If you live in California, you can agree that the hurricane swells on the West Coast are total duds.
I mean, they’re too steep, too violent, and too far away.
But not Hurricane Marie.
It was probably the best hurricane swell to have ever hit California in the last decade.
At its peak, Marie arrived with a high-pressure system, resulting in warm, glassy conditions- it was a huge day for waves, the likes of which surfers haven’t seen since.
And that’s not even the best part!
Hurricane swells are on the rise year by year, and if global warming will be sending us the southern hemi hurricanes quite as often, at least there’s a benefit from climate change.
I know it’s dark humor there, but over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the best run of legit swells, perfect for surfing and other water sports.
Unfortunately, most surfers are usually undergunned on the surf swell.
They usually don’t have enough boards, so their experience on the water feels more like surviving than surfing.
See, if you’re riding a heavy beach break, where you paddle a lot, pump hollow waves, and deal with more elements, you probably want a board with a little more length than you can cover more ground with.
Otherwise, if you don’t, the bigger waves will pass you without asking whether you need a lift or steamroll you regardless of how hard you scratch for it.
And sometimes, if you can’t match the speed of the wave well enough to gain forward momentum down to the face, it’s easy to get caught up in the lip and get an all-inclusive paid trip to Davey Jone’s locker.
Invest is a step-up surfboard.
A step-up, as its name suggests, is a bigger board than your standard shortboard that helps you catch waves with its planing speed.
It can handle the bigger stuff, effortlessly lifting you up and out of the water while improving your speed.
The perfect step-up surf isn’t necessarily the longest but simply a transition from your most frequently ridden daily board. For example, if you ride a high-performance shortboard, your step-up should be high-performance as well.
Now, if you need a step-up surf that will help you paddle-power faster, with less effort, and give you more planning performance, here’s a review of my favorite step-ups.
Table of Contents
The Best Step Up Surfboards For The Money
#1 7S Superfish 4 PU Step Up board - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Our top pick, the 7S Superfish 4 PU Step Up board helps improve your wave count during the summer doldrums and enhances riding performance.
It’s an amalgamation of the Superfish 3 shape, with some old design features from the past.
While it’s targeted at surfer’s looking for a high volume board shape, it’s a great step-up offering, perfect for those looking for greater stability and turning response.
The first thing you’ll notice with the Superfish is the step-deck design. It’s an important design element as it gives this board the girth it needs to float you into the larger waves while giving the feel of a thinner rail board.
While it doesn’t have the freakish wave magnetism of a shortboard, it offers more maneuverability, typical of fish surfboards.
It’s super-fast and loose, a department where typical fish boards falter. Plus, it has a similar performance to a traditional surfboard, turning quickly off the top and transitioning smoothly from top to bottom along the wave face.
Meanwhile, the 7S Superfish design also promotes better performance on the bigger swells and large waves.
The flat bottom and full-length concave leading to a dual concave near the rounded pintail require less speed and power to keep the board level. It generates less friction on the small swells but may not be ideal for the hollower waves or late drops/re-entries requiring you to fit into the more extreme curve of the first wave.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t matter for riders on the swell. Superfish is a great option for any level riders and would be particularly handy for beginners who have difficulty catching the big waves.
#2 Chilli Hot Knife TT Step Up board - All-Around Option
The Chilli Hot Knife combines two of Peri Peri’s much-beloved bottom contours, the Peri Peri and Stepdown 2.
This creates a super forgiving board that can only be described as a full-figured and all-rounder shortboard.
Despite being full-figured, Chilli’s has the same width as the original versions, and volume is distributed evenly, with forgiving but no bulky rails.
My favorite feature on this surfboard is the common rail and a fast-medium rocker. It allows for smooth transitions even when accelerating over the swells and helps you get into the wave easier and earlier.
Thanks to the classic outline with a slight hip, turning with this bad boy is also never an issue. It helps make the board more agile, especially during turns.
Meanwhile, the single to double concave contours derived from the Peri-Peri model blend well with the squash tail design. This combo creates great paddle speed from take-off and offers excellent controls to surfers and rail-to-rail transitions.
I also admire this step up for its exceptional performance. The flatter rounded pintail rocker with exit vee promotes a continual speed, translating to an effortless ride.
Overall, the Chilli is a great step up, ideal for intermediate surfers. You can choose from a wide variety of sizing ranging from 5’6” to 6’4”.
#3 Walden Mega Magic 2 X2 - Best for 6 Foot Waves/ Bigger Waves
The Walden Mega Magic 2 is an updated version of the Mega Magic.
It shares the design aspect of the original model but with added volume.
The extra volume helps with stability and float, yet, it retains the maneuverability and performance of a shortboard.
There’re other improvements too!
For example, the nose is slightly pulled in. It doesn’t affect the nose riding performance as we thought; instead, the narrower design allows it to perform even better for top riding on the bigger waves and swells to bottom riding.
You’ll also notice that the manufacturer took out the step rails from the board, and this is a plus in my books as it creates smoother transitions from swell to swell. The thinner rail has greater sensitivity, feel and control.
The board’s single concave base, consisting of chines and singles, is well-engineered to create a board with great lift and paddle speed. Mega Magic 2 hardly takes a dip into the water, even at high speeds.
Plus, it has excellent maneuverability, so you’ll always catch waves, including the six-foot wave, while avoiding obstacles.
The manufacturer has also paid attention to the construction and choice of material. The SLX construction, consisting of epoxy materials, has the added benefit of reduced weight. The board feels very sensitive under your feet and is responsive enough to be used in various conditions.
#4 Modern Highline PU Step Up - Best for Stability
The Modern Highline is designed with buoyancy in mind.
