Updated: March 11th, 2024
by Aventuras Surf Co.

One of the most important success factors for a new surfer is to select the proper board size. Yet, the vastness of the internet seems to make board selection more difficult than ever. To help bring clarity to beginning surfers, we offer a simple approach which has worked well for hundreds of Aventuras customers since we set up shop in 2019.

NOTE: If you're looking for quick, accurate recommendations, try our Product Finder or our Board Sizing Chart. For those interested in a deeper dive, continue reading below.  

Buoyancy and Flotation
The guiding scientific concept behind buoyancy and flotation is an ancient discovery called the Archimedes Principle (246 BCE). It states that liquids exert buoyant, upward force against submerged objects. The “buoyant force” is equal to the weight of the liquid displaced by the submerged object. But how does this relate to flotation? According to Archimedes, the density of the submerged object is crucial: for example, if the average density of a surfboard is less than the surrounding ocean water, it will float (and vice versa: if the density is higher, it will sink). 

Exhibit A: For every liter of water displaced by a surfboard, the ocean gives back the same amount of buoyant force.  If a surfboard has less density than the water it displaces, it will float.

So how can we use this information to choose the right foam surfboard? For a beginning surfer, it’s important to have a board that provides complete or nearly complete buoyancy, meaning that in pool-like conditions the rider could float on the board with little to no submersion. This is because most new surfers do not yet have the paddling strength to propel both themselves and a submerged board out of the water and into a wave (trust us, it took many years for the shortboard rippers at your local break to get there). Just as important, a board large enough to float the rider will also provide plenty of stability.

Exhibit B: Ideal buoyancy for a beginning surfer.


Exhibit C: Not enough buoyancy for a beginner.


How to Choose the Right Size

For a beginning surfer, a good rule of thumb is to start with a board that provides complete or nearly complete buoyancy as shown in Exhibit B above, plus plenty of length for paddling efficiency and stability.  On the board volume side of things, it's a simple equation: take your body weight plus the board weight (15 pounds is a decent reference to use for Aventuras boards), then subtract the result of board liters x 2.2.  If the result is a positive number, the board volume is sufficient.  If the result is 0 or slightly negative (up to -30 pounds), the volume is still acceptable, but we recommend this range only for those who swim regularly and therefore have a solid base of paddling strength.  We'll save you the trouble of looking up the board liters and some calculator work though with a simple chart for Aventuras boards below. As for length, a good rule for beginners is to select a board that is 2-1/2 to 3 feet longer than your height for adults and 2 to 2-1/2 feet for kids.  Here's our sizing chart, for ease of selection:



Up to this point, we’ve covered some basic science and some rules of thumb, but what about the grey areas… where does the “art” come in? We enlisted some friends to help sort this out.

Stability vs. Handling/Paddling Out
To get some additional perspective, we spoke with Scott Smith, owner of Central Coast Surfboards.  Scott and his team have sold countless surfboards over the years and their shop is a pillar of the local surf community.  Here's what Scott had to say: "One of the things we share with our new aspiring surfers is that some elements that can make a surfboard easier to surf, like length and volume, can also make it harder to actually get out to the waves. The longer the board, the more glide it will have for paddling, so it will catch the wave earlier and give the rider more time to set and stand up. It all comes down to scale: putting a small child on an 8’0" board would be fine if a person will be pushing them into waves, but if they were to paddle out on their own, it could be too much for them to hold on to. For grown kids and adults who see their surfing heroes ripping small boards and want to emulate them by starting on a shortboard, they will likely frustrate themselves with a low wave count and potentially give up; it is best to start with a bigger board."

Sizing for Kids and Teenagers
To learn more about sizing for young surfers, we spoke with Matty Mitchell, owner of Aqualand of the Free, a thriving youth surf and water skills camp based in Long Beach and North Orange County, CA. According to Matty, a board that is too long can hinder the progression of young surfers: “An 8-foot foam surfboard is generally a good, all-purpose size for many adults, but for kids, it can be a problem. Since most foam surfboards have minimal tail rocker, kids end up pearling (aka nosediving), because they don’t have enough weight to keep the nose up. For our camps, we have some general rules of thumb with sizing, but every kid is unique and we take into account multiple factors, including their paddling strength and confidence in the water.”

Choosing the right foam surfboard does not have to be an extremely complicated process. The most important thing for a beginner is to select a board that will make it as easy as possible to paddle out into the waves and stand up for the first time. That’s the goal, right? As a result, for most people we recommend to start with the largest size foam board you can transport to the beach and handle out in the water. Yes, the same advice Chandler gave in epic fashion in North Shore. But the great thing about learning to surf today is that you don’t have to head out in a “canoe” made of Koa wood, you just need a good foam surfboard. See you out there!


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