Which Surfboard? Part 1 - Your First Surfboard

The most common question we get asked is - Which surfboard should I buy? whatever your level of surfing experience you're always looking for a new surfboard to help you progress or just to try something new, in this series of blog posts we will go through the options and give some general advice for anyone looking for a new surfboard.

We have a huge range of surfboards that we regularly ship all over the continent to every type of surfer, so you can be sure that we will have something that will suit you.

Your First Surfboard

We aim to help guide you through this process, all the staff at the Magicseaweed store have been through it ourselves, between us we've made some good and bad choices that you can learn from in the case studies featured throughout the series.

These are the most popular characteristics that first time board buyers ask for in a surfboard:

  • Good value for Money
  • Very Durable
  • Easy to transport
  • Able to be duck-dived under waves
  • Works in small and big waves
  • Allows progression
  • Looks cool

Unfortunately it's impossible to get a surfboard that meets all these needs, you're going to have to compromise to get the best surfboard you can for your surfing, first there's a couple of basic things you should know about what surfboards are made of:

Materials and Construction

There are dozens of types of surfboard construction, we will focus on the basics of the main types you're likely to see when looking at a first board:

Softboard

These boards have a layer of soft foam on the top and often a slick layer of plastic on the bottom.

  • The best durability
  • Safer as they don't have sharp points (except the fins)
  • The best value
  • Used by nearly all surf schools

Moulded Epoxy Sandwich Construction

The most common brands using this type of construction are Bic, NSP and Surf Series, although many others use something very similar, they are sometimes described as "Pop-outs" because of the mould used to shape the core of the board.

  • Very good durability
  • Usually have removable fins, sometimes compatible with fin systems like FCS
  • Good value, often available in packages with a board bag & leash

Traditional Polyester Resin The standard surfboard construction for many years, a soft foam blank is shaped into the surfboard then layers of polyester resin and fibreglass cloth are laminated over the top to make it water tight and give it a hard outer shell.

  • Relatively lightweight
  • Looks like a traditional surfboard
  • Available in all shapes and sizes
  • Usually have removable fins which can be replaced easily
  • Can be repaired if dinged or cracked They will crack or ding if dropped or knocked into something, you will see pressure dents in the deck after use where the fibreglass sinks slightly into the foam core (this is normal and does not affect the way the board works).

Epoxy Resin The board is made in the same way as a polyester board but uses a different kind of foam as the core and epoxy resin and fibreglass cloth on the outer layer.

  • lighter than a Polyester resin surfboard
  • A little bit more durable than a Polyester resin surfboard
  • Looks like a traditional surfboard
  • Available in all shapes and sizes
  • Usually have removable fins which can be replaced easily
  • Can be repaired if dinged or cracked
  • These boards are lighter and are usually more resistant to cracks, the outer layer tends to bend rather than split when it's struck by something.

Those are the main types of construction you will encounter so now you know the main benefits of each construction method you can concentrate on getting the right shape of surfboard.

Popular Types of Surfboards for Beginners

Have a browse of any of the photo pages on Magicseaweed or the car park at your favourite spot and you will see all shapes and sizes of board, it's no coincidence that all surf schools use the same type of long, wide, round nosed boards to teach surfing on, these boards have lots of volume to give you the float and stability you need to paddle into waves and stand up for the first time.

If you are looking for your very first surfboard this is the type to get, don't be seduced by the pointy noses and narrow outlines of more high performance boards, they will not give you what you need when starting out and can even be harmful to your surfing by hampering your ability to catch waves and get to your feet.

The classic beginners Mini Mal shape is at least 8 foot long with a round nose and lots of width, it will be hard to transport and you wont be able to duck dive it under waves, but what it will do is get you into lots of waves and allow you to stand up and start learning the basics of surfing along the face of an unbroken wave, if you have patience at this stage you are likely to develop good habits that will be of huge benefit once you down size to a smaller board.

MSW Case Study: Shaun's first surfboard - 6'6" x 18 1/4" x 2 1/4" Maurice Cole - "It forced me to develop quicker than I should have and has led to me developing some bad habits that I'm still trying to shake off now, if I could go back I would definitely have gone for something like a mini-mal which would have given me the chance to improve my style gradually and concentrate on getting the fundamentals right before moving to a shortboard style board."

