Soft top surfboards are a great board to have in any surfer’s quiver. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say every surfer should have one. Say what you will about them, but soft top surfboards are one thing above all else: FUN!

After all isn’t that why we all started surfing in the first place?

Everyone uses soft top surfboards from world champions to the first time surfer. Jamie O’Brien shredded Pipeline on a soft top. Then he did it again at Jaws with Kalani Chapman. Mick Fanning has his own line of softboards. Big wave ripper Shawn Dollar founded the soft-top-only Wavestorm World Championships. And surf schools from Maui to Bali, J-Bay, Bells, Nosara, and Huntington Beach all use foamies as their go-to teaching boards.

To help find the perfect soft top surfboard for you, we’re going to breakdown which ones are best for which levels of surfing and wave types below. But first let’s get to know these foam topped sticks a little better.

What Exactly is a Soft Top Surfboard?

A soft top surfboard is just as it’s name describes — a surfboard with a soft deck top. Traditional surfboards are made with either a polyurethane (PU) or expanded polystyrene (EMS) foam, then covered with a polyester or epoxy resin that creates a hardened surface around the board. Hence, hard top surfboards.

Learn More About the Difference Between Poly and Epoxy Surfboards

Soft top surfboards are made with an EPS foam core (like epoxy surfboards) wrapped in either fiberglass or a synthetic wrap. The big difference is that they replace that hardened fiberglass or epoxy top layer with a soft, dentable Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) sheet. Think exercise mats, the insoles of your sneakers, yoga blocks, and kick boards — they’re all made of the same material as a soft top surfboard.

The EVA top layer combined with the compressed EPS core make soft top surfboards lighter, float better, less susceptible to rot, and harder to ding than traditional hard top surfboards. The soft deck top also allows for a easier and more comfortable paddle. And unlike resined, hard top surfboards, soft tops don’t require wax or any additional material to prevent slippage.

Despite their most often being associated as longboards, soft tops come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, Mick Fanning’s Little Marley goes as small as a 29L 5’2″. But no matter how big or small they are, all soft tops are characterized as being more buoyant, lightweight, and stable than most fiberglass or epoxy surfboard of the same size.

We’re not saying soft tops are better than hard tops, but they certainly give classic surfboards a run for their money. Literally. Because they also often come with a much smaller price tag. Thanks in no small part to the king of discounted prices — Costco.

A Brief History of Soft Top Surfboards

Soft top surfboards were born from boogie boards. Reminiscent of inflatable surf mats and planked belly boards of old, the Boogie Board was invented by Tom Morey out of Hawaii in 1971. Morey, a mathematician and surfing inventor, used polyethylene foam to model (using a hot iron!) a square-tailed, round-nosed roughly 4 foot soft board that people could catch waves on while lying prone. He named his squishy topped squat board the Boogie Board (after the the Boogie-Woogie blues music he enjoyed listening to: “Boogie swung, and it had a wiggle and a jiggle to it. It was perfect.”).

During the 80s and 90s Boogie Boards took took off. These surf-riding sponges quickly became a beach staple, spawning sponsored bodyboarding teams and its own competitive contest, and becoming the new go-to wave riding brand of young beachgoers everywhere.

Surfers however were not as stoked. From the growing popularity of Boogie Boards erupted a huge bodyboarding scene. As a result, the new fad was overcrowding the waters and reignited the debate over what exactly constitutes surfing. But the bodyboarding industry ignored all that (because money) and new advancements in technology and materials soon brought the two water activities together.

In 2006, a former manager of the Boogie Board brand — Matt Zilinskas — teamed up with AGIT Global to create the “first standup experience” for surfers on a Boogie-esque board. At the time AGIT Global was the manufacturer for Boogie Boards. Zilinskas worked with John Yeh – a Taiwanese businessman and CEO of AGIT’s North America division — to develop an entirely new product applying the sandwiched bodyboard design of expanded polystyrene foam and plastic into a a full sized surfboard. They called their soft topped creation Wavestorm.

Safer and more buoyant than traditional surfboards, Wavestorm hit the market as the ultimate beginner board. And thanks to being easier and cheaper to produce the Wavestorm allowed AGIT to manufacture a high-volume priced a third of what most beginner surfboards cost. Costco, always looking for a good deal, took notice and began disturbing them in their coastal warehouses. And where Costco goes, shoppers follow. According to Bloomberg Businessby 2015 over half a million Wavestorms had been sold.

As Wavestorms ask the “Costco Surfboard” took over new players entered the soft top scene like Catch Surf, Softech, MF Softboards, the list goes on. AGIT even produces other brands including our preferred soft top for teaching surf lessons — Storm Blade. (But more on those in a moment.)

