What size surfboard do I need? Surfboard guide for beginner to advanced surfers

August 12, 2019

As a beginner surfer, bigger is almost always better when it comes to surfboard size. The first thing a new surfer needs from their surfboard is stability and buoyancy. As a surfer progresses along their journey in learning how to surf, there will be a number of different reasons they’ll adjust the size of their board to fit a variety of different needs.

The Beginner Surfer

When you picked out your first board, we suggested something about three feet longer than your height. For nearly every surfer, this means a longboard. While longboards are ideal for getting started, they become cumbersome when trying to learn how to progress in your turning ability. However, it truly takes mastering the footwork and flow of linking top and bottom turns together on a longboard, for you to be ready to move down to a mid length surfboard. Jumping down too soon can cause bad habits to stick around.

The Ultimate Longboard is the perfect board for the beginner

Here’s our beginner no-no’s we want you to overcome before you drop in board length:

  • Paddling too far back on the board. Longboards let you get away with being slightly too far back on the tail when paddling into waves. They’re long and flat and have great glide with less paddling effort than smaller boards. If you’re too far back on a smaller board, you’ll have too much drag and never get into the wave. Practice finding that sweet spot with your nose just above the water line and you’ll glide smoothly into waves on a smaller board.
  • Late to your feet - Longboards remain fairly stable when they shoot out in front of the wave on takeoff, beginners can still get away with their pop-up out in the flats. Not so much with a shorter, less stable board! Speed wobbles or stalling out, will get you catching rails before you get to your feet. Learn to get to your feet before you hit the bottom of the wave and you’ll have time to make your bottom turn instead of getting stuck going straight.
  • Turning from the middle - There’s just no way to turn a longboard if you’re not behind the midpoint of your board. The same goes for smaller boards. The fins are the driving force behind a good turn. Learn to shift back to the tail for a turn on your beginner longboard and you’ll transition smoothly when you downsize your go-to stick.

So you’ve perfected your longboard skills, want to be quicker in your turns, take off on steeper waves, and need something more nimble when the waves pick up. “What should I get?”

The Reserved - If you wish to maintain and perfect your longboard skills, just drop a foot and keep the same style shape. We recommend either sticking with the Ultimate if you rider longer sizes, or drop down to the Poacher if you’re a more compact surfer.

  • If you ride a 9’0 to 9’6 Ultimate longboard, drop to an 8’0.

  • If you ride an 8’0 to 8’6 Ultimate, try the Poacher in 7’2.

The Poacher is an ideal transition board coming off of a longboard.

The Regular Joe - If you love the glide and paddle power of a longer board, we suggest you drop up to 1 ½ feet in length and bring the nose in with a fishier width. Our favorite picks are the Easy Rider and the Over Easy. The Easy Rider is what we call a beginner fish. It maintains thicker rails, holds a lot of speed with a swallow tail and wider nose, yet it’s incredibly agile and maneuverable when you need to turn on a dime. The Over Easy is a little more sleek with slightly thinner rails and narrower tail profile, with slightly less volume than the Easy Rider. The beauty of both these boards, is that they can be ridden well into the intermediate and advanced level of surfing and still be an absolute blast in a huge range of surf conditions.

  • If you ride a 9’6 beginner longboard or Ultimate, try an Over Easy or Easy Rider around 7’10 - 8’2.
  • If you ride an 8’6 Ultimate, try  and Over Easy or Easy Rider around 7’0 - 7’10.

The Easy Rider  hybrid fish shape

The Over Easy Speed Egg Shape

The Hard Charging Rookie - We want you to be comfortable on your beginner longboard in solid surf and know how to top and bottom to stay in the power pocket of the wave before you drop more than 2 feet in board length. This newbie category is reserved for the beginner that’s been logging some serious hours in the water and has built up some solid wave knowledge, paddle strength, and looking or that board that will get them into intermediate surfing. For this we recommend the Over Easy and Easy Rider as the safer bet, with The Weapon as the most aggressive selection.

  • If you ride a 9’-9’6 Ultimate longboard, try the Easy Rider or Over Easy in 6’6 to 7’6. Try the Weapon in 7’0.
  • If you ride an 8’0 or 8’6 Ultimate, try the Easy Rider or Over Easy in 6’4 to 7’0. Go with the 6’8 in the Weapon.

The Intermediate Surfer

More seasoned surfers have a much more defined grasp of what they’re trying to achieve when downsizing to a smaller board. The intermediate surfer is much more comfortable in the water than the beginner. Their favorite break can be read like the back of their hand, their surfboard quiver has two or three well-practiced, seamlessly transitioned choices, and their knowledge and endurance puts them towards the front of the pack in the lineup on a solid day. If you can answer yes to the following statements, you’re ready to start surfing at the intermediate level.

  • I can read the interval between waves and time between sets to time my paddleout and be ready for the next set.
  • I’m comfortable and excited when the waves get head high.
  • I no longer lose my board when I have to punch through whitewash when I paddle out.
  • I sit in the middle of the pack at the lineup.
  • I stick most of my takeoffs and ride out most of my waves to the closeout.
  • I know how to link top and bottom turns to build speed and come back to the power pocket,
  • I’m starting to surf closer to the lip and further out into the flats on steeper wave faces.

