soft top surfboard
Min Read Time

Soft Top Surfboards

Soft top surfboards are great for beginner surfers to learn the basics of surfing because they are buoyant, comfortable, and easier to paddle with. In this article, we give you a list of the best soft

You cannot teach a kid how to ride a bike when the seat is too uncomfortable for them to sit straight. They'll wobble around to find that evasive comfort, they'll itch and scratch, complain and whine, cry and kick the bike in rage because they cannot get it right. Discomfort is not only an obstacle to keeping an open mind but also the arch-enemy of balance. Only once you're comfortable can you concentrate on the basics you need to learn. And balance, similar to biking, is key to learning how to surf.

A soft top surfboard, also known as a foam surfboard, will provide that comfort for the beginner surfer, but that's not its only merit. Foam surfboards generally have more volume, and more volume means more buoyancy. As a result, they are easier to paddle with, they are perfect for catching waves with the least effort, and they are really difficult to throw off balance unless you really want to get washed over.

So, they're the ideal boards for beginner surfers. However, the surfboard market is quite wild nowadays. There are already too many brands producing great options, and now, all the pro surfers started to design their own boards too, adding to the variety as well as the confusion.

In these circumstances, it's understandable if you don't know which soft top boards will be the most suitable for you. That's why we're here: to give you a comprehensive list of the best soft top surfboards you can find on the market right now.

What Is a Soft Top Surfboard?

Before giving you the list, though, let's give you more info about soft tops. You might already know that almost all surfboards are made of foam. So, why are these specifically called foam surfboards? Well, more often than not, the boards you see more experienced surfers ride will be covered with polyester or epoxy resin, so they will have harder decks. A foam top surfboard, on the other hand, has a soft foam deck.

Instead of the resin that hardens the top of the other boards, the foam of the soft top board is just wrapped in fiberglass. For an extra layer, an ethylene-vinyl acetate sheet is applied, which ensures a smooth and soft deck.

As it's a beginner-friendly design, soft tops are generally combined with longboards so that easy paddling, buoyancy, and the ability to catch waves effortlessly are maximized. Therefore, they're mostly seen as the perfect board for riding small waves.

That being said, there are more and more soft top shortboards in the market now, which don't only appeal to beginner or intermediate surfers. Yes, the thickness and extra volume they provide are helpful for beginners to transition from their longboards, but depending on the surfing conditions on a particular day (for example, when the waves are no more than knee-high), advanced surfers can find some joy in them, too.

The Best Soft Top Surfboards

Catch Surf Odysea Log Basic X Jamie O'Brien Pro

As a company founded only in 2007, it's fair to say Catch Surf quickly caught a lot of waves on the surfing market and built a nice collection of surfboards, wetsuits, and other surf-related equipment or apparel. That success is probably due to their designers being surfers themselves and the company respecting and relishing the surf culture.

So, it's no surprise that renowned surfers like Jamie O'Brien work with them, help them develop a signature model for him, and praise them afterward. It might be impossible to believe that a board named after Jamie O'Brien is just a beginner board on which you'll only learn the basics.

Well, believe it or not, it has all the soft top board features you're looking for: lots of buoyancy, allows for easy paddling, and it’s comfortable. That's why it was the first board our own Anthony opted for after he suffered a neck injury, too. That being said, it's also quite a high-performance board no matter its length.

The problem with longboards is that they're quite difficult to turn due to the sheer volume. After all, they're made for balance, but the Log is not one of those. It's quite good at accomplishing turns, though, and that's due to the narrow tail design. Therefore, if you're trying to learn how to take turns more slowly, this board is one of the best foam surfboards in the market that'll help you do exactly that.

Check Out Odysea Log Basic X Jamie O'Brien Pro

South Bay Board 9'6" Tortuga Hybrid Surfboard

Nobody really expects too much performance from soft top surfboards, but some deliver on that front as well. The Odysea above is one of those, and the South Bay Board here is another. Yes, it's one of the longest longboards you can find in the market as 9'6" is only a bit smaller than a mini-submarine, but it still has quite the maneuverability.

Of course, it's not going to perform like a shortboard in big wave conditions, but it's the perfect board for practicing balance, turns, and noseriding in knee-high wave conditions. The narrow tail design, which is very similar to that of the Odysea, and the hard, hand-tapered rail system surely help with its turn capacity.

In addition to those, the Tortuga has a rounded nose and a broad chest area, which highly contributes to the volume and subsequently to the inherent balance of the board. Thanks to those, it can paddle and catch waves with the least effort on your end, and you can pop up to a more stable stance.

The board also features a heat release valve that prevents any additional damage that might be caused by extra heat, a textured deck that doesn't require you to wax it at all, and a lightweight expanded polystyrene (EPS) core so it's easy to carry around in crowded beaches despite its length of almost ten feet.

In short, the Tortuga is exactly what you'd expect from a soft top surfboard, and in the end, you'll start catching waves easily, enjoy an increase in your overall wave count, and inevitably, have more fun on the water.

Check Out South Bay Board Tortuga Hybrid Surfboard

Formula Fun 5'3" Twinnie Single Bundle

One of the reasons why we love soft top surfboards is the fact that they're less prone to causing injuries than other boards due to, well, their soft tops. You see, most soft tops on the market are designed with beginner surfers in mind, and beginners tend to fall off from their boards. Falling off by itself is not a problem, but sometimes, they dump their boards as well.

Especially on crowded wave lineups, these dumped boards are like bullets that can hit anyone when you consider how big they really are. The softness helps alleviate the potential damage they may cause.

Yet, there's another question here. Where do these dumped boards go? Are they recovered later or were the waves too hectic on that particular day and we somehow contributed to the waste piling up in the depths (and sometimes the surface) of the ocean?

