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Are Shorter Surfboards Harder to Ride? We Ask Experts
Published: August 11, 2021
Shortboards are also known as “thrusters” and are used to perform advanced maneuvers like snaps, airs, cutbacks, and more. These boards generally measure 5’8” to 6’10” and have a strong rocker, which makes it easier to hit critical parts of a wave. Plus, their overall shape allows them to fit the shape of a breaking wave.
Their short length, strong rocker, and narrow width provide high maneuverability. And because they are small and light, they are easier to turn with and provide quick pivots for advanced surfers.
However, a strong rocker makes it harder to paddle since it drags more water when moving forward. It is also harder to catch waves with these boards, and you will quickly lose your speed.
With this, we can say that shortboards are harder to ride because it takes a lot of experience to be able to balance yourself on a smaller board and paddle and be near the peak of the wave to catch it.
Surfboard Types and Sizes
Before we further dive into why shortboards are harder to surf with, let us first find out about the different types and sizes of surfboards available out there.
- These boards are 9’0 and above
- They can come with a single fin, tri-fin, and even thruster fin setup
- These longboards are very stable and stylish
- They are great for beginners and anyone looking to improve their surfing ability
- These longboards are more for trimming down the line, making smooth arcing turns rather than pumping and aerial maneuvers
- Midsize or Funboards
- These boards are 7’ to 8’6” long
- They come in any kind of fin configurations, including quad or thruster
- Funboards are stable and have a high volume for high wave counts
- They are more adapted for small, weak swells and anyone looking to get more maneuverability than with a longboard
- Hybrid, Fish, and Grovelers
- These are 5’ to 6’11 long
- They come with a thruster, quad, or twin fins
- They are short and maneuverable boards that are great for smaller, weaker waves
- Regardless of how weak the waves are, these shortboards are always a good option
- The traits of these boards improve their performance in small, mushy waves
- They are great daily drivers for anyone looking to fit in a few sessions before or after work
- These are 4’8 to 6’6 long
- They come in thruster or quad fins
- These boards are thin and short with a pointy nose for maximum maneuverability in high-quality waves
- These boards are for advanced riders riding powerful and high-quality waves
- They are ideal for aerial maneuvers, tube riding, and competitions
- For anyone who wants maximum maneuverability and control
- These are difficult to manage in less ideal conditions and for first-time riders
- Step-up Boards and Gun Surfboards
- These boards are 6’6 to 11’ long
- They come in thruster or quad fins
- These are longer versions of performance boards to allow more stability in massive waves
- These boards are similar to midsize and longboards in terms of length and resemble shortboards
- They are more adapted for monster swells
- Wide surfboards provide more float and surface, which results in easier paddling, great stability, and extra glide. Wide surfboards are suitable for beginners because the extra foam from rail to rail helps with balance.
- Narrow surfboards are very easy to go from rail to rail because they provide quick response. Most experienced surfers choose narrower surfboards to make advanced maneuvers and tight turns in the steeper parts of the wave.
*Choose a shortboard with more width and thickness for small and weak waves.
*A shortboard with less width and thickness is best for good, powerful, and steep waves.
*For very big waves, choose a “gun” type of surfboard because more length and more volume are determining when riding huge waves.
Can you ride a surfboard shorter than you?
Yes, you can ride a surfboard that is shorter than you, provided that you can harness the surface and volume that you need and as long as you can paddle and catch a wave with it.
Going super short, however, is better in fun playful waves. The ability to turn a board around so quickly, sit nicely in the tight hollow pocket of a wave, and fly through sections makes your surfboard feel more like a skateboard. Nowadays, most shapers have their own version of a shorter board with one style or another to choose from, and many of them play around with different fin setups, bottom contours, outlines, and rails to offer you the best surfing experience.
Your perception of what is considered short is proper to you and varies from a person to another. Hence, if you usually ride a 6’8, a 6-foot one may seem short enough for you, although you could still go even much smaller than that and likely have fun. Going super short is a personal choice, as well as the shaper you pick to make your board.
How does length affect a surfboard?
The length of a board can help you paddle faster and catch more waves. Longer boards are better on bigger waves because their surface will help the board feel less shaky even at high speed. Shorter boards, on the other hand, are easier to use when changing direction quickly because they create less water resistance when going from one side to another. Thus, they are more maneuverable in small waves.
Differences between a shortboard and a longboard
These are the very first surfboards. Although the materials they are made of and the technology have developed and changed over the years, the general design remains the same.
Anyone who wants to go retro can pick a wood board. However, if you want more modern materials, look for a polyurethane or EPS-built board.
These boards are long, with a length of about 9 feet. This size makes them tough and awkward to carry to and from the water but will provide you with more stability and plenty of space to plant your feet on the board. If you are new to surfing, this stability will make learning easier during your surf lesson, as you will find it easier to lay down on the board and paddle out.
These boards are relatively new compared to longboards and are under 7 feet long. This shorter length makes them faster and perfect for tackling more powerful waves. However, you need to have some experience under your belt before you tackle those bigger and stronger waves.
These shortboards are typically made of fiberglass and other modern materials and usually come with a three-fin thruster design. Although, they have a ton of options you can choose from to make them perfectly suited for the wave conditions.
Shortboards have less foam, so you will find them harder to paddle. However, their smaller size will make them easier to carry and transport.
When choosing a surfboard, it will come down to determining your riding style and what you want to get out of your surfing experience.
