Choosing the Right Surfboard

Ok, so you’re committed, right? Ready to hit the surf? Now you just need to figure out one minor little detail….picking the right surfboard to learn how to surf! (ok, maybe not so minor) after all picking the right surfboard could make or break how you feel about surfing in general and possibly affect your enthusiasm to continue past the struggle of learning.
If you’re a beginner, you want a no frills board that is extremely easy to stand on, trust me! Although, skipping along the sand holding a paper light and potato-chip thin board underneath your arm may feel ‘cooler’ than lugging around that beat up old tanker of a board that seems more like a battleship than a sleek surfing vessel….who cares! You need a board that floats and that’s about it…for now!

So forget about picking out that stylish ‘fish’ or brand new ‘thruster’ (if you don’t know what I’m talking about don’t worry, a ‘surfing defined’ section will come later). The best choice for a beginning surfer is to pick out an inexpensive used board, ideally a ‘longboard’ that stands at least 3 ft taller than you. I.E. If you’re six foot tall, pick out a 9’0” or longer. The bigger the better! The width is important as well. Try to find a board at least 20” wide or more.

You’re best bet for finding affordable used longboards for sale is online at Or you can try your local surfshop. Just remember to start with something inexpensive to learn on. You can always upgrade once you get the hang of things.

Here are four things to look out for when shopping for a used surfboard:

1) Check for Dings: the most obvious are cracks or open holes in the board, but be aware of yellow or otherwise discolored areas that may be absorbing water. If you spot any spider cracks, place your lips over the area and suck (if saltwater is present then you have found a ding that needs to be fixed). If you spot duct tape, find out what’s underneath.

2) De-lamination: this occurs when the fiberglass separates from the foam core underneath. Once a board is delaminated, its basically one step away from being surf-god sacrifice material (in other words, its toast!). Run your fingers over the surface of the surfboard taking notice of any bubbles or areas that feel ‘soft’. For shorter boards, an easy way to spot de-lamination is to stand a board straight up and grab the nose (top). Using your forearms for leverage, press down towards the floor as if trying to bend the board in the middle. This will expose any potential de-lamination areas (usually where the feet are placed).

3) Rocker: If you’re a beginning surfer you’re going to want a surfboard with a fair amount of rocker to prevent you from pearling (nose diving). Rocker is defined as the amount of curve on the bottom of a surfboard. Picture a banana- if the contour of your surfboard matched that of a banana you’d be pretty safe dropping into the steepest of waves. Rocker not only makes a board easier to ride but also provides more maneuverability. However, the drawback of having too much rocker is a reduction in speed. Usually, the less rocker the faster it goes (surfboard shapers are constantly trying to adjust their designs to find the perfect balance of rocker – more for maneuverability, less for speed). An easy way to compare a surfboard’s rocker is to turn it on its side (rail facing up towards ceiling). Although the banana example is extreme, a surfboard should have a fair amount of curve from the nose to the tail. This will help make it easier to ride, albeit at probably unnoticeably slower speed.

4) They’re called skegs, but we call them fins: It may seem obvious, but make sure the surfboard you are thinking about buying has skegs. These are the fin shaped parts on the bottom of the board. If you’re a beginner than you most likely want a longboard with at least one large center skeg, although 3 skegs (a thruster) is ideal. The bigger the center skeg, the more stable the board will be.

Note: If you’re buying your first surfboard to learn to surf, don’t worry so much about the looks. Just make sure the surfboard is water tight and will float you well. Its kind of like learning to drive… start with the station wagon, the Ferrari will come later.