It’s the perfect introductory board for surfers who need to up their confidence in the rough waters. In fact, according to the manufacturer, the Highline re-defines the first steps in surfing so that new riders can develop their skills quickly while maximizing the joy they derive from riding a big wave.
Highline’s outline is key to its amazing stability. The middle section has the performance properties of a longboard, and even after reducing the dimension of the board, Highline still makes it easier to manage side-to-side turning and stay afloat.
Performance on the water is equally impressive, thanks to the flat, low, fish-style rocker. It means this board paddles quickly in and out of the waves. Plus, it maintains your speed once you’re up and riding. The net result is it’s effortless to get the board going.
Paddling and taking off is also a breeze as the forward concave contours help channel the water efficiently across the flat rocket.
I also love that this board comes with lots of volume along the full length and width of the foil. Yet, it has sufficient taper through the nose, which helps avoid the ‘boat feel.’ Instead, it’s forgiving and will allow you to glide across the face of the wake as you connect your turns.
#5 Form Flow Stik Pro surfboard - Best “Longboard” Step Up
Form Flow Stik Pro surfboard is without a doubt one of the exciting surfboards on the market.
It not only looks sexy but has the performance to back it up.
For me, at least, I find it easy to surf, cruise down the line, and take on the big hard carves.
The feeling of a longer board is also great as it makes surfing so much fun and nice.
Of course, at 6.6, I was a bit hesitant because I thought the volume would be too high, but once I tried it, it blew my mind.
It made riding a lot easier, and getting over the steeper punchy waves is easier, but it goes over small conditions quite as well.
Considering the length, it’s also easier to do snaps if you’re right at the back or big carves.
Plus, the Flow Stik’s quality is unmatched, and the curved tail allows it to work well in a range of conditions.
Meanwhile, the wide nose got me stoked because I can effortlessly paddle-power in smaller weaker waves, and still manage to fly and surf bigger waves.
Overall, I can’t fault this board. It’s lightweight, super-fast, yet it still turns hard.
Best Step Up Surfboards Buying Guide
I’ll share everything you need to know about the best step-up boards in the buying guide below.
By the end of the guide, you’ll have an idea of what to consider in your next purchase decision.
Characteristics of a Step-up Board
We’ll start by looking at typical features of a step-up surfboard.
Generally, most surfers describe step-ups as a type of surfing board with more volume and length than a standard shortboard.
The best step-up surfboard offers greater maneuverability and surf.
This type of board also has more length and volume. Typically, three to eight extra inches of added length are compared to your standard shortboard.
A step-up surfboard’s appearance is similar to that of your favorite board, only that it’s narrower in the tail and nose and thicker.
When to Use a Step-Up Surfboard
There’re a lot of divergent opinions concerning when to use a step-up surfboard. And everyone is entitled to their opinion since it’s where they find the step-up surfboard best used, and there’s no wrong board for a step-up.
But regardless of the varying opinions, all surfers use step-up surfboards to pursue the same goal; to tackle the enormous waves that their shortboards can’t handle.
See, while a shortboard can withstand overhead waves, it can only do so much- its ability isn’t infinite. There’re times you need a step-up surfboard to paddle the double overhead waves.
But this isn’t to mean step-up surfboards can handle just about any size of the wave. No.
As its name implies, they’re just a step-up of your normal shortboard, perfect for handling a little more massive waves.
You need to account for the size and shape of the wave. Timing and the right position are also important.
So, how do you know it’s time to upgrade?
One sign that you need a step-up surfboard is when you already feel loose and uncontrollable on your current surfboard, especially when the wave gets bigger.
Take note that bigger boards aren’t always the best.
The ideal step-up surfboard should be long enough for maneuverability and short enough to penetrate the waves. If you choose a longer board than you should, you might be at a disadvantage because of the wave’s obstacles.
Simply put, the ideal step-up board should just be a slight extension and perfect for tackling the enormous waves than the ones you typically surf with your shortboard.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Step Up- How to Choose the Right Board
Having a step-up is a great addition to your quiver because of what it can do.
But what are the factors to consider when selecting a step-up?
Consider Fin Setup
You don’t need to think about changing your fin’s positioning or use smaller fins when using a step-up.
Instead, your goal should be buying an option that offers less flex than your original board.
Generally, the best fin setups constructions are carbon fiber twin fins or tech flex.
Paddle speed isn’t important when surfing in a step-up rocker because the big waves generate it.
However, having an extra rocker is necessary for effortless carving.
Choosing the Right Contours
Again, speed isn’t an issue with step-ups, so the board’s bottom contours will play an important role in how well you can keep up with the pace and gain more control on the water.
What You Need to Know About Step-Down Surfboards
The step-down surfboards aren’t a particular type of board.
Instead, they’re the board’s riders use for the smaller and weaker waves-the exact opposite of the step-up waves.
They tend to be generally shorter, thicker, and broader than your normal shortboard.
The step-downs are generally versatile and accommodative; everyone can ride these boards except for total beginners with no basics of surfing.
Best Step-ups Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How big should your step-ups be?
A: A step-up is defined as a board that is a few inches longer than your traditional or frequently used surfboard. It’s typically 2 to 4 inches
Q: Do I need a step-up board?
A: Yes, a step-up is necessary when the waves and swells get bigger, and conditions get rougher than the average conditions for your standard surfboard.
Step-ups are necessary when a surfer needs to push a bit more and ride on the tougher conditions than what you’re used to.
Q: What is a step up?
A: It’s a board, which is a bit longer than your standard surfboard. It’s perfect for handling the wilder waves and conditions
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our winner for the best step up is the 7S Superfish 4 PU.
I choose this option because it strikes the sweet point between performance and ease of use.
It’s a reliable board that can handle most conditions and works well for all riders from beginners, intermediate to experts.
I also like that it’s made from more foam, so it won’t hurt other surfers in case of a collision.