Best Surfboards for Beginners
Getting the right equipment and understanding how it works is crucial to learning how to surf. Here are our favourite beginner surfboards and our guides on what you can expect from them.
You might already possess the physical prowess necessary to become a surfer and have an understanding of the ocean equal to that of an oceanographer, but without the right surfboard, it's highly unlikely that you'll succeed - especially if it's your first go.
That's not the case only for beginners either. Even an advanced surfer will find it difficult to ride waves if they don't pick up the right surfboard.
But what's considered the right surfboard? More specifically, what makes a beginner surfboard the right one? Sure, there are a lot of soft top foam surfboards on the market, and you might have heard that they're ideal for newbies, but does that make each and every one of them a good candidate?
These are difficult questions not because they require complicated answers, but because there are so many surfboard shapes at the moment that we cannot single out one with certainty. However, thanks to our experience in surf coaching, we were able to identify a few criteria for choosing the best beginner surfboards.
As a newbie, your goal should be to learn the basics like how to paddle, how to pop up to the proper surfer's stance, how to stand on the board in balance, and how to generate speed. The ideal beginner surfboard should provide comfort during these practices. It should also be stable, buoyant, and maneuverable.
Now, let's see which of the options currently available on the market meet these criteria.
The Best Beginner Surfboards: An Ultimate Guide
Although the common-sense approach to beginner surfboards suggests that a soft top board is the best option, that's not a certainty. You might find a long epoxy board or a fun mini mal better suited to your needs.
Therefore, our list won't be limited to the best soft top surfboards on the market. We're also going to introduce you to our favorite epoxy and fiberglass longboards as well as mini mals, so you can make a more informed pick when it's time to make a purchase.
Soft Top Longboards
Soft top longboards (also known as foam boards or foamies) are the boards many of us have ridden when we were at the beginning of our surfing journey, and they still are the first board choice of many newbies from all over the world. If you visit surf schools, you'll see that they send the beginners out into the ocean on soft tops as well. There are a couple of well-justified reasons for their conception as the best surfboards for beginners.
Firstly, and most importantly, a beginner should feel comfortable when trying to learn the basics of surfing. After all, you cannot expect someone to learn to drive when the driver seat is replaced with a bar stool or when Coldplay is playing (coldly) on the radio. Foamies are able to provide that comfort thanks to their soft tops.
Moreover, soft top longboards inevitably pack a lot of volume (unless they're made by a shaper who has a knack for experimentation) since they're quite long and wide. Therefore, they'll float more easily and require minimal paddling effort from you. Similarly, when you're practicing your pop-ups or balance, that buoyancy will be very helpful.
Lastly, there's always the risk that a beginner surfer will lose their board after a wipeout. Getting wiped out is not a problem at all by itself, but when you dump your board, it might be carried by the force of the wave and hit and injure other surfers who, like you, are just trying to learn. In that sense, soft tops are a bit on the safer side since they're, well, soft.
Of course, thanks to their well-deserved popularity, there are many great soft tops on the market. If you want to learn about the boards we favor the most under this category, please read on.
Catch Surf Odysea Log X Jamie O'Brien Pro
If you're an avid follower of our content, you might have already realized how much we love the Odysea Log X Jamie O'Brien Pro. The basic model of it was there when we listed our favorite soft top surfboards and it was there when Clayton and Anthony sat down and analyzed Anthony's quiver in depth.
And, honestly, what's there not to love about it? For one, Catch Surf always embellishes their boards with creative and fun art designs, so they're very easy on the eye. Plus, as a beginner, you'll start drawing attention when you carry one across the crowd of beach-goers. Even if you don't ride it, you'll admire its beauty as an accessory for your garage.
Whether you've picked up a surfboard before or not, you have every reason to ride the Catch Surf Odysea Log X Jamie O'Brien Pro because it's bound to make surfing fun for you. You might see the phrase "Jamie O'Brien Pro" in its name and think that it's not a beginner board at all, but it was designed to make surfing fun for novices with its incredible buoyancy, easy paddling attributes, and ability to catch waves effortlessly.
Many surfers have trouble with their longboards when it comes to doing turns because they lack maneuverability due to their high volume. What makes the Odysea Log X stand out is the fact that pulling off turns with it is not a hassle thanks to its narrow tail design.
This soft top longboard cannot be considered only as a great beginner surfboard, which is something you'll realize once you're advancing through the stages of surfing. When you're an advanced surfer, there will inevitably come some days when the waves are small and mushy, which will appeal neither to your taste nor to your skill level. On such days, you'll probably think of your Odysea Log X, paddle out on it, catch as many waves as you like, and remember how much fun you had with it when you were a beginner.
