“Ithink I’m gonna just get a mini-mal,” they say, a far-off look in their eyes. This new-to-be surfer has done approximately 47 minutes of Googling, skipping over all the common-sense advice for beginner surfboards to justify an expensive, hard-topped board that could be “swung on Craigslist for, like, under $300.”
Really, they (and you, maybe) are masking the lack of wanting to buy something with the word “beginner” in it. Fair enough. Nobody enjoys the beginning of a new sport, especially a sport as image-conscious as surfing when done gracefully, and as comically dorky when done poorly.
The harsh truth is that you’re initially going to suck at surfing. But it’s better to suck on the right board (for the right amount of money) than the wrong one. You will progress faster, and, most importantly, have a lot more fun. This guide aims to give some context for why beginner surfboards really are the best option for anyone dipping their toes into the sport, and how to easily answer the question: “I’m new to surfing, what board should I buy?”
The Best Beginner Surfboards
Best Beginner Foam Surfboards
Pros: Affordable, durable, float well
Cons: Hard to turn
Length: 8’ (also 7′, 9′)
The reality is that the Wavestorm is often a conversation-stopper when it comes to beginner surfboards. If one single board has become iconic for beginners, cost, ease of use, and availability, it is the Wavestorm.
Affectionately referred to as Kookstorms, after many, many years of being available for $99 from Costco (membership required), they have since been replaced by this Gerry Lopez soft-top surfboard made by California Board Company. As you can see on the Costco product page as well as Reddit’s r/surfing, reviews of Costco’s new toy have been pretty mixed. There’s a chance that they are looser/easier to turn than a Wavestorm, but they are also decidedly flimsier. If you’ve already got a Costco membership ($60) it’s worth considering for the price, but there’s a reason why Wavestorms have stuck around for this long. They’re super durable, they float incredibly well (86 liters vs the Costco Gerry Lopez’s 73.5L), and they’re stable as anything (see “harder to turn,” above). In short, they’re a damn good beginner surfboard.
Since Wavestorms are no longer a Costco item, they are no longer subject to Costco prices, but can be found on Amazon closer to the MSRP of $200, as well as taking up plenty of space on your local Craigslist.
The board is easy to paddle, and actually catches waves pretty well. It has a slight nose rocker to keep from pearling (but let’s be honest you’re new and going to pearl often), is made with an EPS core and 3 marine-ply stringers for surprising stiffness, and comes with three plastic fins. There’s even a tail pad at the back for increased traction. Furthermore, once you’ve passed the stand up and go down the line stage of learning to surf, there are ways to upgrade your Wavestorm such as the Perfect Storm Single and Twin+1 Fin Systems for increased maneuverability, momentum/drive, and to prevent sliding out on steeper waves. As well as increased steeze, because who doesn’t look steezy with a massive pink fin on their Wavestorm?
Fin conversion aside, you can’t go wrong with a Wavestorm. Can you go better? Definitely. But nobody would knock you for getting a Wavestorm as your first board and, in fact, many recommend it. Like, right now. We recommend it.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Pros: Rad color options, fins can be replaced with real fins
Cons: Pricey, you probably won’t look as cool as J.O.B.
Length: 8’ (also 7′, 9′)
Catch Surf has done something incredible: they made foam boards cool. So, if you’re one of those beginners who wants to follow etiquette by going long, wide, and foam, but also wants the cultural cache of shakas and coconut water and hanging ten and hitting the lip and paddling deep for the wave of the day, Catch Surf may be your jam (Please don’t say any of that stuff though).
The company did this by taking pro surfers like Jamie O’Brien and Kalani Robb and throwing money at them to surf these previously “silly” beginner boards. They quickly proved two things: that pros can rip on anything, and that foam boards are entirely rippable.
All Catch Surf boards have regular models and Pro Models. Pro Models cost more…because of course they do. But hey, you’ll be like a Pro when riding one. Right? Right?!
The Odysea Log is one of many models from Catch Surf, and the one we think is best suited for beginners. It comes in multiple lengths – 7, 8, and 9 feet – a number of rad (yeah, rad) colors, and is built to be easy. Long, wide, foam. Once again.
Catch Surf has a good fin system (which you can actually replace with real surfboard fins for better performance) and the Log is designed with more skill and surf-craft orientation than the Wavestorm (and honestly many of the boards on this list), meaning it won’t necessarily feel like a giant boat in the water. The Log is made with a dual composite core and triple wood stringer, has a PE deck, and the fins can be removed, a godsend for traveling.
