Best Surfboard Brands
With hundreds (thousands if you count independent shapers) of surfboard brands on the market today, and more arriving all the time, you'd be forgiven for thinking the task of picking out the best surfboard was simply impossible.
However, if you have a good idea of your budget and what you're looking for in a new board, it's easy enough to narrow down your search to just those manufacturers whose strengths match your needs. Whether you want a budget beginner board, a high-performance shortboard, a retro fish, or a hybrid, choosing the right brand will set you on the path to finding your perfect stick.
So, here is my rundown of the best surf brands and their offerings.
The 8 Best Foam Surfboard Brands
At a glance:
#1 Best build quality - South Bay Board Co. →
#2 Best for beginners - Wavestorm →
#3 Most versatile - Liquid Shredder →
#4 Best bargain - Giantex →
#5 Best for style - Odysea →
#6 Best kids shortboards - Kona Surf Co. →
#7 Best for intermediates - Thurso Surf →
#8 Best hard-soft hybrid - Froth Boardworks →
#1 Best build quality - South Bay Board Co.
SBBC have become synonymous with quality when it comes to soft-top surfboard construction.
They use a range of premium materials, including wood laminate fiberglassed bases on many of their most popular boards.
Although some of the kids and beginner models are made more simply, they're still a cut above the equivalents from most other brands.
It's not just the build quality that gets me excited about these boards though, SBBC put as much thought into their designs as their construction.
There are shapes to suit pretty much every level and style of surfing imaginable, from kids' boards like the Guppy all the way up to an 8'8" longboard.
My personal favorite offering is the Mahi quad fish: small, fast, loose, and a ridiculous amount of fun.
#2 Best for beginners - Wavestorm
Having been in the foam board business for over 15 years, Wavestorm are one of the most recognizable and best-selling brands on the market.
With sales regularly reaching hundreds of thousands per year, there must be something attracting customers to the surfing arm of Agit Global.
The answer is simply, value.
There are lots of cheap surfboards out there, but Wavestorm consistently hit the sweet spot between having a product worth buying and making it cheaply enough to attract customers.
Although they do offer a 5'8" Fish design, there are better options out there in that size range.
Where Wavestorm come into their own are their 8' and 9' beginner models. Big, friendly, and forgiving, they're just what new surfers need.
Wavestorm may not have the bells and whistles of a "premium" brand like SBBC but beginners really just want a board that works, and these do the job just great. Plus, well over a million happy customers can't all be wrong.
#3 Most versatile - Liquid Shredder
Peruvian-based Liquid Shredder have been making foam surf craft for over 20 years and, unlike many of the other surfboard brands in my review, they have made a serious attempt at dominating both ends of the market.
At their most basic, models like the EZ-Slider and Blackball are fun shapes with basic construction and accessories.
These budget boards work well, although they aren't built to last forever and aren't really ideal for those seeking high performance.
However, Liquid Shredder also have two higher tier ranges, Hybrid and Hi-tech.
Hybrid boards such as the Ghost series use aluminum stringers for extra stiffness without unnecessary weight.
This allows for a slimmer shape, especially in terms of tapering into the rails.
The top-end Hi-tech boards are further reinforced with carbon fiber and use an FCS-compatible fin system, giving an end product comparable to the best premium brands such as SBBC and Froth Boardworks.
#4 Best bargain - Giantex
Giantex make everything. Practically any sort of household items, outdoor equipment, sporting goods or beach accessories you can imagine rolls out of one of their factories somewhere. So how does making washing machines and trampolines help a company to make surfboards?
The answer's simple enough; manufacturing experience and economy of scale.
In other words, Giantex buy vast enough quantities of the relevant materials to keep the price down and knows about every possible way to shape and combine those materials.
Okay, so they're not really a surfboard brand as such. They only produce a basic 6' learner model, and the shape is not exactly subtle or refined.
But why should you care? When you're buying a board at these prices it's all about fun and games, not performance surfing.Buy one, buy two, hell, buy a six-pack of them and get the whole family (plus dog) out in the water. Isn't that what surfing's really about?
#5 Best for style - Odysea
Odysea are the board division of the Catch Surf brand. Similarly to Liquid Shredder, they have boards in all sorts of styles and to suit a wide range of budgets.
The strength and durability of Odysea boards are good but nothing particularly special compared to some others in this highly competitive market.
So why do Odysea make the list? It's their collaborations which really give this company an edge.
They've teamed up with industry giants such as: North Shore legend Jamie O'brien, former CT regulars Taj Burrow and Kalani Robb, master shaper Matt "Mayhem" Biolos (Lost), etc. to produce signature series boards.
These are as varied as they are brilliant, as you'd expect when informed by some of the best surfers and shapers around.
If that wasn't cool enough, many of the Odysea team models feature insanely brilliant artwork by Santa Cruz, Welcome, and others. They look every bit as good as they ride and, while I'd never go so far as to claim buying a soft top surfboard will make you instantly cool or help your dating prospects...
#6 Best kids shortboards - Kona Surf Co.
Kona Surf Co. started out as a hard top surfboard shaping company, started by East Coast surf veteran Mike Sciarra way back in 1969.
Decades of shaping experience have helped Kona make the transition into the world of soft tops, where they've shown little interest in just churning out basic beginner surfboards in classic shapes.
Their two shortboard models, in 4'4" and 5'5" pack a surprising amount of foam, the latter being a great little shredder even for adults.
