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16 October 2014
Wales Surfing

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Learning to surf

Learning to surf

You're not in the water yet but the next few decisions will mean the difference between catching waves and progressing or giving up.

Getting your first board Where do you start? You could borrow a friends, buy a cheap second hand board or hire one from a surf shop. If you want to spend more time in the water, the best place to get one is usually from a recognised surfshop. Surf schools are also good as they will sell their old stock after Summer. Which board is right for you?

Surfing is not an easy sport to learn so you need to start off with the right equipment to begin with.

The best board for learning is the lightest, widest and thickest board you can find.

In recent years many surfers have realized that larger, wider, more bouyant boards are not only easier to learn on but are also more fun to ride in smaller/ weaker waves.

  • Mini mals
These larger style boards are often called mals or mini mals and are the ideal learning board. Mals have great floatation which is very important, particularly when learning to surf.

The better a board floats, the faster it will paddle. This makes it easier to catch waves, which is why you're out there. It also gives you more time to get to your feet before the wave breaks so your rides will become longer.

Plumby with his longboard

You can also buy softboards - mals with a soft rubber finish on the deck so you have a softer platform to fall on. These are favoured by the surf schools.

They are also practically indestructible so hold their value well when you decide to sell on.
  • Shortboards
Smaller boards are more manouverable on a wave but paddle slower, so you'll need to take off on the steepest part of a wave and get to your feet quickly.

You will have to work harder to catch waves on a short board and this can take some getting used to as you'll position yourself differently to mal riders.


The general rule of thumb is to buy a board that's about 15cm (6 inches) taller than you.

Older style retro boards like 'fish' can sometimes be good to learn on due their shape and fin set up but can effect your style further down the line. They tend to be ridden more on the front foot and feel fairly loose/skatey under foot.

Fish are normally around 21" wide so fairly stable with very little rocker and nice wide noses, making them easy to catch waves on. These are probably better for intermediates and above or for ladies who struggle on mals which are often wide and heavy.

The trick is finding a board you can carry comfortably, is long and wide enough and has plenty of floatation in it.

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