There was a time when surfers were against riding anything but massive, wooden 30 pound longboards. When wetsuits came out, many scoffed at using them. Early versions of the now-iconic Malibu Chip were chastised as “girl boards” until the guys started riding them, and fell in love. The first short boards were deemed ridiculous and a passing trend. In fact, with each new major evolution of the sport you could count on one thing — hardcore surfers balking. Then they would try it for themselves, realize how fun the new fad made surfing, and adapt it as their own.

The latest in this long line of “disruptive” surfing innovations is the soft top surfboard. Which had at first threatened to destroy all that is sacred about surfing, and now is spreading joy to both newbies and old hats alike.

A Guide to Soft Top Surfboards for Every Level of Surfing

Now that we know the who, what, and where of why soft top surfboards are so great, let’s take a look at which one is for you. In the following guide we’ll go over the best soft top surfboards, discussing which you should ride depending on your experience and the conditions.

We have used soft tops at our surf school for years and compared them all. We’ve also talked to many pro and amateur surfers to see what they prefer and tried out every high performance soft top in the surfing industry. So not only are we huge advocates of riding soft top surfboards, we love riding them ourselves.

Best Soft Top Surfboard for Beginners

We all want to have fun right? When learning how to surf you want to have a surfboard with a lot of foam. This will help you paddle easier and will let you catch a ton of waves compared to a smaller soft top surfboard. We recommend an 8ft-9ft soft top surfboard with as much width and thickness as possible.

Our favorite for learning how to surf and beginners is the 9ft Stormblade SSR soft top surfboard. 

Storm Blade SSR Soft Top Surfboard Yellow

The SSR is perfect for learning how to surf on any type of waves. With the added foam it is very buoyant and easy to learn on. Guaranteed, on a Storm Blade soft top will be standing up in no time. That’s why we us it exclusively to teach new surfers.

Why You Should Not Learn to Surf on a Costco Surfboard

It’s not just us though. Soft top foam surfboards are widely used in surf schools across the world, in particular the Storm Blade SSR. That’s because they are specifically shaped to have lots of volume and stability so you can catch lots of  waves and remain more stable when trying to stand up. They are also durable as heck, and can withstand even the harshest of beatings. And perhaps most importantly, their extra soft deck reduces the risk of accidents and injuries.

Best Soft Top Surfboards for Intermediate and Advanced Surfers

Beginners aren’t the only ones getting stoked on soft tops. Nowadays you can find any style soft top for all conditions and skill levels. For your small wave days there’s the perfect summer surf longboards that any surfer can ride, like the Storm Blades. For your medium size days there are what we call “fun shape” soft tops which are more high performance than your longboard, can make steep drops and do radical turns. Finally there are soft tops that are like high performance short boards in which you can get barreled and throw airs on.

Here is our favorite soft top surfboards for intermediate and advanced surfers:

Takayama Scorpion

Takayama Soft Top Surfboard

The Takayama Scorpion Soft Top Surfboard is one of our favorite soft tops in the surf industry right now. They ride really well in small surf but are also awesome at handling bigger surf.  The round tail helps with different wave heights but still remains loose enough to be able to throw down turns. The thermal formed EVA soft top deck allows you to grip the board comfortably but still be able to let loose in more high performance waves.

Catch Surf Odysea

Catch Surf is one of the leading soft top companies in the world right now. They have every kind of high performance soft top you can imagine. With the short board fun factor they create soft tops that will let you surf the way you want. They are super responsive in massive shore break and super cruisey on small longboard waves. You know when we mentioned earlier Jamie O’Brien conquered Pipeline on a soft top surfboard? He did it on a Catch Surf Odysea.

The quad-fin Odysea Skipper is one of the most enjoyable soft tops to shred on. They range in size from 5’6″ to 6’6″, and have a classic fish shape that allows for down-the-line-speed and stylish turns.

Catch Surf Odysea Skipper Soft Top Surfboard

Another rad Catch Surf model is the Lost Round-Nose Fish (RNF). It is designed after what is cited as the world’s best-selling fish model of all-time from shaper Matt “Mayhem” Biolos. Thanks to its winged swallow tail and tai-fin thruster setup is can rip it in everything from knee-high runners to heavy shore-break, allowing for rail-to-rail surfing and easy paddling.

Catch Surf Odysea Lost Soft Top Surfboard

INT 7’0 Funboard

INT Surfboards have been one of the new up and coming companies to master the soft top industry. Their 7′ classic funboard makes our list because it paddles like a longboard but performs like a shortboard. It gives you enough to room to paddle around the line up with ease, has pop-up stability, and is responsiveness enough to execute tighter turns or make it down steeper waves.

