Soft-Top Surfboards versus Hard-Top Surfboards

How did soft-top surfboards enter the world scene of surfing?

Let's flashback to 2006.  Soft-top surfboards first became available at Costco and were manufactured out of Taiwan by a company called AGIT Global.  Even at the approximate retail price of $120 USD, Costco's soft-top brand, called Wave Storm, was not exactly flying off the shelves.  Why?  Because back then, Soft-Top Surfboards where considered only for "noobie" beginners and kooks!

What changed?
Jamie O’Brien is responsible for that!  Jamie O’Brien is a popular professional free surfer from the North Shore of Hawaii.   Side point... the North Shore is very respected in the "surf world" for its incredible and dangerous wave, the Banzai Pipeline.  So what did this very experienced, well known and respected Pro Surfer do?  Well on an episode of his ongoing video series, "Who is JOB", O'Brian actually goes to a Costco and buys a Wave Storm soft-top surfboard as a joke. He asked the cashier, who didn’t recognize him as a professional surfer, that if he broke the board would he able to bring it back for a refund.  Being Costco, she replied "yes, as long as you have the receipt". Off went O'Brian with this cheap beginner board to the world famous Banzai pipeline to surf!

What happened??

It was unreal!  O'Brian did awesome and he fell in love with that soft-top surfboard.  Those who watched him at the pipeline, as well as the viewers of his video series, were convinced and the soft-top surfboard's popularity was born!  They flew off the shelves at every Costco in the United States and the price jumped from $120 USD to $250 USD.   

To meet the demand and to capitalize on the massive popularity of soft-top surfboards, new manufacturers started springing up.   One such manufacturer, Catch Surf, is now a sponsor of Jamie O'Brian and even has a special "Jamie O'Brian Collection".

So now you know the history of the Soft-Top Surfboard - what does that mean to you?

The soft top surfboard is an excellent, and recommended, choice for all beginner surfers.   I personally believe it has sharply reduced the amount of injuries for both the beginner surfer, as well as other surfers who may be hit by a wayward board while the beginner is learning.  As a very experienced surfer, who has surfed for over 50 years, I feel that anyone who wants to learn to surf should start on a soft-top surfboard.   This will help them to comfortably and safely learn the basics of surfing, as well as the etiquette of surfing.

There is, however, a word of caution:  You will find it hard to gain respect in the world of surfing, and accepted as a common surfer, if you stay on a soft top surfboard.   Why?  It is too easy to get comfortable on a soft-top and stay comfortable on a soft-top.   This is because of the fact that it is so much easier to get waves on this type of surfboard.   

Does that mean Pro Surfers don't use soft-top surfboards?   The answer is that they do, but often it’s a novelty for them, almost tongue-in-cheek, as well being entertaining for them.  It is never their "go to" choice for surfboard.

So in comes the Hard-Top Surfboard, or Hardboard. 

After you have learned the basics of surfing and you have caught your share of Bluewater waves, it is time to move to a hardboard surfboard.   What's the difference?  Soft-Top surfboards are made with an EPS foam core wrapped in either fiberglass or a synthetic wrap with a soft, dentable ethylene-vinyl acetate sheet on top.  In contrast, Hardboard surfboards are generally constructed of a Styrofoam blank with a wood stringer and fiberglass overlay.

So what's the advantage of a Hardboard Surfboard?  First off, there is no better feeling than catching a wave on a hardboard surfboard ... this is basically how it should be as that is the original way to surf.  Second, this type of surfing will take you to another level and challenge your abilities as a surfer!

The next decision you need to make is if you want to surf on a longboard or a short board.   There's no right or wrong decision.  Whether you choose a classic longboard style of surfing or the more radical high performance world of short boarding, either will be an expression of your own personal surfing style and what you enjoy.  No one style is better than the other, it's a matter of preference.

At the end of the day, Soft-Top Surfboards will always have place in the world of surfing.   They have opened up this incredible sport and made it accessible to a much wider audience than ever before.   So thank you Jamie O'Brien for having the guts to pull off one of the greatest jokes in surfing history - it has 100% changed the surfing landscape.

Are you interested in surfing or do you still consider yourself a beginner?   I encourage you to come down to the Huatulco Surf Company shop in Tangolunda, Huatulco.  Our very knowledge and experienced team would love to support you in your surfing journey!

Written by Randy Redmon