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Why You Shouldn’t Buy A Costco Surfboard

Costco Surfboard WaveStorm Soft Top Broken

One of the most common questions we get asked is what is the best surfboard for learning to surf. Answer: a soft top surfboard. Thanks to their improved buoyancy, soft tops make paddling and standing up easier, letting you catch more waves and have more fun. They are also safer than hard top boards because getting hit with something soft is always better than getting hit with something hard. (That’s just math.) But what many beginner surfers don’t realize is there are a lot of great options out there for soft top surfboards. So instead they head over to their local mega superstore and pick up a Wavestorm Costco Surfboard.

But take it from us, that’s not a good idea.

Costco: Your One Stop Shop (Except for Surfboards)

We love Costco. Cheap gas. Fifty pound bags of popcorn. Free tastings. It’s heaven in a warehouse. Where else can you buy a pair of board shorts, get some photos printed, have an eye exam, prepare for a barbecue, find a computer, and stock up on enough toilet paper for a decade — all while feasting on a free lunch of mini-sausages, Vitamix smoothies, and microwavable empanadas.?

Best of all, the prices are killer. A $9.95 large pizza to go? Don’t mind if we do.

Over the past couple years Costco has also become the king of selling soft top surfboards. Their Wavestorm model is the most popular surfboard in America. Head down to the Huntington Beach pier on a mid-summer Saturday and you’ll see a flurry of them heading out …. and then getting washed ashore.

And while there’s definitely a place for a Wavestorm in any surfer’s quiver, a beginner would be better off looking elsewhere than Costco’s line of soft top boards when first getting started.

Costco and Kooks

Let’s get one thing clear. Riding a Costco surfboard doesn’t make you a kook. Neither does learning to surf. So long as people respect their gear, the ocean, and others around them, the waters are free for all to enjoy. Everyone makes mistakes and wipes out. That’s life. No worries. It’s how you approach the waves that really matter.

Even seasoned surfers can mess up from time to time. Dropping in on other surfers? That’s wrong no matter how long you’ve been surfing, or how good you are. But most experienced surfers know better. Those hitting the surf for the first time usually don’t, and are more likely to make the mistake of taking a wave that someone else has priority on. Odds are they are also riding a Wavestorm.

And that’s why Costco surfboards sometimes get a bad rap.

Costco makes it really easy to get a board. Maybe a little too easy. And over the years they have gained a certain association with kookdom. That’s because the majority of people riding Wavestorms are beginners. Beginner surfers are often linked to being “kooks” because they are still figuring out the surfing etiquette and lifestyle. Put two and two together and you can see how Costco surfboards can gain a certain reputation.

But we don’t buy into that reputation. The point we want to make is Costco surfboards aren’t necessarily bad, they just are not right for beginners.

The Soft Top Revolution

There is a great quote that sums up our motto perfectly.

The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.

That’s what it is all about. The lessons, the equipment, the waves — it all boils down to having as much fun as possible. In the past, soft top surfboards had a certain stigma. They were frowned upon by surfing purists who thought soft tops bucked the trend of tradition. Not to mention, they made surfing more accessible, which in the already overcrowded lineups can be a regular surfer’s greatest fear.

But this is nothing new. There has always been those reluctant to embrace change.

Foam surfboards were initially balked at by those loyal to their 40 pound balsa wood boards. When shortboards arrived on the scene they were seen as a joke by longboarders. Using Jet Skis to catch big waves was paramount to cheating. Hydrofoils were considered a novelty act. And then there’s the Chip.

Back in the 50s, shorter, thinner boards with more-defined rockers came out that made learning to surf easier and more forgiving. They became popular with California’s growing population of female surfers. At first, guys chided these “girl surfboards” for being too small and delicate. That is until they tried one for themselves and instantly fell in love. Soon these “girl surfboards” helped fuel the Surf Boom and provided the model for one of the most famous surfboards of all-time: The Malibu Chip.

The same thing is happening to soft top surfboards today. Although they may have been originally designed with the beginner surfer in mind, seasoned surfers are starting to enjoy them too. So much so we wrote a soft top surfboard guide for every level of surfing. Because every surfer should have a foamie in their quiver.

