Once upon a time, there were two ways to buy a surfboard. Option one: swing into your local surf shop, chat it up with the sales clerk, and get something straight off the rack. Or, option two, order something custom, and wait with equal parts anguish and anticipation for a few months. Cue text to your local shaper, “Is my board ready yet?”
Ordering a custom board remains one of life’s greatest pleasures — choosing custom dimensions, resin tints, and pin lines all to create something one-of-a-kind is oh so satisfying. Not to mention when you actually ride the thing. But, for those either suffering from a lack of patience, hunting for a deal, simply trying to expand that quiver without needing their dimensions to be dialed in to the 1/16th of an inch, or for any reason in between, buying online has its benefits.
Pitfalls and misconceptions abound, though. Notably, you can’t get your hands all over that fresh surfboard before slapping down plastic at the metaphorical register. Or, other insecurities like whether you can trust a parcel service to deliver your board to you in one piece. And if on the off chance you are not completely satisfied or your new board is damaged, do you have any recourse?
Whether you’re transitioning from a beginner surfboard to a more manageable size or an experienced surfer looking to diversify the quiver and refine your lines, the Outlier offers a fine data point.
To help you navigate these questions and more, we’ve done a deep dive on a number of online surfboard retailers out there to assist you in the process of buying a surfboard online. If you’re interested in that kind of thing. Which, let’s admit, while once a horribly blasphemous proposition, buying a surfboard online is becoming a very accepted practice. Convenience, people. We explored online surfboard retailers’ wares, and pored over FAQs to understand every issue relevant to potential surfboard buyers. We hope this guide is helpful, and if there is anything we missed, be sure to let us know, so we can follow up.
Before launching into the guide, some quick housekeeping. To keep this manageable, we decided to narrow our focus on new surfboards, not secondhand ones. So, Craigslist is out, obvs. And only retailers that ship to and within the U.S.. We also want to note that many independent board builders and labels keep a sampling of their board models on hand for immediate purchase, many of which are advertised online. While this can be a great way to get a board from a shaper that’s backlogged on custom orders, what we’re talking about here are truly online retailers.
So, if you’ve made it this far, strap in and grab this virtually outstretched hand as we navigate the waters of buying a surfboard online together. We’ll give our top picks for the best surfboards you can buy online right now, as well as review types of retailers and key considerations like shipping costs and returns towards the end of the article.
What Are the Best Surfboards to Buy Online? Here’s the TLDR:
Best Performance Shortboard: Pyzel Wildcat
Best Shortboard for Small Surf (Best Groveler): Lib Tech x …Lost Puddle Jumper
Best Mid-Length Surfboard: Firewire Outlier Mid-Length
Best Traditional Longboard: The Critical Slide Society Logger Head
Best Beginner Surfboard: Wavestorm 15th Anniversary Edition
Best Performance Shortboard
Some may look at the undercarriage of the Wildcat and immediately protest labeling a twin-fin as “performance.” But, as fun as linking eight vertical turns all the way to the beach can be, I would argue there is little more satisfying than absolutely screaming down the line of a wave with more speed than you know what to do with on a channel bottom twin – save getting tubed. The Pyzel Wildcat may only have two claws, but that doesn’t make it any less inclined to take scalps in anything from knee to head high and above. And while twin-fins often get stereotyped as “retro”, the Wildcat pays homage to that heritage while incorporating modern board design sensibilities.
Nuts and Bolts:
“The bottom curve is clean, and relatively flat, offering great paddle speed and easy acceleration from the moment you get to your feet. A single/double concave runs throughout the bottom, blending into a moderate V and 4 channels running off the tail. All of this is designed to help the board roll from rail to rail, add a little extra bite off the bottom and quickly respond to weight shifts while easily flowing over softer sections of a wave. This helps increase your speed as you push it through turns.” – Pyzel
Who do we recommend this board for?