They do also make a learner's Malibu model, but even this board has a couple of fun twists such as a swallowtail and high fin separation for maximum speed and stability.
The only negative thing I would say about the soft boards from Kona is there are other manufacturers with similar shapes in higher-end materials. That said, they tend to be a lot more expensive and Kona Surf co. are definitely one of the best surfboard brands in their price bracket.
#7 Best for intermediates - Thurso Surf
Thurso Surf are primarily an SUP company whose first forays into making surfboards, the Aero 7' beginners funboard and Lancer 5'10" fish, have proved surprisingly popular with beginners and intermediates respectively.
The company's watersports pedigree shows in the durability of the boards, with a similar EPS core and multiple stringer construction as many other trusted manufacturers.
In terms of price point, these sit somewhere between the budget options like Wavestorm and higher-end models e.g. SBBC, which is also a fair indication of their quality and longevity.
If your last board was an 8' or 9' Wavestorm, the Aero is the ideal next step on your journey towards shortboard surfing.
#8 Best hard-soft hybrid - Froth Boardworks
Boardworks are another surfboard brand who originally specialized in stand up paddleboards.
Their Froth! division currently produce two soft top performance shortboard (in 5' and 5'6") along with 7' and 8' thruster funboards and a 9' single-fin longboard. As with most of these SUP crossover companies, their surfboard construction is strong and durable.
In fact, these aren't really even soft boards at heart. Boardworks make maple-stringered epoxy hardboards, then wrap the top surface in a soft HDPE skin to combine fiberglass board performance with soft top safety. What this process allows is significantly more refined designs.
Even the larger boards hide their foam in the middle, before tapering out to fairly thin rails, allowing much better carving opportunities than most. The shortboards are very lively indeed and I'd highly recommend them for those with advancing young teenage surfers especially.
The 4 Best Hard Top Surfboard Brands
#1 My personal favorite - Pyzel Surfboards
Jon Pyzel shapes boards for John John Florence, Jack Freestone and Tyler Wright, amongst others.
The Hawaiian surfboard brand have proved their credentials at the very top level of competition and anyone looking for high performance surfboards would be well advised to stick a Pyzel under their feet.
But what about us mere mortals? Well, I ride a Pyzel (Phantom 6'2") as my daily driver and it's so good the rest of my quiver are starting to feel a bit left out.
Based on the JJF Ghost but with a little more foam under the chest, it's surprisingly easy to paddle for such a fast, loose shortboard.
Pyzel also shape everything from fish to longboards, and if they're anywhere near as good as the board I'm riding you're in for a real treat!
#2 Best for your local beachie - Lost Mayhem
Matt Biolos is one of the biggest names in surfboard shaping. So why are professionals and amateurs alike desperate to put one of his boards in their quiver?
Well, the Lost Mayhem board brand are based in San Clemente California. The surf's pretty good there (if you didn't already know) but it's not Hawaii or Indo.
There are a lot of beach breaks and at certain times of the year the waves can be pretty average.
Matt knows this, and many of his most popular designs are very much aimed at the waves that most of us are faced with in reality, rather than just those of our dreams.
I've had one of his older models, a Sub Scorcher, a few years back.
It was Kolohe Andino's small wave competition model at the time and it made quite a few bad days into THE BEST days. The current crop are just as good by all accounts.
#3 Most consistent - Channel Islands Surfboards
This California board company, brainchild of renowned designer Al Merrick, has a pedigree going all the way back to the 1960s and they're still at the forefront of performance and innovation today.
You can see this reflected in their extensive team of pro riders.
From veterans like Tom Curren and Lisa Anderson, to current idols Sage Erikson, Lakey Peterson, Dane Reynolds and Yadin Nicol, there are a lot of famously stylish names who put their faith in the crew at Channel Islands Surfboards over any other brands.
An excellent all around surfboard company, I've ridden a few from their POD Mod groveler to a couple of step-ups and loved them all.
You can't go far wrong with one of these, regardless of your ability level.
#4 Best for heavy surf - JS Industries
Andy Irons was one of the best surfers in the world, ever, and he loved JS Industries surfboards.
Versions of his personal boards still sit in their lineup amongst more recent models made for the likes of Julian Wilson and Jeremy Flores.
I'm pretty sure every single surfer in Australia has at least one of these in their quiver.
JS Industries boards are especially renowned for how well they go in the big stuff, and with so many West Coast chargers on their books it's no surprise.
So, if you're shopping for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Mentawais or Fiji, you might want to think about picking up a JS before you catch the plane.
What's the best surfboard for a beginner?
A big one. Go with as much foam as you can, as long as it's not too wide for you to get your arms over and paddle properly. Stability and buoyancy are key to learning the basics and you can always opt for something smaller as you start to improve.
What is the most expensive surfboard?
The Rampant, by Roy Stuart, is shaped from paulownia wood, has a 24-carat gold Lion insert, and a staggering price tag of $1.3M!
How much is a good quality surfboard?
Assuming you mean a board that will surf well and last more than a few months, the prices vary wildly but don't expect too much from a board under $200.
What surfboard is the best?
The one that suits you best. Your ability and size, the waves you are going to be surfing, and your budget all need to be considered when making your selection. Browse some of my other reviews for more detailed advice and I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for.
OUR #1 PICK - South Bay Board Co