I wish I could write a technical piece about what each board is and what each fin set-up means. I have sat through talks and read articles, but I don’t retain that information very well for some reason. So here is my “I like what I like” advice for buying a surfboard:
The Right Board For You
I ride 4 different sized boards depending on conditions, my mood and my energy level. My arms are not long, and my shoulders are not broad, so I prefer boards with tapered, narrower noses with less volume in the front and more in the middle and back. This is also so I can push my chest down on take off. One thing to remember when you are starting out is that volume is your friend. The more volume, the easier it is to paddle out, the more waves you catch, the more time on the wave face. Volume does not always equal length, but longer boards tend to have more volume by nature.
I think the best thing to do is find local shapers or surf shops that have demo or rental boards and test a few out. Or borrow a board from a friend- I am constantly trying out friends' boards in the lineup. Two of my favorite boards were demos my instructor let clients use, and I bought them on the spot. Rent boards and try out different boards on surf trips. If you find one you love- buy it or get all of its specs and have a shaper make one for you.
What Waves Are You Surfing?
If I am surfing fun, mushy, cruisy waves, I like to surf my custom Gunn Surfboards Log (9’4”), my 7’3 Montauk Surf mid-size or my Lightning Bolt I bought off of a friend. If the waves are a little faster or dumpier, I surf my custom higher volume Montauk Surf 6’2 or my Slater Designs 5’11” Cymatic that I endearingly call “my shortboard for old people.” I find that buying boards from local shapers is helpful since they know the local breaks.
Beware of "Cool" Boards
I love a pretty board that looks cool and is colorful (although two of mine rode so well that I overlooked the fact that they were all-white). Andrew Gunn makes the most beautiful and rideable boards I have ever seen. The Montauk Surf Co Boards come in really fun colors and are also customizable for a fee. Beware of buying the "cool" board without a little expert advice or research, though. I have more than one board that friends left in my rack that were either wrong for the local waves or out of the surfer's league.