This sounds hard to comprehend but it’s not, trust us we will help you wrap your head around it a little more. depending on what level of surfer you are and also what style of surfer you are wanting to be. This will help you understand equipment a little more.
For a beginner surfer you want to be starting on a 8ft or 9ft foam board, why you ask? Because a bigger foam board has a lot more volume, length and width (buoyancy, balance/ speed, stability) to help with the many mistakes that we all make when learning to surf. It is not just about the length of the surfboard (which many people think) but the width also (which helps you when popping up) and the volume (which helps keep us up and out of the water).
A foam board is also softer than a hard board and has softer fins so when you make mistakes and fall off, if you get hit by your board it will not hurt anywhere near as much as a hard board. It also wont hurt someone else you may accidentally hit when riding that epic wave all the way to shore. As you get better you can start to drop down in foam board size but we always recommend learning on a big foam board at the beginning so you can actually catch whitewash waves and get a feel for it.
This stage can be a little tricky as many people make the common mistake of testing out a foam board and becoming competent with riding waves on it and they instantly drop down to a hard short board or a long hard board Mal. This is a big mistake because a foam board is very easy to surf on but once you decide to focus more on a short board or a long board you are looking at mastering a style of surfing which is very unique. Short board surfing and hard board surfing are extremely different and require different types of surf. There are key things that must change to be able to ride these boards well and this is where equipment is really important.
Short board Intermediate – You want to be looking at a board between 5’8ft – 6’2ft in length or you can drop down from a 6’6ft mini mal as this is a good length when transitioning from a soft board or semi soft board. You want to make sure the board still has a little forgiveness in the “body” of the board or the mid section so making sure it is quite wide as that will help with your pop up and also your paddle (by keeping the mid section stable and a little out of the water). Also keeping a little width near the nose and a little at the tale, this will help you get a feel for short board riding and the waves that are required for this style of surfing but the board will still allow for you to paddle and get to your feet without feeling to unstable. Check out the volume of the board to make sure it have a little more float to help with your surfing.
Remember surfing is 90% paddling and the shorter the board the harder it is to paddle
Mid length surfing – You want to be looking at a board between 6’6ft and 8ft. These boards are great as you can ride a large range of surf conditions and the boards will allow for maneuverability and variety in wave options. Depending on the shape of the mini mal you go for will determine the response the board has in the water but if you keen the board with a bit of body but remove volume in areas where it is not needed and pull in areas of the rails then you will be riding a board that is super fun but can go on rail and turn well.
Longboard Intermediate – You want to be looking at a board between 8’6ft – 9’6ft (or maybe even bigger if that’s your style)
At an advanced stage you should have an idea of what style of surfer you want to be and what types of waves you feel make you are happy surfer. Depending on your style of surfing it really is just about trying a bunch of different boards and looking into potentially getting custom made boards so you are able to get aspects that you like in boards and remove elements you don’t like to get the perfect rides.
Just remember you only learn what you like and don’t like by trying a bunch of different types of boards in different conditions so make sure you get out there and test a bunch and see what you come up with.