Why? One reason. They make surfing more FUN!

The Pros of Costco Surfboards (and Soft Tops)

There is a time and a place for everything, and that’s certainly true for Costco surfboards. They can be really fun, in the right conditions. Have you seen the Wavestorm World championships? Turns out even pro surfers are getting kooky with Costco Surfboards. But these members of Team Wavestorm know what they’re doing, and learned to surf the right way first on boards suitable for the task.

That’s because Wavestorm surfboards are better for someone who already knows how to surf. Their thinner shape and squatter tail make it easier to loose control while on a wave, allowing for some gnarly maneuvers and just as gnarly wipeouts. That’s why Wavestorms are for experienced surfers, who can take advantage of this loose performing board and tap into their full fun-releasing potential.

Which is why we recommend against using a Costco surfboard when you are learning to surf. After you figure out the fundamentals, then go ahead and tackle pipeline on a Wavestorm.

The Cons of Costco Wavestorm Surfboards

Costco stocks other board besides Wavestorms. But since they are the most prominent, popular and widely used, especially by beginners, it’s important to understand why Wavestorms in particular are not ideal for learning on.

The top reasons being:

  • They are thinner
  • They are narrower
  • They have a small tail width

Each of these contributes to losing stability, float and buoyancy while on a board. Which are some of the most important features required for beginners to properly learn.

Also, there is a reason why Wavestorms are so inexpensive. They are priced according to quality and scale, and built with less durable materials. The means they break down quicker than stronger constructed soft top boards.

Waterlogged Wavestorm Costco Surfboard

While for someone looking to have short-lived fun that might be enough, a dedicated beginner surfer will want a board that allows more room to progress. Not to mention one that can take a beating.

What’s In a Board?

Whenever you buy or rent a surfboard you should give serious thought to what the board is made of and its dimensions. For example, when buying a hard top surfboard knowing whether it is glassed with epoxy vs fiberglass, or shaped using polyurethane vs EPS foam, makes a big difference. The length, width and thickness of the board matters too.

The same level of consideration should be given when choosing a soft top board. Soft tops are not just for beginners. Every level of surfer from novice to intermediate and advanced can benefit from having a soft top in their quiver. So long as it is the right model for them.

Just like you need to choose the right surf spot to learn at (which is why we hold our surf school at Bolsa Chica), you need to find the right board to start with. The result is a much safer, and funner, experience all around.

A beginner should choose a board that is suitable to their skill set, height and weight, and can survive the initial mishandling that comes with trying something new for the first time. Not just go with whatever Costco has on its shelves for the best price.

The Soft Top We Use Instead of Wavestorms

At Corky Carroll’s Surf School we teach surfing using Storm Blade Surfboards. This model has been around since 2006 providing some of the best high-performance soft top surfboards on the market.

Storm Blade is produced by AGIT Global, which is actually the same company that puts out Wavestorm surfboards. But there is good reason why you find their sturdy Storm Blade’s being used at a lot surf schools and surf camps around the world, and not their thinner Wavestorms.

Not only do Storm Blade surfboards come in a wider selection of sizes for all skill levels, but Storm Blade’s strong yet forgiving, extra buoyant foam layered construction and well calibrated thickness make surfing an unparalleled experience for beginners to advance. Overall their design with beginner in mind and use of high-quality materials provides a perfectly balanced wave-riding platform to surf.

When compared to Wavestorms, the Storm Blade is thicker providing creating stability. And perhaps most notably, the Storm Blade’s wider, better shaped squash tail performs superior to the poorly shaped blocky squash tails on Wavestorms.

All this will have any novice standing up in no time, and is why recommend an 8ft or 9ft soft top surfboard with as much width and thickness as possible for beginners. Our favorite surfboard to learn on in the industry is the 8ft Storm Blade SSR.

Storm Blade SSR Soft Top Surfboard


This might all sound like an over-fluffed up endorsement, but we feel really strongly about the boards we use for our surf lessons and truly find Storm Blade’s to be the best. But like we said earlier, there is no one-size fits all when it comes to surfboards. There are plenty of other great soft tops out there (some of which we include in our surfboard rentals quiver).

