Best Surfboard For Beginners

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Got the surfing bug?

So you caught your first wave and you are stoked on surfing!  Or maybe you just stumbled across a surf mag laying around a friends house and you just couldn’t pry your eyes from the pages. However it happened for you, you’ve been bitten by the bug, and like most who’ve been infected by this bug, you find it all too easy to give in to it’s allure. Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. We’ve all been infected in one way or another, and it’s a welcome sickness.  Now, the hardest decision is what type of board to buy for your first board?

Best Surfboard for beginners

The dilemma for you now is that you want a board that you can call your own, and you want to make sure you get the right board for you. Well that’s the aim of this entry, to help point you in the right direction. Now you can take this information down to your favorite local surf shop or you can take it to your trusted local board shaper, but either way you want to be armed with the right information.

There’s a lot to know when it comes to surfboard design, but luckily for the beginning surfer there are lots of options right down the middle. And right down the middle is exactly where you want to be focusing your efforts. When you have a range of boards from performance shortboards, to retros, fish, eggs, step-ups, big wave guns, to longboards and gliders, and all kinds of versions of each in between, it can be overwhelming to say the least.  Don’t make the all to common mistake that so many of us have made,  and go buy a shortboard that’s shorter than you are. That’s a sure way to steepen up your learning curve. Like wise, you probably don’t want to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and buy a flat rockered nose rider either.

Best qualities to look for in a board

Mid-length shortboard

Custom Mid-Length Surfboard (Juju Model)

So let’s talk about some of the qualities you should be looking for in a board to get you off on the right foot.  Let’s start with the boards rocker. Rocker is one of the most critical features in a boards performance. Too little of it and you’ll be diving for pearls all day. Too much of it, and you’ll be going super slow and plowing water the whole time. A good board down the middle for a beginner will have a good flowing natural rocker to it. You don’t want your rocker too aggressive in either direction. Another important feature is the length of the board you choose. If I had to pick one perfect beginners board length for the majority of people out there,  A good recommendation is  7′-7’6″. People obviously come in all sizes, so there’s a little bit of give or take here, but over all 7′-7’6″ is a good length that allows an experienced board designer to blend a lot of what a beginner needs into a good board to learn on.

Custom longboard

Custom Long Board (Logjam Model)

 Ian Balding Custom Shortboard

Custom Shortboard (Mariner Model)

Width and thickness

Width is also very important. Too little and the board won’t be stable. Too much and you’re liable to catch a rail, and it won’t be comfortable to get your arms around while paddling. Again, everyone has different shoulder widths, so fluctuation will play in here as well. But, if I had to pick one good width window, I’d say 21 1/2″- 22 1/2″ wide.

Next up would be thickness. Thickness is really something to consider, because it can add or subtract volume significantly. Too little volume for your weight and you’ll be sinking the board.  Too much thickness and you’ll have a hard time getting the board to engage the wave. A good over all thickness for the general size of board that we’re describing here  would be somewhere from 2 1/2″ – 3″ thick.

Design and shape

Now let’s talk about the shape itself. Typically the shaper needs to keep all contours on the bottom pretty subtle. In fact completely flat is going to be the most neutral of all. But there’s always the slight vee. A slight vee brings an added bit of maneuverability into the mix.  The most agressive bottom is the slight vee with a very subtle double concave. This shape would be for a new surfer who wants some room to grow into the board with even a little more maneuverability.  A fuller nose outline on this board is will be best. So don’t get caught up in what the pros are riding. That’s not what you need.. You want fullness in the nose area. Even full to the point of being a round, longboard style nose. But this needs to be blended with a little more rocker  to help from pearling too.

The tail end

As for tails… you have options, but keep it full as well. A square or “squash” tail is going to be the most stable, followed by a swallow tail, and then the pin tail. In the case of a pin tail, keep it full. As a shaper, I have a number of designs in this realm, because beginners are still a big part of the clientele.  Not to mention,  these boards get called “fun shapes” quite often. And for good reason… they’re just that, fun. A lot of experienced surfers still ride them to get that fun factor back up, and to catch a lot of waves

At the end of the day there’s still a lot of information that’s not even included in this post, and there’s ultimately no substitution for knowledge and experience. Which is where a good surfboard builder comes in handy. So now that  you’re armed with lots of good information to get the conversation started. Do that… get the conversation started! Either with your local surf shop, or with your local board builder. As always, don’t forget to be consciously aware when you buy, and don’t be sucked in by marketing trends. Do your homework, learn, and at the end support your local economy.



Go Custom 

We hope the information will help you make an educated decision on a board purchase!  The team at Ian Balding Paddle and Surf can help you customize a board that will be just right for your height, body weight, and skill level. We feel a custom board is the way to go when investing in the right board.. If you’re going to spend the money, why not get something that’s built specifically for you? Take advantage of your local board builders knowledge of the waves you surf, and then go get out on the water and have some fun! Give us a call or contact us to get your board started!

Surfboard designs

Custom Surfboards


Ben Bourgeois on a performance shortboard

Shaper Ian Balding

Shaper, Ian Balding



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