Surfboard Buying Guide


How To Choose A Surfboard

Foamy, swallow tail, quad fin, nose rocker… yep there’s a lot of lingo to get your head around when you start shopping for surfboards. But getting to grips with the ins and outs of surfboard hardware will help you buy the correct setup and get more from your ride. After all, having the right setup for your ability and needs is as important as the zinc on your face in the height of summer.


When asking the question of “which surfboard is right for me” or “which surfboard is best for beginners”, we’ve broken down everything you need to know to buy your first (or quiver extending) surfboard. So you can spend less time deliberating and more time getting out in the water…

Index:

Ability

Volume

Types of Surfboard 

Tail shape

Rocker

Fins

Leashes

Grip Pads

Surf Wax

Surfboard Bags

Wetsuits

Ability

Ability plays a huge part in deciding which surfboard is for you. You want something that fits your riding style, allows you to catch waves regularly but also be a board to progress on.

Beginners

If you’re just starting out or had a couple of lessons, you want a board that will help you on your way! Surfboards which have greater stability are ideal for getting your paddling, pop up and stance correct. For this, make note of the volume of your board (also known as litreage). Generally, the thicker your board, the more float and stability it will provide.

Also bear in mind, going too short too early will mean you’ll struggle to paddle, catch less waves and ultimately be less stoked! In some cases, slightly shorter boards are compensated for by adding more volume in the likes of mini mals or fish boards.

Intermediate

You’re happy in the water, riding green waves and starting to piece together a few turns. This is where you might want to shorten your board to give you more manoeuvrability on the open faces of waves.

Advanced

You’re a master at catching waves, linking turns and spinning reverses. You’ve spent heaps of time in the water through all conditions, and no stranger to getting pitted. By this point, you probably know what board will get you amped for some waves.

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Volume

Volume, mostly now referred to as litres or litreage, is a good indication of float. Typically, larger volumes create more float. Beginners boards often have a larger volume to help with buoyancy and stability, whilst advanced boards will have less volume for performance. Volume is also a useful benchmark for your weight. Lighter people will need less litres and heavier people will need more litres.

Types of Surfboard


Foamies

Used by surf schools everywhere, foam boards (or soft tops) are the go-to board for learning. A larger volume provides better floatation, making it easier to catch small waves. Ideal for the whitewash, these boards are also hard wearing and safer to fall on.

More surf brands are starting to produce performance softboards. Some will have the shape of a shortboard but the extra foam helps paddle power in smaller waves. A super fun option for intermediate to advanced surfers in the smaller conditions around Summer.

Some options even have FCS fin boxes – stick some performance (stiffer) fins in and you will fly! Sameway founder Keaton has a 5’10 Softech Bomber and loves it. Check out his review on them here.

Mini Mals

A smaller version of the longboard, mini mals still have large volumes to give extra buoyancy and stability. Their flat wide nose also gives more paddle power so you’ll catch waves more easily. Typically 7-8ft long and a good choice for your first hardboard. If you’re not too heavy, you can still feel comfortable learning on a mini mal. And experienced surfers find them super fun because of their manoeuvrability!

Funboards

Somewhere between a mini mal and shortboard length, funboards still have plenty of volume to catch heaps of waves, The main difference is the nose shape that’s more pointed and streamlined for duck diving. These boards are great as an all rounder as they work well in a variety of conditions. Funboards are also the perfect transition board to progress on. A fairly wide nose ensures paddle power, whilst a very playful tail gives you a real feel for turning.

Fish Boards

A little shorter than your normal shortboard, fish boards are wide and full with a flat rocker. Their shape and volume allow you to paddle fast and absorb more speed when riding waves. The tail of fish boards are usually cut into a swallow shape to allow more control and pivot in turns. And, because they’re really easy to manoeuvre, learning turns even on low speed waves is made easy!

Shortboards

5-7ft long, shortboards are shaped for performance. Requiring more skill and so used by advanced surfers, these boards provide unparalleled manoeuvrability in the water. Typically much lighter with less volume and buoyancy than longboards or mini mals, shortboards are better for steeper, powerful waves.

Shortboards have pointed noses but lots of tail variations such as swallow or round. Different shapes suit different waves better, so it’s best to get a board based on the type of conditions you most regularly encounter.

Typically shortboards will have 3 fins for greater overall performance. Small changes in shortboard design create a big difference when it comes down to actually riding your board, so find out what you like to ride before buying.

Longboards

All about style, longboards are the surfboard of choice for many chilled surfers. Starting at 9ft in length, longboarding is the traditional style of surfing. Perfect for the small days, or experienced surfers wanting to style out a hang ten, longboards are made for long rides in less powerful waves. Larger volumes and surface areas create a lot of buoyancy and stability in longboards, making it easy to catch waves. Great for beginners.

For more experienced surfers, longboards are ideal for cruisey stylish surfing. Hanging five or ten (toes that is) is a common move for longboarders and some boards even have extra volume in the nose to support this.

Longboards are more about style and the type of waves you want to catch than ability, so decide if you’re looking for a cruisey good time or a more aggressive steep ride before purchasing.

Tail Shape


Squash Tail

Everyday all-rounder tail, the squash tail gives the loosest ride of all surfboard tails. A good choice for everyday surfing conditions, it’s easy to turn on the face and drive off the bottom.

Round Tail

If you’re all about smooth turns, the round tail is for you. It doesn’t offer as much release in the pocket of the wave than a squash tail, but still enough to ride in everyday conditions. Epic for smooth flow turns and working on your carve.

