Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Choose a Surfboard

Types of Surfboards

There are lots of variables, including the rocker, tails and fins (see the sidebar on this page for more on those) that go into making a great surfboard. An expert shaper can customize any or all of these variables to create a unique board that will enhance your natural style. Although custom boards don't come cheap, they're not necessarily that much more expensive than some of the better "pop-outs" (pre-manufactured) boards you can buy right off the rack [source: Weaver]. Regardless of whether you go with a pop-out or look into ordering a custom board, you'll want to know something about how different types of surfboard styles and materials might affect your surfing. Some different surfboard types include the following:

  • Funboards, at 6 feet 6 inches (2.01 meters) to 8 feet (2.44 meters) long, split the difference between the acceleration of a longboard and the maneuverability of a shortboard. They're perfect for kids and smaller adult beginners, and they also make good transition boards for larger adults looking to work their way down to shortboard surfing.
  • Foamboards, foamies and softboards, are -- as the name implies -- made of foam. This decreases the risk of injury while increasing stability and buoyancy, making a foamboard the perfect choice for a beginner. You can find various types of surfboards -- longboards, fish and even shortboards -- made out of foam.
  • Eggs are around the same length as funboards, but with a more rounded tail. They're good for surfing smaller waves, rather than doing tricks, and you can use them with any type of fin setup.
  • Fish are shortboards with a wide, round nose and a "swallow" tail, which improves the ability to catch waves without sacrificing maneuverability. Fish are usually 5.4 feet (1.65 meters) to 6.4 feet (1.95 meters) long.
  • Mini-Mals or Malibus are slightly shorter longboards with a thinner profile and tail to make turning easier.
  • Guns are big wave surfboards, at 6 feet (1.83 meters) to 10 feet (3.05 meters) long. They have pin tails and pointy noses, making them easier to paddle out and giving them more control over the biggest waves [source: Weaver]

Now that you've gotten an overview of the various types of surfboards, it's time to go back to basics. Read on to learn all about the best surfboards for beginners.