Modern surfing offers an incredible array of types of surfboards; from the classic longboard to modern hybrids.
With such a varied range of surfboard types it can be difficult to know which one is right for you, at any time in your surfing lifespan.
|Longboard||The original surfboards, suited for beginners and smaller waves and for experts to show off their style|
|Shortboard||High performance surfing when the waves are pumping|
|Fish||Fun surfboard for intermediate to advanced surfers giving speed when shortboards struggle|
|Gun||Pro level for surfing big waves|
|Hybrid||Taking aspects of standard boards and combining into a board with new characteristics|
|Funboard||Longer than a shortboard and more maneuverable than a longboard - great in poor conditions or for beginner progression|
|Soft Top||Foam surfboards for beginners|
Brush up your knowledge on some of the main types of stand-up wave riding craft in our guide to the different types of surfboards…
When the waves are looking small but the stoke for a surf is gnawing away, there’s nothing else to do except grab your log and head to the ocean.
Longboards are long (who’d have guessed) and wide and normally have heaps of volume, meaning waves, waves, waves. They’re the ultimate in wave catching goodness, requiring little effort to catch the smallest of waves.
They often range from the high end of 8 ft to anything up to 12 ft!
Primarily, longboards take the single-fin root for down-the-line surfing and a cruisy retro feel, but more often than not, modern longboards are fitted with a 2 + 1 set up for a more versatile approach, offering greater maneuverability.
Longboarding is often associated with a unique surfing style that involves cross-stepping the length of the board towards the nose and nose-riding during critical sections of a wave (hang-five and hang-ten are the most common nose-riding skills).
Logs aren’t lost on the bigger days though, advances in surfboard shaping has given birth to performance longboards that can thrive in larger waves, allowing for shortboard-like turns.
Longboards are the founding fathers of the surf world, setting off the ever-growing surfing revolution – originally, they were much heavier and longer compared to the modern longboard.
A longboard is an essential addition to any surfers quiver, whether it’s for the ease of paddle and wave catching ability on the smaller days or for the style masters that enjoy a different approach to surfing.
For the surfers with confidence in their wave riding ability, the shortboard is the cutting edge in high performance surfing. Designed to work when the ocean is giving and the waves are pumping.
Compared to other types of surfboards such as longboards, shortboards are highly maneuverable, allowing the rider to perform vertical turns on the most critical parts of the wave.
Ranging from just over 5 ft to the top end of 6 ft, shortboards lack the volume of larger and wider boards, meaning later take-offs resulting in more speed and drive for performance styled surfing.
Originally, shortboards were fitted with standard thruster set ups (still the majority in today’s line-up), but now a variety of fin variations are spread through the masses, from quads and twins to singles and bonzers.
The rise of the shortboard awoke in 1967 from the iconic Bob McTavish, Wayne Lynch and Co which set off a revolution in surfboard design that has ‘shaped’ the way of the surfing world we see today.
It’s in the name, fish surfboards are designed with a tail that resembles that of a fish.
Traditionally, fish surfboards are short and wide, ranging between 5-6 ft, making them perfect for smaller and fatter waves.
However, nowadays anything with a ‘fish’ tail is often called a fish, but breaks away from the traditional values that were developed in the late 1960s by Steve Lis.
The classic fish thrives in waves that your standard shortboard would normally struggle in; the lack of rocker and conventional twin fin set-up means effortless speed across flatter sections of the wave. Although it won’t turn like a shortboard, the traditional fish still provides the possibility for turns and the fun factor will ensure you’ll be keeping one in your quiver.
These boards are great for the improver or any advanced surfer who’s looking for a fun, fast board for when the waves just aren’t giving.
For the adrenaline junkies of the surfing world, guns are designed for the big wave heroes that charge the ocean when everyone else is taking refuge on land.
Typically, guns range from about 7 ft to anything around 12 ft. The increased length combined with extra thickness allows for more stability when charging monsters of the sea – the wave size can be anything from 10 ft to 60 ft; not for the faint hearted.
Guns take a similar shape to a shortboard but on a much bigger scale and can also be sub-categorized into semi-guns. Semi-guns are smaller than a standard gun yet bigger than a shortboard, making them ideal for large, powerful and fast waves in the 15 ft plus range.
It’ll be many years and intensive training before anyone reading this should even consider a gun, these are for the advanced and experienced searching for something more in the surfing world.
Hybrids, put simply, are two boards in one. They are surfboards that take the benefits of two types of boards and put them together to create different boards for different surfers and for different wave types.
The most common hybrid is a shortboard with a few classic fish features, meaning more float without sacrificing too much maneuverability.
There are hundreds of variations of hybrid surfboards, and if you take it literally, every board can be considered a hybrid, as every board has a combination of different concepts. But, taken lightly there are a few stand-out hybrid subcategories.
Mini Simmons – Named after its originator Bob Simmons, the Mini Simmons takes its shape from the centre of a longboard. The result is a super floaty, flat rocker board that flies through the flattest of sections.
Twin fin is the traditional setup with squared off tail, but these days a variety of fin set-ups are used for different conditions.
It’s perfect for those smaller days when you want the benefits of a longboard but a bit more maneuverability combined with pure speed; the extra float makes these boards far from the worst choice for an intermediate surfer and a fun addition for the advanced.
Mini-Mal – Simply, these are shorter longboards, sitting between mid-7 ft and the top end of 8 ft. They allow more maneuverability than a standard longboard without the loss of wave catching ability; making them the perfect board for a beginner learning in under 4 ft waves.
When conditions aren’t perfect for your shortboard, it’s time to grab a funboard from your quiver.
Wider and longer than a shortboard (normally in the 6 – 8 feet range), the shape and additional buoyancy let you catch more waves. But, you still get to keep some of the maneuverability of the shortboard (unlike surfing a longboard).
The funboard is perfect for beginners who are transitioning from their soft top longboards and want to start to get a feel for making turns without the unforgiving, difficulty of moving straight to a shortboard.
More advanced surfers will still use funboards – When the conditions aren’t ideal for their shortboards, they’ll grab a funboard and keep catching waves.
Soft Top Surfboards
When you’re learning to surf, you spend a lot of time falling off the board (like, really a lot). And at some point the surfboard is going to hit you in the head or it’s going to hit somebody else.
The best thing you can do is get yourself a soft top or foamie. As the name suggests, the board is made of foam and doesn’t have the harder fiberglass shell of other boards.
You’ll realize the good decision when you get a board in the head for the 20th time.
Soft tops are good quality these days and you can get most shapes of board (go long if you’re a complete beginner). They’re also more reasonably priced so you don’t waste a ton of money on a board you can’t yet surf.
Soft tops are also more buoyant in the water which means you get some extra help to catch waves and have a better chance of standing up. This keeps the frustration levels down and will boost your progression.
When you’re finding that you spend most of the time on the board and not falling off, you can then invest in a more intermediate board.
Featured photo: Flickr / karendesuyo