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Soft Top Surfboards
Surfing on a Soft Top Surfboard has changed a lot in recent years. Gone are the days where Soft Top Surfboards imply surf school or beginner, only to be used on your first day. We have seen a large increase in board options in recent years, and an expansion in the target market from just offering longboards for beginners through to the current options which includes high performance shortboards used by Professional Surfers.
Things to consider before buying a soft top
Softtop, Foamie, Soft Board, call them what you want (you will notice that I interchange between these terms), these boards all share the common features of a soft foam deck and smooth base, like a bodyboard. Alternatively, traditional surfboards are made with a hard fiberglass exterior.
Trust me when I tell you that a soft top surfboard is more comfortable to use!
We tag all our soft top surfboard reviews on Soft Top Surf as Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced or a combination of the three. Yes soft top surfboards are fantastic for beginners (more detail on that below), but be aware that there are many foamies available for sale now that require an advanced surfing ability.
Before buying a soft top surfboard you need to think about both your level of surfing ability, and the type of waves you will be surfing. I unfortunately learned to surf on a hard fiberglass surfboard that was not at all suitable for a beginner, and as a result my first few years of progression was a lot slower than I would have liked.
Now that I have a few decades of experience surfing, and I have surfed on many different surfboards and in different wave sizes and types, I have a strong appreciation for surfing on the board that will provide me the most fun. My soft top boards are always in that list.
Why you should buy a Soft Top Surfboard
A soft top surfboard will have features that enable you to paddle faster, catch more waves, and progress your surfing a lot faster than you would on a fiberglass surfboard. Whether you are a first time surfer, or a regular with years of experience, there are always days and waves that suit a foamie.
The biggest benefit of a foamie is measured in smiles, as these boards are all about FUN. If you don’t believe me, take a look at pro surfers Jamie O’Brien and Ben Gravy and tell me that they are not having fun!
If you are a beginner or intermediate, this is simple math. You will have more good experiences (catch more waves), and less bad experiences (discomfort) = MORE FUN
As a high intermediate or advanced surfer, you might find that you really only have fun on those perfect days. Waves are over 3ft and light offshore winds, maybe you clean up a few of your maneuvers or start learning some new ones?
But what if you could still have an amazing surf when the swell has dropped back a bit, or the wind has started to come cross-shore? Or you could take a chance on that shore break that looks like so much fun but too much risk to your fragile fiberglass board?
Soft Top vs Fiberglass surfboards:
|Soft Top Surfboard||Fiberglass Surfboard|
|Have more FUN||Best for large surf|
|Catch more waves||More carving performance|
|More comfortable||Easier to duck dive|
|Progress faster||Custom boards are available|
Features and Benefits
Having more fun is all about removing the parts of surfing that you don’t like. This has a huge impact if you are learning to surf, as this is the stage when you have the most discomfort and catch the least waves.
Benefits of a foam surfboard include:
- Soft top – The deck and rails (see our surfboard diagram) are made of a soft foam which makes surfing a lot more comfortable for both paddling and falling off, and incredibly durable. No more repairing dings in your fiberglass.
- High Volume – Most foamies have a higher volume than traditional fiberglass surfboards, this provides more buoyancy making you paddle faster and stand up easier
- Light Weight – Carrying a longboard along a windy beach is hard work, the lighter the board is the easier it is to carry.
- Low Rocker – See our surfboard diagram again. Rocker is the curve of a surfboard, and less rocker means that you will paddle faster and catch more waves.
- Wax – Although I do recommend you wax your soft top surfboards for best performance, this is not essential as the foam deck has a lot more grip than a smooth fiberglass surfboard.
- Surf between the flags – I am not sure if this applies everywhere in the world, but in Australia, one of the biggest surfing nations, surfing between the lifeguard flags is only allowed on a soft top surfboard. Have you ever noticed how the best waves are right between the flags?
You have probably heard or read about many types of surfboards: Mal’s, Mini-Mal’s, Fish, Log, Twin, Gun etc. These are all shapes of surfboards that fit into two major categories; The Longboard and The Shortboard.