We want everyone to have fun surfing. And we want beginners to learn the right way. So think twice about that Wavestorm $100 Costco surfboard if you’re just starting out. The better choice is to learn on a higher-quality soft top.

-Hunter Rose

38 replies
    • Paul
      Paul says:

      Nobody was born Kelly Slater. Every surfer was a kook before they got good, some longer than others. BTW back to Costco all the storm blades are sold out. But did you see all the shapes wave storms come in?

      • Vincent
        Vincent says:

        There’s a bit of overthinking going on here and I recognize it cuz I do it. Wave storm is fine for beginners. And I’m sure this Storm Blade brand is fine too. It’s splitting hairs IMHO. Beginner surfing is just getting out there on something that floats that you can stand on. The details aren’t super important at that stage of the game. Progression ushers in the fun of dialing your style and board in. So ya, let’s not overthink this. It’s a foamie. Moving on…

    • Terry Galbraith
      Terry Galbraith says:

      A really poor argument against WS, that beginners that don’t know about dropping in ruin it for othersニ. Oh please. If your want to plug another brand, just stick with promoting it than trying to rubbish another. Small minded drivel .

  1. Jim Spibbins
    Jim Spibbins says:

    One thing I know, most surfers are very territorial about their spots no matter what longboarder is trying to catch their waves. This attitude is not in keeping with the brother and sisterhood of surfing.
    And equipment is nobody’s business.

  2. Mike
    Mike says:

    So you’re telling me I should pay 3x more for a high quality board when starting out if I don’t even know that I’ll like it?

    No thanks. I’ll stick with my lower investment and free return with full refund anytime Costco wave storm and I agree with Matt that you are a kook for suggesting anything other than the Costco wave storm for beginners!

    • Corky Carroll's Surf School
      Corky Carroll's Surf School says:

      Dude, we totally get where you’re coming from, but we actually recommend beginners not buy a board at all — Wavestorm, Stormblade or otherwise. They’re going to outgrow that initial beginner board so fast it doesn’t make sense. The board’s just going to take up room and go unused, and the resell value on beginner soft tops (especially Wavestorms) are not good.

      You make the great point that it’s ridiculous to buy an expensive board when you don’t even know you’ll like it. We couldn’t agree more. It’s a good idea not to commit to any one board early on and test a lot of different ones to find the right fit. So really a better investment for a beginner would be to borrow a soft-top longboard from a friend or family member. Or try a few board rentals or lessons. Enough to progress to a point where buying (and committing to) a higher quality board makes sense.

      That said, if you’re going to buy anything as a beginner, the absolute best investment is a wetsuit hands down. A good wetsuit is something you’ll never progress out of.

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:

        Well well well. Why would anyone take a suggestion form a biased source? You want us to believe you are not getting paid to advertise Storm Blade Surfboards? You must think the world is full
        of idiots. Wavestorm 8’ boards for beginners is the way to go. Hands down and nodoubt about it. Suggesting rentals is bad advice as people need to have their own gear to evolve faster and not be dependent on your business for such rentals. Resell value of a Wavestorm? Lmfao. They are only $100 dollars dude. Everyone will get their $100 money’s worth a binder fold out of a Wavestorm. And yes they resell great at $120 dollars during summer peak. There is a $20 dollar profit for a used board a surfer surfed the crap out of until they got the basics of riding and paddling to evolve into something better

        • Chad H.
          Chad H. says:

          First off they don’t get paid by anyone to buy surfboards for their surf school? Also you are the one that is reading this. It’s called marketing my friend. They do this so you look at their website. It seems as if they did what they were trying to do. Come down to the surf school and they will show you what they are talking about.

        • Kook
          Kook says:

          Sarah, not sure where you got your experience surfing, but a wider, thicker, and more stable shaped board is better for learning, period. If you disagree, it is unequivocally easy to say you know nothing about surfing, and if you argue that, it proves the point.

      • N
        N says:

        Bad resell value? Is that why wavestorms go for 200-300 used? Any soft top might have a time and place but you’re just wrong if you think wavestorms are meant for experienced surfers and not good beginner boards. This article is a joke.

