Post Updated:🕓 11 min read
If you’re new to surfing, understanding the types of surfboards and what each offers can help you choose the best one for you. In this article we’ll be going through each surfboard type as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
If you’re looking to purchase your first surfboard my ‘Surfboard Buying Guide’ will tell you everything you’d want to know before hand. If you’re still confused as to what surfboard is right for you check out my ‘What Surfboard Should I Get Quiz’.
Types of Surfboards
So, lets start off by saying that there are different surfboard types for different surfing abilities. For example if you’re just starting out you’ll need a different surfboard compared to a professional surfer. There are also other things to take into account like height, weight and budget.
This particular article is aimed at helping beginners understand which surfboard is right for them. To make this easier I’ve starting with the most appropriate surfboard types for beginners ending with the least appropriate. The image below is the order each surfboard type will be talked about starting with number one, the foam surfboard.
Foam Surfboards / Foamie
Let’s start with every surfer’s first surfboard, the foam surfboard or foamie as it’s sometimes called.
Whether your buying your first or last surfboard, the foam surfboard will play a part somewhere in your surfing journey. These surfboards are mainly used by surf schools and beginners learning to catch their first waves. This is a great first surfboard if you’re learning to surf, but what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Advantages of Foam Surfboards
There are a few solid reasons foam surfboards are great for surfing beginners;
- Buoyancy – Foam surfboards have a huge amount of buoyancy. This is great for surfing beginners as it provides lots of stability under foot, which makes standing up easier.
- Durability – Foam surfboards are made foam a very durable material which protects them from any rough usage. Beginners can fall off, accidentally drop their board, scuff it on rocks to their hearts content. More times than most it will come up rosier on the other side than any other surfboard type.
- Safety – Because foam surfboards are made out of foam, they’re much comfier to land on then other hardboard surfboards types.
- Usability – Foam surfboards can be used in pretty much any conditions. Because of the depth of the this surfboard type, beginners can catch those small broken waves with ease.
- Cost – One of the biggest advantages to the foam surfboard type is the cost. Surfing beginners don’t need to spend lots of money to get their hands on their first surfboard.
Disadvantages of Foam Surfboards
There are also some things to consider before purchasing a foam surfboard;
- Size – Because foam surfboards offer such great buoyancy and stability, they’re often fairly big. So, do you have somewhere to store it and do you have the means to transport it?
- Weight – Believe it or not foam surfboards actually hold a lot of water. This makes them heavy and after a two hour session are the last this you want to carry to your car.
Check out some of our awesome foam surfboards HERE.
The next surfboard type to progress onto after the simpler foam surfboard is the mini mal surfboard type.
The mini mal is a smaller version of the longboard, which is also known as a malibu or mal. It has the same characteristics as a longboard just on a smaller scale with adult sizes ranging between 7-9ft.
Advantages of Mini Mals
There are a number of reasons this is the next surfboard type to go for once you’ve had a taste of the basics.
- Buoyancy – Like foam surfboards the mini mal offers all the volume, stability and wave catching ability that beginners need to stand up.
- Progression – Because mini mals are generally not as big as foam surfboards they’re a bit more manoeuvrable. This allows beginners to start working on those first turning manoeuvres.
- Weight – As a hardboard, the mini mal does not hold the amounts of water foam surfboards hold. This makes mini mals much lighter when carrying them back to the car.
- Usability – Mini mals can be used in a huge variety of conditions. It’s always worth keeping a mini mal in your quiver for those off days.
- Resale value – If you need the money though, these surfboards are very popular so are easy to move on if you ever need to.
Disadvantages of Mini Mals
So, what should you be aware of before purchasing?
- Size – Like the foam surfboard, the mini mal is still fairly large in size. So again would require enough space to store and enough room to transport it.
- Safety – Because mini mals are typically hard boards it’ll not cushion an impact as well as foam surfboards.
If you’re interested in purchasing a mini mal surfboard, check out our collection HERE.
Onto the mini mals big brother, the longboard. Ranging all the way up to 12ft, the longboard is rightly named due to it being the longest surfboard type.
With traditional Hawaiian Olo bloodlines, the longboard is also the oldest and most traditional of all the modern day surfboard types.