South Bay Board Co. 8' Guppy
Just one brief look at the review sections for the 8-foot Guppy on online shops will give you a good idea what this board is all about. The reviews are full of introductions like these: "This board was just what my 8-year-old son needed!", "I bought this board for my daughter for her 10th birthday and now we can't separate her from it! Help!", or "I don't know why I wanted to buy a soft top board because I wasn't even interested in surfing at all, but now I accidentally learned to surf and want to challenge Filipe Toledo."
Okay, you might not come across the last one simply because we made it up, but it might be true regardless. The 8-foot Guppy is probably twice or thrice the height of your dear 8-year-old, but it's such an easy surfboard that anyone can accidentally start surfing on it.
Similar to the Odysea Log X Jamie O’Brien Pro above, the Guppy is designed by surfers to make the learning process easier, and who'd know how to do that better than surfers themselves, right? The Guppy's round nose makes it quite buoyant, fast, and easy to paddle. It features a wide chest so that you pop up more freely and comfortably. Plus, its volume of 80 liters and wide squash tail provide you with more control and stability.
In addition to this, the shapers at South Bay Board Co. supplemented the already great stability of the board with their nose and tail rocker designs. The nose doesn't let the board pearl, and the entry-level tail rocker allows you to maintain speed without losing control. Thanks to its EPS (expanded polystyrene) core, it's extremely durable as well.
For some, the Odysea Log X Jamie O’Brien Pro might seem a bit expensive. You don't need to worry about that with the Guppy. As if all the beginner-friendly features are not enough, it's quite affordable, too. Taking that into account, we might even say that it's the best beginner surfboard currently on the market.
You might also want to check out the South Bay Tortuga, which is a longer board but is more performance-oriented than the Guppy.
Wavestorm 8FT Classic
There's no escaping fate. If there are some experienced surfers reading this article, they probably knew this moment would come as the Wavestorm is the ultimate beginner board for many.
But what does that mean? When you're too deep into a niche, you realize that the most mainstream option is generally frowned upon. So, there are haters of the Wavestorm. There are those who never want to see it near a beach. Yet, that doesn't mean the classic status of the Wavestorm is a farce. In our opinion, it's the contrary; it totally deserves to be a classic (although, yes, we're bored of its sight, too).
The main reason why it deserves to be a classic is the fact that it has everything a good beginner surfboard should have and, arguably, nothing more. It's very easy to paddle, catching waves with it is as effortless as it gets, and it'll just float on the water without you spending much of your energy. It also comes with removable fins and a leash.
Despite the volume (81 liters), this incredibly popular foam surfboard is also quite lightweight thanks to its EPS core. So, next time you see muscled guys carrying it on the beach like it's a half-full grocery bag, you'll know that they're not putting on airs and the Wavestorm is actually that easy to carry.
All in all, it's a beginner surfboard that merits its fame, and if you're looking for a great board to kick off your journey with, you need not look any further. However, we can tell you that it's not as versatile as the two boards reviewed above, and once you start progressing, it'll quickly fall out of your favor. That might not be bad, though, as it's quite a durable board and you can just pass it on to your kids, younger siblings, or someone in need of one.
California Board Company Gerry Lopez 8' Soft Top Surfboard
Some of you might be justifiably bored with the Wavestorm and want to see and ride something different, but you might not have the budget flexibility to go with premium surfboards. In that case, California Board Company has you covered.
Their classic 8-foot soft top board doesn't have any less features than the Wavestorm, and it certainly looks like it's going to rob it of its bestseller status. Some of that might be because Costco sells it exclusively and with occasional discounts, but still, its popularity is quite well-deserved.
For example, the fact that it was designed by the renowned Hawaiian surfer Gerry Lopez contributes to its popularity a great deal. Although Gerry Lopez was also known as Mr. Pipeline and he made a name for himself with his incredible ability of tube-riding, his CBC board is not made for such advanced missions.
Like all the best beginner surfboards, the CBC Gerry Lopez one is extremely stable on the water, easy to paddle, and designed to help you catch waves before they catch you even on your first go. In addition to this, this surfboard is durable, so no matter how many dings it suffers from, you can rely on it for your next session. Don't be deceived by its wooden-like graphic design as its core is made of EPS and it's completely waterproof.
You might have noticed that this board is a little bit narrower and thinner than the Wavestorm. After all, it's designed by a pro surfer who knows turns are as important as maintaining speed on a straight line. With that design, you'll turn much more confidently. It also allows you to ride waves that are higher than knee-high ones, which might be more than what you expect from standard beginner surfboards.