  3. Ken
    Ken says:

    This might be a dumb question but how does a cheaper soft top hold up to being strapped to a roof of a car going down the freeway?

    • Corky Carroll's Surf School
      Corky Carroll's Surf School says:

      Great question Ken! It’s all about the straps. Doesn’t matter what type of board you have. What’s most important is that you have a quality set of roof straps for your car. That way you’ll be good to cruise no matter what type of board you have, WaveStorm, Stormblade or otherwise.

      Here’s a list of some board racks to get you off on the right foot: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/the-best-surfboard-car-racks-in-the-world

      Just remember to read the reviews! That’s where you’ll separate the winners from the losers.

  4. Philip Godfrey
    Philip Godfrey says:

    Rubbish – Surfing Elitism. Are we still using the word Kook? How old are you? My 14 year old is absolutely flourishing on borrowed Wavestorm while other beginners are floundering on fiberglass short boards. One size doesnt fit all. You are really somehow connecting Costco’s involvement with the popular Wavestorm board with new surfers dropping in on you? Where are you surfing that you are on a wave that a newb with a fresh costco board is sitting next to you on the outside. Hilarious.

    • Digby Kfotfo
      Digby Kfotfo says:

      Philip, I had this exact thing happen to me a few days ago at a point break. I was on a wave already, and a person on a brand new wavestorm in full wetsuit, booties and hat was ardently paddling to catch it in front of me. I wasn’t behind the whitewash and I didn’t snake them. I’ve had this same thing happen multiple times in the last few months. I’m all for learning surfing and I think a soft board is the way to go when doing it. It’s certainly not out of the question, though, to assume that a percentage of people don’t have a mentor explaining to them that it’s probably not a good idea to head to your local costco, buy a board and wetsuit and then just paddle out where a bunch of other people are surfing.

  5. Geoffrey Lighthall
    Geoffrey Lighthall says:

    C’mon gang. Of course there is a little commercial bias here, so take that for what it’s worth, but definitely recognize that it is crucial to think about shape characteristics while in beginner mode. You need a much larger number of repetitions on a thin, narrow, short board to get your first stand up ride than you will on a more stable design. Kids in particular may not stay psyched up enough to endure 20-30 falls before a stand up ride. I say stack the deck in favor of success when starting out, especially kids who haven’t been jumping across railroad cars since age 2! PS: I have no commercial interest, just some first hand experience trying to learn on fast waves with pretty wobbly boards. Sometimes learning by hard knocks makes for a better end result, but I don’t think this applied to my case. Good luck

    • Corky Carroll's Surf School
      Corky Carroll's Surf School says:

      Thanks for Geoffrey! Definitely appreciate you sharing. That’s exactly how we feel. The more waves you ride, the more fun you’ll have, so why not make it as easy as possible as a beginner to catch the bug and have some fun. Whatever piece of equipment helps safely make that possible is the right choice.

  6. Tay
    Tay says:

    Just got the wavestorm retro fish from Costo, I bought a modern fish from Walmart and it had the performance tail so I figured since I’m learning I’d give the wider tail more balanced wavestorm a try. It’s only 119 so it’s about 40 dollar cheaper. Got the board a couple of days ago and I can confirm that everything in the article is true. The board is very thin and the foam is pretty flimsy. You can see for yourself through the bolt through fin holes in the board. The coating on both the deck and the rocker side seem pretty good. And the bolts marked “C” were not machined correctly so it is almost impossible to screw them in. I took the fin bolts out and tried my hardest to screw them in place without the board then I barely got them fitted into the board. Broke my biggest coin though now it’s bent. Nobody paid me and to avoid trolling I’m not telling you guys the name of the board I got from Walmart. It’s sold out anyways.

