I often get the question: Should I buy a soft top surfboard? And despite the tremendous innovation around foamies, I would still say it’s not for everyone. There are several reasons to buy a soft top surfboard. Soft top surfboards have some clear benefits over regular surfboards. We’ve put together this little guide to help you answer the question “Should I get a soft top surfboard?”
#1. Catching waves in bad weather conditions
A soft top is generally wider and broader than its epoxy or fiberglass equivalent. The best indicator to how well a surfboard floats, is the amount of liters a surfboard has. A normal 6’0 PU board might have 30 liters while a 6’0 soft top might have 45 liters of volume. The more volume, the more float and buoyancy. Hence, a common saying in surfing is foam is your friend!
When the waves small – chances are that the guy on the soft top will catch more waves than the guy on the narrow shortboard. More volume allows you to ride longer waves, as it requires less energy to float. In other words, extra volume will allow you to cover flat sections.
The same applies when there is wind. Onshore and cross shore winds create choppy waves. A foamie will allow a surfer to paddle earlier and muscle through bumpy rides.
All in all, a soft top board will allow you to surf more days – as you can still have fun when the conditions aren’t epic. However, when the waves are glassy and hollow – boards with high volume are probably not be the best option. Longboarding in barreling waves is really difficult. To sum up: On your foamie you will have tons of fun in small and fat waves!
#2. Conquer crowded surf spots with ease
If your home spot is a city beach it makes sense to ride a soft top board. I wish that more people would ride one. This will definitely decrease the amount of painful collisions in the water.
We all know this feeling when a 10 foot hard shell SUP enters the crowded lineup. This can’t be good! Or foil boards – even worse. There are already municipalities, like that of Anglet, that have forbidden foil boards in the lineup (source: Surfertoday). Plus: I see more and more people with helmets on. Is that really where we’re heading?
Should we make our heads harder or our boards softer, I ask?
On a summer Saturday chances are that there’ll be loads of people in the lineup. I prefer to ride a foamie. Just as much fun, less hassle.
#3. Get your board safely through commutes and bike rides
When I see hand crafted €1000 longboards in the surf shop I always think: Beautiful, but how are you going to get it to the actual beach? We don’t all own beach front properties.
For most surfers, a large part of their surfing life consists of getting to the beach and back. Whether your weekly trip to the sea includes a bike, a van, a tram or a bus – you’re going to ding your beloved board – eventually.
As said, foamies are light weight and can handle dings much better then hard boards.
Soft tops are a good option if you transport your board by bike to the beach regularly. I have to admit I dropped my foam board once. But it only had a few scratches. If I had dropped my epoxy board on the concrete like that, I would have to get it repaired for sure!
#4. Avoiding dings and surfboard repairs
High performance surf boards crack easily. A collision with another surfboard could mean expensive repair costs to fix the epoxy or fiberglass coating. And the worst thing is: if you crack the top layer of your board, water can enter the inner part of the board and soak the foam. This can make your surfboard heavier – even after the repair. When the top layer is seriously cracked, you better keep the board out of the water. Imagine pristine blue sets rolling in, and you have to end your session right then and there.
We’ve increasingly seen surf brands work with closed-cell foam instead of open-cell foam. This technology avoids that water enters the foam cells. This saves you from abandoning an epic session, but you’ll still have to get your board to a surfboard repair.
If you’re regularly going on surf trips you also should consider bringing a foamie as your weapon of choice. Every surfer I know has had the unpleasant experience of unpacking their board after a long flight and finding cracks and dings at the rails. Sure, you can turn to your travel insurance for help, but besides the financial side it’s just a bad start of your trip.
On road trips you might want to tie your board on the roof of your car. With the right roof racks and padded board bags you’ll be able to transport your boards easily across the continent.
When strapping your foamie on the roof rack you have to make sure that you apply pressure. However, too much pressure can result in pressure dings on your PU board. Soft tops are more flexible and resistant to pressure marks.
Do soft tops degrade at all? Soft top surf boards wear out, just like any other item that you use regularly. There’s not much you have to do in terms of maintenance – just make sure you get any cuts or cracks repaired. Read about how to repair a soft board here.
#5. Surfing rocky spots on low tide
The soft top revolution really took off when some high profile professional surfers started riding foamies.
Pro surfers like Jamie O’Brien and Kalani Robb have tons of really fun videos of them surfing ridiculous breaks (I wouldn’t even call them surf spots) on soft tops. The soft top allows them to surf tricky reefs without having to throw away their precious board after each session. Some pro surfers are seriously into foamies, as you can read here.
Now, I’m not saying that when you get yourself on a foamie you can do reef hops like Kalani, but for experienced surfers it is proven that soft tops definitely open up a whole new playground.
I’ve noticed that at my home break at low tide most surfers leave the water. The waves crash on the shallow sand bottom and become tricky and even dangerous to ride. On a soft top I feel confident in riding shallow shore breaks.
- First, because the foamie is more resistant to impact from the sandbank.
- Second, because on several occasions the steep lip of the wave slammed me on my own board. This is the reason that on steep shore breaks, such as the world-class break The Wedge in California, short foamies have become a everyday sight.
#6. One multi purpose board for the whole family
I still have an emotional scar of that day I let my best friend ride my new fish board and she managed to get a 10 cm hole in it. That hurt so bad. It also taught me…
Now I know better. If we’re going to surf together, you’re getting my soft top!
A foamie is not only easier to ride for beginners – both kids and grown-ups alike – but is also less risky. A 7’0 or 8’0 foam board can be a great toy for surfers of all abilities and thus makes an essential part of a social surfers’ quiver. Because soft tops have a better resistance to holes and cracks it makes it easier to lend them out. That’s why you see more surf schools switching to soft top quiver. It saves them so much work on ding repairs!
#7. Riding a foamie will challenge you to try new things
This is the truth: Since I started riding my Olaian 6′ my surfing has gotten more playful. I surfed without a leash (don’t recommend).
I’ve surfed my board backwards (do recommend) and I have swapped my board with friends in the water (do recommend).
I have this new habit of skimboarding the board through the shoreline before I paddle out. Because there’s less harm in the board, I goof around a lot more.
We have a joke among my mates that is: If you ride a foamie you’re allowed to drop in. However I don’t recommend this! Really!
Should I buy a foamie? Probably not, if:
You’re a talented surfer wanting to improve your turns, then, 9 out of 10 times, a hard board is better for you. If you feel confident in your take-offs and you want to get better in rail-to-rail surfing a skatey shortboard is likely to be a better option. A foamie is so much fun, but generally slower in turns and cutbacks. If this applies to you, I really recommend getting a custom shaped ride. Talk to your local shaper. He or she can shape a board that is perfect for your progression.
I have just bought a foamie and I doesn’t fit into my car. That’s why I am thinking about tranporting it on my roof rack. I am asking myself if it is stable enough or if the wind can break the board when going fast? Do I need a board bag?
Thanks for helpful advice!
Nice article and website!
Do see any benefit to switch to a “hard” surfboard with the similar volume of a softboard?
Hi Tom! Softboards usually have a higher volume even though shape and size look similar. If you want comparable riding experiences, you should probably try a smaller softboard than your usual hard surfboard!