If you like Catch Surf but want a different model, the Plank is another solid beginner board offered in multiple lengths. Similar shape, but a single fin instead of thruster.
8′ Log (recommended):
CHECK PRICE ON Evo
7′ Log (for the children):
CHECK PRICE ON EVO
9′ Log (for mushy waves and larger riders):
CHECK PRICE ON Jack's Surfboards
Pros: All around great board
Cons: Only 30-day warranty
There are a lot of other softboard manufacturers out there that have seen what Catch Surf has done and said “hey, we can hire a pro to promote our boards too!” No softboard manufacturer has done a better job of that than Wave Bandit, who sponsor none other than the well-known and well-loved vlogger, Ben Gravy. The boards are not quite as high-quality as Catch Surf (two internal stringers instead of three, screw-through fins instead of fin boxes, etc), but they clock in a bit cheaper and, as far as a beginner surfboard goes, it’s likely you won’t be able to tell the difference.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Best Soft-Top Epoxy Surfboards
Pros: Strong construction, great beginner shape
Cons: Rails loose some performance due to being covered in foam
The Coronado from Isle is a definite step up in the soft board category. With a strong epoxy-construction core, no-wax-necessary soft top, and 2+1 fin system, this is a board anyone can rip on. In comparison to a true hard-top surfboard, the rails lose a bit of performance due to their being covered in a layer of foam, but the fins are solid, and the shape of the board is perfect for beginners, cruising on smaller days, and more. It even works for charging heavy shorebreak you’d be worried about breaking a normal board in (within reason). Best of all, it’s a board you’ll be stoked to have in your quiver for years to come.CHECK PRICE ON ISLE
Pros: Comes with Futures fins, stylish
Cons: Only two color options
Length: 8′ (also 7′, 9′)
Volume: 96 L
This is one of the better-looking epoxy soft-tops available on the market, and a huge upside: It comes with Futures Fins. So you’ll be ready to transition to a Futures fin system when you make your next step up the food chain. It has a rounded tail and a thruster fin setup. It’s available in 5′, 5′ 6″, 6′, 7′, 8′, and 9′, so take your pick, but you should probably go with the 7′, 8′ or 9′ depending on your weight and the wave you’ll be learning at. This board covers all the necessary fundamentals and even gets a few style points. A hard thing to accomplish in the early days. Arguably, that alone is worth every penny.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Pros: Rides like a shortboard but catches waves like a longboard
Width: 21 3/4″
Thickness: 2 5/8″
The Poacher is a classic “funboard” shape that is a hybrid in several ways. The first is in the combo of soft top and epoxy construction. But you can also look at it as a hybrid performance-wise in that it rides like a shorter board but catches waves like a longboard. This is the perfect board for stepping into bigger surf than one might be accustomed to, while still gaining confidence and timing for being able to stand up sooner and start to ride down the face. Once momentum picks up, the thruster setup helps to adjust position to go down the line and throw in a few carves (hopefully).CHECK PRICE ON DEGREE33
Best Hard-Top/Fiberglass Surfboards
Pros: Beveled rail helps with turns, lots of volume
Cons: Will hurt if you get hit
Length: 9’ (also 7′-10′)
Degree33’s The Ultimate Longboard lives up to the name when it comes to learning to surf. This board was literally designed with beginners in mind, with plenty of volume throughout the length of the board (but not so much that it hinders one’s progression), an interesting beveled rail design to promote turnability, a 2+1 fin setup, forgiving rocker profile, this board has it all, and truly excels in all conditions from knee-high dribble to head-high rollers. We’d recommend the 8′ or 9′ model for most adults, but the board comes in a wide range of sizes from 7′ to 10′.
And it’s surprisingly fun at higher levels of surfing as well, The Inertia’s gear dditor Will Sileo got a chance to test a 9’0″ in Pacifica and was impressed with the speed and maneuverability of the board’s shape. For those on a bit of a faster-tracked beginner progression, this board will not slow you down, and the board’s progressive longboard shape and design will have you well-prepared for when the time comes to move on to a smaller board.