  7. Jj Baker
    Jj Baker says:

    I grew up in HB and know a lot of professional surfers. As a youth I only body boarded . I was more into mini bikes , go-carts and later racing dirtbikes. At 42 I decided to give surfing a try and bought a board built just for me and some surf lessons. I’ve been having the time of my life and have taught a few other’s over the years how to surf. I’m now 62 and still surfing and riding my dirtbike. Don’t ever be afraid to try some because you’ll never know how much you come to enjoy it. From the Paradise Of The Pacific Huntington Beach California ⛱

  8. Harry
    Harry says:

    Ah dude. A WaveStorm Is NOT a Soft-top. It’s a Foamie. A Soft-Top comes from SurfTech and is very similar to a regular board with a thin veneer of rubber traction material type stuff on the deck. Get it right. They ride pretty darn good, too. Calling all foamie boards Soft-Tops creates confusion and could easily lead to a poor board choice. A WaveStorm is not especially thin or narrow, as the writer states, and they are GREAT for kids to learn on. I’ve frequently seen kids on rail-to-ankle high waves ride right up on the shore, having the time of their lives on $100 WaveStorms. They are IDEAL, the very best, most accessible board for the smaller, younger masses to ride the soup with. The writer clearly has something to sell, and that invalidates his “opinion”. Aloha.

  9. Eric
    Eric says:

    Im 53 & started surfing in 70’s at age 10 in VC points breaks. My 1st board was 6″6″ , too thin & I struggled paddling it for years & years.

    Today learners have a wide variety of the easiest equpment to learn on , as well as classes to learn the fundamentals. None of this was available in 1970’s or 80’s.

    Stormblade are wide & have a non-slip deck . Wavestorm are narrow & the decks are extremely slippery. My son is 9 & killed it his 1st day surfing on a stormblade. The following weekend he struggled on a wavestorm. Im 30 pounds overweight with 40 + years of surf experiene in over 20 countries. The wavestorm slipped off my chest even after I put on a tshirt.

    I dont get paid to endorse stormblade & dont have $ to buy one. Truth is they are awesome.

    Corky Carrol is a legend. Dont dis-respect him & talk trash when you cant surf. Buy a wavestorm & struggle for years & years. Or buy a stormblade if you can afford it & excelerate the learning process. The right equip helps alot but time in water & determination is what it takes to learn.

    If you dont understand this your a kook & always will be.

    The kook is the guy paddling out yelling at the guy surfing on the wave. ” Hey hey watch out”! Get out of the surfers way & pay your dues!

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      It’s funny how we say we should not trash talk or disrespect people and yet we find ourselves disrespecting people who disagree with us. I am guilty of that as well. That is why we have these issues we have on the bigger scale of life. We all have grown up in different areas, have different budgets, have different likes, and have loved different things. What if my father had a Wavestorm and I ride a wave storm because I live my father. Perhaps my mom was an innovator so I may choose the Storm Blade. Love people where they are at and have a good attitude. I have learned you need to respect people and the spot. I have been surfing in Hawaii on the island of Oahu most of my life and when I surf packed out Waikiki, outer reefs in the south shore, Westside, Eastside, or the North Shore they all have their own flavor. Anyway, respect the water, try to love and give everyone a chance, and live ALOHA. Take care everyone, life is good. Some people will never experience the awesomeness of surfing. For me, there will always be another epic day to surf again. It’s okay to disagree and be respect and caring at the same time.

      Thanks for sharing about the Storm Blade it seems like a good board👍


  10. Sydney Young
    Sydney Young says:

    I disagree with your article because Costco has a 100% membership satisfaction guarantee policy. This means you can bring your wave storm in ANY time for a 100% refund.

    Lets say you’re going on a vacation to Hawaii and want to surf for a week but don’t want to pay for a rental – go to costco pick up a wavestorm and bring it back at the end of your trip and you don’t pay anything.

    Let’s say you don’t know if you fully want to commit to surfing. Bring it back anytime. You can’t do that with any other surfboard without being seriously questioned and hassled.

    Wavestorms cost $120 from Costco. That’s ridiculously cheap. If i ever am short on cash I can bank it in at costco for a quick $100 bucks. I keep a wavestorm at my pad as a secondary board to take friends out on or for when the tide gets low and I’m surfing sketchy places that have rocks/reef and don’t want to take the risk of damaging my better boards. You can’t go wrong with a wavestorm, but if you have the money and you want to get into surfing I highly recommend getting an epoxy board.