Surfers whose locals tend to offer up a lot of variety would benefit from a sled that excels in a broad range of waves. Think knee-high runners to head high open canvases, and everything in between.Check Price on Jack's Surfboards
The Pyzel Ghost is a performance shortboard at its finest. The Pyzel Ghost is a high performance board that is designed to be a one-board quiver and works well for all levels of surfers. The Ghost was originally designed for hollow, powerful waves, but has proven its worth in reef breaks, beach breaks, and point breaks. The board has a medium to low rockert through the front halt to help you get into waves with ease and quickly pick up speed. The tail end has more rocker curve to provide control when turning and ensure the board is responsive. The Ghost features a single concave along the bottom, with a double concave set inside, to provide speed, lift, and quick rail-to-rail transitions. The Pyzel Ghost is the board that John John Florence won two consecutive world titles on, so you know it’s worthy.Check Price on Jack's Surfboards
The Wrecking Ball is a unique, high performance surfboard inspired by an experimental shortboard design Ben Aipa created in 1977. “A full nose and broad outline in the front half of the board meet an unmistakable Aipa wing near the back third of the board, where the outline curves in a tight radius until it hits a multi-pronged experimental tail. Ben’s futuristic outline packs a ton of board into a short package.” The added volume makes the Wrecking Ball sit higher in the water and makes it easier to paddle. Updated with high-performance bottom contours by Ben’s son Duke the wrecking ball features a transitional bottom that fades from a rolled nose to a single concave in the middle of the board to a double concave under the fins and finishes with a vee out the tail.” Combining an experimental design with modern updates, the Wrecking Ball sports a quad fin set up and is sure to be a good time in the lineup.Check Price on Jack's Surfboards
Best Shortboard for Small Surf (Best Groveler)
The short and stout outline of the Lib Tech x Lost Puddle Jumper makes it ideal for surf best described as “playful.” The word “gutless” may be a less kind substitute. But for all means of low-consequence fun in the water, the Puddle Jumper is built to excel. Not to mention Lib Tech’s ecoIMPACTO construction is virtually bulletproof.
Nuts and Bolts:
“The Lib Tech x Lost Puddle Jumper Surfboard is the most fun and versatile surfboard you’ve ever ridden. This small wave hybrid is made for pros and bros alike – anyone who craves the sweet satisfaction of gliding small surf. Its wide outline makes paddling, catching waves, and maintaining stability a breeze in the chest-highs. The concave bottom transitioning to V in the tail gives it plenty of pop, speed, and hold while carving – making it true quiver-killer.” – LibTech/…Lost
Who do we recommend this board for?
For those reluctant to step on a longboard when the surf drops below waist high, cramped apartment dwellers, public transit-commuting surfers, and standing wave enthusiasts.Check Price on Evo
Designed specifically for small waves, the Lib Tech x Lost Freak Flag Bean Bag Surfboard will help you make the most out of sloppy conditions. The Freak Fag features the new Lib Tech MBC construction that blends the best of epoxy and polyester, delivering a board that’s durable and lively, while still remaining flexible. The Freak Flag has a winged outline for tighter turns, added bite for faster transitions rail to rail, and a tip to tail vee bottom. Designed by Matt Biolis, this is a board you’ll want to get your hands on for small summertime waves.Check Price on Evo
Bento boxes make for great meals but who knew they performed in the surf as well? The Solid Surf Co Bento Box Surfboard is a mini board that’s designed to make the most of small conditions. The Bento Box is a wide, high volume, buoyant board that sports a mellow concave and low rails that allow it to still be responsive. This sustainable surfboard is created from a blend of basalt, organic hemp, recycled polyester, organic cotton, steam-blown EPS, and a plant-based resin. The Bento Box has a quad fin construction, with the fins placed a little further back to increase drive. To seal the deal, the Bento Box is delivered in 100% biodegradable packaging.Check Price on Evo
Best Mid-Length Surfboard
Ever since Firewire brought CJ Nelson into the fold, the brand’s been cranking out some very inviting 7-foot-plus equipment that’s easy on the eyes and even better underfoot. The Outlier Mid-Length is no different. Described by Firewire as a re-interpretation of the early designs of the shortboard revolution, this is truly the surfboard for those looking to tap into a timeless outline with modern construction. Whether transitioning away from a mostly shortboard quiver, or stepping down from a longboard, a mid-length can show you what’s possible.
Nuts and Bolts:
“One of the most functional designs of the “shortboard revolution” re-worked by CJ and Ryan. A true speed hull that puts feel and rider enjoyment first, this board is a life changer. Digging into the history books, referencing MP, Nat and all of the transition era sliders we picked up where they left off and applied our modern knowledge to make this functional beauty. If you’re looking to size down from your longboard or looking for a one board quiver to travel the world with, there’s not a better surfboard to fulfill your needs.” – Firewire
Who do we recommend this board for?