Surftech X Robert August "What I Ride" 9' Soft Top Surfboard
After two excellent and two standard, budget-friendly options, let's wrap up the category of foam boards with an astronomically priced model.
Since 1989, Surftech has been trying to be the best innovator of the surfing world (a feat fitting their brand name), and to that end, they've been collaborating with other brands, pro surfers, and accomplished shapers. Their products might be on the pricey side, but they absolutely deliver on the promise of innovation and greatness.
The "What I Ride" model of the ex pro surfer Robert August is everything a beginner board should be: it can catch as many waves as you like and is stable. It's also quite sturdy due to its EPS core and epoxy base so it can handle a huge number of dings, and it's furnished with an eco-friendly soft deck that grips your feet so tightly that you won't ever need to wax your board.
The Surftech "What I Ride" board might also appeal to more experienced surfers as its 60/40 rail design renders it impressively responsive for a soft top longboard. Plus, the concave under the nose will prove very useful on head-high (or larger) waves.
Yes, the "What I Ride" model might be one of the most expensive beginner surfboards on the market ($1.2k as of January 2022), but you might never want to separate from it. Therefore, our verdict is that it's at least worth considering.
Long Fiberglass and Epoxy Boards
It's true that foam boards make for perfect beginner surfboards because they're light, buoyant, easy to paddle, comfortable, and quite stable, and these are the pillars of most beginner boards, but not everyone takes months to master the basics of riding waves. For some, becoming an intermediate surfer is only a matter of weeks, which means that more than 250 dollars were spent for only a month's practice.
With a long fiberglass or epoxy surfboard, on the other hand, you can cover the performance front as well, even though it means you'll need to sacrifice a bit of comfort. These longboards are more performance-oriented, so they're going to be easier to maneuver and generate speed with. However, they won't be as easy to paddle since they don't have soft tops, and you'll need to do some work to catch waves.
If you can afford it, a long epoxy or fiberglass surfboard might work even better as a supplement to your soft top surfboard. That way, no matter how long it takes you to learn the basics, you can have a board that performs better ready for you.
Unfortunately, there aren't many great epoxy or fiberglass board options and we need to warn you that most of them come with steep price tags, but still, they're absolutely worth checking out. Below are our favorites, so you can go and wreak havoc in nearby surf shops trying to get a bargain.
JJF by Pyzel: The Log
It's always strange when you find out that a pro surfer designed one of the best beginner surfboards. We have already mentioned the Jamie O'Brien signature model by Catch Surf above. Now, the stage belongs to John John Florence (a title-winning athlete) and his collaboration with the legendary board shaper Jon Pyzel (an award-winning shaper).
The two have settled in Hawaii and started designing amazing boards that bring together fun and performance (they call it Funformance). As you would expect from two major pros, these boards are made of high-quality materials (they all have extremely durable fiberglass/epoxy cores and soft ethylene-vinyl acetate top decks). Additionally, the overall shape of the boards is thoroughly thought out to achieve ultimate performance.
Do all these details make it sound like the Log might just be too advanced and too good to be a beginner board? Probably yes. But rest assured that it's an ideal board for novice surfers to make the most of the small waves.
The Log is tougher than your regular foam surfboards, but it's quite lightweight, too, all things considered. Moreover, it's easy to catch waves with the Log due to its wide chest and rounded nose. Also, you'll realize that the board gets quite narrow towards its tail, which makes it better for performing turns and generating speed. The soft EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) deck and rails make it more stable than its hard top counterparts, too.
You'll also be happy to know that John John and Jon have great respect for the environment, so their boards are all eco-friendly. Of course, all these great features come with a certain price, but there's no indication that the money you pay for this board won't be well-spent.
Degree 33 8' Ultimate Longboard Surfboard
We're used to hearing about certain bands and musicians starting their career in their bedrooms, recording their music inside their wardrobe cabins or under their desks. It's alright, but when you hear about a company kicking off their journey from a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego, trying to sell handmade surfboards on Craigslist, it's actually quite strange.
Yet, that's the story of Degree 33. It's all the more admirable, too, when a company with such a foundation quickly gained recognition and adopted the mission objective of making "the ultimate longboard". Again, here we are, because it seems like they've accomplished their dream.
The 8-foot Ultimate longboard is initially an epoxy surfboard, but its top is a hybrid of epoxy and foam, so even though it's not exactly a foamie, it surely features the comfort of one. Moreover, it's quite an eco-friendly top, too, as it doesn't require waxing. The hybrid deck will grip your feet like those graveyard zombies from Evil Dead without wax.