Once you can identify with these skills, there are different reasons for downsizing boards. We’ll cover 3 different board style lengths, the goal in mind for going to a smaller board, and our favorite choices for the intermediate surfer dropping down from a beginner board.

The Longboarder - So you love your big ol’ log and just want to be quicker, faster on your spin for a wave, springier off the bottom, and tighter in your top turn and roundhouse, with more response under your feet. You don’t have to give up your longboard skills to become a better surfer, let’s just tighten up the package a little bit.

  • Performance Longboard: If you rode a 9’6 Ultimate Epoxy, go with the 9’0 in fiberglass and upgrade your fin setup to a smaller center fin and larger sidebites. This board will be extremely lively under your feet and keep a ton of speed through turns. If you started with a 9’0, move down to an 8’6.
  • Mid-length: If you started out on a fuller template 7’6 or longer, and you’re ready to pick out your perfect alternative to the shortboard or groveler, A sleeker mid-length board is a sure bet! We build the Over Easy and Easy Rider in more nimble lengths. For larger surfers. Go with either model in a custom 6’6 or 7’0 length. The Over Easy will translate well into larger surf with a thinner, straighter rail line and pulled in diamond tail. The Easy Rider is all about more speed and agility in less than ideal surf.

Mid-length Marauder - If you got started on a board 8’0 or less; something like a speed egg or large hybrid fish, you’re next step towards progressing in the intermediate level of surfing, is to go one of two ways. You’re either an old soul and psyched on smooth, wrapping turns, or ready to start attacking the lip more vertically. Whichever surfer you are, we have several boards in mind for each discipline.

We absolutely LOVE the Over Easy and Easy Rider in the shorter sizes. It doubles as a cruiser and a step-up spanning a wide range of wave shapes and sizes. The tapered rails and pulled in tail hold tight on steep drops while the lower rocker and wider nose plane through slow sections and hold a tight rail through flatter shoulders. The Easy Rider is a fuller template with a wider tail geared for buoyancy, speed and agility. It’s best suited in fatter, softer conditions, especially when the waves turn on.

  • If you’ve been riding a 7’0 to 7’6 mid-length, try a 6’6 to 7’0 Over Easy or Easy Rider depending on your height and weight. For lighter riders, go custom and thin out the rails a touch; for larger surfers, add some foam throughout.
  • If you’re already riding a 6’4 to 7’0, try 6’0 to 6’4 Over Easy or Easy Rider based on your height and weight. Lighter riders can dip below 6’0 with a custom order while larger riders can max out the 6’4 with more foam with note to the shaper on their custom order.

Ready to Rip - Intermediate surfers that have become skilled enough to step down to a shortboard style template usually need something slightly oversized for some added float, glide and stability. If you’re searching for a more vertical approach on a template closest to a performance shortboard, we recommend The Weapon as a full bodied, fishy hybrid shortboard, and the All Terrain Vehicle as an everyday, forgiving utility shortboard. 

  • For the average sized intermediate surfer, choose either the Weapon or the All Terrain Vehicle 2 inches taller than your height. For leaner surfers, match board length to your height. For larger surfers, aim 4-6 inches longer or have it custom built 2 inches longer than your height and have the shaper hide some extra foam throughout for added float. 

Something Fishy - Though these shorter shapes tend to have a fuller template and more volume for their length than shortboards, they’re actually more difficult to ride than shortboards. The wider tail creates blistering speed. Shorter length with tons of speed can squirly in and instant, especially with a quad fin setup. We suggest the Cloud, Codfather and Bullet as your go-to groveler to boost your wave count and gain more speed through turns and past the flat sections.

The Cloud is our most compact ride with the front end of a longboard and a shallow diamond tail with a hip. It’s all paddle power and meant to be ridden the shortest of all of our boards. The Codfather is a modern take on a classic fish shape. The iconic template is paired with modern rails and rocker for speed and agility. The Bullet shares a similar template as the Codfather but sports a winged shallow diamond tail and a thruster option. It’s built to made nominal surf feel like a skate park!

  • Ride the Cloud 2-4 inches shorter than your height if you’re an average build for an intermediate surfer. Go 4-6 inches shorter for a leaner surfer. Match your height or go 2-4 inches shorter and go custom with more volume throughout, if you’re a larger framed surfer.
  • The Codfather and Bullet are close enough in template and volume to match for sizing. Go 2 inches shorter or same height for average build surfers. 2 to 4 inches shorter for leaner surfers, and same height to 2 inches taller than you if you’re a larger framed surfer.