    So yes, you have some valid points, but overall with the return policy it’s a no brainer from a financial standpoint.

  11. Niall
    Niall says:

    I can’t even fathom why anyone has anything negative to say about this article. It is one of the most helpful things I ever read about foam boards. I am an intermediate level surfer (or maybe just an advanced beginner!). After several weeks practicing on a few friends’ Costco Wavestorms (tried the blue and white, the rasta one, and one that had a fake cork top that was from Costco but may not have been a Wavestorm. Then I read this article and bought a used storm blade SSR from one of the local surf schools (in November). It had some repairs done to it and was not in perfect shape so I got it for $200. Best $200 I ever spent in my life!!! It’s wider and WAY more stable than the Wavestorms. It’s so forgiving that I can screw up in various ways and still manage to get up on waves that I would nosedive in every time on the Wavestorms. Thank you Corky for the amazing advice!

  12. Daron
    Daron says:

    Thanks for the review and history Carroll. I was a late bloomer beginning surfing mid 40’s and tried and failed on several boards until an experienced surfer friend suggested I try a Wavestorm. The experience I got from that board was night and day and it helped me get over the initial hump. Granted the conditions, spot and surfer are all part of it but I was really happy with how it progressed me. I grew out of it but it took 2 years for me to do that and I had a LOT of fun in that time. I bought one for my girlfriend and 1 year in I’m sizing her down to a Surftech Softop 6′ 6″ board which IMO gives the best of both worlds…..I still surf a Softech 7′ board and my daughter has one as well which we love using (and love the FCS boxes which give a lot more fin options to the boards).

  13. Anwah
    Anwah says:

    Good advice. We use wavestorm, but we are seasoned surf family. I get what your saying. Our wavestorms get abused and end up waterlogged after 6 yrs. But if buyers are just planning on pushing their kids into waves for fun, Costco Wavestorm is good. However, if your 6’2″beginner going out on 5′ + size waves I could see the wavestorm busting in half.

  14. Bigbadbarney
    Bigbadbarney says:

    After all that dumb couch potato arguing.
    I just wanna make one thing clear.
    I like cake, ice cream, and farting but not always in that exact order. After a good session.

  15. ian
    ian says:

    Wavestorms are good did you not hear about a surfer riding a wavestorm at jaws and the leash didn’t even snap,and also the board didn’t break either AND ITS ONLY 99 DOLLARS THATS SO CHEAP. So i disagree about wavestorms are bad

  16. Skeptical
    Skeptical says:

    Funny. They dont even sell that 8ft SSR now. Storm Blade now sells the SAME shape as wavestorm in 8ft. Looks like they abandoned their “better” shape. Lol

    The article makes some good points but its honestly misleading in a lot of way as other commenters have already pointed out.

  17. RAY
    RAY says:

    I’ve been surfing since the 80s iam 68. Riding almost nothing but long boards. I’ve been having trouble with almost everthing popping up, timing, pearling even wave choice but once iam up its all good. I tryed my friends California fomi caught every wave i went for but I broke it in half the third day. Should I buy a wavestorm.?

    • Corky Carroll's Surf School
      Corky Carroll's Surf School says:

      Wavestorms are kind of hard to find these days. Costco doesn’t sell them anymore. Instead they sell the Gerry Lopez soft tops, which are very similar. Our suggestion is to see if you can find a used soft top, ideally a Storm Blade. They’re a little sturdier then the Wavestorms and Gerry Lopez soft tops. Also, Stormblades offer 9′ models which may more closely resemble the longboards you used to ride, as well as a wider model that makes popping up easier. Wavestorms and Gerry Lopez soft tops are mostly only 8′. Of course it’s all about what you have access to, so if the only soft tops you can find in your price range in your area are the ones sold at Costco then they’re not a bad second choice, but they will be a little more difficult to pop up on and are prone to breaking easier.

      If you live near Huntington Beach, swing by our surf shop (called Board Members). We’ll be able to walk through everything you need to know and help you find a board (whether through us or someone else) that perfectly suites where your surfing style.


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