I’m often asked “what type of soft surfboard should I buy?” And the obvious answer is: that depends on what you want to do with it! However, I can get you some advice on what shape and size would fit your type of surfing. To help you decide on what to try, I’ve put together some descriptions of different shapes, plus videos of amateur surfers riding them.
The great thing is: the past years a wide range of new soft boards have entered the market. Ten years ago it were primarily the surf schools that worked with foamies. Soft boards were a safe and hassle free alternative to the 8’0 and 9’0 sturdy NSP and BIC boards. The shapes were basically mini malibus. Round nose and tail, nothing too innovative. Since the soft top revolution in the 2010s a ton of cool and diverse shapes have been added to the market. Egg shapes, beaters, logs, fishes, you name it! Just like normal PU surfboards, foamies come in all shapes and sizes. There is no right or wrong. Traditionally, longer mini mals were for beginners and short, narrow boards for the advanced surfer. But I think this stereotype is outdated. You’ll see really adept surfers getting barreled on 8’0 mini mals and intermediate weekend surfers cruising down the line on 5’8 fish foamies. Ultimately, the key to finding the right board is determining how you will use it and what board will help you have the most fun in the water!
Beater or Mini Simmons
The ultra short soft top board for steep hollow waves. Almost all soft top surf brands have one in their range. Decathlon has the Olaian 5’4, an attractively priced twin fin. Catch surf has the Beater. Softdog has the Jack Russel. All are designed for the advanced surfer that loves to ride the shorebreak. What you have to keep in mind regarding these ultra short foamies is that when paddling into a wave, the boards’ tail is somewhere around your knees. As a result, you’ll feel the push of the wave is a bit later than you’d expect on a regular funboard. This type of board will thus work better if you have a quick pop up. See some footage of an ultra small foamie in action here.
The great thing about the 6’0 soft tops is that they feel just like a regular shortboard but then…meaty. The longboarder vs shortboarder division is a bit outdated in my opinion, but you cannot deny that they encompass two totally different styles of riding. Most of the shortboard fanatics we know get psyched on throwing radical turns. But with the foam equivalent of the small egg-shapes – it’s all about flow. We surfed the 6’0 egg by Olaian – and we’re pretty positive about it. You can even do some hang 5’s .. .on a 6 ft board! And another benefit: In contrast to mini malibus and longboard foamies – you can actually duck dive these small eggs. For me that was a requirement in selecting my soft top. Here’s a POV of a nice rightie on a 5’8 SofTech.
Fish surfboards are popular because the tail shape allows you to catch waves really early. When the sea offers medium height and a bit of steepness, a fish is a good choice. Fish boards generally have little rocker – which makes it easier to generate speed in small waves. The split tail supports round turns and smooth transitions. It turns out that a fish or swallow tail works pretty well on foam boards as well! And they look…delicious! To get an idea of how these boards perform in the water check out this video of a guy surfing the Odysea Skipper 5’6 quad.
If you’re stoked on riding a fish foamie, continue reading in our article about the Best Fish Soft Tops. And: did you know that one of my all time favorite soft tops is a fish? It’s designed by a famous (ex) pro surfer. You can read about my experience here.
Mini Malibus are generally between the 6′ and 8′ ft in length and have a rounded- longboard like shape. The great thing about foam mini mals is that you can ride compact boards like you’d normally ride longboards. That makes them popular among loggers. Also, for beginners a rounded 7′ or 8′ foam board is probably the best option. Duckdiving isn’t an option, really, but there are plenty of other ways of muscling your board through the whitewater. Here’s a video of French surf vlogger Luka Lacoste and his friends sharing 1 ft waves on Olaian mini mals.
Riding a longboard can be so much fun. We love to ride foam longboards on small waves: do some tandem boarding, goof around… But we’ve seen some guys hit serious overhead waves with foam logs! A longboard starts from 8′ ft. Where most hand-shaped longboards have single-fin setups, foam longboards generally come with a three-fin setup. We haven’t found a single fin longboard foamie yet.. give us a shout out if you do! Just how much fun longboarding a foamie can be is aptly demonstrated by this guy in Peru.
Foamiecrew, there are a bunch of landlocked surfers searching out stationary river waves to surf. A good portion of us river surf these rocky river waves with durable foamie boards. I live in Denver, Colorado and currently the president of Colorado River Surfing Association, a non-profit promoting river surfing and the creation of river waves. Check us out at http://coloradoriversurfing.org/. We surf all sizes if foamie in the rivers depending on the wave. Here I am surfing a 8’ INT longboard at a spot called Dave’s Wave near Denver, Colorado that is surfable everyday since the water flow is increased there from the local water treatment plant effluent (sounds dirty but the water is actually safe). https://youtu.be/SavdsHuF8TU
David, appreciate your message and video! That left wave sure looks like fun (and looks like it’s definitely a Foamie wave!) How do you like the INT 8′? We have been thinking about writing a piece on soft tops and river surfing for a while, thing is, we never rode a river wave. Interested in doing an article together?