The epoxy construction is exceedingly durable, perfect for enduring the inevitable spills and bumps that come with learning to surf. With the proper care, this board will last far longer than any foam surfboard, but it will hurt considerably more if you and the board have an awkward encounter, so be warned.CHECK PRICE ON Degree33 CHECK PRICE ON Cleanline
Pros: Versatile, Futures fin system
Cons: 8’0″ can be too small for some to learn on
Torq’s 8’0 Longboard with proprietary TET epoxy construction is a super versatile, user friendly longboard. With medium entry rocker and full outline it’s a board that glides in the small stuff and can be ridden from on the nose. Progressive surfers will find a quick midsection, slightly pulled tail, with enough release to keep the board fast and loose. The 8’0 has a thruster set up for a more funboard feel.
Torq’s fin system is designed by Futures Fins of California – one of the most respected fin systems on the planet, all included in the very reasonable price. The Torq 8’0 Longboard shapes come with 3 fin boxes and a Thruster fin set offering an even balance of drive and release for all-round surfing. It’s a board that you wont’ grow out of too quickly, and always want to keep in the quiver after progressing further.CHECK PRICE ON Cleanline
The Used Surfboard
The last item on this list is nebulous. A used surfboard is a magic quest in which you will always find something, but rarely exactly what you were looking for.
For a beginner, used is an excellent way to go. It should be cheaper, induce less stress, and make the whole process of starting this epic sport way more casual. These are good things.
The key is to know how to look. A used Wavestorm is fantastic. Actually, a used version of any of the boards on this list will be worth it, granted they don’t have gaping holes or are being sold for anything more than their retail price (beware the $300-dollar Wavestorm).
There are a few key qualities when looking for a used beginner surfboard:
1. Long, wide, and (probably) foam. How many times can we repeat this?
2. Under $200. As the list above shows, there’s a wide variety of prices for brand new beginner surfboards, but they’re not crazy expensive (for the most part). If you’re going the used route, at least make sure it’s financially worth it.
3. No holes, especially on the bottom of the board. Foam boards are usually made of epoxy, which is harder to damage and has more float. But it’s also a lot harder to repair, especially in foam-topped beginner surfboards. Whether you go for a hard-top board or a foamie, make sure it is free of holes and cracks. On foamies, this matters a lot less. Most all-foam constructions use closed-cell technology, meaning dings and slices just won’t take on water. But for fiberglass/epoxy surfboards, a good rule of thumb is that if you can catch your fingernail on the edge of a ding or crack, it’s probably not watertight. And if you’re going to fix a surfboard hole yourself, keep in mind that polyester resin and epoxy surfboards don’t do well together. If you’re looking for a quick fix, ding tape can do a pretty awesome job.
4. Comes with fins. Most foam beginner surfboards have custom fins that don’t match up with FCS, Futures, or even stock single-fin boxes. They are therefore much harder to find, if not included.
If you take the time to find a used board, you will save money one-hundred-percent of the time. But that might not be your style, and trolling C-List all day can get wearisome, as well as the difficulty of tracking some random internet dude down so you can buy the stuff he’s used so much he doesn’t want anymore.
|Catch Surf Odysea Log||$399||8′||23″||3.375″||86 L||Foam|
|South Bay Board Co. Verve||$389||8′||23″||3″||80 L||Foam|
|South Bay Board Co. Guppy||$279||8′||22″||3″||80 L||Foam|
|Wave Bandit EZ Rider 9′||$505||9′||24″||3.5″||98 L||Foam|
|Isle Coronado||$395||8′||22″||3.25″||65 L||Soft-Top Epoxy|
|Boardworks Froth!||$450||8′||23″||3.38″||96L||Soft-Top Epoxy|
|Degree33 Poacher||$695||7’2″||21.75″||2.625||46.6L||Soft-Top Epoxy|
|Degree33 The Ultimate Longboard||$895||9′||22.5″||3″||72.5L||Hard-Top/Fiberglass|
|Torq 8′ Longboard||$510||8′||22″||3″||60L||Foam/Epoxy|
How We Tested
In order to test these boards, our team took them to the water to see how they performed. The lead tester for this review, Daniel Zweier, is a longtime surfer based out of Ventura, California, where he did the bulk of his testing. Additional testing was done by The Inertia’s head gear editor, Will Sileo, who has logged countless hours on the water over the years. Sileo resides in the Bay Area, where he was able to take some of our beginner surfboards for a spin. Although both testers are experienced surfers, both remember what it was like to learn and the qualities to look for in a good beginner surfboard.
Editor’s Note: This review originally in September of 2023. Since, we’ve beefed it up a bit, adding in some additional sections to our buyer’s guide, updated the format, and added pros and cons for each surfboard. As we encounter additional boards well suited for beginners, we’ll be sure and add them to our lineup.
