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Picking The Right Surfboard For Learning To Surf

Surfboards are like people – they come in all shapes and sizes.

Picking the right surfboard for you is also heaps important when it comes to learning to surf as the style, size and fin setup drastically change what the board can do and most importantly the learning curve involved when learning to surf.

The saying goes that size doesn’t matter…well when it comes to surfboards that isn’t really that true!

The length of your board will totally change what you can do with it, the type of waves it’s most suitable for and how easy it is to paddle. Generally speaking the longer the board the easier it is to paddle and also catch waves on. Boards in the 9 foot range are known as longboards, up to 8 foot are the minimals and under 7 foot are the shortboards. Of course there are all manner of hybrids but those are the 3 key types you’ll need to focus on for now.

So lets run through the main points of each;


Easy to paddle
Easy to catch waves
Slower/harder to turn
Heavy and sometime hard to carry
More suited to smaller, spilling waves

Mals/Mini Mals

Relatively easy to paddle and catch waves
Faster to turn/responsive
Suitable for a large variety of waves


Very responsive
Easy to duck dive through waves
Harder to paddle
More suited to bigger/powerful waves


As you can tell the map is the best mid ground for everything – offering a relatively easy paddle whilst still maintaining the ability to turn faster and therefore be able to use it on a variety of different waves as you progress. It’s smaller size in comparison to the longboard makes it easier to carry down the beach and keep control of but it still has the size and stability for learners.

The common mistake for most new surfers is to buy a stereotypical shortboard – it fits the surfer looks and it’s what you see all the pros using. But that’s exactly who would be riding them – the pros! It’s the equivalent of learning to drive in an F1 car – it’s finely tuned for high performance, not learning!

As you progress you may well drop down to a shorter board – but rest assured that mini map will still be a solid part of your collection, especially on smaller days as it’s the most versatile. You can enjoy riding it in the cold water waves of the UK or even on a surf trip through South Africa!

For those looking for a more soulful and old school surfing experience the long, slow drawn out lines of a longboard are also a great shout. But even still learning the basics on a map will set you up for a good amount of progression.

The best piece of advice is to try before you buy. Most surf shops have heaps of demo models so have a speak to the guys, test out a few and find which one fits you best!

Most of all though…enjoy!