Whether renting gear as a newby on a surf vacation or just gearing up near your home surf break the question the beginner surfer always ask themselves is, “what type of board should I get?”
It’s clearly a fair questions to start, but what needs to be understood is that in order to ride the wave it must be caught first. It’s kind of like in business, you can have the best product in the world but if no one knows about it (or can’t catch it) then it all does not matter.
So what to remember in the learning phase is that you want to have a board that will help with priority # 1: Catch the Wave!
The best boards to give the learning surfer the best chance at enjoying their surf vacation and maximizing their time in the water is typically going to be a board with a higher volume and hence buoyancy. What does this mean? Basically, the more mass the board has the larger the volume, which means the board will be more buoyant. To get more mass, we suggest longer, thicker and wider boards. Also, not the type of material that you choose will have an effect. Boards today are made from a variety of materials from various woods, aircraft like carbon fibers and glass. For the purposes of the beginner you will likely be looking at polyester vs. epoxy. All else equal (meaning same shape, size etc.) an epoxy board will result in more “float” or buoyancy.
Boards that typically fit the “longer, thicker and wider” profile are often in the 6’8″ -8’0″ range and are termed “Fun Boards” or smaller longboards. Over the past few years many surfboard manufactures have been addressing the needs of this market and have made beginner style boards out of hard foam material that works great for the beginner. “Softtop,” “BZ” and “WaveStorm” are three brands that I often see around the beach. In fact, during my ocean lifeguard days, I would often elect a “BZ” board over traditional equipment if the wave conditions warranted it. I was living in Long Island NY, at the time, and like most of the east coast the region, Long Island sure did have it’s days of soft, mushy conditions that a hard form board was ideal for.
It’s kind of funny, a good buddy of mine is so enamored with the few potato chip (small and thin boards) that he has in his quiver, this issue is that he is still learning…So when I take him out he does not catch many waves and his growth progression is slow as a result. This situation is often accompanied by frustration and disappointment and that is not what it is all about. In fact, I heard this quote one time, “the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun.” Catching waves = FUN, not the opposite.
Over time, as you have more time on the wave b/c you have the right “tool” to catch the waves, skill sets will improve and you can dial in other style of boards to meet the maneuverability that you would like to have.
Don’t forget to elevate and accelerate a beginners surf progress, whether on a surf vacation or at your home surf break, catching the wave is priority number 1.
Be careful, however, once you get hooked there is no turning back…Live Swell