Just as there are countless sizes and varieties of waves in the ocean, so too are there countless sizes and varieties of people riding them. Acknowledging where you fit in among the spectrum of experience levels and surfing styles is an important first step when buying new boards or equipment. You should also be aware of the ocean conditions and water temperature where you plan to surf, as that information alone is enough to point you towards a more narrow set of boards. Use this article to clarify your status as a surfer; it will definitely help you choose the right gear to improve your surfing and have a great time while learning.
Your level of experience is an important indicator of the type of surfboards you should consider. As a starting off point, determine which category you fall into as a surfer:
You have tried out surfing, and you're ready to commit by purchasing a board. When you surf, you either stay in the mushy whitewater with your nose pointed toward the beach, or you might even attempt to drop in on some tiny waves. You're still learning the basics of the sport such as paddling, standing up and making small turns. There's still more for you to master before you start swimming towards the outer breaks, and your surfing etiquette may be a bit rusty. A lesson or two, and you'll be riding the biggies in no time.
Progression is on your mind. You've mastered most of the basics: you can pop up easily and you drop in and turn on small waves. You have begun to understand the way the ocean moves and can paddle for the waves you want. You can duck dive and turtle roll into bigger waves, and you've begun to move toward the outer breaks for a chance at some steeper rides. You still ride a large-ish board, but might want to size down to begin working on harder turns and cutbacks in the near future.
You've been riding waves for some time now, and have mastered all of the basic surfing moves. Your focus has turned to riding out bigger, breaking waves and performing tricks such as floaters, cutbacks and aerial moves. You ride a smaller surfboard (or a performance longboard) and find yourself seeking the most challenging waves in a set. You still have things to learn, but nobody would dare tell you.
The characteristics of waves are largely determined by the land forms that cause them to break. There are three main categories of surf spots:
When a wave hits a sand bar close to the shore, it is called a beach break. The water near a beach break is typically very shallow, which can be dangerous given that beach waves tend to be more powerful and thick in relation to their size than other types of breaks. It's usually pretty easy to paddle out to a beach break, but you should be careful when riding due to a higher propensity for spinal injuries.
Point breaks occur when the water hits a point of land jutting out into the ocean, causing it to crest and break. The water is usually deeper at a point break, which is ironically safer for surfing. However, it can be difficult to paddle out and return to the shore. The ground under a point break can be sandy, but more often than not, you'll find it jagged and rocky.
Reef breaks tend produce the most impressive-looking waves. These breaks occur due to landforms underneath the ocean's surface, namely reefs or rocky shelves. The water slams into the obstacle, and the crest rises abruptly into a wave. Reef breaks are pretty dangerous due to the quick-swelling, high powered waves they produce, and surfers should be extra careful about the seafloor, as it is likely shallow and covered with coral and/or rocks.
Your size is going to be part of any surfboard purchase decisions. Regardless of the type of board – long or short – there are certain features that are tuned to address the weight you'll be putting on it. The width, length and shape of every board is designed to meet the needs of a certain category of rider, body size included, so be aware of the shaper's intentions when purchasing a new surf machine and get the one that suits you the best.
The price of a surfboard depends on a litany of factors including its size, shape and materials used. Big boards (guns and longboards) are more expensive than shorter boards, when holding all other elements equal. Of course, if you buy a board off the floor, you'll probably end up spending less than if you contract a custom made one.
To save some dough, some surfers buy off the used market. But while there are always plenty of used boards out there, you should always come prepared to ask a lot of questions and do a thorough examination before you buy, to ensure that you're getting a fair price for the quality.
Be ready to spend between $450-700 on a new shortboard and around $500-1,000 on a longboard. Again, the price will adjust based on the materials used and whether the board is pre-shaped or custom made.