Home / Blog / Soft Top & Foam Surfboard Guide: The 8 Best of 2023

Soft Top & Foam Surfboard Guide: The 8 Best of 2023

May 04, 2023May 04, 2023

From seasoned surfers looking to get loose to first timers playing in white water, no surfer's quiver is complete without a humble foamie


Molly Lockwood

Molly Lockwood is a San Clemente, CA-based writer, photographer, and founder of women's surf magazine Sea Maven. Her work has also been featured in The Inertia among other publications.

No surfer's quiver is complete without a soft top—or foamie, as the catch-all genre of foam boards are often called. Whether you’re a seasoned old ripper or a beginner surfer setting foot in sea for the first time, there's something about a soft top surfboard that lends itself to creativity, inspiration, and pure stoke.

The wide array of riding styles espoused by soft top enthusiasts has led to an explosion of options on the market, with a growing trend of premium soft tops making the case that foamies are in fact fun for everyone.

So grab your favorite board shorts, swimsuit or bikini, and read on for a proper guide to soft top surfboards, including our top 8 picks for the best foam surfboards for any and skill levels. (Sorry SUP bros, no paddle boards here btw.)

Because foamies are all about fun and catching waves, waves, waves. They’re an invitation to not take yourself so seriously—and a great way to turn small waves into so much more.

On a soft top, you’ve got more buoyancy, improved paddling speed, less risk of damage or injury, and more freedom to go over the falls once in a while. They float like boats and increase your wave-catching power. Less precision, more experimentation. Less paddling, more waves. Less pressure, more fun. Isn't that what surfing is all about?

All foamies are soft tops, but not all soft tops are foamies. Both are typically made from expanded polystyrene (EPS foam), a lighter, more buoyant material than the polyurethane (PU) foam used in most traditional surfboards. Like hard fiberglass surfboards, soft tops often feature a wood stringer at the core for greater structural strength. The outer layer is where the distinctions begin.

Foamies, the gentle, cushiony surfboards evolved from boogie boards, are topped with an additional layer of foam material. As soft top technology has evolved, a new class of hybrid-style boards have emerged that replace the mushy foam deck with a thin layer of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or epoxy resin. This allows for more advanced design and maneuverability without sacrificing the easygoing, fun-forward characteristics of the soft top.

Foamies are typically favored for beginners thanks to the safety factor, stability, simplicity, and durability, while surfers looking to level up their technique or experiment with new styles will generally prefer the hybrid soft top models.

The ability of soft tops to take a beating is part of their appeal. Soft tops don't need to be babied like traditional boards, but taking care to wipe off sand and dirt, giving them a fresh water rinse after use, and keeping them out of direct sunlight will extend their lifespan (yes, that means not leaving them in your car!).

If you’re surfing your soft top to its fullest potential—or just unlucky—damage is inevitable. Be warned that most ding repair kits aren't made for soft foam material, so first and foremost, follow the manufacturer's instructions when your soft top needs a tuneup. Stay away from products like Solarez and Spongerez as these are laden with chemicals that can destroy your foam. A tube of Gorilla Glue or a hot glue gun are soft-top-safe options that can work wonders. If you’re really in a pinch, seal the cracks with some surf wax or duct tape and get back out there.

Whether or not you wax your soft top often comes down to personal preference and your board's deck material, as some boards are specifically designed to be used without wax. Check the specs first. For me, applying a little fresh wax before paddling out is a ritual that borders on superstition. I rarely go wax-free. If you’re on the fence, it doesn't hurt to stick a sliver of wax in your wetsuit or boardies just in case.Soft Top Pros and Cons

My first board was a Wavestorm that I shared (reluctantly) with my brother. We braved Northern California's frigid waters sans wetsuits and took turns paddling out for a wave, each shouting at the other in vain to come in when their time was up. It cost us a grand total of $150 and a tank of gas to get into surfing. No instructors, no tropical vacations, no current-season gear, no pro model accessories or wave pools—just a couple of teenagers and an empty, blown-out beach break, as nature intended.

Soft tops are easy to come by, affordable, and user-friendly. They show beginners the joy of surfing, and that is a beautiful thing.

With great paddle power comes great responsibility. Thanks to your run-of-the-mill superstore stocking cheap soft tops left and right, more people than ever before are empowered to take up surfing, and thus opting into the responsibilities all surfers share: most importantly, respecting the ocean and one another. Regardless of what kind of board you're on, the same rules apply to all. (i.e. Don't drop-in on someone who has the right of way. And if you get in someone's path, apologize and keep it moving.)

New surfers should always do their research, and salty veterans would do well to offer a kind word of advice to those running afoul of lineup rules. It's important to go out with someone who possessed knowledge of the local breaks, or at the least the ocean in general. Among the many reasons to support your local surf shop, employees should be able to point beginners in the right direction on which rental to get, what to wear, and where to go. And if you're beyond renting and looking to buy, we highly recommend finding a quality retailer or going second-hand whenever investing in a new board, foam or otherwise.

Finally, when it comes to deciding where to surf your soft top, go where the other soft toppers are. And always remember, foamies may be fun but the ocean is a terrifying place, so keep your wits about you, use the buddy system, and don't push your luck in conditions beyond your skill level.

Like most surfboards, soft tops have a significant environmental impact. Toxic chemicals, emissions, and non-biodegradable waste are all byproducts of the manufacturing process. Alternatives to non-renewable materials are few and far between (though a few companies, like Almond, do offer an in-house recycling program for their soft tops).

One way to mitigate your ecological footprint is to consider the complete product lifecycle. Buying used is a good place to start, and options are abundant: sites like Craigslist, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace flood with barely-used soft tops every summer and fall.