Mid-lengths are great to have in the quiver for everyone, really. They work great for beginners transitioning from a foamie to their first actual surfboard, as well as those who have been surfing for forty years, Mikey February, and those who are just looking to up their wave count. The only knock on single fins, for those transitioning from two fins or more, is riding them requires relying on wave energy to generate speed as opposed to driving the board to get speed.Check Price on Jack's Surfboards
The Firewire Moe Thunderbolt Red Tech was designed to deliver a good ride, while providing stability and support. The bottom of the board is relatively flat and has a double concave, which helps enhance carving capabilities, despite the width. The rails are foiled from forward of the center toward the tail, allowing for power through turns and white water sections. The rails are thick, but not too thick, and the high volume makes the board easy to paddle. As the name suggests, the Moe Thunderbolt Red Tech features Thunderbolt Red technology coupled with a five-fin FCS II setup, making for an all around fun board.Check Price on Jack's Surfboards
Designed to fill the gap between a shortboard and a longboard, the Lib Tech Pickup Stick Surfboard is a mid-length board that works well in all conditions. The Pickup Stick features a pintail, a smooth rocker, single to double flat contours, soft rails, and an FCS II Fin Box system. The Pickup Stick sports FCS’s Magnesium Basalt Carbon Construction, a revolutionary surfboard technology that is flexible yet strong.Check Price on Evo
Perhaps due to increased shipping costs (see below), a decent traditionally-inspired longboard may be the toughest category of surfboard to find online. The Critical Slide Society’s Logger Head is the needle in the proverbial haystack. A classic single-fin ready for noseriding to your heart’s content, the Logger Head features 60/40 rails, nose concave for lift when perched at the tip that transitions into a rolled v bottom for rail-to-rail transition.
Nuts and Bolts:
TCSS bills the logger head as an updated version of the Old Mal with contemporary materials built in both 9’2” and 9’8”.
Who do we recommend this board for?
Anyone looking for a classic longboard for trimming, nose riding, cross-stepping, and drop-knee cutbacking. We chose this board because it most closely resembles what we consider to be a traditional, no-frills log. For those looking for a longboard that’s a bit more user friendly, TCSS’s All Rounder may be a better option with its 2+1 fin setup and a narrower tail that makes turning a bit easier.Check Price on Backcountry
The Salt Gypsy Dusty Retro Longboard was built with female surfers in mind and was created for smooth control on waves of all sizes. The concave nose allows for more progressive maneuvers while the 60/40 rails enhance control and maneuverability while on the wave. The square tail provides stability and pivot control on more mushy waves and the included 9.5-inch single fin provides added control.Check Price on Backcountry
Created by Creative Army surfboard shaper John Constable, the Five Sugars longboard was designed to be a versatile board, capable of performing well in a wide range of conditions. The Five Sugars features a fuller nose for added stability while nose riding and a flatter mid-section allows for faster and easier trimming. The high volume makes paddling and catching waves a breeze. The board sports a 2+1 fin design that allows for quick rail to rail transitions and the PU constructions ensures the board is durable.Check Price on Backcountry
Best Absolute Beginner Surfboard
Say what you will about the surfboard formerly known as the “Costco Special.” In terms of affordability and as a gateway drug into our sport there’s no better option out there than the Wavestorm. As a beginner who 1) is not even sure they are going to like surfing; and 2) want to do the least damage to themselves and others in the early stages of their development, foam and cost effectiveness are your friend. Gone are the days when you could pick up a Wavestorm at Costco for $99 (current prices on Amazon are just over $200), but in terms of the absolute essentials to get your beak wet as a beginner, the classic Wavestorm is ideal.
Nuts and Bolts: 8 feet, one size fits all. What separates the 15th Anniversary Edition Wavestorm from others, though, is the fact that it comes with everything you’d need to set it up either as a three fin (classic) or with a large single fin.
Who we recommend this board for?
For the absolute beginner surfer, or those looking to make the most of a day of bad waves at the lowest cost. the Wavestorm is perhaps the best of both worlds when it comes to cost-effectiveness and everything you need with nothing you don’t if your aim is to get introduced to surfing. Wavestorms are also great to keep around a surfing household for splashing around in the waves on long summer beach days, or in the off chance that a friend asks for a surf lesson. For those looking for even more stability than what a Wavestorm offers, Odysea’s 9’0” Log is a great alternative, but it retails for more than double the price.Check Price on Amazon
Ringing in at 7 feet, the Odyssey Jamie O’Brien Surfboard may be a little small for most to learn on, but is a great option for kids or beginners looking to progress to a shorter board. The high volume makes the board buoyant and easy to paddle and the PE deck offers plenty of grip, without the wax. The board features a dual compostie core with wood stringers that provide incredible stiffness for a foamie. Lastly, pop-thru fins help the board track more easily through the water and across the waves.Check Price on Backcountry
Available in three different sizes in multiple colors, the South Bay Board Co. Premium Foam Soft Top is a great beginner board for riders of all sizes. Designed for beginners, the SBBC Foam Soft Top features a rounded nose for extra float, nose rocker to prevent nose diving, a widened chest area for easier pop-ups, a pulled in squash tail for cleaner turns, and a double concave bottom deck for added speed and control. Additionally, the board has a patented heat release valve to prevent de-lamination, a wax-free foam grip, EPS closed cell foam core, and one fiberglass rod plus two wooden stringers with bamboo body armor shell to ensure the board is extra durable.Check Price on Amazon
Where Should I Buy a Surfboard Online? Types of Online Retailers
As with everything these days from shoes to lavender-scented toilet paper, there are countless online retail options for those looking for a stock dimensions surfboard, and with all of these options it can be difficult to determine which retailer is going to sell the equipment to fit your specific needs.
