What you need to know buying your first surfboard
By David Higgins
Purchasing your first surfboard is an extremely special experience but without correct information you could very easily end up with a wrong board for your level of surfing.
I purchased my first surfboard when I was 16 years old. Inspired by the original motion picture, ‘Point Break,’ I wanted to be exactly like the main character’s villain named Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze. The first surf shop I ever visited was on the west coast of Canada and the staff was definitely not informed about the correct type of surfboard to recommend for me. I left the shop with a 7’6” gun made for Hawaiian-style big wave riding. It was a nightmare to learn on and it was a testament to my passion for the sport that I persisted and was actually able to stand up in the sloppy waves that I was learning on… but it took me nearly six months.
The main problem I had with my surfboard choice was that I knew absolutely nothing about how surfboards work. I only knew that I wanted a board that was shaped with a point at the tip just like Bodhi’s. I didn’t understand what a beginner surfer needed at all. Now with instant access to information on the Internet, is it easy to learn exactly what type of surfboard you need to get started on.
After over 20 years of surfing experience, my highest recommendation would be a brand that is fairly new on the scene called ‘Catch Surf.’ The boards are made of foam. They are lightweight and quite inexpensive. They are the perfect shape and buoyancy for beginners but are also fun for experienced riders. The board I recently rode on is called the 6’0” Skipper by Catch Surf. Not only do I recommend this board for beginner surfers but I would encourage advanced surfers also to give it a try. Catch Surf surfboards are versatile and user friendly. The board shapes are great for learning while providing fun for advanced surfers, which can save you from needing to purchase a new board with every progressive season.
What makes a surfboard easy to learn on is first and foremost, the buoyancy and the length. You want to be sure that you start on a relatively long and wide long board so that you can easily gain speed to catch the wave even if you don’t quite have the strength or technique perfected yet. The shorter the board, the less paddling speed the board will provide you. This means that you will need to have the strength, technique and the keen eye of a more advanced surfer to be able to catch a wave in its ‘sweet spot’ in order to stand up and properly ride it. When you first start surfing, your toolbox is empty so the longer the board the better until you have acquired the ‘tools’ you need to effectively handle a short board.
The buoyancy of the board is very important. If you are sinking into the water you are not going to plane across the surface and gain the necessary speed. Although the hand-shaped customized surfboards are appealing to look at, they can often be too heavy, less buoyant and often dangerous for beginners who usually flip-flop upside down and slip off with little grace.
A great local company that offers surfing lessons, guided surf tours and sells the Catch Surf boards is Blue Reef Surfing. You can contact them by checking out their website. The owners and partners are avid surfers who are well versed about the surf breaks around Okinawa. They are honest and seriously stoked to be able to help ease you into surfing the right way. These guys know what an overwhelming task your first surfboard purchase can be and their goal is to provide you with a positive and gratifying entry into a sport that they are absolutely passionate about.
Unfortunately, I did not have the crew at Blue Reef to guide me through my first board purchase so although I might have looked ‘radical’ walking into the surf for the first time, surely six months of flailing on the wrong board negated any ‘cool’ that I had rendered from my Point Break inspired board purchase. I encourage you to take up surfing the smart way by trying out Blue Reef Surf lessons first and when you are hooked by the stoke to keep going, let them guide you through the gear to start you on your own path of wave-enlightened transcendence.