INT 7'0 Soft Top Funboard

Mick Fanning Little Marley

The last soft top surfboard on our list is from your very own world champions Mick Fanning. With MF Softboards, he has created his own model of soft tops that represent all the best of his surfing.

When it comes to soft top shortboards the MF Little Marley is rules the waves.

If you didn’t feel the foam on your feet you would swear you were riding a real fiberglass board. The Little Marley is for all around fun but does best in more high-performance situations. Its short, wide, and fast which make it one of the more versatile soft tops in the surf industry.

Mick Fanning Little Marley Soft Top Surfboard

Shred Hard, Stay Soft

Whether you are just learning how to surf on small waves or a legendary surfer shredding towering breaks, you will have fun on soft top surfboard. Every day they grow more popular and their designs getting better and better everyday. The latest soft top technology is set to pump foamies to the top of the surfing industry for years to come. Everyone should have at least one soft top in their quiver of surfboards and if not then you are late to the game.

Back in the day soft tops use to be frowned upon. Not just because they were seen as being for “kooks” and “noobs” but because they weren’t made to ride the way most experienced surfers would want. They were always falling apart and never had the performance level you were hoping for. 

But times have changed. New designs and innovations have made them just as sweet as regular hard top boards to ride. Now soft top surfboards are so popular pro surfers are coming out with their own high performance soft top companies. The foam logs have opened up the sport in ways never seen before, making it more accessible, friendly and fun. And with the growth of wave pools on the horizon you can be rest assured the soft top industry will only grow bigger.

Whether you are just learning to surf or a seasoned pro, you are seriously missing out if you aren’t experiencing soft top stoke.

So if you’re asking yourself should I try surfing on a soft top surfboard? The answer is a definitive YEEWWW!

Poly vs Epoxy Boards: What’s The Difference?

When you buy or rent a surfboard, you probably don’t give much thought to the process that goes into making it. Who was the shaper? Where was it made? What type of foam blank was used? What type of resin was used to coat the board? While these are all valid questions the one we get asked the most often is what is the difference between poly vs epoxy boards?

Epoxy vs Poly

Epoxy(right) vs Poly(left)

Poly Technology

Polyurethane blanks (PU) date back to the 50’s, when Hobie Alter first popularized the design as an alternative to balsa wood. When compared to traditional wood boards, PU foam is lighter, easier to shape, and enhances performance. According to the American Chemistry Council, “polyurethanes are formed by reacting a polyol (an alcohol with more than two reactive hydroxyl groups per molecule) with a diisocyanate or a polymeric isocyanate in the presence of suitable catalysts and additives.” PU/PE are built using a polyurethane foam blank and then glassing it with a polyester resin. A particular draw of using PU foam is that it is closed cell—meaning it won’t easily soak up resin or water (should you ding your board), which helps keep the board light.

Poly Surfboard

Poly Surboard

Epoxy Technology

Epoxy surfboards came into the picture a bit later and it wasn’t until the 90’s that they really caught on. Typically, epoxy boards are made from EPS foam and are coated in epoxy resin. EPS foam is produced by feeding tiny polystyrene spears into a machine and then adding steam (with small amounts of pentane gas) to expand the beads and then mold them together. EPS is an open cell foam, meaning it’s extremely water absorbent. In order to keep the board water tight, shapers add extra layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin. Traditionally, most hand shapers don’t make boards from EPS foam but it is a great resource for pop-out boards.

Epoxy Surfboard

Epoxy Surfboard

Pros and Cons: Poly vs Epoxy

Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to each design. Surfers tend to like different boards for different conditions and some surfers surf better on different types of boards because of body structure. In general, PU/PE boards are cheaper than EPS/Epoxy boards. Poly boards tend to be heavier, which means they sit lower in the water, making them the ideal design for riding barrels. They are also a lot more flexible, something that has yet to fully be matched with EPS foam. Most poly boards will be more fragile then epoxy because epoxy material is harder than poly. If you want to try out certain equipment before buying it and dont know where the best wave is to do that at, go to Bolsa Chica State Beach #1 Rated Beach to Learn To Surf  to get an understanding how we at Corky Carroll’s Surf School Private Lessons  do it!

Epoxy boards, on the other hand, are much lighter, making them the perfect board for airs or quick turns. Epoxy boards also tend to be a better option for beginners as they are lighter, float better, and are more difficult to ding. EPS foam is also more environmentally friendly than polyurethane because it can be recycled and re-purposed.

There is no wrong or right choice when selecting a surfboard—do your research and decide what is the best fit for you. Before investing in a board of your own, consider renting or demoing to find your best fit.