Beginner Surfboard Buyer’s Guide
Beginner Surfboard Size and Shape
“I’m just starting out, what size surfboard should I get?” This question is the one most surf shop employees roll their eyes at, and the one you probably asked at some point.
The answer: eight to nine feet.
No, that’s not what the pros typically use. This isn’t basketball. And yes, that puts the board in the realm of “longboard” or “funboard.”
If you’ve watched a professional surfing event you’ve seen lean, low-center-of-gravity athletes crouched over small, thin boards. They tear through head-high waves and come out of hollow tubes with ease, making it look a simple bike ride.
Their boards are short. Their length typically hovers around six feet, unless the surf is very large, and then the boards are long and narrow with a sharp, pointed nose.
Beginners want the exact opposite. They want a long, wide board with a rounded nose and a rounded tail. Why?
In order to catch small, weak waves, which beginners should start on, you typically need a longer board.
In order to stand up for the very first time, you need a wide board. This will keep you as stable as possible while you find your balance.
In order to paddle with any sort of vigor and mobility, you will need a long, wide board.
A surfboard in the 8-to-9-foot range is typically 22-24 inches in width, which is the perfect general size for beginners, and the kind of board you’ll find on this list (for the most part).
You can carry this board under one arm (or overhead if you’re here because you saw Endless Summer), you can move quickly across the water with your feeble strokes (trust me, they’re weak), and you can maybe, mayyybe stand up (if you’re lucky), and not fall off immediately, with a long wide board.
Should I Get a Foam Surfboard or a Hard-Top Surfboard?
This is the second most popular question: “I’m just starting out. Should I get a foam surfboard or a (hard) fiberglass board?”
This one is a tough question. Before prattling on for a couple paragraphs, here’s the TLDR: For anyone starting out absolutely fresh in the sport of surfing, a soft top or foam surfboard is the way to go.
For those who have surfed before but are just starting to get serious about the sport, or perhaps spent the past couple months borrowing a friend’s foam board (my number one recommendation for getting into surfing) it’s possible the higher-performance of a hard board will suit you better.
However, at the beginning, you won’t need that performance. Not just yet. And a foam board will take away all the practical stress of owning a hard-topped surfboard to let you focus on what matters about surfing – catching waves. What stress? Read on to find out.
Calling these boards from Isle “soft-tops” does them a disservice. Sure, they have a layer of foam on top, but the epoxy body is a true performer, fun for all levels of surfers.
What’s the Difference Between a Fiberglass Surfboard and a Soft-Top Surfboard?
This question has gotten more and more complicated over the years. nowadays soft-top/foam surfboards come in varying degrees of softness and epoxy-construction surfboards present a more “beginner friendly” version of the classic “poly” fiberglass surfboard.
“True foamie” surfboards like the classic Wavestorm or Catch Surf boards on this list are foam through and through. There’s a wood stringer in the middle, but that’s about it, leading to a very soft and, well, beginner friendly construction. That softness comes at the cost of a decent bit of performance, but for true beginners who are still figuring out how to navigate the lineup, catch waves and stand up, a true foamie surfboard cannot be beat.
Soft-top epoxy boards pair a performance-oriented (but still very durable) epoxy core with a thin layer of foam covering the top and rails. Much harder to ding, almost as much performance as a hard board (the soft rails detract somewhat) and less potential to cause injury (though not as much as a true foamie) – a pretty worthy compromise.
That being said, at a certain point in your surfing progression (assuming you make it that far), a soft board will start to hold you back, and a hard-top, more commonly referred to as a fiberglass surfboard, will be the solution. However, hard-topped surfboards add stress in a few different ways. First of all, they have to be waxed regularly for traction, which can leave a mess in your car if you don’t have a board bag.
More pointedly, fiberglass surfboards break. They seem like sturdy hunks of wood and glass, but true fiberglass (poly) surfboards are actually fragile creatures that can barely take a rock to the face. (This may be an inadvertent analogy for surfers themselves…). You have to repair them, and then they’ll break again. Foam boards can break, too, but it matters less, and they almost never have to be repaired. Here, “epoxy-construction” surfboards are a great alternative. They’re more rigid (read: harder to ding) than their “poly” counterparts, and they last seemingly forever. Epoxy-construction boards are without a doubt the best hard-top beginner surfboards.
