Choosing a surfboard is no simple matter. There are lots of factors to consider, like the shape of the board, the size, rocker and rails, tails and fins. There are eggs and fish — and we’re not talking about breakfast options. Confounding matters further, the categories of boards don’t break down quite as neatly as skis or snowboards. The ideal board for beginners is long, wide and thick since it’s stable for both paddling and for taking off on a wave. After that, unless you’re an advanced surfer with specific needs based on performance and location, the ideal board is one that can perform well in a variety of conditions — one that pulls characteristics from shortboards (e.g., maneuverability) and longboards (e.g., buoyancy) and everything in between. Each of these boards is available in many different lengths, so make sure you get the right size for you. Everything beyond that is up to you and the waves.
COME ON IN, WATER’S NICE: Kit: Swim Practice | Essential Waterskiing Gear | Cigarette AMG Electric Drive Concept Boat
Editor’s Pick: The Dwart is one of Rusty’s most versatile boards, combining the elements of a modern fish (basically a short, wide surfboard) with high-performance design flourishes. It takes its name from the Double Wing and Round Tail design, a combination of features that make it both fast and maneuverable. It paddles easy and is forgiving while remaining responsive. Plus… that name.
Lost Surfboards The Lay Z Boy
Best Furniture-inspired Surfboard: We’re all familiar with the La-Z-Boy’s efficacy for helping us kick back and do nothing; if you’re looking for the same degree of comfort in the water, look no further than the board the chair inspired. The Lay Z Boy is part of the “Domesticated Series” from Lost Surfboards, which the company describes as “generous volume boards designed for having a good time… in your free time, and to free you from the drudgery of everyday dealings.” But don’t let the Lay Z Boy’s easygoing nature fool you: its outline, rocker and bottom curves are designed for performance in all sizes of surf.
Almond Surfboards Joy
Best-looking Surfboard: Newport Beach-based Almond Surfboards makes a variety of handsome apparel in addition to their hand-shaped, custom boards. Joy is their all-around mid-length model, which means it’s substantial enough to get into waves early and also good in the turns thanks to a slightly V-shaped planing surface and a pintail.
Channel Islands Weirdo Ripper
Best Pedigreed Board: Channel Islands is one of the most respected names in surfing. Founded in 1969, the Santa Barbara company, led by shaper Al Merrick, counts among its team members big names like Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith and Pat Gudauskas. The Weirdo Ripper is a new (launched in 2012) board meant for all-around surfing with lots of volume for easy paddling, large and forgiving rails, a V bottom and a square-winged swallow tail. That’s a mouthful — but basically means that it’s good for driving straight and for turning, whether you’re in ankle-biter waves or overhead surf.
Best Beginner Surfboard: Firewire sponsors Michel Bourez, whose name you’ll remember as the runner-up in our coverage of the Oakley Pro Bali. In addition to their line of high-performance boards, Firewire also makes hybrid boards ideal for the non-expert who still likes to shred. The Dominator is a chunky surfboard that paddles fast, does well at speed and also handles nimbly — Firewire calls it their most versatile option. It’s ideal for the novice, but not something you’ll grow out of fast.