Corky Carroll’s Surf School

If you are a beginner surfer or just need some more progressive tips but are scared to use a hard surfboard go check out why Foam Surfboards are our number one board to use! Do not buy just any foam surfboard, go check out Why You Shouldnt Buy A Costco Surfboard!

Here, at Corky Carroll’s, we offer a Surf School in Huntington Beach, California or Our Costa Rican Surf Resort in Nosara, Costa Rica. We have a wide fleet of boards to choose from and are happy to answer any questions you might have. Poly or epoxy, the choice is yours. We’re just glad you’re out in the water and riding waves.

3 Tips to Reinvent Your Surfing

Want to Reinvent your surfing? Experience the endless summer at two unique locations: Huntington Beach, California and Nosara, Costa Rica. Whether you are a seasoned surfer or new to surfing, you may have questions or doubts about equipment and/or surf coaching. Here are a few tips we’ve rounded up from years of experience on the water. Go to Private Surf Lessons if you want a detailed surf lesson teaching you how to do all the things that are mentioned below.

  1. Select the proper board: Surf Lesson

A common mistake among beginners is opting for too small of a board too quickly. When learning, you’ll likely experience the most luck on a longer, wider board. The reason it is easier to learn on a bigger board is that it has more buoyancy. The more buoyancy you have the more stable it is to be able to get up on your feet. As you become more confident in your surfing, you can try transitioning to a shorter board that still has some width and thickness to it (ex. a fish). With modern surfboard technology, you should be able to find a nice, stable board with no need to sacrifice performance. They make surfboards that are short but have as much volume (buoyancy)  as a long board has which will be your transition board. Foam is your friend, the more foam the more fun for learning! You can learn all these things while taking a surf lesson with us! Our Surfing Frequently Asked Questions page will help you determine your equipment you will need to ride waves with ease. Go check it out Frequently Asked Questions: Surfing

Variety of Surfboards

Variety of Surfboards

  1.   Find your sweet spot

Every surfboard has a sweet spot, or the point on the board where there is an equal amount of weight and volume on all sides of the board. We also call this the balance point on our board. The first things Corky Carroll’s Surf School does in their surf lessons is help the student find the sweet spot. In order to find this spot you need to go in the ocean and float on your board. If the nose of the board is in the water you are to far up on the board. If your nose of your board is to high above the water then you are to far back on your board. You look at your board as it is like boat, if to many people are on the left side of the boat, the boat will sink going left. So if you are to far on one side of your board then you will sink and you are not in the sweet spot. The sweet spot is important to note because it should be situated between your feet when riding a wave. Every board, surfer, and wave is unique so you may to play around to find your specific sweet spot, but this is a good rule of thumb for finding it. If you want to learn more about finding your sweet spot and need more help with learning how to surf go check out our blog Why You Need Surf Lessons

Go check out our Private Lesson Live Availability Private surf lessons

Huntington Beach Private Surf Lessons

  1.   Know the differences between paddling techniques

When trying to reinvent your surfing you will need to learn paddling techniques. When paddling out into the lineup there are a couple things to keep in mind. Before heading out, look for channels to paddle through (finding one can save you lots of energy). You’ll also want to time your paddle—it’s much easier to paddle out between sets than in the middle of one. If there is shorebreak, you should not start paddling until you are past it. It will be easier to walk to the opposite side of the shorebreak before you start paddling. Lastly, paddle hard. When a wave breaks in front of you, you want to have some momentum going forward so its easier to get over. You are going to either have to go over the wave doing a half push up or you are going to have to turtle roll.

paddling out

paddle out

When paddling to catch a wave you’ll want to find a good position on your board—if you’re too far forward you’ll nose dive but if you’re too far back you may not catch the wave. It may take some time to master but you’ll eventually get a feel for it. When you take off, keep your head down, your legs together, tighten your core, cup your hands, and build up speed. Once you think you have the wave, execute two more quick strokes before popping up. This will all be taught by our professional instructors during the surf lessons we put on. 

Choose your location between the surf school in Huntington Beach, California or our surf resort in Nosara, Costa Rica. Each has something to offer for surfers of all skills and ability levels—whether you’re looking to ride a wave for the first time or expand your skill set, we’re here to help. If you are a beginner and or just want to get better at surfing our Private Surf Lessons can give you the confident to get out there by yourself in no time. Go Check out Private Surf Lessons . If you need a place to practice that is safe and has perfect learning waves go check out our other blogs at Corky Carroll’s Surf School Blogs

Click the link if you want more information about our Huntington Beach Surf School/Camp – Corky Carroll’s Surf School

Click the link if you want to check out our Costa Rican Surf Resort Costa Rica Resort and Surf Camp

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5 Artificial Wave Pools to Add to Your Bucket List

In recent years, wave pools have been popping up across the globe, defying nature and providing perfect surf in the process. Each is unique in its construction and design but all are similar in the fact that they provide surf and stoke in places where waves would otherwise be unavailable. Here, we take a look at five of the top wave pools on the planet and discuss their backstory, the technology behind them, and public access. Try not to froth too hard.

