Choosing The Best Intermediate Surfboard
Let me guess — you’ve mastered the basics of surfing at your local surf camp and you're now ready to graduate to an intermediate surfboard.
Many new intermediate surfers make the mistake of transitioning to the wrong surfboard. At first, intermediate surfboards can be difficult to find because they fall into an awkward gap between an advanced and a beginner surfboard. Due to this, many new intermediate surfers end up buying high-performance shortboards that are too advanced for their skill or surf level.
Today, I’m going to discuss how to find the ideal intermediate surfboard for you. However, before I hand over all the secrets, I need to be sure you’ve completed the beginner-intermediate transition.
Are You An Intermediate Surfer?
There are many tell-tale signs that you’re an intermediate surfer. See if any of the signs listed below match your experience and skill level. If most of them don’t, then you will still need more time practicing on your beginner or soft top surfboard.
7 Telltale Signs You’re An Intermediate Surfer
- You can successfully paddle out alone at your favorite local surf breaks
- A 3-4 foot day is now incredibly fun
- You can confidently catch and ride waves frontside and backside (while remaining stable)
- You are learning how to generate speed down the line
- Your wave reading abilities have improved significantly
- You can duck dive or turtle roll efficiently in bigger surf
- You have learned these basic techniques -- bottom turns, top turns, cutbacks (shortboard or longboards)
What Type Of Intermediate Surfer Are You?
There are two types of surfers -- short boarders and longboarders. Hopefully, in your beginner stages, you were able to figure out which style of surfing you want to pursue. If you didn’t, I am going to help you figure that out right now.
If you aspire to rip massive turns, get barreled, and throw airs like the pros, then you are likely a short boarder. And if you love the mellow cruising and old-school style of walking the nose, then you’re a longboarder. However, I want you to know that you can be both types of surfers. In fact, many amazing surfers ride both types of surfboards depending on the kind of wave that’s available because they enjoy the different feelings each style provides. Ultimately, it’s a lot of fun to try out a different surfboard design.
Since you’re just starting as an intermediate surfer, I recommend focusing on just one type of surfing for now. Sticking to either a shortboard or a longboard at first will yield a greater reward because it will allow your surf progression to advance much faster.
If you’re having trouble deciding which type of surfboard you want to ride, consider these factors:
- The type of waves you live near: Do you live near pumping point breaks (shortboard) or mellow, soft rolling waves (longboard)?
- Your local surf community: Does your surf community and surfing crew encourage shortboarding or longboarding?
- Your surfing aspirations: What type of surfing gets you more pumped? Do you love watching locals and pros rip a shortboard or longboard more?
Once you’ve figured out your surfboard choice, it’s time to discuss ideal dimensions for intermediate shortboards and longboards.
Which Intermediate Surfboard Is Right For Me?
Since you’re now an intermediate surfer, you will want to find a shortboard that isn’t too small for your skill level. A shortboard that's too small will prevent you from catching big waves in the water and will be extremely unstable when you try to stand up. This will seriously slow down your progression will suck the fun out of surfing. So, how do you define a shortboard that is too small?
There are a number of factors, including your height and weight, that can make a shortboard too small for any intermediate surfer. These construction factors are volume, length, width, and thickness. These four measurements are the core dimensions of a shortboard. If these four measurements are all too small, then you will have a shortboard that's extremely hard to surf. Next, I’m going to give you a clear idea about what dimensions you will want for your intermediate surfboard.
The Ideal Dimensions Of An Intermediate Shortboard
The most important intermediate surfboard dimension to take note of is volume. Surfboard volume is defined by how much area or space your board occupies. In surfing, this relates to buoyancy. Your intermediate shortboard must offer a sufficient amount of buoyancy for you.
The best intermediate shortboards will hover around 30-35 liters of volume. For kids 13-17 years old, I would suggest a volume range of 20-30 liters. If you weigh a bit more than the average person for your age, stick to the max volume I just listed. Also, intermediate surfers should ride a shortboard that is equal to their height to 6” shorter. If you’re going to go shorter, increase your thickness and width to keep your volume.
The best shortboard designs for intermediate riders are called fish surfboards and grovelers. Both of these shortboard designs are great because they have ample volume and width. Shortboards with more volume will be easier for catching waves and offer you a more stable platform to stand on in the water. Fishes and grovelers are known as small wave shortboards because their volume is great for paddling into small waves. Don’t worry, small wave shortboards will also work in bigger surf (chest to head-high waves) which is the ideal surf height for intermediate and advanced level surfers. These boards will also be responsive enough to dig into your bottom turns and help you to learn the ropes of performing quick top turns and wrapping cutbacks.
Intermediate Longboard Surfboards
The best part about longboard surfboards is that there isn’t any skill level associated with them. Beginner surfers can enjoy the same longboards used by advanced surfers, and vice versa. However, if you learned how to surf on a foam top longboard, you might want to try out a longer hardboard with slightly different dimensions. Trying out a new longboard (or fins) instead of the foam will be an exciting way to give you a different feel when gliding down the face of a wave. Furthermore, the change in equipment can help you learn techniques like nose riding, trimming, and turning.
Another Helpful Tip
If you get the chance, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion from employees at your local surf shop. They will be able to show you the ideal intermediate surfboards so you can hold and feel them underneath your arm. Tell them the information you learned here, and they will be able to better pick out a selection of intermediate surfboards for you. In addition, it’s also a good idea to ask any of your more experienced surfer friends.
Intermediate surfboards are easy to find when you know what to look for. Many new intermediate surfers end up ordering a beautiful, custom high-performance shortboard that is too small for their skill level. If you’re looking to upgrade to a shortboard, you should look into getting a fish or a groveler. These two surfboard designs will give you a sufficient amount of volume and width. If you’re looking to upgrade to a longboard, you don’t need to get a custom shape because longboards are generally perfect for all skill levels.