In the Store: Buying a board off the rack in a surf shop can save you time but not necessarily money.
Custom models are hand-shaped to fit your body and surfing style but take a month or more to make. If you don't live near a good shaper, you'll pay around $100 extra to have it delivered.
Beginners should stick with boards that are thicker and longer with rounded outlines: Think seven feet four inches to nine feet. All boards reviewed here are available in multiple lengths.
In the Field: If you ding your board, get it patched immediately; the water can damage the core.
At Home: Always keep your stick in a protective bag or board sock to avoid inadvertent bumps and bangs.