When it comes to getting a surfboard to learn on size does matter. The general rule is the bigger, the better. The reason for this is essentially buoyancy and stability. Greater buoyancy allows you to paddle & catch a wave with less physical exertion meaning you not only catch a wave earlier resulting in a safer take-off but you have more energy to push up in one fluid motion. Once you're up having a larger board under your feet means you don't need to have your weight perfectly balanced because there's enough buoyancy to counter your misplaced weight. Most surf schools carry foam learner boards from 6ft6 up to 10ft in length. Depending on your weight you can vary this size, if you're wanting to go shorter for practical reasons make sure you have a chat to an experienced team member who can match up a board to your weight and experience level.
Mals & minimals. Other than the safety benefit of having a rounded nose shape on your surfboard having width all the way up to the front of a board increases the stability and in the case that you move too far to the front of the board it's less likely to nose-dive.
Foam surfboards are our number one recommendation for beginners especially young kids. The reason being foam is much safer than alternative materials and is often lighter. Contrary to the common conception of foam boards being inferior a good quality foam board will still last years with the right care.
Conventional fibreglass boards can be used for learning however the safety risk is something that should be considered seriously before buying & getting into the water. Losing control of a fibre-glass surfboard especially larger mals & minimals can pose a real risk of injury not only to yourself but those in its path inside the whitewash. That being said, taking the right precautions and with adequate supervision learning to surf on a fibreglass board can be just as easy as a foam board. The drawback of fibreglass is the weight (older, larger boards can be difficult for a lot of learners to carry/handle) however on the upside they will in most cases outlast a foam surfboard.
While some epoxy & fibreglass boards may look similar on the outside the materials they are made from are technically quite different. Without diving too deep the main differences are the outer resin used and the core is commonly polystyrene rather than polyurethane used for fibreglass. The important difference for a learner board is that epoxy is normally lighter and less prone to damage. It is still a hard material so safety should be considered similarly to a fibreglass board. The key advantage of this material for a first/beginner board is its toughness, it will generally outlast fibreglass and is less prone to dings. On the flip side if you do need a repair done they tend to be more expensive.
Please note that this is intended as a general guide, there are many variations in these materials and others not mentioned here that depending on the manufacturing process can determine its strength, buoyancy & performance. For the purpose of this blog we're just focusing on the essentials for a first/learner surfboard.
So whats right for you?
The mal/minimal shape is ideal for anyone to learn on. The material you choose will be an individual decision depending on the learners age, experience and your budget. If you're in doubt don't hesitate to ask an experienced team member.
Where to take your new sled
Protected bays are usually ideal because they're often protected from larger swell and wind making for gentler, more predictable conditions. For example Noosa main beach, Little Cove Noosa, Alexandra headlands or Kings Beach Caloundra. Most surf schools will operate in these areas. Learning at a patrolled beach is highly recommended, know your own limits, stay safe & have fun!