Pick a new or used soft top that lasts and treat it well. Splurging a bit on quality can save you money in the long run while preventing another cheap, waterlogged foamie from heading to the landfill. And when you’re ready to move on, donating your once-loved soft top to a community organization like Laru Beya, Benny's Club, STOKED, or Ebony Beach Club is a great way to give your board a new life while contributing to a more diverse surf culture.

We searched far and wide to find the ultimate beginner surfboard, and one stood out from all the rest: the humble yet excellent Liquid Shredder (as seen atop this article as ridden by Benny's Club co-founder Momo Otani-Hudes). Designed with the beginner experience in mind, this foamie is exceedingly even-keeled and forgiving. It catches waves with ease and provides a stable platform for learning to get to your feet. With safe, flexible screw-through fins and an included leash, it's the full package. This is a first board you can be proud of and keep in your quiver for years to come.

Price: $389Construction: True FoamieAvailable Lengths: 7’, 8’, 9’Fin Setup: Screw-through thruster


No soft top guide is complete without a nod to the original, the classic, the board nearly every surfer has history with: the venerable Wavestorm. But the Wavestorm has been dethroned by a more sophisticated budget board: the Gerry Lopez Soft Surfboard. Designed by Mr. Pipeline himself, this board is a great all-around soft top for any conditions and all ability levels. It's stable and buoyant without being unmanageably large. It comes with all the expected accessories and is slightly narrower, nimbler, and more trim than its predecessor. Though it may lack the advanced features of some higher-tier boards and won't be quite as long-lasting, you really can't go wrong with one of these if you’re looking for a low-cost entry point to surfing.

Price: $219.99Construction: True foamieAvailable Lengths: 8’Fin Setup: Screw-through thruster


Pushing the definition of a "soft top" is Almond, the hip, Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of attractive custom surfboards that in 2018 introduced surfing's first recyclable, USA-made foamie in the R-Series—and helped change the understanding of what a soft top surfboard could be and do. Now driving the burgeoning trend of premium soft tops with five distinct shapes/sizes ranging from a 9’2 log to a 5’4 fun board, the R-Series claims "low maintenance, high-performance" with rugged (and strikingly black) high density closed-cell foam construction, "real" rounded rails, universal fin boxes, and a textured deck pad that doesn't require wax.

Price: $399 - $699Construction: High density closed-cell foam with traction no wax-deck padAvailable Lengths: 5’4, 6’4, 8’0, 9’2Fin Setup: Universal single fin, thruster, and quad


Catch Surf has a cult following, and for good reason: their innovative designs have inspired a generation of rippers who are loyal to the foam. The Jamie O-Brien collection nothing but ~90's vibes~. While the fish tail Skipper is one of their most popular models—and one that we dig. With ample volume and a sleek design, it's a stable and versatile option perfect for those looking to transition to a shorter board. (Ed Note: Catch various Field Mag editors and contributors surfing CatchSurf foamies at Rockaway Beach year round.)

Price: $349.99Construction: True foamieAvailable Lengths: 5’6, 6’0, 6’6Fin Setup: Screw-through thruster or quad


The Oceanside, CA-made INT 7’ Classic surfboard is midlength perfection. It hits the subtle sweet spot between easy paddling and high shredability that advanced surfers covet and beginners can use to fast-track their learning. With an emphasis on high grade materials and quality construction, this board is a strong contender for the best overall softop. Go for the upgraded version with Futures fin boxes instead of the included plastic fins for a customizable experience. And if you’re just getting started or a midlength doesn't suit your fancy, opt for one of the larger sizes.

Price: $484-504Construction: True foamieAvailable Lengths: 7’, 8’, 9’Fin Setup: Futures fin boxes or standard plastic fins


Known for quality craftsmanship that's built to last, Crime surfboards are on par with traditional boards performance-wise while maintaining the creativity of soft top culture. The unique design combines high-grade, epoxy-glassed materials with a textured foam top layer that eliminates the need for wax. Throw in conventional fins and you’re in for a soft top experience unlike any other. The Involvement Single Fin is a gorgeous old-school log with a modern twist. Whether you’re posting up on the nose, throwing sweeping cutbacks, or just learning the ropes, this is a compelling choice at a competitive price point for true longboards.

Price: $850Construction: Hybrid epoxy glass with foam skinAvailable Lengths: 9’1, 9’4, 9’8Fin Setup: Standard single fin


Skatey, slidy, speedy, and squirrelly, the Mason Twin is high volume fun for the intermediate or advanced surfer. It's compatible with any FCS II fins and can be configured as a twin fin or two-plus-one setup. If you want to break up the monotony of your quiver without breaking the bank, look no further.

Price: $375Construction: Hybrid foam with durable rigid deckAvailable Lengths: 5’6, 5’10Fin Setup: FCS II Softflex Fins, twin fin, or thruster


With Hollywood celebs and surf industry hotshots backing 88, it's easily the most buzzy board brand on the list. The elusive Australian brand encourages riders to do a lot more than just stand on its boards: lie, kneel, sit, spin, downward dog—maybe even go finless and slide around willy-nilly. They don't have a website, but their Vimeo channel is fully stocked and endlessly entertaining. But finding one isn't easy—without a network of dealers, one must slide into the DMs of @88surfboards on Instagram to source a board.

Price: $400-600Construction: True foamieAvailable Lengths: Inquire with dealerFin Setup: Inquire with dealer


Care for some surfboard inspo? Check out our recent photo essay from the Vans Duct Tape longboard festival in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Published 06-01-2023

Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: Price: Construction: Available Lengths: Fin Setup: