Posted on July 31, 2019 by Jeff Hale
If you’re considering adding a foam surfboard to your quiver but you’re not sure you absolutely need one, you’ve come to the right place. The short answer is yes, you should be surfing on a foam board. Whether you’re getting ready to buy your first surfboard or you’ve lost count of how many boards you’ve owned, a soft top surfboard offers insane fun for surfers of every skill level. When you boil surfing down to its singular core value, it’s about fun -- and it’s impossible not to have fun when surfing foam boards.
There was a time when showing up to the beach on a foam board was a strong and clear sign that you didn't know what you were doing in the water. And while the ocean will probably always have its fair share of kooks of foamies, it’s no longer unusual to find a soft top surfboard under the feet of the surfers catching the most waves and having the most fun. From Pipeline to Lower Trestles and the Wedge, the soft top surfboard revolution has officially reached critical mass.
While the short answer for who should be surfing a foam board is “everyone,” the real reasons are different for surfers of varying skill levels. While the vast majority of foam boards from a decade ago were low-quality logs sold by warehouse clubs with zero connection to surfing, today’s soft top surfboards are a different story.
Modern soft tops feature molded EPS foam cores with dual wood stringers covered in fiberglass to offer a level of rigidity and flex that’s very similar to traditional hard boards. The decks utilize a non-slip, irradiation cross-linked polyethylene (IXPE) foam that’s renowned for its compression resistance and grip. And the bottoms utilize high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for incredible durability and glide across the water. Finally, you can even use your standard surfboard fins thanks to the inclusion of plug options from leading companies like FCS.
Beyond the evolution in surfboard construction, we’ll need to dig a bit deeper into what makes foam boards so fun for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers.
If spending close to $1,000 on a top-of-the-line surfboard doesn’t sound like fun, then a soft top alternative is your cost-effective solution. You can find a wide range of worthy soft top surfboards for around $300, which is much better than paying the same price to rent a board a few times.
If replacing your collection of fiberglass boards after a couple of seasons of dings and pressure dents is too expensive or difficult, then you’ll want to consider a far more durable and dependable alternative. Soft top boards are far less susceptible to damage from normal use thanks to materials like IXPE foam.
If you want a board that’s just as fun in knee-high shore break as it is in head-high surf, then you’re missing out if you’re not considering a foam board. Soft top surfboards can offer the best of both worlds thanks to great buoyancy from their molded EPS cores and the ability to swap fins from industry-leading brands like FCS and Futures.
If you’re not competing on the Championship Tour and want to maximize your fun in the water, then the rail-to-rail performance offered by today’s soft top surfboards will completely blow you away. If you haven’t ridden a soft top surfboard in a few years, prepare to be surprised.
Get a board that can do both. For beginning surfers, a soft top surfboard is an easy pitch. The relatively low price makes experimenting with a new sport a much easier decision. Soft tops are also the safest way to learn how to surf -- you don’t have to worry about falling onto a hard board, getting hit with your fiberglass or epoxy board in the whitewash, or colliding with another surfer in the water. They have always made perfect sense for beginners, and today’s vastly improved versions are an even better investment thanks to improved materials and construction techniques.
Variety is the spice of life. For intermediate surfers, soft tops surfboards are the easiest way to start experimenting with different shapes and filling out your quiver with specialized equipment. Once you’re truly comfortable and competent riding waves, you’re not going to be satisfied riding the same 7’6” funboard in every swell at every beach. While most surfers would tell you they couldn’t ever own enough boards, the typical weekend warrior will want to have at least four different types of surfboards: a shortboard, a longboard, a fish/groveler, and either a mini-longboard or a step-up/gun. Getting your quiver up and running quickly is much easier with the addition of a few soft tops, especially if you’re using foam boards to identify the surfboard shapes and design elements that work best for you and the waves you ride.
Commit yourself to fun in the water. Despite the fact that a bad day of surfing is better than a good day of almost anything else, it can still be difficult for experienced surfers to step into the water without obsessing over some minor detail of wave riding and selection. Should I have held off on that bottom turn for another half-second? Did I really take the best angle to the lip to exit my turn at top speed? Should I have moved a couple of feet to the inside before paddling for that one? These are the types of questions that help take your surfing to the next level, but they’re also the types of questions that can spoil your fun if you’re being too critical -- and this is where an occasional surf on a foam board shines.
Soft top surfboards can transport you back to a time when surfing wasn’t about the details, it was about the simple pleasure of becoming one with nature as you felt the water rushing past the bottom of your board on a sunny day at the beach. So, take a break from overthinking and commit some of your time in the water to simply having fun. Whether that means packing yourself into shore break barrels on a 4’11’’ twin-fin, sitting way outside and stealing all the set waves on a 7’6” foam funboard, or weaving your way through a packed summer lineup on a soft top quad, you’ll be stoked to switch it up with a foamie.
Still leaning towards another type of surfboard? Check out all of our available surfboards for sale!
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