So, you’ve decided you’re going to start surfing. Nice work! But before you can start shredding waves you’re going to need a board. You’ve probably read bits and pieces about how you should start out riding a big tank of a board. Listen to this wisdom! I know you want to get your mitts on one of those sleek, small, performance boards but seriously, you need to walk before you can run. Getting a big board basically means that you’ll have more foam under you. You’ll float better. You’ll paddle into waves more easily. You’ll learn faster, and develop a far better style, than if you jump straight onto a shortboard. Choose a board that’s at least a foot taller than you, and that has some solid volume, and you’ll be cruising in no time.
Where are you going get your board from? Well, there are a number of options open to you. Second hand boards are always appealing; after all, they’re always a good few skins cheaper than buying new, and this often makes a decision a lot easier, especially if getting hold of a surfboard cheaply is your main priority. Don’t put price before quality though; you’ll need a board that is going to help you to progress, not hold you back. And stick to buying that big board; it’s all too easy to cave in and buy any old shape, but that extra volume really is essential when you’re starting out.
What else should you look for in a board? Well, you want something that you can ride straight away. Avoid open dings (damage on the surface of the board). These make your ride leak, adding weight, and damage the foam inside. You’ll also have to shell out on repairs, which can quickly add up if your board is fairly ‘dinged up’. You’ll spot these simply by glancing over the deck and rails, but a good tip is to lift the board up somewhere quiet and give it a shake. If you can hear water in there, give it a miss. And don’t get sidetracked by stickers. You may, at first, think that that big Quiksilver decal looks awesome, but you won’t be so loved up when it peels off, revealing a gaping hole. Treat stickers with caution, they’re a best friend for someone trying to hide damage.
You also want to spend a bit of time checking over the tail of a board, especially if a pad is fitted. Again, these can hide some of the worst blow outs, and having a good press down there is really important. In fact, have a good feel of the whole board. A board with plenty of life in it will feel solid when pressed firmly. If your fingers sink into the deck, pass. And don’t be afraid of funny looks; having a good squeeze is a step closer to glory!
Private sellers are another option. You might find an advert in the paper, or on sites dedicated to second hand boards like surfboardshack.com and boardhunt.com . Some sound advice is only to use these if you’ve got someone with you who knows about boards. It’s easy to be misled by a seller who talks the talk, so run over the pointers above when you’re checking out the board. Also, be wary of auction sites; it’s all too easy for pictures to be photoshopped or damage to be blamed on a courier. Don’t be afraid of asking for extra pictures, and if you can’t pick the board up in person, skip it.
Probably your best bet is to pay a visit to your local surf shop. Most have a selection of second hand boards, and because the shop staff have checked these over, you’re far less likely to get burned. Plus, if these guys do a good job, you’re likely to stick with them in the future. As a result, they’ll be eager to help you find that magic first board.
Surf shops are always a great place to go if you’re buying new, too. Most of the people that work in them are surfers themselves, so you’ll benefit from their personal knowledge and experience. Tell them your height, weight and expectations (be honest and realistic!) and they’ll advise you accordingly.
Once you consider the potential difficulties associated with buying a board second hand, buying new can seem like a pretty good idea. What’s more, with modern advances in shaping technology and materials, there are literally hundreds of boards out there that perform brilliantly and provide astonishing value for money. And, if you choose wisely, you’ll find that you won’t be forced to sell your board as soon as you progress. The reality is that a good mini mal or high volume board will be a welcome long term addition to any quiver, something you’ll turn to on days when the surf is small, even if you eventually want to ride a shortboard.
What’s more, when buying new you can negotiate some really good discounts. You should be able to save 10% just by asking (seriously, don’t be shy) and if you work hard at it, you might be able to get a bag, leash or fins thrown in too, which you’re probably going to have to shell out on if you go down the second hand path. That cheap used board doesn’t seem like such a bargain now, does it?
Ultimately, spending those extra few notes on buying new will give you total piece of mind. You won’t have any doubts about whether your board is ready to surf, or whether you’ve got a board that suits your size and shape, and you’ll find that you only have to concentrate on one thing; surfing. And when you think about it, a year down the line, chances are you will have wasted the cash you saved by buying used anyway! So buy the best you can afford. Your surfing will thank you for it!
Need some more advice about beginner’s boards?
Check out the words of wisdom at Surfing Waves or Surfing Guide. Surfing Guide also has a directory of shapers who are definitely worth checking out.