March is ending and with all the traveling and surfing I’ve been doing lately I almost forgot one of the most important things, writing about it. Earlier this month I wrote an article about some of the most important surf spots on Tenerife, so what better way is there to end it talking about the boards we need to make the most of them?
You took your first couple of surf classes, are getting better by the day, and on a flat afternoon hitting the local surfshops you can’t help to start wondering what could be your very own first surfboard. This is where the problems start. You eventually find yourself in front of numerous racks filled with a sheer infeinite number of surfboards of all shapes and sizes, suddenly realizing that the universe is a lot more vast than you thought. We’ve all been there. Trust me.
In order to provide you with a bit more clarity and a better overview over the boards that mean the world to us I created the Surfboard 101 series. The earlier editions covered tails, fins, and noses. With this information in the back of your minds you are now ready for the big picture: general surfboard types. For a very quick look, here’s a graphic I took from my fellow blogger, the one and only, Luigier Crest.
As you can see, this chart features four different basic surfboard designs: shortboard, fish, (mini-)malibu, and longboard. The easiest distinction between these boards is their size. Very generally, the bigger the board, i.e. the more volume, the easier it paddles and therefore catches waves, but the less maneuverable it is. Of course, size and volume are not the only factors that come into play when talking about ease to paddle and maneuverability, as we’ve seen in the earlier editions of this series, but they are easily the most important ones.
The earliest and biggest type of modern surfboard design is the longboard, marked red in the graphic. Longboards are usually at least 8′ or 9′ long and feature a round nose. Their increased size and volume makes catching waves with them easy and allows for special maneuvers like cross stepping, nose riding, hang fives and tens, and even tandem surfing. Due to their size it might be hard for beginners, however, to handle them in the white water paddling out.
As a beginner you have most likely started on a mini-malibu or a malibu, the blue board in the chart. A malibu is simply a slightly smaller version of a longboard, that is easier to turn. A mini-mal, as the name suggests, is again a slightly smaller version of a malibu. Due to their stability in the water and the easy to handle size these boards make great beginner boards.
The shortboard – yellow – was introduced in the 1970’s in order to allow for powerful high performance surfing and radical maneuvers. It usually features a pointed nose and a thruster or quad fin-setup, allowing for sharp turns and wall riding in bigger and steeper waves. In addition, many shortboards have a lot of rocker – much curvature in the nose – to ease the take-off in steeper waves. Due to their reduced volume, shortboards require much more paddle power and experience than the afore mentioned board designs and are therefore not very beginner friendly. They, however, continue pushing the limits of the sport in the professional leagues.
The smallest type of modern surfboard design is the fish – indicated in green. Fish are characterized by a swallow tail, a twin or quad fin-setup, and a rounded point-nose. They are usually in the same to slighly smaller size range as short boards and mostly used for surfing smaller, less steep waves. In addition to their rounder nose and often wider tail, they generally have more volume than a shortboard, which allows for picking up more speed in smaller waves. The notion that fish are good beginner boards is a common misconception.
In addition to the boards displayed in the graphic above, I’d like to mention a few more board designs. Funboards are a ggod choice for anyone trying to transition from a mini-mal to a shortboard. They range in size from about the same as a mini-mal to slightly above shortboard, but are usually more maneuverable and playful than a mini-mal. This one option to look out for when considering to get your first own board.
Finally, guns are longer boards with a pointed nose and often pin tail used in big wave surfing. Their increased size is necessary for catching these large, often steep and fast waves. The pinned tail and pointed nose provide stability when riding down the face of the wave. Another possibility of riding big waves is being towed in by a jetski. Since additional volume is not needed anymore in order to catch the waves, tow-in boards are extremely sized down and feature additional foot straps for the surfer to maintain a better grip on the board. Like this radical maneuvers are even possible in big waves.
There are numerous other types of surfboard designs and styles. This should give you a good overview for now, though. What do you want yor first board to be like? Would you rather progress towards shorter or longer boards? Or maybe both?