All surfboards may seem to be the same at a glance. But when you get a closer look, you begin to see differences in surfboards. As a surfing enthusiast, it’s important you know the different types of surfboards as they come in different shapes and designs.
The reason for the relatively large number of surfboard designs is due to the infinite spectrum of waves. You see, no two waves are the same and certain surfboards are suited for particular ranges of waves.
As the design of surfboards varies, their length, thickness, and width also vary making them important factors to consider in the choice of surfboards. More information about how these parameters (length, thickness, and width) affect the performance of surfboards will be given later in this article. For now, I’ll be discussing the different types of surfboards, their pros, cons, and the type of surfers that should use them. Here we go.
Types of Surfboards: Size and Shape
Shortboards are easily the most popular type of surfboard. You’ll find many surfers sporting shortboards should you visit any popular surfing destination. This may make you wonder why shortboards are all the rage and I tell you. It’s because of the superb maneuverability shortboards offer.
If you intend to carry out some wickedly cool acrobatic stunt on a wave, a shortboard is your only choice of a surfboard thanks to its low volume, thin rails, and pointed noses, features that make the board easy to maneuver. Usually coming in lengths between 5.5 – 7 ft, shortboards are capable of performing well in most wave conditions.
Despite the excellent maneuverability offered by shortboards, they aren’t easy to paddle. Also, their smaller volume and surface area make it difficult to ride them and require the surfer to have some experience.
Shortboards typically have 2 – 4 fins depending on the design. However, it’s more common to see 3-fin shortboards which are referred to as thrusters.
- Excellent maneuverability.
- Performs well in most wave conditions.
- Ideal for intermediate to advanced surfers.
- Not ideal for beginner surfers.
Longboards are one of the most traditional surfboard types. As the name implies, longboards are long, easily reaching 8ft or more in length. And the increased length and width of longboards means they have some serious advantages over other types of surfboards.
It’s easy to balance or paddle on a longboard than on other types of boards due to the large surface area, increased length, and buoyancy. And this makes longboards the boards of choice for beginner surfers who are yet to master the basics of the sport.
Longboards are made from a wide variety of materials such as epoxy, foam, and polyurethane with the foam models popularly regarded as the best choice for beginner surfers. However, longboards aren’t restricted to only beginners as they also perform well with smaller waves, allowing you to catch the most waves. Every surfer will do well to own a longboard.
Thanks to the unique length of longboards, surfers can perform various tricks such as cross-steps, hang fives, and so on. There is also the potential for tandem surfing due to the length. How cool is that?!
Despite the benefits of longboards, they are not without any shortcomings as their length makes them cumbersome to ride. Also, they are harder to maneuver.
- Easy to paddle or balance.
- Perform well on smaller waves.
- Suitable for pulling off different tricks.
- Potential for tandem surfing.
- Difficult to maneuver.
- May be difficult to store and transport.
Fishboards are essentially shortboards with a few modifications. For one, fishboards are wider and thicker than shortboards while also featuring signature two-point (fish) tails. These modifications make fishboards ideal for surfing in slow waves, conditions where shortboards don’t perform well. But a fishboard will let you catch more waves, especially in slow and mellow waves.
The increased width and thickness of fishboards also make them easier to paddle although you’ll still need to have some surfing experience before riding one. However, the level of surfing experience needed isn’t advanced as that required for a shortboard.
While fishboards are easier to paddle than traditional shortboards, they still require considerable effort to paddle. There is also the issue of the fragility of the tail of fishboards. And this requires surfers to be mindful of the tail and protect it as best as they can when outdoors.
- Good stability.
- Excellent performers in smaller waves.
- Agile and easy to maneuver.
- Easy to store and transport.
- Difficult to paddle.
- The fishtail is fragile.
Funboards are hybrids of longboards and shortboards and are designed to offer you the best of both worlds. The length of funboards is intermediate between that of longboards and shortboards. And while the widths and thicknesses of funboards vary, they are designed to provide stability and ease of use.
Funboards are also great for surfers that are transitioning from longboards to shortboards. Surfing on a longboard and surfboard are totally different and a funboard can make the transition a lot easier. Many surfers that transition from a longboard to a shortboard directly find out that the learning curve is steep.
If you are after a good combination of speed and performance, a hybrid board is what you need. However, hybrid boards may prove harder to turn especially when conditions are challenging.
- Ability to catch any wave.
- Makes transitioning to shortboards easier.
- Easier to store and transport compared to longboards.
- Difficult to maneuver when conditions are challenging.