We sell soft roof rack systems which will allow you to transport any type of board on nearly any vehicle, so don't be afraid to go for a big board, the size of board is probably the biggest factor in paddle speed and wave catching ability, if you can catch twice the amount of waves in a session it will take you half the time to learn the skills you need to step down to a smaller board.

Price Vs Suitability

We often get enquiries from first time board buyers about high performance surfboards that are on special offer at a good price, the big risk with going for a board that's too short and narrow with not enough volume is that you wont be able to catch waves on it. Even if you can catch waves you will find it very difficult to stand up and start developing the basics of making your bottom turn and trimming along the face of the wave if the board is too small.

You might save a little money buying a well priced but unsuitable surfboard, but it can have a big impact on your progression and the enjoyment you get out of surfing, go for a high volume, wide board to start with to make sure you can master the basics before stepping down to a smaller board.

MSW Case Study: Ross's first surfboard - 6'10" Surfers Paradise Gun - "I got it second hand for £80, it was a bargain, I thought that just because a board was long I would be able to surf it, the 6'10" gun I bought cheap would have been more suited to 2nd reef pipe than low tide Bantham, to this day I still haven't stood up on this board, the lesson learned is more volume = more waves and more fun!

I also only waxed the board in the middle for my front foot, these days I wax all over the deck to make sure I'm not going to slip off"If you are on a tight budget then buying a bigger board when your aim is to surf a high performance shortboard might seem like wasted money, but the majority of beginner friendly boards are built to last longer than a fibreglass shortboard, even years down the line when you are riding a short board you can still use the big board on days when the waves are small.

Essential Accessories

Unless you buy a board with a package you will need a few things before you get in the water, if you're in the UK a wetsuit is a must if you want to stay in the water long enough to learn to surf, take a look at our in depth wetsuit guide if you want some advice on choosing the right wetsuit for you.

The next essential is a leash, we will touch on surfing etiquette at the end of this post but suffice to say you will be falling off your first surfboard a lot, a general rule of thumb is to go for a leash which is around the same length as your board, if you have an 8 foot board go for an 8 foot leash, there are hundreds to choose from and they all do basically the same thing, if you pay a little more you will usually get a stronger leash.

Look after your leash and it will help you out of a lot of situations but leashes can snap at any time, regardless of wave size or the age of the leash, a leash is not a substitute for good swimming ability and shouldn't be relied upon to get you out of trouble. Never wrap your leash around the fins at the tail of your surfboard, fins are very sharp and can easily put a nick in a leash which will weaken it and can cause it to snap. Be aware that the board will spring back towards you if the leash has been stretched on a wipeout.

Surf wax is the next essential item, apply the wax all over the deck of the board and try and get an even coverage, we stock a huge range of surf wax, for beginners the main thing to get right is the temperature rating, you can get hard and soft waxes, softer for colder water and harder for warmer water, the most popular wax for the UK is cool in the summer and cold in the winter. You can add a thin layer of very hard basecoat wax before applying the appropriate temperature wax to give it a better base to stick to.

You can usually get away without a board bag for your first board if it's a soft board or a tough composite material, but if you plan on taking it on a trip check out the full Magicseaweed boardbag guide for some in depth advice.

Basic Surfing Etiquette

Now you've got the perfect first surfboard you want to get straight out in the water and catch some waves, if you've had a lesson the surf school will have gone through some basic surf etiquette, and you may have been taught a few things buy other surfers in the line up as well. We won't go into depth here but there are a few things that you should keep in mind before paddling out.

The surfer closest to the breaking wave has priority - a surfer will try and ride along the wave on the unbroken face, if someone is already on a wave you should not paddle for the wave, if you are both paddling for an unbroken wave the person who is closest to the part which is about to break has priority, it's best to not paddle for a wave if someone else is already going for it.

Don't let go of your surfboard - always do your best to hold onto your surfboard, this is especially relevant when paddling out, sometimes it's unavoidable when you fall off when riding the wave but it's really important to keep hold of your board whenever possible. If you've got a 9 foot board on a 9 foot leash that's an 18 foot radius of potential danger for other surfers when you let go of your board.

The Next Step

The next post in the series will look at your second board, an important choice for anyone's progression in surfing and one that we get a lot of questions about, we will look at the different options available to make sure you get a good compromise of volume and manoeuvrability.

If you would like some specific advice on buying your first board give us a call on 01548 800567 or get in touch via e-mail: Store@magicseaweed.com