With so many different surfboards out there in a variety of shapes and sizes, and a variety of advice from different people, choosing the right board can seem baffling from a distance.
Which surfboard to choose? What do all the different types do?
While there is an almost endless list of specialised shapes and subgenres, we’ve broken down surfboards in four main types; Funshapes, Longboards, Softboards and Shortboards, to help you choose according to the type of waves you want to surf, and the type of surfer you are.
While surfboard types are generally broken down according to size, there are confusing overlaps. You might also see pro surfers riding boards in conditions not usually associated with that kind of board, further confusing the choice. As a general rule, if you’re coming down in size, be sure you are coming to the right surfboard for you, because nothing hinders a surfer’s progress than not being able to catch waves from being on too small a board.
Because if you can’t catch waves, you can’t surf.
While all surfboards are designed and built to provide the user with fun, a funshape is a surfboard specifically aimed at a user-friendly, high wave count surfing experience. Usually somewhere in the 7ft range in terms of length, and with a fuller, curvy outline, ease of paddling combines with manoeuvrability to allow a variety of surfing moves, particularly the fundamentals like bottom and top turns, trimming and rail carves. If you’re relatively new to surfing, maybe had a few lessons and you loved it, a funshape is a great choice for progressing out of the whitewater and onto the wave face. Not as bulky or unwieldy as a longboard but still with plenty of float, the funshape is a versalite board that works well in small waves, but can also be used in bigger conditions by intermediate or experienced surfers. One of the common mistakes adult surfers can make when getting into surfing is going too short too early, and struggling to catch enough waves to progress. A fun shape will keep your wave count and ride time up, while helping develop a smooth surfing style.
Longboards are boards 9ft or longer, with wider outline and rounded noses. A design and traditionally surfing style from the mid-20th century, they are still hugely popular today, offering a unique surfing experience particularly on smaller, peeling waves. They can be a good choice for learning to surf, the size and floatation of a longboard providing ease of wave catching in the whitewater, but that’s not really longboarding. Riding longboards is a specific type of surfing, all about trimming across the wall of a wave, and walking up and down the board in a graceful, cross-stepping style. Skilled longboarders can walk all the way up to the nose to stand with their toes over the front of the board for a unique sensation, with nothing in front of them except a wall of moving water. The gliding sensation provided by a longboard, the ease of catching waves early particularly on smaller days, ideally at pointbreaks, and an overall cruisier approach to wave riding makes a longboard a great addition to any quiver of surfboards
The range of softboards available has really exploded in the last few years, with everything on the market from longboard size, down to under 5 foot for kids or rippers. While they surf well being rigid enough to perform on, the real plus is the fact that they’re soft; they don’t ding, they’re not posing as much of a danger if one hits you. What’s more, you don’t need loads of wax to grip, they don’t go yellow in the sun and transport really easily. A softboard is a great to take down the beach as board anyone can try, from people having their very first surf to flap around on, or for experienced surfers to pull into shorebreak barrels. Even some of the discomforts than can be encountered by irregular surfers, like sore ribs from paddling, are prevented by the overall more user friendly, comfortable surfing experience afforded by a softboard.
For high performance surfing, ripping waves of any size with an aggressive, radical surfing style, nothing performs like a shortboard. Usually from the mid 6 foot range and under in length, shortboards are pointy and sharper in outline, and are designed to fit into the steepest part of the breaking wave. Generally speaking, shorter and wider shortboards are designed to generate speed on smaller weaker waves, while slightly longer, narrower shortboards are designed to control the speed and power of bigger waves. Surfers might tend to get through shortboards at a quicker rate due to the way they’re surfed, and the fact that they’re often glassed lighter. The exceptional manoeuvrability of a shortboard means it can go more or less anywhere on a wave a skilled surfer wants to take it.
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