Advanced Surfers

Intermediate surfers make up the majority of the surfer population and the skills learned span the widest range of abilities. Yet, advanced surfers can be clearly spotted in the lineup and carry a prowess that few can match across all skill sets in and out of the water. They have a variety of breaks in their armory when the tide and swell direction are just right. They seem to skirt through the inside and paddle out fairly unscathed. They somehow carry on conversations in the lineup while always being right where the best waves are. Their turns show a ton of rail and fins and they rarely fall. The advanced surfer is the envy of every lineup, and rightfully so. They’ve earned their stripes and put in the time to get their pick of the draw. An advanced surfer is also humble and giving, as they’ve had to wait and watch as we have. An advanced surfer upholds and protects the lineup etiquette. If you’re an advanced surfer, you can definitely agree with the following statements:

  • I know which of my favorite waves pick up certain swell angles and the best tide range for each of them.
  • I can comfortably duckdive waves head high and above and know how to time a paddleout in waves of consequence.
  • I get excited waiting for the best wave of the day when most of the lineup paddles for the shoulder.
  • I have great control on each of my boards.
  • I can navigate barrel sections when the waves get hollow.
  • I can draw deep bottom turns and bring my board vertical to the lip.
  • My paddle and surfing endurance lasts longer than most.
  • I know where to be and which wave to catch during every set.

We won’t touch on longboarding an mid-lengths because board length doesn’t necessarily go shorter for advanced riders in this category. However, there are two basic schools of thought when going shorter on higher performance boards. The advanced shortboarder is downsizing his board length and style to tackle a very specific task. They’re goal is to continue performance-based surfing in smaller conditions. They’re plenty nimble in fun to decent waves, and want to carry that over to less aggressive waves. We’ll break these two camps into Shortboard and Groveler.

The Shortboard: The high-performance surfboard is the go-to anytime the waves are decent. For most of us, that time is far and few between. Maybe a total of a week out of every month, often sporadic and in short intervals. The rails are medium or tapered, the nose around 12 -12.5 inches wide a foot from the tip, the squash tail is pulled in narrower and thin, and the rocker is semi-aggressive. When the waves call for a more forgiving board and we don’t want to miss out on that shortboard performance, there are 2 perfect choices in mind.

The Weapon Hybrid Shortboard

The Weapon is a swallow tail, fuller shortboard template with a single-wing swallow tail and added volume through a low rockered curve. The wider tail provides heaps of speed off the back foot and a lower rocker and fuller rails allow you to surf it shorter, yet paddle and plane with less effort. The All Terrain Vehicle is closer to the feel of a standard squashtail high performance shortboard with a slightly more aggressive outline than the Weapon. The nose and tail dims are slightly wider than a performance shortboard, and there’s volume tucked in throughout, without sacrificing biting control with rails just a touch fuller than medium. Medium-low rocker keeps the turning radius tight without sacrificing paddle speed and planing ability through flatter sections. Both of these boards love to get vertical and draw blistering arcs on chunkier wave shoulders. Because these boards boast a touch more volume than the performance shortboard, advanced surfers can surf them shorter, creating more agility in smaller or softer surf.

  • For the Weapon and the All Terrain Vehicle, go 2-4 inches shorter than your high performance shortboard based on your skill and body type.

The Cloud Groveler Shortboard

The Groveler: These select gems are built to keep in a board bag and never leave your surf wagon because they tend to work in almost all conditions. We call it the no-surf-check-needed board. Forget the cams, just throw on the leash and get after it. A groveler is designed to make any surf session a better one by packing a ton of volume in a fast, nimble package. The wider, rounder templates carry the same or more volume, in a board length that gets through turns quicker and builds speed faster. We listed them earlier in the intermediate surfer section. The Cloud, the Codfather (including the Keelfather), and the Bullet.

  • Ride the Cloud 4-8 inches shorter than your height depending on your body type. A lean, 6 foot advanced surfer should feel at home on a 5’4-5’6 Cloud. For larger surfers, we suggest staying at least 4 inches shorter than your height and adding some custom volume throughout to add buoyancy.
  • Our Codfather goes perfect at 3-6 inches shorter than your height. An average build surfer at 5 foot 11 should feel great on a 5’5 or 5’6. Larger surfers should stay 2 inches shorter than their height or more and pack in some extra volume rail to rail.

  • The Keelfather is the same template as the Codfather, but with a removable or glassed in twin keel fin setup. This feature alone sits in the advanced surfer realm as it’s the wild stallion of all fin setups, difficult to tame, but the fastest of rides! Size it up the same as the Codfather.


  • The Bullet is the grovelliest of the bunch, if that can even be a word. Size it up just like the Codfather, 3-6 inches shorter than your height based on your body type. We stock these with 5 fin slots so try out your thruster or quad depending on the conditions. For smaller, cleaner surf, the quads will add some extra off-the-line speed while a thruster setup will cut through chop on rougher, slightly juicier waves. 

We understand that there are broad spectrums across beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers, but we’ve been vigilant in making it as easy as possible to pick out the right size for you when you stop by to skim the racks. We’re confident in our board choices when downsizing for summer fun and work directly with a world-class veteran shaper. Take advantage of this knowledge and come in to get tailored for the perfect fit on the perfect board. A good fit on a more compact board will allow you to hone in on your evolving skill set regardless of non ideal surf conditions. This article should give you more confidence in your next surfboard purchase to finish out summer waves in skillful style!









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