Online surfboard retailers tend to fall into four main categories: surf specialty sites, outdoor and adventure sports retailers, online behemoths (you can actually ask Alexa to order you a Wavestorm; more on that in a jiff), and brick and mortar surf shops with a slick online presence. The latter category may be slightly bending one of the earlier rules we established, but hey, rules are meant to be slightly bent. Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of each of these categories.
Surf Specialty Websites
For the discerning performance-oriented surfer who keeps tabs on the latest surfboard models from the shapers putting boards under the feet of some of the world’s best surfers, surf specialty sites offer the huge advantage of having the most variety in equipment. A quick perusal of one such example, Boardcave, reveals that current inventory includes sleds from DHD, Timmy Patterson, and Pyzel — the logos of which you might recognize being held up behind world champ surfers being chaired up the beach in recent years. Just sayin’.
The Critical Slide Society pumps out premium quality logs, and they’ve stepped up to the plate when it comes to meeting consumers online. The Logger Head is a fine longboard that’s easy on the eyes and performs at an acceptable price. There’s no getting around it, brand new longboards are expensive.
Price (on publish date): $895
Outdoor and Adventure Sports Retailers
The next category comprises those websites where you could order a new surf poncho, wetsuit, surfboard leash, surf wax, or maybe even a new traction pad if you’re feeling saucy. Think Backcountry, evo.com, or Surfdome. If there’s one knock on these outdoors retailers it’s that the selection is typically not as broad as surf/watersports-specific retailers, or that it leans heavily in the fun board-slash-approachable equipment and is less performance-oriented. Still, these retailers can be great for discounted equipment and often offer more affordable shipping costs.
Did you know you can buy a surfboard on Amazon? That’s right, everything from A to Z includes S for surfboard. For the most part, this is sort of a buyer beware situation with the sole exception being foam surfboards. So, if you’re an absolute beginner or looking for a Wavestorm or a Catch Surf Beater to flop around on in the summer months, you can actually use your Prime membership for a speedy delivery. Just keep an eye out for knockoffs, and do your research somewhere other than the five-star-review section.
Pyzel’s Wildcat is a channel bottom twin that doubles as a speed magnet. It might be a little left of center for a high performance shortboard, but we guarantee this board provides the speed you seek. It’s just a matter of whether you know what to do with it or not.
Price (on publish date): $895
Brick and Mortar Surf Shops
Finally, some brick and mortar surf shops have gotten savvy and developed slick online retail operations. Some examples include Jack’s Surfboards in Southern California, Cleanline Surf in Oregon, or REAL Watersports. There are lots of options. Depending on the shop, selection can be a mixed bag, which is the primary disadvantage. But, shops with established relationships with brands have the major advantage of carrying exclusive stock from board builders that none of the above retailers carry.
Other Considerations When Buying a Surfboard Online
Surfboard Shipping Costs
The single most important variable when buying a surfboard online is shipping costs. Period. And these vary widely depending on the retailer. For example, Boardcave’s best estimate for shipping on surfboards up to 6’6” in length is $80 for Hawaii, $180 for the East Coast, and $220 for the West Coast. Compare that to evo.com, which estimates $69 for standard ground shipping on shortboards and $99 for longboards in the continental US but $199 for Alaska and Hawaii. Other retailers, like Jack’s estimate $150 for boards between 5’10” and 6’10” in the continental U.S. (with prices going up or down based on length. Other sites like Backcountry don’t provide shipping estimates. Keep in mind, as well, that in most cases, surfboards are excluded from free shipping offers. Because shipping costs can vary so considerably across retailers, and even with the same website depending on board length, our best advice is to contact the retailer directly to get an estimate before you purchase.
What If Your Surfboard Arrives Damaged?
Lastly, for any that have had the unique displeasure of handing a surfboard bag to a baggage handler at the airport and praying it arrives in one piece on the other end, you may be wondering, what if my board shows up damaged? Fortunately, most sites offer some recourse, but that recourse is usually simply contacting customer service. Which can be a mixed bag to say the least. Alas, the potential headache of dealing with a back and forth with customer service is one of the trade-offs you make for the convenience of buying a board online.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.