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How to Choose your First Surfboard

As any experienced surfer will tell you, there's nothing more fun than surfing. Although gaining competency is a serious challenge requiring unrelenting dedication, the rewards are worth it.

If you're looking to learn, finding the right surfboard on which to begin your journey is crucial for a smooth and enjoyable trip. With a boggling amount of shapes, sizes, and materials to consider, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. However, your friends at Central Coast Surfboards are here to guide you toward the board that will be best suited for your goals. Read on! 

Consider Your Background

If you already have excellent physical fitness, and maybe even a background in board sports or water sports, your balance and stamina are going to help, and you may be able to get away with starting on a slightly smaller board if that's what you want. Even then, remember that in general, beginners should opt for larger, more stable boards that offer buoyancy for easier paddling and wave catching, and forgiving performance for once you're up and riding. As you progress and learn the nuances of generating speed both paddling and surfing, you can gradually transition to smaller and more maneuverable boards. A general rule of thumb is the longer and wider the board, the more stable it will be in the water, making it ideal for beginners. 

Board Size and Volume

Board size plays a significant role in your ability to catch waves and maintain balance. A surfboard's volume, which is determined by its length, width, and thickness, directly affects its buoyancy. For beginners, a board with higher volume provides more stability and easier paddling. Aim for a board that floats you comfortably while still allowing room for progression as you improve your skills. Another tradeoff to keep in mind is that while bigger boards paddle faster, catch waves easier, and are more forgiving once you're standing, they are harder to "duck dive," or push down under white water or breaking waves. 

Choose the Right Shape

Surfboards come in various shapes and designs, each tailored to different wave conditions and riding styles. For beginners, a versatile and forgiving shape such as a longboard or a funboard, is ideal. These boards typically have more width and a rounder outline in the nose and tail, and have a bit more thickness, offering stability and ease of use. Avoid high-performance shortboards, which are thinner, have a pulled in outline in the tail and a pointy nose outline, and more curve running from tip to tail (called "rocker"). These are better suited for experienced surfers, as they require advanced skills and fitness to paddle and maneuver efficiently.

Soft-Top vs. Hardboard

When selecting a surfboard, consider the construction material—soft-top or traditional "hard board." Soft-top boards feature a foam deck that provides extra cushioning and safety, making them ideal for beginners learning to navigate the waves. Most soft tops lack the responsiveness and speed of hard boards, however. Soft-tops are very fun and you don't have to baby them out of the water to avoid damage like a hard board, but if you keep progressing you will eventually outgrow their abilities. That said, it's always fun to take out a softie and goof around for a bit on a playful summer day, even for an advanced surfer.

Rental/Borrowing vs. Buying

Before you think about buying a soft-top or traditional hard board, ask your friends if you can borrow a board appropriate to your beginning skill level. Also, you can call the surf shops in your area for a rental: many have a variety of boards for different skill levels and wave conditions, allowing beginners to experiment and find what works best for them. Once you've decided that surfing is for you, then consider investing in a surfboard that aligns with your skill level and surfing goals.

Seek Expert Advice

Don't hesitate to seek guidance from experienced surfers or knowledgeable professionals when choosing a surfboard. Local surf shops can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on your skill level, body type, and local wave conditions. Online forums and communities are hit or miss with the quality of advice offered, but you can find some quality help there.

Try different Boards

The more experience you have with different board designs and construction materials the better. Whenever the opportunity arises, try something new. Whether it's swapping boards with a buddy in the water or going to a surfboard demo day at your local beach, pay attention to how different shapes, materials, sizes, and fin configurations feel under your feet. You'll find that some things are easier to do on a given board, allowing you to figure out what feels good to you, and eventually find yourself a magic board.

So there you have it: a solid foundation of what to consider when looking for your first surfboard. Remember, surfing is many things to many people, and there will be a place for you in the water somewhere. Whether you're looking to shred as hard as possible or just relax and get some fun while you enjoy the view, the right surfboard will make your journey rewarding and fun!