How To Choose A Surfboard

There are so many different surfboard shapes out there they’re almost like people. They all come from the same mold but subtle differences cause them to act and function differently. Endless shapes and sizes give us endless options of performance and personality. There are long boards, short boards, wide boards, thick boards, round noses, pointy noses, fish tails, pin tails, each one with their own function, and feel. Which should a beginner choose?

As a beginner it’s hard to have any idea which board you should ride because you don’t have the experience necessary to know how each board functions and feels. When you ask your friend, who is an expert surfer, which board you should ride they might not even know. They will say “It depends…” It depends on what type of waves you’re riding, what style of surfing you want to do, how far are you along on your surfing skills, and even what kind of car you drive. But you don’t need to listen to an expert surfer blabbering about endless surfboard shapes to get you on a board that’s right for you. I’m here to give you a straight answer, but first I want to give you just a general understanding of the main types of boards.

You don’t need all five boards but you might one day want them.

You don’t need all five boards but you might one day want them.

Surfboard shapes can be broken down into three categories: longboards, shortboards, and funboards. In the above picture, the board on the far right is a longboard, the board on the far left is a shortboard, and the boards in the middle can be considered funboards. As you can see there’s a pretty big range. And it’s probably not hard to imagine why the board on the far left might be hard to ride. It’s tiny. Will that even float? But look at that board on the far right. It’s huge! How do these boards function and why are they so drastically different? Here’s a breakdown.

Longboards


Longboards are the original surfboards. Back in the day they were huge planks of solid wood designed to float solidly large men paddling to catch the fast moving swells that broke in the Polynesian islands. Basically the way it works is the bigger the board the easier it is to catch waves. But these longboards can be unruly for the average person to deal with. They’re heavy, difficult to carry, difficult to maneuver, and impossible to fit into your Toyota Prius. An average longboard is 9’6” and weights somewhere between 15-20 lbs.

If you have a sunroof, you’re good. Photo: Barbara Snow

If you have a sunroof, you’re good. Photo: Barbara Snow

A longboard is considered the easiest board to learn on, but the size and weight is something that can turn people off. Despite this, longboarding is still alive and well and is considered a way of life by many people. If you get a longboard you may one day be in the retro, alt-life, reject-the-mainstream, hipster longboard crew. And wouldn’t that be rad? But that’s not important right now. Here’s what you actually need to know:


Pro’s of a longboard:

  • You will catch more waves

  • Be able to paddle faster

  • More stability paddling and riding

  • Hang ten (when you hang ten toes off the front)!

Con’s of a longboard:

  • Heavy

  • Difficult to maneuver

  • Hard to surf in big waves

  • Won’t fit in your Toyota Prius :(


Shortboards

Shortboards are the complete opposite of longboards. They’re tiny, light, hard to paddle and are made for doing aggressive maneuvers on steeper waves. But shortboards are a relatively new thing. It wasn’t until after longboarding caught on in the 50s and 60s that something happened called the “Shortboard Revolution”. The shortboard revolution was the result of a group of surfers experimenting with the size of surfboards and discovering that surfboards didn’t have to weigh 50 lbs and be 10’ long. They could actually be 6’ long and maneuver more freely on big, steep, fast waves. They discovered that you could put three fins on the board instead of one, you could “duck dive” these boards under big waves, and you could even get inside the curl of the wave, often referred to as the “barrel” or “tube”.

Duck diving, an undeniable advantage of shortboarding. Photo: thesurfphotog.com

Duck diving, an undeniable advantage of shortboarding. Photo: thesurfphotog.com

The major trade off with these shortboards was how difficult they were to ride. I don’t think I know a single surf teacher who would recommend a beginner ride a shortboard. Someone who’s rode a longboard all their life might not even be able to catch a wave on a shortboard. Transitioning from a longboard to a shortboard is like learning a whole new sport. Shortboarding requires different technique, different skills, and a different approach, but it allows you to do things you could never dream of doing on a longboard. Like carves, snaps, and barrel rides. Getting a shortboard also means you may one day fit in with the locals only, radical, XL, high performance shortboard crew. Wouldn’t that be rad? But before you let that affect your decision here’s some actual practical information:

Pros of a shortboard:

  • Ride bigger, steeper, faster waves

  • Do more advanced maneuvers

  • Duck dive under waves

  • Will fit in your Toyota Prius :)

Cons of a shortboard:

  • Hard to catch waves

  • Hard to balance

  • Moves slower when paddling

  • Extremely hard to learn


Funboards

So if a longboard is so huge that I might not want to commit to owning one and carrying it around, but a shortboard is so hard to learn and for XL extreme athletes only, then what board do I ride? Is there something in the middle? Allow me to introduce you to the aptly named “funboard”. A funboard is the solution to the extremes of longboards and shortboards. It is the perfect easy to use type of board for people wanting to try surfing. The shape is just like a longboard, but trimmed down a couple feet.

She’s about to have fun. Photo: 7-themes.com

She’s about to have fun. Photo: 7-themes.com

A funboard can catch waves like a longboard, but maneuver like a shortboard, paddle fast like a longboard, but ride steeper waves like a shortboard, give you stability like a longboard, while being carried like a shortboard. And most importantly it will fit into your Toyota Prius. As a beginner surfer wanting to buy just one board, it’s hard to argue with a funboard. But remember to start with a soft funboard first before you get a hard funboard. The costco “wavestorm” boards are a great example. Here are some important points about funboards:

Pros of a funboard:

  • Catch plenty of waves

  • Move faster when paddling

  • Reasonably stable

  • Can ride most types of waves

  • Do some advanced maneuvers

  • WILL fit in your Toyota Prius

Cons of a funboard:

The only cons I could think of were the fact that you’d be barred from the retro, alt-life, reject-the-mainstream, hipster longboard crew, and the locals only, radical, XL, high performance shortboard crew.

What a bummer. But does that really matter? Have FUN out there!

-Eat Sleep Surf