Beginners Guide to Surfboards

It can be overwhelming trying to choose the correct surfboard, especially if you are new to the sport. There are things to take into consideration which we are going to help you with, so that you feel well informed on which surfboard is best to go for.

What do I need to know about buying a new Surfboard?

Have you always wanted to get into surfing but don’t know where to start when it comes to choosing a new surfboard? Maybe you’ve been to the beach for the week and realised that you would be better off buying your own surfboard rather than hiring one. 

Well, congratulations on firstly making the decision to try surfing. Surfing is one of the most enjoyable adventures to embark upon. It is a physical and mental challenge that will test your limits. There is no greater feeling than working hard, catching a wave and riding it to the shoreline. You will not regret the decision.

However, before you can conquer the waves, you want to make sure you get the right board. Choosing the right beginner surfboard is essential to making progress. You want to get the right balance between catching lots of waves and being able to make progress as your surfing ability improves. You might also want to learn some key phrases that you will no doubt encounter as you shop for the best beginner surfboard.

What Surfboard should I choose?

Given that this is an article for beginners, lets assume you are at the start of your surf career. Therefore some of the different surfboard names may mean nothing to you. Let’s take a look at some of the surfboards you could choose from:

Foam Surfboard

The most traditional way to start surfing is through a foam surfboard. These are the lifeblood of surf schools in the UK. Full of volume and soft, they make learning to surf safe and fun. They will get you to your feet quickly and allow you to catch heaps of waves. Depending on your selection of a foam board will determine how much progress you make. Some boards are long and heavy, so once you’ve mastered standing, you will probably be ready to level up and go for a hardtop surfboard. However, the modern foamie will give you room for progression. If you choose a higher end product, you should be able to begin to move up and down the wave.

Surf Unleashed recommends

Best Beginner Foam Surfboard

Premium level soft top surfboard that allows you make lots of progression.

It gives excellent all round performance. Once you learn how to catch waves, this will allow you to begin your turns.


The clue to this surfboard is in the name. They are long in length and make catching waves easy, regardless of the size of the wave. For this reason alone, they are worth considering if you want a good beginner surfboard that will allow for more progress. They suit the UK surf scene as the majority of surfing is done in the summer, when our waves are less reliable as the swell is often smaller. Therefore if you get one of these you can always guarantee some surfing as you can catch waves on the smallest of days.

These boards are great for larger people as the greater size means more buoyancy, so it’s easier to stay on top of the wave. There is plenty of room for progression with these boards. You will be able to perform slow turns up and down the face of the wave and if you get really good you can “hang ten”.

Surf Unleashed recommends

Best beginner longboard

This longboard from Circle-One works well for beginners due to it’s length

At 9′ long and 22″ wide, you will have good stability under foot. We found that it’s easy to catch waves and maintain speed

Mini Mal Surfboard

 A hybrid option as the mini mal gives good volume and size, but isn’t as big and bulky as a traditional longboard. If you can already ride a wave in the whitewash, then the mini mal surfboard could be just what you need. They usually start around 7ft and come in various shape options. When choosing the right mini mal think about your size and weight. If you are a novice surfer, you will want a board that has volume and size.

Surf Unleashed recommends

Best budget mini mal

Great beginner setup as it includes everything you need.

Made with beginners in mind. You will catch lots of waves and progress fast with this mini mal.


These are best left to more advanced surfers. They are more pointy, thinner and manoeuvrable. They also have less volume. So if you are a beginner reading this article, just know that you don’t need a shortboard until you can comfortably make turns along the wave. 

What Length Surfboard Should I Choose?

Choosing the correct length surfboard can depend on a range of factors. For example, your own height, weight and ability. Most beginners should choose a surfboard longer than their height, and with plenty of width and volume to help with buoyancy. All of these factors help you to catch waves and balance better on the board. 

It is important to remember this as you might be tempted to choose a board that is smaller, with the idea that you will get greater longevity from it. Well if you don’t catch waves, you will not make progress and probably will not enjoy surfing as much. Good surfboards hold their price and you can always sell your board if you think it’s time to level up.

If you are a looking at a beginner surfboard for kids, you can look at smaller boards as their height and weight will mean they aren’t going to struggle when it comes to keeping the board above water. If you are worried about injury, a foam surfboard will suit children learning to surf.

Key Surfboard Phrases

If you are looking for a new surfboard to buy then some of the terminology can be confusing. I remember being a green surfer trying to learn the lingo. People would be saying things like “mini mal” and “epoxy” and I’d just not and pretend I knew what they were talking about. Here are some terms of phrases you may read about.

Stringer – a piece of wood that runs through the board. It helps the surfboard to keep its shape and gives its strength and rigidity. Beware the surfboards without them as their longevity will be shorter, as they will eventually lose their shape. A board that isn’t very rigid will flex, which means a drop in speed. When your are learning to surf, you want to hold onto that speed to maximise your chances of catching the wave.

Rails – these are the sides of your boards. The rail is the edge and essentially the grip of the board. It is used to make turns on the wave face, which as you progress as a surfer, is important for riding the wave for longer. On a beginner surfboard, especially foam surfboard, the rails will be thicker, which means a slower turn. As you get better at surfing and choose a hard surfboard, the rails become more defined and smaller.

Thruster – This refers to a type of fin set up. In this case, three fins.

Foamie – A foam surfboard. It may come under different descriptions such as soft top. Very popular beginner surfboard choices.

Epoxy – The material used on a hard surfboard. This is found on most hard surfboards.