(The Gear Loop) - Surfing might feel like one of the trickiest water sports to master, but many of the tumbles and setbacks are often due to a lack of formal tuition and use of the wrong gear.
It’s all too tempting to skip the beginner stage, reach for the smallest and coolest board you can find and head to the biggest waves. The pros do it, so why can't you?
Alas, the smaller and less buoyant the board, the more difficult it will be to get to your feet and that paradisiacal surf session will likely end up with a savage tumbling in the white water, salty brine up your nose, seaweed in your wetsuit and an overriding feeling of inadequacy. Trust us, we’ve been there.
With that in mind, it’s far better practice to grab a nice, big foam board (the more buoyant, the better) and head for relatively gentle waves to begin with. Better still, seek tuition from a trained professional and you’ll be cruising and carving in no time.
So, if you’ve been bitten by the bug and fancy investing in your own beginner board, look no further, as we have rounded up some of the best out there. And if you need more buying advice, head to the bottom of the page.
The best beginner surfboards
Vision XPS Take Off
- Great value
- Available in a number of sizes
- Built tough
- Soft fins only
- Not the most manoeuvrable
- Relatively heavy
It's all in the name with this one, as there Vision XPS Take Off literally wants to help you learn to 'take off' - or get to your feet, in other words.
This is aided by the massive amount of volume offered throughout the range, with the smallest 6'6" board boasting a huge 61-litres and the largest 8'0" board offering 80 litres, which is arguably about as stable and buoyant as anyone could hope for.
The result of this huge volume is a slight decrease in length over rivals, meaning it's not such a bulky thing to lug to the beach, fit on a roof rack or attempt to slide inside a large car or van.
It's also made with a double stringer construction, which essentially means there are two supportive structures inside the foam giving it extra stiffness and improving its overall durability.
There's also a Crocodile Skin IXPE deck for natural grip wihtout wax and a carry handle recessed into said deck to make it easier to lift in and out of the water. All in all, a great board for beginners, especially in the largest variants.
- Massive volume for size
- Soft fins
- Carry handle
- It’s basic
- Tied into ST fin system
Softech is arguably at the forefront of soft board technology, and as you’ll see below, is moving things way beyond large hunks of learner foam to something more performance orientated.
However, the Roller is arguably the company's foundations, as it’s a super easy board to both surf and lug around thanks to its stubbier overall length.
Despite measuring 7'0" long (arguably making it a mid-length), it still boasts an impressive 66-litres of volume, ensuring it paddles really easily and offers an extremely stable surface for learner surfers to hone their skills.
It's arguably not as good for larger, heavier riders, as they will need a little more volume for buoyancy, but it’s a great beginner board nonetheless and Softech’s reputation for building sturdy and robust products is up there with biggest names in the water.
DMZ Square Softboard
- Massive and easy to ride
- Double stringer for strength
- Thruster fin set-up for stability
- Limited skillset
- It’s large
Like the Vision XPS Take Off, this foam long(ish) board has been designed with maximum volume and stability in mind. But here, it has a flat tail, making it track neatly in a straight line and proving stable for gentle turns.
The result is a board that will happily work in the weakest wave conditions and still prove fun when the swell picks up a little.
A double stringer design helps improve lateral stiffness and ensure it will last longer than one surf session, while the choice of numerous sizes and volumes means there's a board for most riders. Plus, it's cheap.
- Fun and manoeuvrable
- Interchangeable fin box
- Plenty of volume for easy paddling
- Not as stable as larger boards
- Plain colours look dull
The MR (Mark Richardson) EZI Rider is a versatile beast, as it proves both very easy to ride and surprisingly fun and manoeuvrable when placed in the right hands.
Its twin fin design is based on a retro fish template, which immediately makes it very cool and ramps up the fun element in the water, yet it can be specified in a wide array of lengths and volumes to suit various body types and skill levels.
When optioned in the smaller 6'6" variant (52L volume), it proves a really fast, carving fish that’s perfect for perfecting turns. If you’re not quite there yet, the larger 7'0" (60L volume) boards are really easy to get on with and are perfect for those progressing past the early stages of learning to surf.
What’s more, it packs a little more longevity thanks to the fact you can swap out the soft and safe rubber fins for proper keel fins as your surfing progresses.
- Awesome performance
- FCS II fin compatible
- Fun design
- Requires some skill to master
- Not great in big surf
Ok, so you’re surfing has come on a bit and you’re looking to progress from giant soft boards to something lighter, smaller and more manoeuvrable.
The fact professional surfer Filipe Toledo has put his name to this board should give you some idea of its intentions. Designed to represent a classic shortboard but with the volume and robustness of a foam board, this thing is the definition of fun.
It features FCS’ screw-less fin box system, meaning you can swap them out for something that suits your surf style and the conditions, while the performance template makes it a surprisingly snappy ride.
Granted, this will take some skill to extract maximum performance out of, but it still proves and absolute hoot in small, sloppy summer waves and you don’t have to worry about denting the thing.
What to look for when buying a beginner surfboard
This relates to the over length, width, thickness and volume of the board. The larger the board, the more likely it is to pack more volume, which in turn means more buoyancy to get you up and surfing.
This isn’t always true when comparing full foam beginner boards and those made with a foam core covered in an epoxy resin, as pure foam boards tend to pack a lot more volume into a smaller space and will naturally be more buoyant.
Generally, the larger and heavier you are, the larger the board you will need. Although you’ll find that as you progress, board length, shape and volume have a big impact on the way it performs in the water.
Beginner surfers tend to fall off a lot and that usually means a lot of boards flying around in the whitewater. To ensure everyone stays safe (swimmers included), it is best to learn on a soft board - or foamie - as the soft construction makes them less likely to bash someone on the head.
Even the fins (the blades on the underside of the board that keep it stable) on foam boards are mostly made from flexible rubber or silicone, making them much safer to use in congested areas.
You’ll come across numerous board styles when researching your first ride, from high performance shortboards and old school fish to mini-mals and nose rider longboards.
All of the above will behave very differently in the water, with those larger, heavier variants proving slower and offering a more relaxed longboard surf style, while the shorter and more aggressive boards are better suited to bigger waves, fast turns, cutbacks and advanced manoeuvres.