A longboard typically refers to any board of about 7’0 (213cm) in length. The longer the board, the easier it is to paddle, catch waves and stand up. For this reason, you should definitely buy a Longboard if you are a beginner or still learning to surf.
Advanced surfers still ride Longboards too, with some amazing style. Everyone has heard the phrase “Hang 10” after all.
The longboard options for soft top surfboards can be roughly broken into two sub-categories:
These are the boards you will be given if you take a group surf lesson, with the goal of getting you to stand-up on your first lesson. These boards have very high volume and large rails, which makes them incredibly buoyant and stable. They are perfect for first timer surfers to learn the process of paddling into a foam wave, standing up and riding in a straight line. The downside of these boards is that you have limited ability to progress your surfing as the large rails make them difficult to turn and surf across the face of a wave.
All Ability Boards
Once you move away from the beginner soft top surboards, there is a good range of longboards you can use, regardless of your ability. There are of course differences between these boards (that is why Soft Top Surf exists), but of the large number of soft top longboards I have surfed, there are very few that have not been fun.
Surfboards in this category are available from as short as 7’0 and up to 9’0 and longer. There is enough variety to provide choice on every aspect of a board, but there is a sliding scale of surfboard performance vs price. Higher performing surfboards tend to have more stringers, which increases stiffness and allows for narrower rails.
There are few soft top longboards that I would say are not suitable for a beginner, especially if you have taken lessons and learned some fundamentals.
Shortboards are typically less than 7’0 in length, and often a lot narrower and thinner than longboards. They offer a different style of surfing, with more aggressive manoeuvres and a requirement for a higher level of surfing ability. Please learn from my early life mistakes, and do not buy a shortboard to learn to surf, even a soft top shortboard! You can thank me later.
Foam shortboards are still a relatively new concept, but rapidly growing in popularity. I personally started surfing foam shortboards due to the durability, as I was constantly repairing dings in my fiberglass surfboards, especially if I travelled to surf.
The current offering of Soft Top Shortboards, like longboards can also be broken into two categories:
I use the term performance board as in relative to other soft top surfboard offerings. I do not pretend that a performance foamie can or should replace your fiberglass shortboard quiver. What I do like about this category of surfboards is the ability to travel without concern of board damage, and the ability to surf them in waves that otherwise would present a challenge such as between the flags or on a shallow/shore break.
You will find that every session on a performance foamie improves your surfing. The high buoyancy of a foam surfboard sits higher on the water than your usual fiberglass stick, which will punish you when you fail to keep your weight centred (ever tried a wakeskate?). In addition, the knowledge that the board is made of soft foam and that it is hard for the board to hurt you, or for you to damage your board really encourages you to try manoeuvres that you may otherwise avoid on fiberglass.
You already know my preferred measure of a successful surf…. FUN. So what could I possibly say that is negative about a category called Play Boards? The truth about these boards is that they require the greatest surfing ability. These boards are the least stable and lightest, and for most of us will sober any thoughts we had about our skill level.
Play boards are usually in the 5’6 and under range, and are often configured to be surfed with or without fins. My favourite aspect of these boards is how they will improve your surfing. Learn to master a board in this category, then take that improved version of yourself back out on your fiberglass board the next big day and you might be surprised.
For those of you who learned to share your toys with others, there is another reason to add one of this little soft top surfboards to your quiver. These boards are great for teaching small children, as they are essentially an oversized body board. I don’t know about you, but I get very jealous of those grommets I see being pushed onto little waves at ages that I couldn’t even ride a bike.
Why you should use Soft Top Surf
If you have read this far, you are probably pretty convinced that a soft top surfboard is for you. If you surf and like to have fun, then I would have to agree with you.
You can read more about us here. Our goal is to share the stoke, and get more people out having fun surfing. We do this by offering honest reviews.
Soft Top Surf is for people who want to:
- Start surfing
- Improve your surfing
- Have more fun surfing
Please take a look around and check out our reviews. If you still have any questions or feel like we haven’t yet reviewed the right surfboard for you please contact us. Receiving your questions helps us make Soft Top Surf better.