Thumb Tail

Fundamentally a wide round tail, this tail allows for more release in the pocket but not as much drive.

Swallow Tail

The tightest turning arc of all the tail shapes, the swallow tail makes it easy to pivot your board and change direction quickly. Great for tight quick turns.

Diamond Tail

Heaps of release in the pocket but tight on the rail, diamond tails have shorter rails but the drive of longer boards.

Pin Tail

Does what it says on the tin. Epic for speed, not great for mobility. This tail is designed to drive! Most common in big burly waves. Think 20ft Waimea.

Tail Shapes

Rocker

More nose rocker – Excels in steep waves, nose rocker is good for turning but not great at generating speed.

Less nose rocker – Fast take offs and speed hold through sections, but makes for more difficult turns.

More tail rocker – Great manoeuvrability for average/fast breaking waves, however not as fast through turns.

Less tail rocker – Good at generating a lot of speed but not awesome at quick sharp turns.

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Fin Setup

Most boards will come with removable fin setups allowing you to mix and match your fins and choose the best set up. With a 5 fin set up, choose between a single, twin, thruster (3 fins) or quad:

Single Fin

A classic single is purely for steering. It works as a rudder for directional turns meaning you will have to rely on your rails (side of the board) for flow turns. Single fins are mostly found on longboards.

Twin Fin

Twin setups loosen up your turns. They reduce drag through the fins, giving lots of release off the tail when initiating turns. Twin fins are often used on fish surfboards.

Thruster

The most common fin set up out there, 3 is the magic number for a lot of conditions. Great for creating drive and stability, 3 fins allows surfers to pump water out the back of the board to create drive and hold in more powerful waves.

Quad Fin

Great for holding your line in heavy waves, quad setups provide epic drive and direction, although a little looser than your thruster setup. Four fins are perfect for creating a little extra speed when you struggle to find it yourself.

Fin Type


FCS Fins

The most widely used system out there, FCS fins have a key to screw fins into an anchor point on your board. A designated weak spot also ensures the fins snap before pulling out the anchor, making them easy to replace and cause less damage to your surfboard.

FCSII Fins

FCS 2 (FCSII) are effectively the same deal but without a screw in. This upgrade allows fins to snap into place without a tool, great for convenience. Larger plugs into the anchor point also create more connection to the board, increasing the flex pattern of the fin. Therefore flex reaches the fin tip more easily to create drive.

Futures Fins

Attached into a box the length of the fin, Futures create better energy transfer to the fin tip and therefore better response and performance. Futures are also a stronger system, less prone to damage from impact.

To choose the size of your surfboard fins you should base this on your weight. Here is a rough guide for fins sizes:

XS = < 53kg
S = 50kg – 70kg
M = 65kg – 88kg
L = 80kg +

A long fin box on a longboard also gives you the ability to customise fin location. The closer to back of the board = more control, closer to the centre of the board = looser but more responsive feel. So you can alter your board dependant on the conditions. Futures are most frequently found on longboards.

Leashes

Leashes are an imperative part of your set up. Essentially, a leash is a cord that attaches the back of your board to your back foot with a velcro strap around your ankle. Your leash stops your board washing around and hitting other surfers when you fall off a wave, as well as acting as your safety rope to your float in the water.

The length of a leash is generally based on the length of your surfboard. For example a 7ft mini-mal you would be after a 7ft leash. The most popular leashes for shortboards are 6ft. Experienced surfers who will be surfing larger waves will choose longer leashes so they are not dragged over the falls when falling on the bigger sets!

Grip Pads

Primarily there to enhance your grip on the board, grip pads, also known as tail pads, are raised grippy rubber pads that stick to the tail end of your surfboard to boost your ability.

Having grip pads aids with foot positioning allowing you to progress faster. Getting your footing right more consistently helps when learning how to push through turns, in turn triggering more response from your board.

Grip pads come in single pieces or multi pads which allow for customisation on wider boards. Front foot grip pads are becoming more popular in the surfing world. Saves you time having to wax your board every session!

And are most commonly found on shortboards and sometimes fishes.

Surf Wax

In similar vein to grip pads, surf wax is spread over the main area of your board to enhance grip and prevent slipping during paddling and surfing.

There are surf waxes for all kinds of conditions. The type you apply will mostly depend on the water temperature you’ll be surfing in. These go from cold water wax, warm water wax, tropical water wax and can all be applied over an all conditions base coat wax.

Surfboard Bags

An essential piece of kit for transporting your board, surfboard bags help prevent damage in transit.

Thicker bags with padding are great for air travel, whilst thinner board sleeves are ideal for putting your board in your car to the beach. There are different board bags based on your surfboard type, for example shortboard and fish boards, as well as the length of your board. We’d recommend always going a few inches longer than your actual board size so you have some space for extra protection when you are flying.

Quick tip – use pipe insulation around the rails of your board to reduce the risk of dings while in transit!

Also depending on how many boards you are travelling with, there are single, double and triple board bags to get your quiver packed up together.

Wetsuits

It’s no good having a board if you don’t have a wetsuit to actually go surfing in! When you’re buying a wetsuit, a close and comfortable fit is paramount. Wetsuits should act as a second skin.

Wetsuit thickness depends mostly on conditions. Cold water suits go right up to a 6mm wetsuit (ideal for arctic swells) whilst wetsuit tops and women’s spring suits can go down to a 1mm for tropical waters.

Check out our Wetsuit Buyers Guide to make sure you get the right wetsuit for the conditions and your size.

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