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How to Choose a Surfboard

Selecting The Right Surfboard For You

If you ask us, nothing beats the feeling of catching the perfect wave, and being on top of the right board makes it all the better. It can feel daunting to choose the right surfboard for your ability and for different wave conditions. Here we’ll help you understand how to choose a board by wave type and then go over what board shape, style, and size will suit your ability level, so you can enjoy every wave. Our recommendations are based around someone 5ft10 and 170lb, so adjust for a shorter or longer board depending on your size. 

Knee- to Waist-High Waves

Smaller waves do not have as much power as a wave with more size, so in this type of surf, we recommend riding a longboard. Longboards have 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. Knee- to waist-high waves are fun for riders of all ability levels, allowing you to learn and develop the skills for larger waves.


If you are a beginner surfer 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 maneuver than a 10-foot board. This will make it much easier to get out in the lineup–make sure you have a leash, too!

If you are an intermediate surfer, the board should be around 8-9 feet in length, which makes it a bit more manueverable than longer boards. If you are looking for something that may be a little easier to surf and really like pumping down the line, look for a long board with 3 fins which give you better maneuverability on the waves.

If you are an advanced longboarder, you may enjoy a single-fin long board ranging in size from 9-10 feet. Single fins are great for cruising, big wide turns, and walking the board so you can hang your toes and heels off the nose.

Waist- to Chest-High Waves

For waist- to chest-high waves, we  would recommend riding a hybrid or fish board, which is shorter and thicker style of board. The shorter board gives you 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, we recommend a 6-7 foot hybrid-style board. The smaller board will make it easier to duck dive or turtle the board, and a surfboard with 3 or 4 fins gives you good grip and stability on the wave. 

If you are an intermediate surfer, we 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. If you looking for a fish or fun style board, look for a board 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 is a solid choice.

If you are an advanced surfer look for a hybrid board 7-8 feet in length. Fin options can vary on the style of ride you are looking for: from a big single with two smaller side fins, a three fin setup, to a single. We like a board like the Creative Army Huevo Surfboard (7ft6in).

Chest-High to Overhead

In bigger surf, the control of a short board allows you to surf 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.

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. 

If you are an advanced surfer I would recommend a board around 5ft8in – 6ft with 3 or 4 fins depending on wave type.

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. We would recommend surfing a longer short board or possibly a “gun.” These style of boards allow you to paddle into the wave 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.

If you have more questions about picking out the right surfboard for you, don’t hesitate to contact a gearhead over online chat or on the phone at 800-409-4502.