Buying your First Surfboard

There are a lot of surfboards for sale in Halifax. How best to choose your first? The number of options can be overwhelming. Outside influences can be misleading. Inflated perceptions of your abilities can be counter-productive.

Photo by Jessie Redmond

Picking out your first surfboard can be a tough choice to make. It’s a major step in your surfing life and your decision will launch your surfing on its initial trajectory – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing your first board;

  • the coolest shapes/shapers being pumped-up by the surf media 
  • the sweet looking high-performance boards that Kelly Slater and Steph Gilmore are riding 
  • the flavour of the month, ‘super soulful,’ asymmetrical, snub-nosed planks, with weird fins, funky tails and super space-aged construction [regularly touted by hyper-talented, photo pros who insist that ‘these latest boards’ are God’s answer to wave riding]

…are NOT amongst these factors!

Surfing is an individual pursuit; everyone is different and has different ideas about the path his or her surfing should follow. Every surf break is different. Every swell is different. For that matter, every wave is different.

There isn’t a magic surfboard out there that’s going to work well everywhere, all the time. As your surfing progresses, you’ll likely add to your quiver and have a few – or twenty – different boards to choose from, each suited to different types of conditions, or your mood on a given day. After all, if the only thing in your toolbox is a hammer then pretty soon everything starts looking like a nail.

For the moment though, you have to pick just one: the first one. It does not need to be sleek or sexy. It needs to be practical. For you. It should be something that works often, in the types of waves you’ll be surfing most often (which, at the outset, are likely to be small-to-medium sized waves at one of the local beaches). The key in the beginning – and this cannot be overstated – is CATCHING WAVES. Every wave you catch can be thought of as an opportunity to improve. The more you actually stand up on your surfboard, the faster you’ll progress. It’s as simple as that. Therefore, when eyeing-up that new board on the rack of your local surf shop or checking out something second-hand on Kijiji,the most important question to ask is this: 

“Can I catch A LOT of waves on that thing?” Your height, weight, fitness level and paddling strength will factor heavily into coming up with an honest answer to that question. Pick a board that has enough buoyancy for you to paddle it well. Volume is paramount. Too small a board is a bad thing; you won’t catch enough waves. Too large a board can be almost equally bad. Though they might paddle well, very large boards can be cumbersome and difficult to handle. You may find it an exhausting struggle simply getting out to the line-up if you choose a board that’s too big. 

Starting out with a fairly generic board with a bit of heft, a ‘fun shape’ in the 7’-8’6” range, for example, that’s durable and affordable is going to be the best bet for most beginners. Funboards are readily available, both new and used, from a number of manufacturers, in a variety of materials (note: do not fear the Soft Top). 

Larger boards are great for other reasons, too. They help to develop solid fundamentals, forcing you to constantly adjust your weight and learn to surf from rail-to-rail. It’s fairly easy to develop some pretty bad habits on a shortboard if you lack those fundamentals. Larger boards also allow you to surf more often, providing you with the ability to catch more waves and have more fun on smaller days when most shortboarders wouldn’teven bother paddling out because they’d be bogging down the whole time.

If you were to ask any good local surfer, one who’s really tearing it up on shortboard on a good day, if he or she owns a big board too, I can guarantee that almost every single one of them would tell you “yes.”

There’s no need to break the bank on the first go. $400-$700 should do the trick. Maybe a bit less if you know a guy who knows a guy… Besides, you may improve quickly enough that you decide you’ve graduated from your beginner’s equipment within a season or two and be back in the market fairly soon,looking for something more specialized. So, no need to spend all your money in one place. An added bonus to starting with a larger board is that funboards and longboards tend to retain their value better than shortboards do.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Take it for whatever it’s worth to you, but don’t let me – or anyone else – make the decision for you.  At the end of the day, it’s your trip, it’s your board, and it’s your choice. Best of luck in making it! We’re there for you if you have any questions. 


Learn to surf on the East Coast

Go Surfing