Your First Surfboard
You can learn to surf on whatever board you like, but some surfboards are more appropriate than others. To maximize the rate at which your surfing progresses, you need to get started on the right board. You didn't start your driving lessons in a Ferrari, and you don't want to learn to surf in a Ferrari. (You know what we mean!) So what is the anti-Ferrari of surfboards?
The Soft Surfboard
If you've ever had surfing lessons with a surf school, you already have a good idea as to which surfboard is best for the beginner. It's a soft surfboard. Sometimes called foamies, these soft boards are ideal because the soft foam construction means the boards are incredibly buoyant, enabling the beginner to catch waves easily. Their dimensions ensure that they are very stable in the water, making it much easier for the novice to stand up.
The fact that they are soft makes them an ideal board for a surf school where any injuries are minimized. (Even the fins on this design are soft to a certain degree.) An ideal soft surfboard length for an adult is around 8 feet in length. A softboard around the 6 feet is best suited for a child.
However, while ideal for a single surfing lesson, softboards aren't perhaps the best surfboard to buy for an adult who will be surfing regularly. Most people quickly outgrow these boards, not making them the best buy. For small children who won't progress in surfing so quickly, or for adults who only go surfing on vacation once a year, they are a great buy.
A pop-out is a surfboard that is made on a production line and is a cheap alternative to a custom-made fibreglass surfboard. The pop-out is made of foam covered with thick fibreglass and is practically indestructible. As a result of their construction, the pop-out is much heavier than a softboard or a custom. The weight reduces the performance of the board, which is good from a learner's point of view; the board is much steadier in the water.
The downside of these boards is their weight, meaning that they can pack a hefty wallop. When using these boards you need to pay attention to where the board is going if you come off it, and be aware of other people in the water.
The pop-out is a popular choice as a beginner board, and they offer more to the average surfer than softboards because they have a longer time span where they are still of use as a board to learn on. Another great thing about the pop-out is that they are in demand and always have a good resale value after you've learned to surf on them, as others commonly try to find a second-hand board.
Summary So Far
So we've taken a look at what can be classed as the "traditional" beginner surfboards. Let's sum up what we've found.
Soft surfboards are suitable for everyone as a first board, and because of their construction, the size of the board doesn't really matter. An eight-foot board is ideal for an adult, while a six-foot board is best for a child. The downside is that they are quickly outgrown, and a new board will be needed by someone who gets into the surf regularly.
Pop-out surfboards have a longer life than the softs, and they can take a surfer from complete novice to intermediate surfer without the need for a new board. They also have an excellent resale value when looking to trade up. The downside is primarily their weight and that they are incredibly hard to duck dive.
There is one problem with both these boards: they have a zero cool factor. This is why many surfers can be put off from buying them even though they make great beginners surfboards.
Let's take a look at custom surfboards for beginners - are they a better option or just a solution to the cool factor?