So we found out in part 1 how boards basically worked but what about the whole host of types of boards and designs that abound at the moment and what’s the difference between them all? With names such as Fishes, Mini Mals, Short Boards, Longboards, Fun Boards, Quads and Thrusters ect, how do we choose a surfboard that will help our surfing progression and just as importantly, have fun? So in this article we will clarify some of the main styles of boards and what they mean for your surfing.
However , what is so fun for us all is that there has never been a better and more varied selection of boards to beg , borrow or steal as there is these days. We are awash with visits to the surfboard design past, totally new performance concepts and user friendly surfboard shapes and just as exciting we are at the very start of our industry taking on environmental responsibility for these lovely craft that give us so much joy. We might even get to buy one too.
It a strange name, but that is what’s used in the judging categories, short boards are certainly many and varied at the moment. What we do have to take seriously is, that as much as we would like to ride what the pros are riding at the moment, unless we have grown up surfing on a daily basis the type of board a pro uses can often be unsuited to the weekend warrior or late starter. What’s a late starter? Figure that after 15 years of age you would fit in with the late starter category. Tough but true but that’s not an issue with current short board design.
User friendly shorts boards like Lost Surfboards “Puddle Jumper” the Channel Islands Pod Mod or Fire Wire’s Almond Butter have changed the way we think about short boards and opened up a whole world of manoeuvrability and paddle power to those with less than pro tour ability. More volume in these boards, wider and with easier flatter rockers (see previous article) and set up as quads ( 4 fins ) or 3 fins and sometimes twin fin fins they give us wave catching options the standard short board often lacks and can always be used in far less than perfect conditions. The very conditions we often have to surf in as average Joes. I rode a Puddle Jumper the other day in far from perfect surf conditions and the board was really excellent.
Not a handle I like at all. Walk into a US surf shop and ask to see their “mini Malibu’s “and you may meet a blank stare of incomprehension. I much prefer their “Mid Range “title to those boards that are not long boards and not short boards. Even more extreme is the Europhile name “Fun Board” (we hope all boards are fun don’t we?) daft name or even worse an “Evolution” model. Darwin was the shaper? So let’s stick to the tired old mini mal or the more descriptive mid range title and for all who maybe a bit confused out there your 7’10” is not a long board, never was and never will be. Longboards start at 9’. That’s it, end of story , its 9’ These days there are so many great mid range boards around but quite a few awful ones too so do be careful what you buy. The Torq range of mid range boards offer a great start off and don’t forget the Egg design , a real do all of a board and Fluid Juice’s Flow Egg and Speed Egg are classics of this amazing style of mid range board and of course one of the late great Donald Takayama made some of the very best. These types of shapes allow progression for those who are learning but also a go to for many experienced surfers too. They handle lots of differing conditions with aplomb, work for all experience levels and can be kept as an excellent back up board when the more experienced surfer feels like drawing some extra big carves with a style.
A whole different style of surfing and when done properly a joy to watch. The camp of long boards has a split too. The lower volume modern longboard has more radical rocker so turning with more short board style lines. The South Point range have the Bonga Perkins MK 2 which is a great example of this type of board Able to take on bigger waves is what’s used in competition longboarding and often with a 3 fin’s or a 1 + 2 set up. That’s a large central fin and 2 small outside ones. A really good alternative to the more expensive epoxy and polyurethane boards out there are BIC’s too longstanding designs the 9 Classic and the 9’4” Nat Young model Both these deigns have all the right long board features but at an affordable price for many. Then we have the classic “Logs” built with smaller waves in mind , full of glide and nose riding possibilities these are always single fin boards that hark back to traditional pre short board surfing. A wonderfully crafted example of this style of board are Paul Blacker’s Be warned however that using a mal just to catch more waves than the next guy is frowned apon and shuffling up and down just isn’t the go. Learn to cross step to the nose please. In fact when done well longboarding is one of the more difficult surf skills to master but a joy once learnt. Longboards can make a decent beginner board as well but of course learning to turn a mal can be quite a difficult task for a novice surfer.
So a few years back I was inundated by people I coached asking if they should buy a Fish design. It seemed that the industry would call any spilt or swallow tail board a “Fish”. But in fact a real Fish is quite a specific style of board as seen ridden beautifully by surfers such as Dave Rastovitch and there’s even a really good documentary out called Fish that traces the evolution of this design . Super short normally and with a huge vee shaped split in the tail and sporting two keel shaped fins this is really not what the manufactures were selling but it was a buzz word that made your average 3 fin wide outline with a split or swallow tail sound cool. The real Fish design can be tricky to ride but it’s off shoots did offer a move user friendly alternative but the boards we saw in the short board section of this article already fill that gap in design very successfully
What’s really exciting too is the rise of the “mini longboards” like the McTavish Sumo or The Greeks Shorty and Guts Surfboards Mullet This type of board really fill a nice gap in the market for surfers coming of longboards for a change or short board riders wanting a bit of glide. Just super fun and good in lots of conditions too.
So we have tons of alternative designs out there now and lots to choose from. I haven’t even touched on big wave boards but that’s such a small world for all the hype on big wave surfing we see on line. But for the average Joe there’s never been more selection in functioning shapes and shapers are really looking at giving choices to keep us stoked and hungry for the next surf.