You don't need to wax the rails either as they're fully shaped to ensure maximum performance when it comes to doing and delaying turns. Also, its front rocker has such a beautiful curve that you can even perform on head-high waves with this board and you won't need to worry about nose diving when trying to catch waves for the first time.
All in all, this Degree 33 model is one of the best surfboards for beginners. No matter your skill level, you'll be well justified to expect great performance from the 8-foot Ultimate. And it practically shows that the company succeeded in making the ultimate longboard that can appeal to everyone - everyone who's ready to empty their pockets, that is.
Paragon 9' Retro Noserider Surfboard
If the Degree 33 surfboards are an example of hand-shaping at its best, the Paragon surfboards are just the opposite. They completely embraced technological advancement and took the process of digital shaping to another level. Then, they came up with a retro surfboard design that looks like an artifact from the 1960s.
The irony of that aside, though, they did a wonderful job. The Retro Noserider not only looks fabulous (the orange one, especially) but also performs to very high standards whether you're a beginner or an advanced surfer.
Although it's ideal for riding small waves, it can glide into any wave and do that as stably as possible thanks to its wide tail design. Moreover, it comes with a removable center fin option, which can make it more maneuverable and agile. So, even if you're in your late beginner stages, you can continue riding it.
However, the real highlight of the Paragon surfboards is the employment of ParaLite Epoxy in their making. It's more dense and solid than conventional epoxy. Therefore, the Retro Noserider ends up being more durable, lightweight, and buoyant than other longboards.
You might also be surprised at how affordable this board is, especially when compared to other epoxy boards, but that's what digital innovation can provide sometimes: cheaper and better alternatives to traditional products.
Torq 9' TET Longboard
When you're too deep in a certain niche and come across a criminally underrated object of interest, you want to cry out: "Why is this not popular? It's so, so, so much better than the Wavestorm for God's sake!" Although you'll probably calm down a bit after you check the price tag, you'll still want the whole world to know about it.
You can include every longboard Torq produces in that category. Why isn't it more popular? Maybe because it's too expensive. Maybe because it's produced in France and France is not really the first country that comes to mind when talking about surfing. Or maybe because the innovative company isn't so good on the advertising front.
But one thing is certain: the TET longboard is the ultimate beginner board. It can catch and ride anything from knee-high to overhead due to its full nose, and thanks to the low-entry rocker, it's going to stay stable against your best efforts to wobble and shake.
The TET longboard has 5 length options: 8', 8'6", 9', 9'1", and 9'6". While the first two are more suitable for advanced surfers who want to perform better on small and mushy waves, the last three are great for beginners.
The 9' and 9'1" ones have harder rails and more concave bottoms for better performance during turns. The 9'6" one, on the other hand, has soft rails and is flatter, providing more stability and buoyancy. So, you can make your pick in accordance with your surfing needs.
Mini Mal Surfboards (Or Mini Longboards)
Mini mals are named after Malibu - no, not that horridly sweet drink, but the point break in California. Of course, you cannot expect Californian shores to supply double overhead waves for advanced surfers to challenge themselves. During most of the year, what you'll get will be only small, mellow, and mushy waves.
Luckily for beginners, these are the waves we send them out to as they don't require much from the surfer and as they're ideal to learn the basics on. In that sense, mini mals (or mini longboards) are actually the perfect beginner surfboards.
Similar to foam tops, mini mals are buoyant, easy to paddle, and stable. As they're a bit short, you won't find catching waves that easy with them, but still, once you start catching waves and standing in balance, you'll have a lot of fun with a mini mal.
Now, let's have a look at our favorite mini longboards.
Surftech X Channel Islands 7' Water Hog Mini Longboard
Channel Islands is a surfboard company that's been in business for more than 60 years now, and they're renowned for their high-quality and performance-oriented boards. During all those years, they have never compromised the quality of their products and they have garnished great pro surfers such as Tom Curren and Dane Reynolds, who later helped them improve their designs.
So, if they made a mini longboard that you can ride in every wave condition, it was definitely going to make its way on our list. The Water Hog merits its place here because it delivers everything a mini mal beginner surfboard should.
Whether you're just trying to learn how to ride a wave on the shores of Bali or you're trying to make the most of your visit to the mushy and choppy waves of Florida or Brazil, the Water Hog will catch them all and, in the end, you'll leave the shore amazed at your wave count.
However, this mini longboard is not only a good beginner surfboard. Both front and tail rockers are designed with high performance in mind, and the bottom concaving towards the tail allows for more control during turns and when generating speed.
Of course, the Water Hog is not as stable or buoyant as the foam boards or the longboards on our list, but if you're ready to take the next step towards the late stages of the beginner level, you need to have this mini mal.
