around 6 feet. This will have a little more volume making it easier to paddle to catch waves and get out in the lineup. I would recommend something with 3 or 4 fins. Something like the Lib Technologies Lost Sub Buggy Surfboard would be fun.
If you are an advanced surfer I would recommend a board around 5ft8in – 6ft with 3 or 4 fins depending on wave type. I suggest something like the Album Surf Dischord Surfboard.
Double Overhead or Bigger Waves
Dude, call in sick and go surf or just watch the heavies! Every surfer dreams of double overhead barreling waves. Most likely if you are surfing this caliber of swell you will not be reading this. But if you are, I would recommend surfing a longer short board or possibly a “gun.” The people I know who surf these bigger waves prefer something that will paddle them into these bombs with speed. When riding the face of a bigger wave the bigger board will provide more stability and not bounce around on the wind chop on the wave face.
I hope after reading this you have a better grip on what the right board for you might be. Remember, this is just a guideline to help you pick out the right board for general conditions and skill levels. These recommendations are based on someone 5ft8in to 6 feet tall around 150-180 pounds. So keep the stoke high and if you have any questions feel free to give me a call or email. I would be amped to help you find the right board for your home surf break! And remember the best surfer is the one having the most fun!