Thirdly, hard-topped surfboards can injure people. Technically, so can foam surfboards, but it’s not so easy to do so. Complete beginners will understandably have almost no control over the direction and speed of their surfing, which means they are prone to running into (and over) people. This hurts a lot less when the surfboard is made of foam.
Finally, hard-topped boards are expensive. Surfing, on the whole, is an expensive sport. Wetsuits, leashes, vehicle for transport, time to do literally nothing but be in the ocean. The list adds up to money. As a complete beginner, you may not even know if you like it. Do you buy a standard-edition Gibson Les Paul before your first guitar lesson, or the cheap Epiphone?
With all the apparent hate on hard-topped boards above, let’s be clear: there is no doubt that a fiberglass surfboard will ride far better than any foam surfboard. Plain and simple. The fins will engage and hold on a steeper wave than a foam board, the turns will feel better, the rail will actually lock in and generate drive. There’s no denying this fact. If you stick with surfing long enough, you’ll want a fiberglass surfboard at some point. So if your heart is set on it, and you’ve perhaps had some time to get comfortable with the way of things on a foam board, a hard-top board might make the most sense.
But, as a beginner who’s still learning to pop up in the whitewash, you’re not going to get that feeling anyway. Patience, young Slater.
The right board, for the right amount of money. The classic Wavestorm is perhaps the most-ridden surfboard in history, and has taught thousands how to surf. We can’t recommend it enough.
How Much Should I Spend On a Beginner Surfboard?
For complete beginners who have no idea whether or not they’ll still be surfing in a couple months and are looking to get their hands on a “true foam” surfboard, keep it cheap. It might even be worth borrowing a foamie from a friend (most surfers these days will have one or two lying around), or renting for a session or two. If you are ready to buy your own, though, we would, personally, try to stay below $400 for a true foamie surfboard. We’d prefer to spend under $100, and would even further prefer to have a friend find an old, beat-up foam board on the side of the freeway, pick it up, and drop it at my house.
That being said, if you’ve already spent some time borrowing a friend’s board (recommended) or “have snowboarded since birth and just know you’ll blast past the beginner stage” (not recommended), a more advanced “beginner surfboard” might be in order. That could be a “poly” fiberglass or epoxy-construction surfboard if you’re feeling ready for a hard board, or a soft-top epoxy surfboard if you’re looking for a bit less of a giant leap forward (but still a worthy upgrade in surfboard performance). New fiberglass surfboards (especially longer boards) can reach up to $1000 – we certainly wouldn’t recommend spending that much on your first surfboard, but these boards can be found for much cheaper used. Epoxy-construction and soft-top epoxy boards fit in at around the $500-700 price-point, but their upgraded performance over a foam board and long-lasting durability can make that spend well worth it if you know your surfing obsession won’t be fading anytime soon.
Where to Buy Beginner Surfboards
We go over this above, and this guide is ostensibly one grand push to get you to buy a board online. That’s one way to do it, and it certainly works for stock foamies that have the same dimensions no matter what, and can’t really get damaged in the shipping (well, probably).
That said, a surfboard has always been something to see, to feel, to hold under the arm, to sleep with at night…wait, what?
For beginners, we actually recommend trying surfing before buying a board. You know, find a friend with a spare, pay for a lesson, or join a camp. At least once. That way you don’t actually have to buy a board until you’ve caught a wave (or tried to).
If the bug bites you, start shopping. If you feel like you’re drowning in one-foot slop, this may not be for you.
If you want the local route, head to your local store.
Advice on Learning How To Surf
Not to discourage beginner surfers, but there is no easy path here. Becoming a good surfer requires lots of time in the ocean, which is one of the reasons it’s very challenging to learn as an adult. Grown humans are simply much more pressed for time than carefree children. You’re going to have to fall a lot. You’re going to need to learn to get comfortable in the ocean and understand all of the nuances of surf etiquette, of which there are many. Actually standing up on a surfboard and riding a wave probably represents less than five percent of the time investment.
That said, many new surfers develop extremely fulfilling and lifelong relationships with riding waves, and we’d advise that you get a lesson from a local instructor, a friend, and/or supplement that experience with Kassia Meador’s Definitive Guide to Longboarding 2.0 from Inspire Courses. Kassia Meador is an icon of surfing, style, and grace. She’s also a charismatic and caring instructor, and her guidance will make the process of learning to surf much less intimidating. We wish you the best of luck on your surfing journey, and if we can be a helpful resource in any way, let us know in the comments or shoot us an email at email@example.com. Cheers, and happy surfing.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.