Advantages of Longboards
Believe it or not the longboard is still a great choice for beginner surfers and here’s a few reasons why…
- Buoyancy – The longboard remains consistent with the first two surfboards in that it has fantastic buoyancy. With such a large surface area it’s a no brainer why this surfboard type is at the top of the buoyancy scale. The more buoyant the surfboard the more stable it is when trying to stand up, great for beginners.
- Easy paddling – The huge length of longboards means the board glides through the water, making paddling incredibly easy.
- Resale value – Similar to the mini mals, the longboard surfboard type also holds its resale value very well.
- Tricks – The longboard stands out as the easiest surfboard to perform tricks on. It’s unique length means beginners can perform a variety of tricks including cross steps, drop-knee turns, hang fives and hang tens – all as soon as they get used to standing up.
- Sharing is caring – The final advantage exclusive to the longboard is that theres enough room for more than one surfer on this surfboard. Riding tandem is great if you have little ones, a surfing partner or even a furry friend to enjoy the waves with.
Disadvantages of Longboards
So lets take a quick look at the disadvantages of the longboard…
- Weight – Longboards are the biggest of all the surfboard types. They’re the heaviest to carry and require the most storage room as well as a fairly substantial roof rack.
- Cost – Longboards tend to be fairly expensive. Now, this is relative to the amount of surfboard you’re getting but is often understandably out of reach for most beginners budgets.
- Usability – Unfortunately, longboards are not really designed to catch waves that have already broken, something the previous two surfboards thrive on.
- Manoeuvrability – With the longest surfboard comes the longest turning circles. The longboard has its own unique style of turning which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just less manoeuvrable compared to other surfboard types.
- Getting out the back – Because of the sheer size and volume of the longboard, it makes it difficult to get past the breaking waves ‘out the back’.
- Safety – The longboard is the biggest and heaviest surfboard type so is potentially the most dangerous if you fall off it.
If you reckon the longboard is the right surfboard type for you, check out our great collection HERE.
Funboards / Hybrid Surfboards
Next is the funboard, sometimes called the hybrid surfboard. Now, this is basically the love child of a mini mal and a more agile short board. Funnily enough, this was the surfboard type I went for after learning the basics on a foam surfboard. In short, I wasn’t disappointed.
Advantages of Funboards / Hybrid Surfboards
- Usability – Funboards and hybrids are renowned for being able to catch any wave. Whether it’s green (unbroken) or white (broken) waves, it’ll allow you to keep that wave count up in a multitude of conditions.
- Progression – One of its biggest strengths is it allows for great progression. Advancing from standing up to doing bottom turns isn’t easy, but this board is comfortable doing both in the early stages of development.
- Size – As funboards are typically 8ft and under, they can fit in most cars. This is an added bonus as all the previous surfboard types often require a roof rack for transport.
- Weight – With a smaller size the funboards are easier to carry compared to the previous three surfboard types.
- Duck diving – With the slightly pointier nose than the previous three surfboard types, the funboard allows you to practice duck diving. This is a great skill to develop early if you plan to eventually surf the much smaller surfboard types.
Disadvantages of Funboards / Hybrid Surfboards
So, what are the things worth considering before purchasing?
- Cost – Because this surfboard type is so versatile, brands seem to put a premium price tag on them. If like me this is your first ‘proper’ surfboard the increase in cost can be quite surprising.
- Safety – Like almost all the surfboards on this list, hard boards are quite bruising if hit by one compared to a nice soft foamie.
- Hollow waves – Although it looks more like a shortboard the funboards and hybrids don’t tend to have the rocker necessary to tackle big hollow waves.
This is a great surfboard type however and if you’re still looking check out our handpicked selection HERE.
Next in line is the fish surfboard type.
Shortest on this list so far with board sizes ranging between 5ft 5 – 6ft 2. This is the next surfboard type I intend on progressing to (if I ever nail my bottom turn that is)…
Advantages of Fish Surfboards
- Stability – Considering how short this surfboard type is, its wide rounded design keeps it very stable underfoot.
- Usability – Known for being the go to shorter surfboard in mushy conditions, a fish surfboard can generate enough oomph to have fun in the worst conditions. This is a great surfboard type to always have in your quiver for those off days.