Formula Fun asks these questions as well and they produce their boards by using recyclable materials. So, if you don't dump it in the ocean, it won't go to the waste bin and turn out as landfill later on.

Of course, that's not its only plus. This fish soft top surfboard with a swallowtail is the performance board for days when the surf conditions are not ideal. It has enough volume to be buoyant on small and choppy waves and provides easy paddling due to its wide nose and chest area while also entertaining a nice level of maneuverability. In that sense, it's one of the best shorter boards that comes with a soft top, and you'll have tons of fun with it.

Formula Fun’s surfboards come in many fun colors and deck designs as well.

All in all, it's an ethically produced, performance-oriented, and fun soft top shortboard. It's good for beginner and intermediate surfers who want to test their skills on a smaller board, but if you're an experienced surfer, you'll know how to have fun with it, too.

Check Out Formula Fun Twinnie Single Bundle

Wavestorm 8FT Classic Surfboard

The classic 8-foot Wavestorm foamie is practically everywhere. It's true that it's the most popular and best-selling surfboard in the United States, and it could be the flag of the State of Florida. 

Before you turn up your nose at it, though, let us tell you that its popularity is quite justified. First of all, it's one of the first foamies ever made, yet it's still in the market after all these years of improvement in the sphere of surfboard manufacture.

Such endurance is only possible when the product has the quality to merit it. The Wavestorm Classic surely has that quality, albeit only for beginners. It's a great board to learn the basics of surfing such as popping up to a balanced stance and riding straight on gentle waves.

It's also a great board for those who picked up surfing only as a hobby or a way of exercising. Unlike the others on our list, it comes with a reasonable price tag and uncomplicated features overall: a lightweight EPS core with three stringers, a strong bolt-through fin setup and components, and a water-resilient graphic top deck.

Check Out Wavestorm 8FT Classic Surfboard

Softech's Soft Top Surfboards by Eric Geiselman, Filipe Toledo, and Mason Ho

Softech was founded by the Australian surfer Tom Carroll, and Tom Carroll made good of his connections in the surfing world. Although all their boards are soft tops, these are more performance-oriented thanks to the contributions of renowned surfers like Filipe Toledo, Mason Ho, and Sally Fitzgibbons. So, they are a good fit for inexperienced and experienced surfers alike.

Of course, they produce some beginner-friendly boards, too. For example, the Sally Fitzgibbons signature model is specifically designed for women who are trying to learn surfing. Therefore, it's wider and more stable than the other signature models, but still, it's not the soft top longboard true beginners can pick up at the beginning of their journey.

Eric Geiselman's Flash, on the other hand, despite entertaining longer options than the Fitzgibbons model, is more performance-oriented with its narrow squash tail, double stringer, and FCS II fin system that allows you to change fins easily. Moreover, the X-Density EPS core provides ample protection against dings.

Unlike Geiselman, Filipe Toledo prefers fast and agile shortboards, and his soft top signature model is no different. If you want to have the utmost fun on days when there is nothing but mushy waves, there might be no better option for you. Of course, the fastest surfer in the business would have none other than a thruster fin setup. So, brace yourself for some pace with this one.

Lastly, if you watched Mason Ho, you know how wild he is: fast, brave, free-spirited, and stylish. The Mason Twin (because it has a twin fin setup) is certainly a reflection of that. He says that it made riding close to dry rocks even more fun for him. So, you now know what you're in for.

Almond R-Series Secret Menu Soft Top Surfboard

Come to think of it, surfers have every chance to appreciate the beauty of the natural world. We travel to the most beautiful corners of the world in pursuit of a world-class wave, we ride on beautiful coral reefs and shallow rock formations (the latter is mostly done by Mason Ho, but it's alright), and every day we face the most jaw-dropping of natural forces in the shape of the ocean.

Logically, then, we're also the ones who should respect the natural world and preserve its beauty with everything in our power. Of course, we do not hold much power against big corps that contaminate the ocean with their industrial waste, but at least we can opt for sustainable equipment.

Almond is one of those brands run by surfers with a conscious approach to the environment. Therefore, their products are made of 100% recyclable materials. They even run their own recycling program, buying your old surfboard for 50 dollars so that it's ensured it doesn't turn out in a landfill.

Does it mean that their soft top surfboards have a low level of endurance and will become disposable quickly? Hell, no. It features a high-density foam core and a protective foam deck, so it's actually durable enough to last you more than a few years. You don't need to use any wax on it either, which indeed suits an eco-friendly board.

In addition to all these, you can also expect quite the performance from the Secret Menu. It's basically a longboard somehow stuffed into a short one with a wide tail that's perfect for generating speed. You'll also be happy to know there are fin boxes, white quad fins, and a leash included in the packaging. All in all, it's one of the best smaller boards in the soft top market.

Check Out Almond R-Series Secret Menu Soft Top Surfboard

Wrapping Up...

So, what are soft tops good for? They are great for beginner surfers who don't have the dexterity to paddle efficiently yet. They are great for those struggling to find their balance on a board. They are great for people who took up surfing as a hobby and don't want to sacrifice their comfort.

But, not all soft top surfboards are beginner-friendly longboards. There are some shortboards, too. Heck, there are even some soft top shortboards designed by surfing greats like Mason Ho and Filipe Toledo. And, of course, these are not the types of boards you should pick up on your first go at the ocean.

However, when the surf conditions on a particular day are not exactly to your liking, and there are only dreary, small mushy waves, you don't have to stay home in front of your TV screen. With a soft top shortboard, you can go out on such days and have some fun. They're also good for those who are transitioning from beginner to intermediate or advanced stages of surfing.

All in all, we can say that a soft top surfboard is a must-have for all surfers no matter your skill. The only question is which one to get, and we hope that our list has got you covered.

Written by
Nico Palacios
surf coaching