 

The Surf Ranch: Wave Pool

Leemore, California

 

In 2007, Kelly Slater founded the Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC) with the goal of creating a soliton wave, or a wave that maintains its shape while moving at a constant velocity. In 2015, Slater’s dream came to life when the first footage of the artificial wave was released to the public. The technology behind the wave is simple yet wildly complex: a 100-ton hydrofoil is pushed along a 700-yard track, resulting in six-foot waves that last about a minute. The wave is often regarded as one of the most perfect waves on the planet and in September of 2018, the CT hosted its first event at The Surf Ranch. For now, the wave is invitation only but expansion plans should open the wave to the public in the near future.

 

https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/14006-the-facts-and-figures-behind-kelly-slater-surf-ranch

http://www.kswaveco.com

surf ranch ca

surf ranch ca

 

The BSR Cable Park

Waco, Texas

 

The BSR Cable Park put Waco, Texas on the map as a premier surf destination in early 2018 when footage of Seth Moniz doing a massive backflip on the wave was released. The park features multiple breaks, with waves suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers. From the minds of Jamie O’Brien and Cheyne Magnusson, the pool is fueled by 24, 10-foot wide air chambers. The result: 240-feet of wave generating area. In addition to waves, the park offers a lazy river, an epic water slide, and an on-site hotel. The park is open to the public and one-hour sessions run from $60-$90, depending on your wave choice.

 

https://www.bsrcablepark.com/bsr-surf-resort/

https://stabmag.com/news/a-new-texas-wavepool-designed-by-jamie-obrien-and-cheyne-magnusson/

BSR Cable Park

seth moniz backflip

 

 

 Surf Snowdonia

Conwy, North Wales, United Kingdom

 

Surf Snowdonia was born in North Wales, United Kingdom in August of 2015. Set against a backdrop of forests and mountains, Surf Snowdonia offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced waves to satisfy surfers of all skill levels. The wave features Wavegarden technology through which a hydrodynamic wavefoil powered by a gearless drive system displaces water under a pier to form glassy swell. In addition to waves, the park offers lessons, food, and unique lodging options. The park is open to the public and hour-long sessions cost somewhere in the ballpark of $60.

 

https://www.surfsnowdonia.com

snowdonia

surf snowdonia

NLand

Austin, Texas

 Founded in 2016 by Doug Coors, NLand made its mark as the largest surf park in the world. In an effort to be as energy efficient as possible, the park features Wavegarden technology. To further their efforts in sustainability, the lagoon is 100% self-sustaining and uses a state-of-the-art water filtration system that meets or exceeds the standards set by the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency. The park is open to the public and features beginner, intermediate, and advanced waves as well as surf lessons from expert coaching staff.

Nland

Nland Surf Park

 

https://wavegarden.com

http://nlandsurfpark.com

 

Unit Surf Pool

Anywhere

 Born in Cologne, Germany, Unit Surf Pool is the first floating surf pool as well as the most efficient artificial stationary wave on the planet. The Unit Surf Pool brings a surfable wave to any body of standing water, meaning an endless water supply and no need for chemical water treatment. Pumps pull water to the surface where gravity then creates a powerful stream heading down the ramp into the wave generating section of the pool. When the stream meets the body of water, a stationary deepwater wave is created. The Unit Surf Pool can operate in any standing body of water with a minimum depth two meters, is available in five sizes, and can be up and running in less than four months.

unit surf pool

unit surf pool

https://www.surf-pool.com

 

Wave pools offer a controlled platform, with perfect waves on a loop, making them the ideal place to learn to surf or hone in your skills. While scoring surf in landlocked regions is certainly worth experiencing, there’s something to be said about the magic and unpredictability of riding waves in the ocean. There are thousands of waves to choose from but two of our favorites are in Huntington Beach, California and Nosara, Costa Rica. When you’re ready to put your wave pool skills to the test, come join us at one of our kids’ camps or all-inclusive retreats—our expert coaches will help ease the transition from manufactured waves to everything the ocean has to offer. Go to Huntington Beach Surf Camp for our summer surf camp in Huntington Beach or go to Costa Rican Surf Resort for our international surf retreat.

Written by: Rebecca Parsons