- Weight – With the majority of fish surfboards being under 6ft 4, they’re very lightweight and easy to carry.
- Size – At these smaller sizes they’re also able to be transported on a selection of airlines. This is something the previous surfboard types were just too big to do.
- Duck diving – The reduced size and volume of this surfboard type makes duck diving even easier – again an important skill to learn as part of a surfers progression.
- Manoeuvrability – With two pivot points instead of one at the tail end of the surfboard, fish surfboards are very agile in both directions. This opens up a range of new motions for surfers to learn and progress with that aren’t easily achieved with the previous surfboard types.
Disadvantages of Fish Surfboards
So what should you be aware of before chosen this surfboard type?
- Stability – As you can imagine with a reduction in size comes a reduction in volume. This makes the fish surfboard type much twitchier than the previous surfboard types, so it requires solid technique to ride.
- Paddling – Less volume in a surfboard also makes it harder to generate speed paddling as the rider is more in the water than above it.
- Fragility – The final thing worth noting is the fragility of the tail. As this is split into two parts rather than one it can easily be damaged so be extra careful when transporting your board.
Need some more ideas? Check out our awesome fish surfboard collection HERE.
Now onto the business end of things and starting with the shortboard. The name suggests its the shortest surfboard type but in reality it’s often a similar size to the fish surfboard type.
If you’re looking at purchasing I expect you know your stuff, but lets rattle through the pros and cons just incase.
Advantages of Shortboards
- Performance – The shortboard is the fastest and most responsive surfboard type of the lot. Built for ultimate performance this thing is both incredibly agile and allows for very aggressive surfing.
- Weight – Similar to the fish surfboard type, this size of the shortboard makes it very lightweight and easy to carry.
- Size – Again, the shortness means it can also be transported on most airlines, but make sure to protect it during transit.
- Duck diving – The shortboard is the easiest surfboard to duck dive. This makes getting ‘out the back’ to those green waves much easier than with other surfboard types.
- Durability – There is a higher percentage of shortboards made from epoxy compared to any other surfboard type. The ones made from this material makes the surfboard immensely durable. If you’re thinking of getting a shortboard, check if its made from epoxy.
Disadvantages of Shortboards
Like everything there are some things to consider with this surfboard type.
- Buoyancy – This surfboard type has the least amount of volume which as we know makes paddling and catching waves a lot more hard work.
- Usability – Because shortboards are so highly strung for optimum performance they don’t really perform well in anything but good green waves. This should never be the only surfboard in your quiver, put it that way.
- Hard – Shortboards are very difficult to surf. Their size requires solid technique to get most out of them, something that can take years to build up.
- Resale value – Finally, because this surfboard type is so readily available on the second hand market it has the weakest resale value of the lot. If you already own one, you might be better off just keeping it.
To browse our awesome looking shortboards click HERE.
So, the final surfboard type on this list – the Gun.
With sizes typically 10ft+ and sporting a narrow body, pointy nose and pin tail this board was designed to handle the big waves. And when I mean big waves I mean anything from 15ft to 60ft+.
Advantages of Gun Surfboards
- Survival – It’s the most likely surfboard to keep you alive if you do fancy surfing a 60ft wave.
- Bespoke – With the design featuring a prominent rocker the gun is able to handle those steep drop ins. The pin tail also allows the surfboard to maintain high speeds to stay in front of the wave.
- Paddling – The increased length results in a higher paddling speed so the bigger waves can be caught in the first place.
If you’re a big wave legend this is certainly the surfboard type you’ll want under your feet.
Disadvantages of Gun Surfboards
- Usability – It’s designed for one purpose and one purpose only, big hollow waves. This is not the surfboard you need in your quiver if you’re riding anything else.
- Size – It’s actually a big surfboard. The length of it will make it difficult to both store and transport around.
- Courage needed – This surfboard type is reserved for the baddest and bravest surfers who thrive on surfing the biggest waves.
That’s it guys, a full guide to all the types of surfboards used within surfing.
I hope you found it helpful, if you did it would be great to know your thoughts in the comments below. Likewise, if you’re currently in the process of purchasing a surfboard let us know all about that too.
Feel free to check out my other social media channels and let me know what you think!
Recommended next read: ‘Types of Surfboard Noses and Tails’
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