Boardworks Froth 7' Mini Mal Surfboard
Although it sits proudly in the best mini mal boards category on this list, the Boardworks Froth mini mal actually defies categorization. The company labels it as a longboard, but it's smaller than typical longboards. It has a soft foam deck, but it's not in any sense similar to the beginner soft tops we mentioned above. It's generally considered a mini mal, but one can argue against it as well.
One thing is quite certain, though: it's beginner-friendly and fun as hell, so we might as well call it a funboard, and it makes sense too since the company claims that the Froth series were "created for fun and versatility."
To that end, the Boardworks Froth has more volume than its length suggests, meaning it's stable and buoyant and can catch more waves. In addition to all these beginner-friendly attributes, this mini longboard is also quite safe and user-friendly. The nose is covered with soft foam and it features a tail cap, so there will be a reduced risk of injury during wipeouts and after dumps.
The Boardworks Froth is not too big, so you can ride it even on the huge waves of Hawaiian shores. The sharp edge designs will also help with its agility and maneuverability. Of course, it won't be equal to your favorite shortboard, but it'll be better than most mini mals on overhead waves.
All in all, whether you're looking to spend a lazy day on your favorite point break or you're attending surf school with hopes to kick off a surfing career, this model will be a worthy option.
Wave Bandit 8' Easy Rider X Ben Gravy Surfboard
The Froth model above might be considered a shorter board (or a mid-length one) for mini mal standards, and as a result, it might be more appealing to intermediate surfers rather than beginners. If you, too, have this opinion, the Wave Bandit Easy Rider, designed with the help of surfer Ben Gravy, might be a better and safer option for you.
This surfboard is not as durable or performance-oriented as the Froth, but we might at least say that it's more friendly for beginners who are looking to easily catch waves, stand on their boards in balance with the least effort possible, and ride proudly and peacefully on a straight line toward the beach on their first go.
The Easy Rider is an egg-shaped board, which is great for beginners trying to catch their first waves. It has a good length of 8 feet and quite the volume with 84 liters. Its stringers are made of maple wood and it has a lightweight EPS foam core. Moreover, the tri-fin setup and the narrow tail allow you to optimize your performance.
However, Easy Rider’s most eye-catching feature is the colorful and admittedly weird bottom graphic. Thanks to that, you won't only be drawing the attention of fellow surfers and innocent beachgoers. The fish, sleepy mermaids, and the countless nautical ghosts will be looking up in awe when you're riding above them.
TAHE 7'9" Malibu Dura-Tec Surfboard
TAHE is a brand that came into existence when two other brands passionate about water sports decided to come together: BIC Sports and TAHE Outdoors. They both had a connection to Hawaii and the big surf Hawaii is widely known for, but luckily for beginner and intermediate surfers, not all their surfboards are made for big surf.
The 7'9" Malibu Dura-Tec is the perfect surfboard for teenagers to learn how to be in control while riding waves. It floats effortlessly due to its shape and round nose, you can easily glide into the white foam thanks to its volume, and it performs quite well on a straight line because of its narrow square tail.
Yet, the Malibu Dura-Tec is not all about packing the stability and wave-catching ability of your conventional longboard in a mini mal. If you're an intermediate or advanced surfer, you'll also find it quite maneuverable on knee- to head-high waves.
If you're a well-built adult, you might find it a bit difficult to paddle, but that feature might be useful as well, especially when you're transitioning to intermediate stages where paddling efficiently is more important than paddling easily.
Moreover, the Dura-Tec technology that combines a polyethylene shell with a polyurethane foam core makes the Malibu board extremely durable. So, you can be sure that it'll endure all the surfing stages you'll go through and won't mind suffering a ding or two every now and then. It's quite affordable, too, which might just be the cherry on the cake.
There's a general consensus among surf instructors and online surf blogs that the best surfboard for beginners should definitely be a soft top one. However, that exposes a long-established assumption about surfing, which puts the emphasis on stability, buoyancy, and balance.
Of course, all of these qualities are important to becoming an accomplished surfer and the boards mentioned under the soft top category on our list will provide you with them, but they're obviously not what surfing is all about. As repeatedly mentioned by our head coach Clayton in Surfer Assessment or by our psychologist in the Mind Surfer program, surfing is about developing a connection with the wave.
Therefore, even if it's your first go on the waves, you might want more responsiveness from your board. That's why we didn't only give you a list of affordable and practical soft tops, but also included premium epoxy boards and fun mini mals, which are more suited to those who are looking to achieve progress.
Now that you know all about the best surfboards for beginners, we believe that you'll make a choice in perfect coordination with your aspirations, wants, and needs.