How to Choose a Surfboard

Surfboard Sizes

One of the first things to consider when choosing a surfboard is what size will work best for your height, weight, skill level and riding conditions. Buy a board that's too thin, and you'll sink. Choose one that's too short, and you'll fall off every time you try to pop up.

There are many different surfboard sizes and shapes, but the two main categories are longboards and shortboards:

  • Longboards, or "logs," are usually 8 to 11 feet (2.4 to 3.4 meters) long and oval shaped. They are generally thicker than shortboards. A longboard also accelerates faster in the water, making it easier to catch a wider variety of waves. While this makes longboards preferable for beginners, many expert surfers such as Robert "Wingnut" Weaver also prefer the versatility and classic style of longboarding [source: Weaver].
  • Shortboards are between 5 and 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 meters) long. They come with a variety of tail designs, and they're thinner, more light-weight and generally easier to maneuver than a longboard. If you're into fancy tricks and turns, a shortboard might be just the ticket. However, because waves are harder to catch on a shortboard, be sure you've acquired some skills before you try one [source: Weaver].

Consider your weight when you are choosing the size of your surfboard. A heavier person will need more "float," i.e. a thicker surfboard, to stay buoyant. On the other hand, an 11-foot (3.35-meter) long, 3-inch (7.6-centimeter) thick log would be overkill for a child or small adult. The main thing is to make sure you can comfortably carry your board and control it in the water [source: Weaver].

It's also important to think about the type of waves you'll be surfing when you're choosing the size of your board. A lot of riders, especially beginners, might find that a longboard performs better in the relatively mushy, gentle surf of the U.S. East Coast. On the other hand, shortboarding would probably be easier, even for more inexperienced riders, in the larger swells of Hawaii [source: Weaver].

A really good surfer will be able to surf with almost any type board in virtually any conditions. For these more advanced riders, the perfect board type can complement and even enhance a particular surfing style. Read on for a rundown of the different surfboard shapes and styles.