A Surfer Girl’s Guide to Buying a Surfboard

by Mike McDaniel on September 15, 2011

Shopping for a surfboard? Your choices can be divided into off-the-rack or custom shaped boards. Off-the-rack boards are ready to go, standard shapes that perform for a wide variety of surfers. Custom shaped surfboards are unique, handmade watercraft made especially for you, like a tailored jacket. A good surfer girl does her homework and learns about construction methods, materials, and features. Visit surf shops and ask lots of questions before picking the board that suits your style and goals for riding waves. Then fall in love. You were meant to be together.

A Surfer Girl’s Guide to Buying Her First Surfboard
• You can buy a used board ($), a new off-the-rack board ($$), or have a board custom shaped for you ($$$). Decide which is best with consideration to your budget, needs, and skills.
• It’s true, size matters. The important board specs are length, width, and thickness. Longer, wider, and thicker means more stable, but less nimble. The opposite is also true; short, narrow, and thin boards can be more lively, but less steady.
• Consider your weight and skill level (nope, height doesn’t matter). You’ll want a board that floats you well and paddles and catches waves easily. Surf shop staff can coach you on options that match your geometry with your ability.
• You’re not just choosing a board for you, but also for the waves you’ll be surfing. Is your home surfbreak a mushy longboard wave, or a steeper, faster performance wave? The right board can make the difference between fun and frustration.
• Like with a new boyfriend, get some opinions. Talk to the surf shop crew, but also to other surfers, especially those who’ll surf with you at your home surfbreak. Also check with friends familiar with your ability.
• That said, your boyfriend or husband’s opinion shouldn’t override yours. It’s your board and you’ll have to paddle it and surf it, probably for a few years. If you’re going to lie down on it, you should love it!
• Give yourself a homework assignment. There are lots of books on surfboard design and The Surfers Journal always has features on shapers talking about their craft. The more you know about boards and how they are made, the more you’ll appreciate yours.
• Aesthetics matter. Stripes are classic, florals are girly. Swirls and airbrush jobs are just plain groovy. Plain white boards say “I’m all business.” What’s your style?
• Consider the environment. Some surfboards are eco-friendlier than others and greener options are becoming more available. Do some research and ask questions. If you can reduce impact, why not?
• Don’t forget BWB (Boards With Benefits). Most shops will throw in a t-shirt, fins, a leash, boardbag, or at least some wax with a surfboard purchase, so make sure to ask about freebies!
• Shout out to Las Olas instructors! Julie Cox and Ashley Lloyd have their own lines of very beautiful surfboards. Check em out:
Also, browse Santa Cruz shaper Ward Coffey, winner of last year’s Sacred Craft shape off and longtime supplier of Las Olas surfboards.

Mike McDaniel is the Las Olas Surf Safaris Operations Manager and fifteen year veteran of surf travel. With surf missions to Baja, Costa Rica, Japan, Hawaii, Fiji and over 70 safaris in mainland Mexico, Mike’s insights on air travel, surf culture and coastal geography have kept Las Olas’ surf safaris on course for a decade.

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