For months now, and ever since surfing really took off for me, I have contemplated getting my own board and now, having stood up consistently on a foamie, I reckoned I deserved it.
There are hundreds of surfboards out there to choose from in all shapes and sizes and for a beginner looking to make the progression to a non-foam board, the options can be pretty confusing and from my experience, there is no one-size fits all if you are looking to buy from a surf shop.
Take me for example. I am 5ft 3 inches tall and weigh 8st. I struggle to carry and lug big boards around. I sought advice from a number of shops who all told me different things – some said to go for the maximum length possible, others advised that I could get away with something shorter so who was I supposed to believe?
Beginners are best to learn on a minimal, which is basically a shorter version of a longboard. Minimals are generally anything in the range of 7ft-8ft and give the stability needed to catch waves more easily. They are also generally quite wide (anything from about 21 inches to about 23) which lends itself to stability, and around 2-3 inches thick.
Over the past few months, I have tried several mini-mal options out, including 7ft 2, 7ft 6 and 7ft 10, and it was the best way I found to get an idea of what felt right in the water. I couldn’t stand up on any of them so maybe it wasn’t an exact science, but I learnt a lot more about boards that way than just talking to people in the shops.
Here’s what I learnt:
- Shorter on the length meant generally a compromise on the width – this meant the board felt ‘tippy’ and I couldn’t get my balance
- 7ft 10 felt really stable….but I struggled to carry and manoeuvre it
- Volume is important but this can be achieved through width and thickness and not necessarily length
- Less rocker, ie. the amount of curve on the bottom of the board from nose to tail, is best for beginners. Boards with less rocker keep more surface area on top of the water and allow for more speed when paddling and surfing. Minimals are designed to catch waves with ease and so the low rocker makes them more suitable for catching slow waves as opposed to steep hollow ones.
- I wasn’t going to get exactly what I wanted from buying something off the shelf
A couple of people had suggested getting a custom board. That way, I could get the exact dimensions that I wanted for the types of waves that I would be surfing. With the added bonus of being able to have the exact design that I wanted, it seemed like the all-round best thing to do – a surfboard which was totally unique to me.
A couple of names had been passed onto me, one of which I had an initial chat with the week before our lesson. An ex-champion surfer who, wouldn’t you know it, was only a 15 minute drive from where we were staying in Mawgan Porth. Seemed like the perfect way to conclude our successful surf trip.
So, the day after our lesson, I went to see a man about a surfboard….