What Size Surfboard Should I Get?

What size surfboard should I get

When it comes to surfing, by far the most important piece of equipment that you need to get right is the surfboard size!

When choosing a surfboard, it’s extremely easy for many surfers to get caught up in thinking that they need to choose the smallest size surfboard possible, when in reality the focus should be on a board that’s going to be able to turn, manoeuvre and make riding the waves look easy.

In order to become a better surfer, you’re going to need to make sure that you choose a surfboard that is designed to enhance your current skill level, as well as one that is suitable for your weight.

The volume in relation to your weight will be able to let you know how good the float will be, and is very important because a proper float will ensure that you’ll be able to glide through the water with more speed.

The faster you are able to paddle, the more waves you will be able to catch! You’ll also find it easier to glide through the water and make sudden turns more seamlessly thanks to the acceleration, not to mention being able to enjoy a variety of smaller waves instead of having to wait around for the bigger ones.

What surfboard should I get for a beginner?

If you’re a beginner surfer, then bigger is always going to be the better option as you learn the ropes of surfing, and work on honing your technique. This is because, as a novice surfer, you’re going to need all the help you can get from your surfboard, and the larger the board, the better the stability.

However, as you become a better surfer through lessons and practice, you’re more than likely going to find that you want to opt for a slimmer board to fit in with your growing ability.

So, when picking out your surfboard for the first time, we strongly recommend that you go for a board that is around 3 feet longer than your height. Unless you’re very short or you’re buying a surfboard for your child, then this will often mean that you need to purchase a longboard to help get you started.

Longboards are very helpful for beginners as they have excellent stability and buoyancy ability, however, they’re not very good for turning.

Nevertheless, a longboard will help a beginner to be able to get the hang of their footwork, as well as learn how to master the flow of linking top and bottom turns together into one seamless movement.

Though it may seem tedious to purchase a longboard rather than a surfboard, we strongly recommend doing so, as it’s extremely easy to pick up bad habits if you size down to a smaller board too soon.

You’ll also find that you won’t be able to progress as quickly as you’d like as your surfboard won’t be able to provide the support needed to help you nail the basics, not to mention being unable to properly enjoy yourself and have fun.

As a side note, if you want to save money, a cost-effective way of getting around the use of a longboard is to hire one from surf schools.

Additionally, as a beginner, you’ll probably only need to use your longboard for a few months (maybe even less depending on your natural ability) before your instructor lets you know that you are ready to progress to an actual surfboard.

The most popular type of surfboard that beginners tend to opt for is one that is around 2 feet shorter than their longboard with a slightly narrow nose better suited to turning.

This type of surfboard will be able to hold plenty of speed (even with a wider nose than other surfboards) all while allowing you to maintain control and feel stable while manoeuvring the waves.

You’ll also find that these types of surfboards are super stable surfboards and will allow you to turn and glide more easily than you did while using a longboard.

Not only that, but thanks to this versatility, you’ll find that this kind of surfboard will be able to grow with you into the intermediate level of surfing before you find that you’re ready to opt for something a little sleeker, so it’s definitely worth the investment.

Next, let’s look at how to add to your quiver for more advanced surfers.

What surfboard size for an intermediate surfer?

Before heading to your local surf shop you need to be honest about your skill level. Intermediate surfers are defined by the following traits:

  1. Ability to navigate the lineup and regularly catch unbroken waves without assistance.
  2. Can confidently surf waves both backside and frontside.
  3. And perform the basic surf turns – bottom turn, top turn and cutback.

If you can confidently do these then it is safe to call yourself an intermediate surfer. And once you reach this level you’ll likely be finding that the soft top board you learned to surf on is slow and unresponsive. A common mistake that gets made here is leaping to a shortboard because that’s what advanced surfers catch waves with.

Rather look for a funboard or a hybrid style surfboard in the mid-length range (7-8 feet board size). Some other names or variations of boards include the egg, mini-mal or mid-length cruiser.

