We Know: All About Buying a Surfboard


What is a surfboard?
Surfing was invented by the Hawaiians, who call it he'e nalu, or wave sliding. The surfer rides the wave using a surfboard. Surfing first became popular among Westerners during World War II, when many sailors and soldiers took it up as recreation, and today is recognized as a world-wide sport.


How Is a Surfboard Made?
Originally all surfboards were fifteen feet long and made of wood or balsa. This made them exceptionally heavy. today, they're made of polystyrene foam cores covered with many layers of fiberglass matting and epoxy resin, with the whole thing waxed into a smooth finish. This makes a smooth and light board. Today's boards also have a fin on the bottom rear of the board for stability.

The most popular maker of polystyrene foam cores by far, Clark Foam, ceased production suddenly in December 2005; they may have controlled as much as 90% of the core market.

Types of Surfboards and Accessories
Surfboards typically come in the long board and short board variety, and may have from one to three fins for stability. A beginner should use a wide, long, and buoyant board. Ultrathin and light boards are great for professional performance, but they're not easy to ride when you start learning to surf, so stick with the heavier ones, and look for good stability.

In addition to the board, you'll need a leash to keep your board from getting away from you when you wipe out; surf wax to maintain the board; and traction pads to keep you from slipping off the board. If your board doesn't have permanently attached ones, you may opt for "skegs" or fins that can be temporarily attached, depending on surf conditions. In cooler waters, many surfers wear wetsuits, booties, hoods, and gloves to stay warm. In warm waters, swimsuits are adequate, but many surfers opt for the greater protection of surf trunks or boardshorts.

What Size Should My Surfboard Be?
No longer the fifteen-foot monsters of the past, long boards are now seven to twelve feet in length and short boards are only five to seven feet, and more maneuverable. Any board you use should be at least six inches longer than you are tall.


What are the Best Surfboard Brands?
There's some real controversy here, not least because of the demise of Clark Foam. While there are several global surfboard manufacturers, many professional surfers and amateur enthusiasts prefer surfboards made by small local shapers. Your best bet is to ask your local surfers where they got their boards. Local shapers will know how best to make boards that take advantage of the waves in your area.

For global brands, consider with Billabong, which is known for surfboards, surfing equipment, and very fashionable surf gear.

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