Beginners guide to buying surfboard in Nosara
There’s a simple reason Playa Guiones is home to so very many surf schools. The soft, gentle waves, which often lack real power can be a real source a source of frustration for experienced surfers, particularly those who arrive for the first time having just read some tripe, misleading magazine feature about Nosara “being the fastest growing surf town in the world.” In fairness, those who have been here a while, or just arrived and lucked out know that Playa Guiones can indeed get good, really good. But what constitutes “good” still remains heavily relative to ones surfing skill level, and for beginners, Nosara is really, really, like…really…good ! It ‘s gentle, forgiving, playful, and despite the odd calamity mostly harmless. It’s for that reason Playa Guiones has been the starting point in the career of many who have gone on to be life-long surfers. For many people Playa Guiones will always be remembered if not as the place they caught their first wave, as their first trip to another land to surf on foreign shores. Playa Guiones is the beach remembered by many long time surfers as the place where the surfing bug first took hold of them. And when the surfing bug takes hold, the next move is to get to the nearest surf shop and buy your very own surf board, but which one to buy?
“What is the right board for me” is the question most frequently asked by those new to surfing. Regardless of your skill level, buying the correct board is crucial. However, given that your board will be directly related to your early learning curve – a time where it’s essential to nail the basics, as a beginner, getting the right board may be more crucial than at any other point in your surfing career. Although there’s plenty of information available online and from other surfers, buying the right board can still be a tough choice. That’s why we put together a guide containing all you need to know about purchasing your first surfboard. It contains the key surfboard elements you need to be aware of to make the most of your time in the waves. Enjoy!
Choosing the right surfboard
This is exactly as advertised; the overall mass of a surfboard, or the amount of space it occupies, the details of which you’ll often find expressed in cubic liters on the underside of the surfboard. In simple terms if you multiply the boards length, X it’s width, X its thickness this should give a pretty close approximation of the boards volume.
At first glance, a surfboards volume can be deceiving. It’s not uncommon for a 6’4 fast wave thruster to have significantly less volume than a 5’8 fish used in small weak waves. Knowing which volume suits you best depends on a combination of skill, riding style, weight, experience, fitness and paddle strength. Too much volume may mean a board that takes off and drops in with ease, but feels cumbersome, bulky, and hard to turn. Too little volume means you’ll have trouble generating speed while paddling and riding, which means you’ll have to work much harder to get into waves, and put a lot more effort into generating down the line speed. Although it may be it a bit techy for beginners, it’s also crucial that you consider the volume placement, which can greatly affect a boards overall performance. This is probably a question you should raise with the store assistant.
Whether brand new to surfing, or a seasoned pro, volume is key to figuring out whether the surfboard that looks so good on the shelf will actually serve you well in the water. If in doubt, speak to the guys in the surf store. If you’re thinking of doing a little pre-shopping research, go online and find a surfboard volume calculator. Type in your details and you’ll probably end up with a decent approximation of what you should be riding.
The length of a surfboard the distance, always expressed in feet and inches from a surfboards tail to it’s nose. Like volume, the written details of this can be found on the underside of the board. The reason most surf schools hand out thick, wide longboards to beginners is simple. Longboards allow much more room for error than shortboards, which require much more precision and experience to ride competently.
Again, this seem a fairly obvious one at first glance, but you’d be surprised how many would-be surfers make the classic mistake of buying a board too short for them, thereby hugely limiting their progression and learning curve. Often, this can be the result of wanting too much too soon. For this reason, wishing to imitate the local shredders you’ve seen popping airs at your local break atop of a board the size of a matchstick is not the best information on which to base your decision. You can pretty much guarantee that the guys out ripping started out on something bigger, longer, and wider before they reached such an advanced skill level. Like volume, knowing which length surfboard suits you best depends on a combination of skill, riding style, weight, experience, fitness and paddle strength. For the record, such comparisons do not apply to big wave boards AKA “gun boards” or “rhino chasers.” Yes, the guys riding these behemoth waves need long surfboards, but for very different reasons than those which apply to beginners.
As a beginner the wider the surfboard you’re riding the better. Width equates to stability, which, like length makes for a much more forgiving platform to counterbalance the countless errors you’ll be making as a beginner. Depending on your physical dimensions you should be thinking upwards of 22-24 inches across. Just make sure your arms are long enough to carry it to the beach.
This is an important one and relates directly back to the overall volume of a surfboard. Obviously, the thicker the board, the more buoyant it will be, which in turn decrease drag and allows you to paddle faster and drop into waves earlier. As you progress you’ll find your paddle strength and take off skills increase. Hopefully at this stage your skill level may begin to surpass the performance limits of the thick, voluminous board you started out with. This means it’s time to level up, which usually means a drop in length, width, thickness and overall volume.
Foam Board: Length 7ft – 11ft
Easy to catch most waves
Cheap (Lots of secondhand surf school boards available)
Easy to in surf white-water. This is good for improving your pop up before you start out back in the main line up.
Soft – Soft means safe. If it hits you during a wipeout it won’t inflict the same damage as a hard board
Perfect for weekend warriors or repeat visitors who only surf a few times a year
Very limited wave range. In bigger, faster surf foamies won’t work (unless you’re Jamie O’Brien, which you ain’t)
Short life span. They don’t last as long as a fiberglass or epoxy boards.
Weight – they’re big, heavy and dragging them around can be quite difficult.
Harder to transport
They may absorb water
Longboard: Length 8ft – 12ft+
Faster learning curve. Way more responsive and maneuverable than a foamie.
Good introduction for learning longboard specific move –cross stepping, hanging 10 etc
Able to handle bigger waves
If taken care of holds its re-sale value well.
Good to have in your quiver for smaller, weaker conditions.
Can be difficult to transport – roof racks only. Check air travel restrictions before heading abroad.
Heavier to carry
If it hits you during a wipeout you’ll be wishing you were riding a foamie.
Can be marginally more difficult to catch waves than if you’re on a foam board
Mini-Mals: Length 7’0 – 8’6
Smaller than a longboard, easier to carry and able to fit in most vehicles.
In more powerful surf it’s easier to paddle out than a larger board
Welcome to “duck diving”
You’ll see your skill range start to expand with tighter turns and more drawn out
Your paddle fitness will skyrocket
No problems with air travel
More difficult to catch waves than a longboard or foamie, meaning of you wish to surf you’ll have to rely more on your skill.
Size – can still be difficult to duck dive making it harder to reach the line up in bigger waves.
Fun Boards: Length 6’10 – 7’10
Similar to minimals, but smaller, lighter and more maneuverable
Multi-fin options available
Easier to carry and transport than longboards and foamies
Faster/ easier to paddle out back in bigger conditions
Good wave riding range from small to overhead high surf
Large progression spectrum enough, meaning this type of board will be useful for a long time, and through different stages of the learning curve
Small enough to fit in most cars
Less buoyant than a longboard meaning your paddle strength must be up to scratch
Way more challenging for beginner to learn on than a longboard
Not as fast or as maneuverable as shortboards/ have quite a big turning radius.
Large Fish Surfboard: Length 6’4 +
Lots of attractive, affordable designs available
Quicker and much more maneuverable
Light and easy to carry
Easier to duck dive, easier to get to the line up
Epoxy boards are usually pretty durable
Works well in everything from small waist-high to overhead waves
Much more difficult to catch waves. Dropping in requires more speed, better timing, and increased ocean knowledge.
Beginners will probably have a far lower wave count. This is not a good way to progress
Beginners will need to be proficient at duck diving, which is hard thing to master
Now that you know what board is best for you, check out some surf etiquette for beginners in Nosara.