Tow-in surfboards are more suited for professional surfing. Whenever you see a surfer on a tow-in, it’s most likely to take on bigger waves and you can expect a great level of skill on display. And that tells you tow-in boards are designed for advanced surfers.
This type of surfboard usually comes with foot straps that help secure surfers to the board when they are pulled into a swell. Also, the foot straps help ensure the surfers don’t lose their board.
If you are new to surfing, it will be a while before you progress to tow-in boards due to the level of skill and experience required to use the board.
- Designed for advanced surfers.
- Can take on large waves with ease.
- Very fast.
- Not suitable for beginner and intermediate surfers.
The gun surfboard is designed for the most daring surfers that want to surf in challenging or extreme conditions. As a result, guns are designed for monster waves that are beyond the limit of most surfers.
Guns are longer boards (longer than longboards) with some features of shortboards that make them ideal for challenging conditions. If you are a daredevil, you may look to take on bigger waves at some point in the future with a gun surfboard, of course.
The length of guns may make them difficult to store and transport since they are longer than longboards. Also, guns are designed to be used only on larger waves.
- Designed for daredevil surfers.
- Can outrun the biggest waves on the ocean.
- Can only be used for one purpose.
- Very bulky and may be difficult to store and transport.
The distinguishing feature of bodyboards and han-gun boards is that they allow you to surf in a kneeling position. You can also surf by lying on your chest and placing it at the lowest point of gravity.
Surfing on this board can be really fun. However, you’ll need extra momentum to use this board because of its small size.
- They are small and portable.
- Allows you to ride bigger waves with precision.
- Less likely for surfers to fall off bodyboards.
- Some surfers may not find riding on a bodyboard very interesting.
How Do the Size and Shape Affect Performance?
The length of surfboards affects the ease of paddling and catching waves. Longer surfers make it easy to paddle faster and catch more waves. The longer your board, the longer the waterline, and this confers more stability on the board. You’ll also do well to use longer boards when surfing on bigger waves for extra stability.
Shorter boards, on the other hand, offer superb maneuverability. They are easy to turn and perform well in small to moderate waves.
The width of surfboards also has an effect on their performance. Wider boards provide more surface area making it easier to paddle. The increased surface area and floatation also make them more stable. All these features make wider boards ideal for beginners.
Narrow boards, however, provide quick response and are ideal for surfers wanting fast turns as well as performing tricks or maneuvers.
The thicker your surfboard, the easier it will be to paddle faster and catch waves. This is why thicker surfboards are recommended for beginners. On the other hand, thin surfboards aren’t forgiving for the less experienced since they don’t float as much as their thick counterparts. However, they are far easier to turn.
Types of Surfboards: Materials and Construction
Surfboards can also be classified according to the type of material used to manufacture them as well as their construction:
Surfboards made of foam are generally inexpensive and beginner-friendly. In the past, people used to see foam boards as knock-off and inferior surfboards. However, this has changed over the years due to advancements in technology. Now, you can get quality foam boards that can give traditional boards a run for their money.
Another benefit of foam boards is that they require less maintenance, something beginner surfers are usually ecstatic about.
Polyurethane boards are made with a polyurethane core that this then wrapped in fiberglass. Also, the board is coated with polyester resin.
The main advantage of polyurethane boards is that they are inexpensive and easy to repair. This type of board is also a bit flexible offering the surfer more control on a wave.
There is the drawback of polyurethane boards being more prone to damage. Also, they are a bit heavy and may not be very comfortable for beginners.
Wood is the traditional material used to manufacture surfboards before the emergence of synthetic materials. The biggest advantage of wooden surfboards is their durability. Maintain them properly and you may never have to buy another surfboard. Also, wood is the most environmentally material that can be used to manufacture surfboards.
However, wooden surfboards are generally more expensive. Also, the material is heavy and surfboards made of wood are a little harder to control. But the extra weight makes them more stable, especially in choppy conditions.
If you intend to pull off tricks or maneuvers when surfing, wooden surfboards aren’t the most ideal.
Epoxy surfboards are produced with polystyrene (PS) or expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam core. The core is then coated in fiberglass and epoxy resin. Generally, epoxy surfboards are lighter than their polyurethane counterparts and this makes it easier to surf on small waves using epoxy boards.
The major drawback of epoxy boards is that they are less stable in choppy conditions. Also, they offer less feedback.
As you can see, surfboards come in different dimensions, designs, and are made of different materials. It’s important you choose the right surfboard for the water conditions and level of experience or skill to have an enjoyable surfing experience.