Choosing your first surfboard

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So you had couple of surfing sessions and decided that surfing is the best thing you can do in your life. You are ready to buy your first surfboard and now comes the question: which surfboard type should you choose? Ideally you want a board that will be easy to learn on but you will not outgrow too quickly. We all know that shortboards look really cool and are easy to carry to the beach, however this will probably not be your ideal first surfboard shape. This type of boards are usually quite wobbly and do not catch waves easily. You want exactly the opposite. Below there is a list of desired characteristics for your surfboard that will allow you to catch a lot of waves even if you are not a Pro yet.

girl with a surfboard on the beach

Long
You want your first surfboard to be long, something around 7-9 feet. The exact length will depend on your weight. If you are a girl of around 50 kg, 7 feet will be probably enough. If you are more towards 100 kg bound go for a board of around 8-9 feet. Another factor to take into account when choosing a board is storage and transportation. Some public transport will not allow you take items bigger then some predefined dimensions. For example London underground says they will not allow anything longer then 2m (slightly less than 6'8). We have taken longer boards on the tube and it was all fine, however you must take into account that you may be refused an entry. Similarly some airlines have length restrictions for the boards. A good compromise is to go for as long as you can but keeping those restrictions into account.

Rounded nose
You want the nose of your board to be rounded. The reason for this is that the more rounded nose the more volume is in front of the board and this allow you to catch the waves easier. We will talk more about volume later. From this point just remember that you want to avoid sharp pointed noses and look for the round ones instead.

Wide 
You want your board to be wide at least 20-21" inches wide. Ideally in the higher range of this or even more. Wide board will give you more stability and it will be easier to stand on. It will also be less wobbly when paddling. This is all good and will help you not to fall of the board so easily.

Lots of volume
If your board has the last three characteristics from above (long, rounded nose and wide) there is a high chance it has a lot of volume already. In general the volume measurement tells you how well the board will float on the water. Usually the bigger surface of the board the better it floats. The reason why you want your board to float well is because when you paddle on it it, the board and some pieces of your body are submerged in the water and they create drag. At the beginning you want this drag to be minimal so when you paddle you can move fast and just glide above the water. Faster paddling will have two benefits. First of all you will get to the line up faster and avoid being smashed by another set. Second of all it will be easier for you too match the speed of the wave when you paddle for it so you will not miss it. More volume will allow you to catch more waves and will definitively improve your wave count. For lighter people around 50 kg go for at least 40-45l volume. If you are more towards 80 kg bound you need something at least 50-60l or more. This are the sort of minimums you want and remember that usually more volume will get you more waves at the beginning so try to go as high as you can.

Damage proof
A lot of beginner boards are made from epoxy. They are more durable and harder to ding. As a beginner you will fall of your board easily and will be more awkward carrying your board to the break, through the doors etc. Basically you will probably hit your board quite often initially. Therefore if you have a choice epoxy could be a better option for the first board. Otherwise fiberglass boards will be good as well just more fragile so you will need to be more careful with them.

Final words
At the end I would like to add that that we have described here the ideal beginner surfboard. This however does not mean you will not learn to surf using a shortboard. In fact I know people that started learning on shortboards (that includes me to). This however is much more frustrating process and will take longer to learn. This is because you will not get as many waves as you would on a bigger board and balancing on it is also more difficult. This means you will have less time to practice your skills while on the wave as most of your time you will spend paddling and trying to catch the waves or falling of the board. However if you have enough determination, you are not giving up easily and the only board that you can use is a shortboard of your uncle stuck somewhere in the garage then go and do it. You will enjoy the process anyway.




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