Overall, the difference between the two is that longboards are less maneuverable but offer great stability, while shortboards are going to be fast and agile.
If you are new to surfing, the best thing to do try each kind of surfboard, and then learn from experience which one you prefer.
Shortboards: Pros and Cons
- More maneuverable
- More performance-orientated
- Better for use in steeper, more powerful waves
- Easier to store
- Very transportable
- Often have more fin setup options
- Easier to use for duck diving under larger waves
- More difficult to paddle with
- Harder to stand up on
- Provide less stability
- Unsuitable for beginner’s waves or gentle and sloping waves
- More difficult to balance on
- Harder to control
Can a beginner surfer use a shortboard?
Yes, a beginner can use a shortboard. However, learning how to surf on such a board will steepen your learning curve and may slow down your progression. Catching your first real wave on a shortboard may take you months instead of weeks, possibly adding years to the time needed to truly surf waves.
When you are just starting to learn how to surf, you need a surfboard that provides a lot of stability and float. A 5’10 to 6’6 surfboard requires very accurate positioning and a lot of wave power, as well as weight distribution from the surfer unless the person is really small.
Learning how to surf requires spending a lot of time on your surfboard and will be much harder on a 5- or 6-foot shortboard that doesn’t provide enough buoyancy for your weight. Even on a longer surfboard, it can take at least 6 months to learn how to consistently catch a wave, pop up, and get to the shoulder of the wave. Thus, doing so on a shortboard may add months to your learning process.
How to know if your surfboard is too short?
We have listed down some ways to tell if you have the wrong-sized surfboard.
- The waves roll under you and your surfboard frequently
Bigger surfboards are usually more buoyant in the water, and chances are your surfboard is too small for you. In this case, choose a wider and longer surfboard so that you can have enough space to balance your weight and catch and ride more waves.
- When you struggle to change directions
In this case, it means you have a bulky and long surfboard that prevents you from maneuvering and steering the waves, or from doing anything at all.
- You lose your balance when trying to stand on your surfboard
When you already know how to stand up on a surfboard and doing so with your new board seems difficult, it means your surfboard is too narrow and is not giving you enough space to balance your weight and room to stabilize.
- Your surfboard sinks and swamps while riding waves
If it is difficult to gain speed as you ride waves, it could be due to the rocker. Thus, you have to choose a surfboard with a softer rocker.
- You fall off when making side turns
This is the way your body is telling you that it needs another surfing style because the technique you are trying to use is not compatible with how you are using your surfboard. It would help if you tried another technique and adjusted it until you can complete side turns successfully.
Surfing with the wrong size of surfboard will kill the fun and good vibes that the sport is supposed to give you. If you have been surfing for some time and still have a hard time progressing, then getting a new surfboard may be the right choice.
How to ride a shorter surfboard?
To ride a shorter surfboard, follow our tips below:
- Paddle until you have caught the wave
A shortboard moves with less speed and less stability than bigger boards, so you need to have a proper paddle technique and match the speed of the wave before popping up on your board.
- Push your chest up
Once you catch a wave, put your hands flat on your board and push your upper body up with your legs and hips still laying on the surfboard.
- Bring your back foot on the tail pad
Bend your knee and put your back foot on your board’s tail pad.
- Push up using your hands and back foot
Push your whole body up and over the board, with only your hands and back foot touching the board.
- Bring your front foot forward
Throw your front knee towards your chest, and then put your front foot on the board, 1-2 inches lower than the palm of your hands.
- Once you feel stable, stand up
Once you are comfortable and feel stable, stand up and keep your lower body compressed. Your knees and hips should stay low and face where you want to go.
The distance between your feet should be shoulder-width or slightly more. It shouldn’t exceed a 45-degree angle, and your feet should be placed on the width of the board perfectly, arching over the stringer.
Remember not to release your hands too early and not to stand up too fast without having enough control because otherwise, you will lose your balance. Additionally, do not throw both of your feet on a shortboard at the same time. Instead, take your time to put your back foot at the tail pad first. Then, bring your front foot forward so that you can control your balance.
What techniques are harder to learn on a shortboard?
- Floating and paddling
For a beginner, this step takes time when using a shortboard because you have to find the right body placement to be able to paddle and float comfortably.
- Popping up
It is quite hard to pop up, and subsequently, balance on a shortboard. Thus, you need to practice how to pop up many times because it will determine the rest of your ride.
- Riding the wave
You should keep your back foot at the rear pad, bend your knees with your weight on the back foot, and then steer with your front shoulder to help you find the right stance when riding a shortboard.
Shortboards are harder to ride due to their overall construction. They are shorter and narrower, leaving you less room to balance and stand on. Additionally, they do not have enough buoyancy and are less stable. However, if you have been surfing for a while and would like to transition to a shorter board, you can do so by practicing until you are able to balance, pop up, and take off. Starting to surf on a shortboard requires a whole lot of power, positioning, and weight distribution, so the best way to learn is to begin with an 8-foot mid-length surfboard, take your time to practice the basics, including how to paddle, pop up, and balance on it, and then, work your way down to a shorter board.
It is important to start with the right size of board before moving to smaller surfboards as you get better. The slower you move to a smaller-sized board, the faster you will become a better shortboard surfer, so take your time to learn.
Again, it is definitely possible to learn how to surf on a shortboard, but you have to be ready to work harder and longer. Plus, it will be much less fun and enjoyable, and you need more power to catch a wave. But, if you are successful, you will build up sharper skills sooner than if you were learning on a longboard.