Progressing from a beginner to an intermediate is one of the most satisfying stages of your surfing career.
Your experience in the surf becomes noticeably more enjoyable as the learning curve begins to grow steeper. You can now identify suitable conditions and breaks from the beach, and the conditions in which you are prepared to surf has expanded. What once seemed like an intimidating paddle, or waves too large for you are now within your comfort zone.
Being an Intermediate surfer means that you can paddle out and catch waves unassisted. You are catching most waves that you paddle for, and you are riding along the face of the wave, frontside or backside. The real skill that you have begun to learn is how to read the waves, and where to position yourself. This leads to catching more waves, and suddenly the progression starts to be happening a lot faster.
The thing holding you back is that large and heavy longboard you are still using. It was fantastic for getting your first waves, and for getting in the hours you needed to grow comfortable in the surf, but you wish it was just a bit better. A bit lighter. A bit smaller. A bit easier to turn.
Characteristics of an intermediate longboard
The key parts of the board that you are looking at when buying a Longboard as an intermediate surfer are:
The size, or length of the surfboard you require as an Intermediate surfer will typically be shorter than that of a beginner surfer. A smaller surfboard, combined with the other items below will allow you to paddle out through the surf easier, and turn easier when on a wave.
Check out our Size Guide for progression surfboards to see what size you should get.
The surfboard rails are very thick on beginner surfboards. As an intermediate, you require a board with thinner and sharper rails which will allow the board to change direction easier, and to track along the face of a wave.
You need a board that has most of its width in the front of the board. This will allow you to still paddle the board easily and get onto waves, despite the smaller size and less rocker. The tail of the board will be narrower to allow for easier turning. This results in an asymmetrical shape that resembles an egg.
The rocker impacts how fast your board moves on the water, and how easy it can change direction. You are looking for a board with more rocker than a beginner board, especially in the tail. This will make the board a bit slower to paddle, but a lot easier to turn.
What is a mini mal surfboard?
The mini mal is a widely used term that generally applies to shorter longboards. This name is taken from the original Malibu Longboard shape, a progressive design from the 1960s that were considered the shortboard of their day.
The mini mal was designed to give the performance characteristics of a Malibu longboard in a smaller package, however as surfing styles have progressed there is not much mini about this design in modern times. Typical sizes are from 7’0 up to 8’6, and all feature a wide nose for easy paddling and a narrow tail for easier turning.
These are the ultimate intermediate surfboard, small enough to easily transport, carry and paddle out in larger surf, yet with enough volume and traditional shape to be ridden in all but the smallest waves. A mini mal is equally at home being ridden straight across the face of a wave without any pumping or speed generation due to its moderate rocker and wide round nose, as it is with large powerful turns and advance maneuvers due to its narrow tail.
Can you visualize how much your surfing is going to progress on one of these boards?
The Best Board
You know now what characteristics make a good intermediate longboard, and that this segment is well served by the famous mini mal shape.
The Kona Surf Malibu comes in a range of sizes, and a choice of six colors. All the board lengths over 7’0 also have an integrated carry handle built into the deck. Due to the large width of a longboard, it is often difficult to get your arm all the way around the board so a handle can make a huge difference, especially for those of us with short arms!
The board comes with a leash and 3 fins with soft rubber edges. If you have ever made contact with a surfboard fin you will appreciate the soft edges, and if you would prefer higher performance you can also swap these out with any standard FCS fin.
|Board Size||Volume||Rider Weight Range|
|5’10*||55L||< 125 lbs / 55kg|
|7’0||70L||< 170 lbs / 75 kg|
|7’6||80L||< 180 lbs / 80 kg|
|8’0||88L||< 200 lbs / 90 kg|
|8’6||95L||< 210 lbs / 95 kg|
|9’0||108L||> 215 lbs / 100 kg|
Due to the high volume in this board design, I have recommended slightly smaller boards than our surfboard size guide. Also the 5’10 board has a slightly different shape with a fish tail.
Kona Surf was founded 50 years ago in New Jersey by Mike Sciarra. Started in Mike’s garage selling custom ordered surfboards to locals, the company has come a long way to make it as an international brand and now producing a quality range of soft top surfboards.
These boards are built tough and can take a beating. Under the soft foam deck and slick HDPE base is a full fiberglass wrap and double stringers for stiffness. Check out the video below from Kona showing the Malibu out in some gnarly New Jersey storm waves.