Whether it’s your first time or tenth time, buying a surfboard can be a confusing prospect. Between different shapes, tails, rockers, concaves and fin patterns, choosing the right features for your home wave is crucial. If you’re a beginner, a soft-top longboard might be the way to go; if you’re a veteran paddling out to Mavericks, not so much. Here are a variety of stellar surfboard shapes that have everyone covered from the beginner to the veteran.
Channel Islands Surfboards Waterhog – A2
Best Beginner Board: Soft-top longboards are arguably the best introduction to surfing. As you stand up and down on the board, repeatedly bashing your knees and your motivation, the soft foam top is a welcome relief. And at just over $500, it’s well within range for most kooks’ finances.
Firewire Baked Potato
Best Small Wave Fun Board: With a slightly pulled-in nose, minimized rail volume and aggressive double concaves, the Baked Potato rips around waves like a sea otter high on cocaine, turning and transferring with incredible ease. Yet it’s not prone to sliding — that’s thanks to its quad fins, which are set closer to the rails than most boards of the same shape.
Bar of Soap by Tyler Warren
Best Small Rolling Wave Board: Inspired by the Mini-Simmons designs, this wide compact board is built for speed. It features hull entry and spiral v through the fins, making it a responsive and versatile board.
Marc Andreini Serena Pin
Best Big Rolling Wave Board: This smooth, flowing single-fin features a low rocker, and a pin tail. Available from 7’10” to 9’6”, this board is made to handle the bigger winter surf.
Lost by Mayhem Sub-Driver
Best Small Pitching Wave Board: The Sub-Driver has a wider nose for stability when landing airs, and a wider hip for drive. It also has a wide tail block, giving it stability in small waves. Made to be ridden short, this stubby board is easy to generate speed on.
JS Forget Me Not
Best Big Pitching Wave Board: The Forget Me Not is a board built for those unforgettable days when the waves are big, hollow and seemingly infinite. Its rounded pin tail shape has a slightly pulled-in tail, a narrow nose, a double concave and an increased rocker, which afford maximum control and feel.
The Chase by Xanadu
Best Gun: Mavericks is the stuff of legend: a surf spot just south of San Francisco where the waves routinely crest at over 25 feet. The Chase is a board designed specifically for slaying such monsters. The shape is referred to as a gun and normally ranges from 8 to 11 feet long. It has extra thickness farther forward for increased paddling power and the rocker and template curves are designed for big waves.
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Best Classic Shape: A model from the late ‘60s, the Karma is an egg-shaped single-fin that features a rounded pin tail. It has a hard rail in the tail with soft rails forward and should be ridden in the 7’+ range.
Best Pipeline Board: Kooks beware: the Bastard is Pyzel’s most advanced board, designed for the world’s biggest and meanest pipelines. It’s John John Florence’s favorite board, for crying out loud. But it also performs wonderfully on everyday waves: a pulled-in tail provides just enough traction, while a flattened deck and re-positioned volume minimize the distance between man and wave.
Slater Designs Gamma
Best High-Performance All-Rounder: New for 2017, the Gamma is Slater’s utility short board. It features a single concave bottom and slight vee behind the back fin making it a very fast board. It also has a tight turning radius, which allows it to be ridden shorter and wider than your normal short board.
T. Patterson JB-1
Best High-Performance Longboard: What defines a ‘high-performance’ longboard, exactly? It’s all about how well it incorporates shortboard features. The JB-1 achieves that better than all other longboards (and some shortboards) while retaining its longboard abilities. This is a board that can rip on bigger waves while welcoming nose dancing on smaller ones.
A pitching wave is a wave that creates a barrel or tube. This happens when an offshore wave reaches a reef or sandbar and the bottom of the wave slows down while the top keeps moving. This rapid change in water depth causes the wave to break over the top, forming a steep wall and deep tube. A rolling wave is a wave that typically occurs in deep water or right at a beach break. The walls of the wave are typically at a more relaxed angle and roll into shore instead of breaking over the top. This is caused by a gradual change in water depth such as a gentle slope or ramp. If you are a beginner, this is the type of break you are looking for, and they can be found at most beaches around the world.
WUUX Black Marlin
Best Wood Board: While a bit heavier than traditional foam shortboards, the Black Marlin remains a capable shredder in small to medium waves. And it’s gorgeous enough to hang on your living room wall without your significant other complaining about it.
Best Color Scheme: Not only does Matt Parker shape some incredibly versatile and fun surfboards at Album, he also makes them look damn good. His tasteful custom colors and designs make models like the UTF, Doom and Passport stand out from the masses of off-white boards at your local break.
Most Innovative Shape: Many shapers claim to be innovative, and some truly are. But few are as bold as Dane Hantz. This board is polygonal, as are its fins — almost like a low-resolution, old-school video game version of a traditional shortboard. And it’s all in the name of performance: it is exceptional on the approach and offers incredible drive and control.