Surfboard shapes vary greatly and what works for one person may not work for another. That being said in a beginner surfboard (such as a longboard) has more volume than an intermediate mid-length surfboard.

For an intermediate surfing ability, you’ll want to look for something with around 50-70 litres of volume, a flatter rocker, straighter outline and rounded rails.

These characteristics provide an ideal transition board which are intended to create a stable and manoeuvrable ride.

What size surfboard should I get for my height and weight?

Besides your skill level and how often you plan on being in the water, your height and weight are two very important factors that you’ll need to take into account when deciding which surfboard size to go for.

To help gain a better understanding of average surfboard sizes in correspondence with the weight of the rider, let’s take a look at the following table:

Surfers weight (lbs.)

Board length

Board width


6 foot 2 – 6 foot 4

18-19 inches


6 foot 4 – 6 foot 6

19-20 inches


6 foot 6  – 6 foot 10 

19-21 inches

180 – 200

6 foot 10 – 7 foot 3

21- 22 inches

200 or more

7 foot 4 +

22 – 23 inches

Before we proceed to height, keep in mind that the above figures are only average estimates, and you’ll always be the best judge of character for determining what surfboard feels most comfortable for you.  

As for your height, you should always want to aim for a board that is around 2-6 inches taller than your height. However, lean surfers can get away with opting for a board that is the same height as them, while larger surfers should lean towards a board that is around 6 inches taller.

As a side note, if you find that you are still struggling to decide which surfboard is right for you, then we recommend you visit a local surf shop, as the colleagues who work there will be able to give you a hand and help you to choose which size surfboard you need.

Consider the volume to weight ratio

Volume plays a crucial part when you ask yourself what surfboard do I need. Consider the example below:

The 2 surfboard measurements are exactly the same – 5’9″ x 21″ x 2.4″. But they feature different nose shapes and surfboard tail shapes.

The first board has a rounded nose and round tail. And the second has a narrow nose and pin tail.

The volumes are 42 litres and 31 litres respectively. This matters because the higher volume means more buoyancy. And for beginner surfers, it means you can paddle faster. The faster you can paddle, the more waves you can catch when the pop-up moment arrives.

How do you know if your surfboard is too small?

The most glaring sign that you have the wrong size board is the waves frequently roll under you and your surfboard. Bigger boards are more likely to be able to keep afloat, so it’s best if you get one that matches or exceeds the size of yours in order to stay buoyant and catch waves.

In this case, riding more waves means choosing a bigger board – think about a wider and longer board!

Another sign is that you are struggling to maintain your balance when you try to stand. This means that your surf board is too narrow and there is not enough room for you to stabilise your balance correctly.

What happens if a surfboard has too much volume?

If you have too much volume you won’t be able to sink enough of the board underwater and as a result, the turning ability is greatly reduced.

Volume needs to be considered together with surfer weight, in other words, the volume to weight ratio. To stand a better chance of catching waves you need a ratio derived from both your skill level and surfer weight.

Generally speaking, a beginner should look for a volume that is 100% of surfer weight (in kilograms). For example, a surfer weighing 70kgs should look at a beginner board with a volume of 70 litres.

If the same beginner was to ride a board with 90 litres of volume then there is too much volume and they won’t be able to progress as quickly.

To find your ideal ratio check out this volume calculator from Global Surf Industries.

Final thoughts on size selection

Choosing the right board can greatly improve your surfing experience and your ability to progress more rapidly.

As a general guide beginner surfers should go for surfboards 3 feet taller than their height with a volume to weight ratio of 100%. A longboard, foam board or soft surfboard are all good choices.

When you become a more skilled surfer you can reduce the volume to weight ratio so that you can catch steeper and hollower waves. Funboards or hybrid style surfboards of 7-8 feet work well. Some other names or variations of boards include the egg, mini-mal or mid-length cruiser.

Consider your skill level when going to look for a new board and you’ll stand a better chance of progressing your wave riding ability faster.

Related Questions:
Why are surboards so expensive?
What are surfboards made of?
What are the different types of surfboard tails?

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