Different Types of Surfboards and Surfing

February 24, 2017

Surfboards are in constant evolution and improvement. There are several board designs for a broad range of environments. The world offers so many different types of waves and that is why there is a wide range of surfboard designs, templates, shapes and sizes. You will find retro surfboards, hybrid models, high-performance boards, vintage logs, and big wave surfing guns.

Nevertheless, modern surfboard shaping works around eigth main templates: shortboards, longboards, fish boards, malibu/funboards, guns, tow-in boards, alaias and stand-up paddleboards. There also other modalities like bodyboarding and kneeboarding, but we will keep our attention only on the ones you need to stand-up to surf. Please, know more details about them below.

This evolution made surfing different and better. Check below how are the surboards.

The Shortboard

They are the most popular surfboard template in the world right now. Pro surfers use only this kind of craft when competing at high level. They suit modern surfing, are also easier to turn and will respond quickly in critical moments and sections of the waves. If you visit a popular surfing beach, you will find out that 95% of the surfers are riding boards between 5’5” and 6’5”. The most common fin setup used in shortboards is the thruster (tri-fin) system, but nowadays many surfers prefer to ride them in a quad-fin. Tricks and maneuvers like airs, off the lips, floaters and barrels are the favorites when using shortboards.

A shortboard can be difficult to paddle, but it is easier to duck dive comparing with a longboard or a funboard. For beginners they are not the best type of board to learn on, because they are small and have less volume, which means less flotation, and flotation is the most important characteristic of a surfboard when learning.

The Longboard

The first surfboard of the modern era was a longboard. As the name suggests, longboards are long surfboards. Longboards are typically over 9′, feature a rounded or blunt nose, plenty of forward width, and wide tails. They have a lot of foam volume, which means lots of buoyancy. Opposite to the shortboards, they are easy to paddle and will enter any wave quickly, but are hard to duck dive and to turn. The longboard is the perfect craft for small surf and for beginners, because they plane very well and are quite stable. It is easier to maintain your balance on it after standing-up, comparing to a shortboard for example. There are some tricks that can only be performed on longboards, such as hang-fives (when the surfer walks over the board and stands over its nose, hanging five toes out of the front of the longboard) and hang-tens (ten toes out of the nose of the board).

The Fish

Fish surfboards are shortboards, but they tend to be wider from nose to tail, and smaller in length. Because of their width and low rocker, they plane better and generate a lot of speed in small-to-medium waves. They are ideal to beginners who have reached a level where they are tired of the longboard and want to make the transition to a shortboard. This type of craft is frequently ridden with only two big fins.

The Funboard

A malibu, also known as funboard, is a blend between a longboard and a shortboard. They are a favorite type of board between beginners and heavier surfers, but they can also be a backup option for experienced riders who enjoy having fun in small summer conditions. They typically range from 6′ to 8′, and are forgiving boards in ankle-to-waist high waves.

The Gun

Guns are large shortboards shaped for extreme surfing conditions. These boards are quite easy to paddle and will enter fast big waves quickly, but because they are big (sometimes bigger than a longboard) they are not easy to turn. They usually feature a pintail and the length varies from 7′ to 12′. No need to say that these boards are not recommended for beginners. Actually they are used by a minimal percentage of surfers on Earth, need big waves and lots of bravery to catch them, and in their case, the most crucial maneuver is the drop, the take-off. After that, it is a matter of trying to escape the foam and kick out of the wave.

The Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP)

A stand-up paddleboard is similar to a longboard, but even bigger, wider, thicker and heavier. SUP surfers use a paddle to propel the board across through the water. They typically range from 9′ to 12’ and are also available in inflatable version. Stand-up paddleboards are everywhere. It’s easy to maintain your balance over it and almost unfair to other surfers how easy you can catch a wave using them. They can be used from 1’ to 60’ waves and also be enjoyed in flat water spots, including lakes, rivers, and canals. Did you know that one of the best places to learn SUP is San Diego?

Do you want to learn how to surf with a Stand Up Paddle? Check the classes from San Diego Surf Lessons School in Mission Bay Beach.

The Tow-In Board

With the advent of jet ski-assisted big wave surfing, there was a need for short, narrow and low area boards. These boards are equipped with a small quad or thruster fin setup, foot straps, and are heavier than standard surfboards. Traditionally, tow boards feature pin or swallow tails, and range between 6′ and 6’6”. Surfing pulled by a jet-ski is dangerous and only recommend to very experienced surfers, so beginners, stay away please.

The Foilboard

A foilboard or hydrofoil board is a surfboard with a hydrofoil that extends below the board into the water. This design causes the board to leave the surface of the water at various speeds. As a result of reduced friction, hydrofoils can attain high speeds and lift at lower speeds compared to conventional designs. These boards are rarely used, are still being tested by experienced surfers and need expert level of ability to be ridden.

The Alaias

An alaia is a thin, round-nosed, square-tailed surfboard ridden in pre-20th century Hawaii. The boards were between 7’ and 12’ long, weighed up to 100 lb (45 kg) and were generally made from the wood of Acacia koa. They are distinct from modern surfboards in that they have no ventral fins and instead rely on the sharpness of the edges to hold the board in the face of the wave. Modern alaias are 5’ to 12’ long and weigh not between 15lb (8 kg) and 45 lb (20 kg). All of these board types are similar in that all are made of wood and are ridden without any fins.

It is hard to say what type of equipment is the best for beginners, because some coaches think that the best thing is to learn on the type of board that you want to keep surfing. I personally think a soft-top funboard is the ideal type of surfboard you need to catch your first waves. Then, after you decided what you really want, make the move to the modality chosen and enjoy the sport of the kings.