One question that is always heard amongst the surfers is how to choose the right surfboard. As a total novice this question came very early – I did not want to hire boards as we live here, so the obvious thing is to buy.
Before I had even started surfing, and actually before we left England, I went to see a surf shop in Bournemouth to get kitted out with wetsuits and a board for total beginners. These guys were really helpful and sorted us out straight away. The guys had surfed in Morocco and so knew the conditions and what to expect, which was a major advantage.
We ended up with pretty standard beginner stuff – wetsuits from Rip Curl 4:3 rated (means the temperature rating of the water) and I was given an 8ft softboard and Karen a 7’6Ft softboard – average quality and price. Boards are measured in feet and inches by the way. This is classic beginner stuff – a soft board is very buoyant and forgiving, and best of all when it bashes you on the head it doesn’t hurt too much – in the early days you get a lot of knocks.
How do you move forward?
So having sort of mastered the basics and had a lot of fun on the softies, what’s the progression? Well this is the question. Having knocked about with some really good surfers, they are a great source of advice, but it does come down to a few key points. For me, age, fitness and actual ability (and bottle to be honest!) was the key pointer.
In my head I wanted to go to a shortboard and be taking on big waves and lots of turns – but in reality I am too old, too heavy and not fit enough for this level of sport. Taking big waves is also really scary and I had a few big wipeouts when I was way out of my ability zone with a few of the guys – and it is frightening and hurts. Full respect to the guys who do this day in day out.
In reality, I am old, unfit, overweight and a right old scaredy cat!
The main choices are Shortboard, MiniMal, Longboard, SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard).
Shortboards need lots of strength to catch waves and super balance – most guys are really fit, young and lean so shortboards are perfect for them. After that you have a hybrid called a MiniMal – these are mid length – 6ft6 – 8ft or so with a bit more width and more volume (the displacement of the board, its buoyancy) then Longboards 8ft – 10ft or so, and finally SUP, basically a canoe without sides.
So options for me were longboard or SUP. I did look at Minimal and actually tried many types of boards for a bit, borrowing from mates who wanted a laugh – me on a short board was hilarious, more like a submarine and impossible to catch a wave.
So I bought a battered second hand longboard really cheaply off a local surf camp to try – a 9ft with loads of volume and it was brilliant! I could easily catch waves and get some great rides. It allowed me to experience some good surfing on smaller waves and build confidence, so I really enjoyed that. It changed my view on the direction to take. Unfortunately, the board ended up getting broken in an incident and was unrepairable, so that forced me to upgrade.
My Daughter and her boyfriend with the 8’4 Longboard and the 7’9 Minimal from BIC Sport
So with a blank canvas, how do you choose.
Boards are made up of several important elements, length, width, thickness and that leads to volume. There are a bunch of other advanced technical elements like fin configurations, rake, tail shape and a whole bunch of others that make a huge difference to experienced surfers, but not to me.
For me the two big elements are length, meaning how easy will it allow me to catch waves, and most importantly volume – how much weight it will carry before it sinks! The bigger the volume, the higher it floats and easier it is to paddle and catch waves.
After consulting with lots of mates who gave me some great ideas, I ended up at Rip Curl surf shop in Agadir. I have been here a few times and the guys are really helpful. I explained my situation and they pointed me to the BICSPORT website. BIC are known for making pens, but also they make low cost almost indestructible surf boards – I never knew that! So having chatted to the guys in the shop and seen a few different boards, the choice came down to a 7’9 Minimal or an 8’4 Magnum longboard. Their website is very good and helps you choose the ideal board for you.
The other compelling thing was that there was a huge sale on and these boards were reduced by about 50%…so a final wrestle with the mind over ability argument and I went for the 8’4. It’s a big old thing and quite heavy, but I have now had it 6 months and really love it. Catching waves is pretty easy and the stability is good too so i am getting good rides and lots of fun – what it’s all about. I will never be a Kelly Slater, so I am happy with a good quality board that suits my needs.
The other good thing was that Karen was also ready to upgrade from her softboard and she ended up with a 7’9 minimal (which I have used a few times) and that really suits her too. I am sure she will let me borrow it from time to time, but for now Longboarding it is for me!
With surfing, the main thing is to enjoy it, get in the sea and relax with great company in the line up – I have met many people out there and had lots of fun.
One thing to be aware of, the journey does not stop there. The aim is to build a “quiver” of boards, one for each condition. Currently, our joint quiver is 3 softboards (2x8ft and a 7’6 – for when we have visitors) the 8’4 Magnum and the 7’9 Minimal. I am now looking for a really nice 10ft longboard and a 9ft soft board as and may add a SUP for when there are no waves – I can use this for fishing too! The journey never ends…..