Considerations in Buying and Choosing A First Surfboard
My quest took a long loop and I finally ended up buying the first board I had admired a year ago: a Hawaiian Soul fibreglass Mini Mal.
One solution is to walk into a surf shop you can trust (a shop for surfers - not one just for tourists buying surfing T-Shirts,) and buy what they advise. I wanted to look into things more myself though because it's nice to get your head round things. Initially I asked friends and browsed online. There was no doubt that the common consensus is this: a Mini Mal, probably 7'6 or 8' long. However, this apparent simple solution is not uncomplicated as there are other factors to consider:
- What can you afford?
- Different materials have different pros and cons.
- How do you see you surfing progressing?
My first thought was to save money by buying second hand. However, after watching eBay, going round the local shops and checking the paper I found that it's remarkably hard to find a second hand board in decent condition that is actually going to save you a significant amount of money - taking into consideration that when you buy a package (board, fins, leash + wetsuit) most shops will give you a discount (Surfed Out have given me a free lesson too) and they will also look after you in the future. I did find a good website called Second Hand Boards which found a nice Gulf Stream Mini Mal for me to look at but it turned out to be a bit too dinged.
As far as new boards are concerned I was looking at about £300 for an injection moulded board or a Chinese import fibreglass one and then £450-£550 for a lovely local Gulf Stream board. I would have chosen to go for the Gulf Stream if it wasn't for the fact that I can't really afford it - you're likely to be selling on your learning board after a year or two as well.
When considering price remember that, like any hobby, there will be ongoing costs and extras (oh I need a wetsuit, board bag, wax comb, a combination key lock, board lock, a ding kit etc.) so don't break the bank on the board alone.
I didn't consider a softboard or soft-top as these may help you learn to stand and enjoy splashing about in the summer whitewater, but they aren't much use beyond that - and they're ugly! I thought about an injection moulded board because they are tough but I'd hired those and didn't like them as they seemed heavy and sluggish. What's more - I used to be a keen windsurfer - so, having used custom short boards and being confident that I'm going to fall in love with surfing I knew a fibreglass board was for me (the only downside for me as a learner was that they are more fragile). Unfortunately this meant going for the Chinese import board: but you can't have everything.
If you just see yourself and your kids falling about in the water on your summer holiday then a softboard or soft-top might be right. Otherwise you'll want an injection moulded or fibreglass board. You can learn on other board shapes than a 'Mini Mal' (which is short for Mini Malibu): a long board, a Fish, a Magic Carpet or Egg. The problem with other shaped boards is that they have individual characteristics which make learning harder and if they don't turn out to be the shape of board you want to progress too you'll be selling that one on anyway. The safest bet to learn on is indeed - the square tail of the standard Mini Mal because you don't really know how you're going to progress so it's wise to get the board that is definitely right for now and that will have a good resale value.
You've got to like your board - don't you?
Ok so I'd decided on the Hawaiian Soul Mini Mal and I left it to the staff at Surfed Out (thanks Glenn and Ross) to advise me as to the length. The length is important because it has to be about the right buoyancy to carry you and help you catch your first waves. My windsurfing experience just helped tip the balance to a 7'6 rather than an 8' board.
Here's a picture of my first board:
Thanks to Surfed Out for their help, click on the logo to visit their site: