Words Chloe Pattison Photos Unsplash

Getting the right size surfboard is key to your surfing success, because if you get a board that is too small for you, it can really hinder your progression and will get frustrated. The bigger the board the better until you improve your surfing ability. Here is our guide on picking the right board for you.

Getting the right size surfboard is key to your surfing success

The Mini-Mal

If you are a complete beginner, you should stick to renting boards until you get a little better. For those with a bit more experience, it is generally recommended to get a funboard or mini-malibu (aka mini-mal) to start with, as volume is your friend here.

These boards can vary in lengths from 6’8” to 7’8”. The size you get will depend on how much you weigh, since it is the volume of the board that will keep you on the surface of the water, giving you a better balance and giving you the ability to practice getting to your feet. You can also cruise the smaller baby waves with this style of board. For a rough guide:

• 45.4-63.5 (kgs) = 6’8”-7’2” Height, 20”- 21” Width, 2 ½”- 2 ¾” Thickness

• 63.5-72.6 (kgs) = 6’10”-7’4” Height, 20 ½”- 21 ½” Width, 2 ¾”- 3” Thickness

• 72.6-81.6 (kgs) = 7’6”- 8’0” Height, 21”- 21 ¾” Width, 2 ¾”- 3” Thickness

• 81.6-90.7 (kgs) = 7’10”- 8’4” Height, 21 ½”- 22 ½” Width, 3”- 3 ¼” Thickness

• 90.7+ (kgs) = 8’2”- 8’8” Height, 22”- 22 ¾” Width, 3 ¼”+ Thickness

Generally, surf instructors will put beginners on foam boards as well, as you will need the buoyancy to practice.

If you have been a few times but still aren’t that confident, then perhaps go for the lower end of the figures for your weight bracket- especially if you’d like to get to a shortboard someday.

Shapes of boards can also affect surf ability and quality. For example:

If you get a round nose (top end of the board), it’s likely you’ll be able to catch smaller waves because the balance of the board will be more complete. If you have a small rocker (curvature of the board), it’s also better for cruising smaller waves. This also works vice versa. The standard mini-mal shape (rounded ends, a shorter version of the longboard) will be best to learn on, as it has better balance and does a lot of the work for you in that area. As a beginner, balance will be the key thing for you to learn, so having this board will really help you.

The Shortboard

If you have been surfing for a little while and have made some progress, you will probably want to go down a board size and move into the shortboard range. This will help you rip on the waves better and let you duck dive to get out to the bigger waves outback. It’s also easier to trick, the smaller board you get. It is usually recommended that for intermediate surfers that you get a board that is a palms length above your head, and again, weight balance is more important than height as the board will need to be able to hold your weight afloat. Slightly taller boards generally have more volume, so for example here’s a rough idea:

• 45.4-63.5 (kgs) = 6’2”- 6’4” Height, 18 ¾”- 19 ¼” Width, 2 ¼” Thickness

• 63.5-72.6 (kgs) = 6’4”- 6’8” Height, 19”-20” Width, 2 ½” Thickness

• 72.6-81.6 (kgs) = 6’6”-6’10” Height, 19 ½”- 20 ½” Width, 2 ½” Thickness

• 81.6-90.7 (kgs) = 6’10- 7’4” Height, 20”- 21 ½” Width, 3” Thickness

• 90.7+ (kgs) = 7’4”+ Height, 21 ½”- 22 ½” Width, 3” Thickness

This is just a general guide, so of you are of a higher weight class and feel you can be on a shorter board than this, then go for it and have fun. But remember what we said earlier- If you get a board that is too small for your skill set then it can seriously hinder your progress and you are more likely to get frustrated and give up on the board altogether.

When in serious doubt, go and ask someone in a surf shop what they would recommend for someone of your height, weight and skill set. They are likely to be able to give you a good idea of what you need or what you should be looking for.

When buying your first board, it is going to be near on impossible to get a single board that meets every single one of your standards or ticks every box on your checklist. You may find that perfect board but it’s a bit too expensive for you, you may find the perfect size and price, but it doesn’t look the way you want it to. Remember that you may have to make some sacrifices on that ‘perfect board’ in order get what you need for your skill level. If you can’t find one you like the look of, maybe get it anyway and cover it in stickers or get some posca pens and decorate it yourself.

As you progress, you are going to want to build up a collection (or quiver) of boards for the conditions or waves you’ll be riding that day. What would your perfect surfboard look like?