Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Choose a Surfboard

Anyone new to the sport of surfing can make an easy choice; just pick a board that’s long, wide and thick. For those of you that are a little more experienced, well it’s not quite as easy. A number of factors can determine what the best board for you is and I’ll try to help you narrow down the choices. It’s helpful to ask yourself some questions, understand what kinds of waves you want to ride, what kind of style you want to develop and fully understand your skill level before investing in a board. I’ll do my best to break down the various board choices and what kind of surfer they might fit so you can make an informed decision, and most importantly, catch some tasty waves.

The boards:

Longboard


For the beginning surfer it’s simple, start with a longboard. Lengths typically start around 8 feet (going as high as 12), Longboards are the ideal board for a new surfer, as they will provide much needed stability and control.

Most longboards are somewhere between 18 and 22 inches wide and about 3 inches thick. The traditional longboard design employs a single fin design, but both the tri-fin and quad-fin design have become increasingly popular for added maneuverability.

A popular option for true beginners is the “soft top” which is an almost sponge-like top for added grip and protection, essentially eliminating the need for wax and making the board safer for the surfer and others in the water.

Shortboard


The board most synonymous with modern surfing, the shortboard is a great choice for both progressing amateurs and pro’. When you see surfers ‘carving’ waves with sharp turns, or airing out off a lip, they are most likely riding a shortboard. Typically around six-feet tall, thin and with a wide middle, the shortboard is built for both speed and maneuverability.

Although it’s a tough choice for beginners, it’s the board most surfers evolve into using as it can be ridden in a variety of situations and is the best for fast, technical surfing.

Fish




A type of Shortboard that’s usually under six-feet, the fish has a distinctive twin fin set up with a swallowtail shape. Originally developed in the 1960’s from kneeboards, the fish has had a resurgence of popularity and is a great choice for smaller waves.

Many boards employing the signature fish tail design will be called a fish, but only those following the very specific size requirements can be called an actual “retro” fish.

Fun board
This shape combines the look and design of a shortboard with a longer package (typically 7 or 8 feet), which gives riders the ease of catching waves longboard style and the maneuverability of the shortboard.

The fun board is great for novice surfers looking to make a jump up in difficulty and begin the transition to a shortboard. As the name implies it is great 'fun' too as your wave count will be off the charts.

Shorter, lighter, or more athletic surfers can also use a funboard as their introductory board.

One plus is that they are much easier to carry than a longboard!

Egg


An egg is another tweener board, good for small waves. Generally it is about 6-8' long and is less maneuverable but more stable than a traditional shortboard.

An egg is basically a smaller version of a funboard.

Oh, and it's shaped like an egg.




Gun (Elephant Gun)

Generally for experts only, this is your big wave board of choice, a long (7 to 12 feet) board, that’s very thin and needle-like in appearance and typically utilizes the single, quad or tri-fin set up.


These are popular for world-famous big wave spots such as Mavericks or Waimea Bay and will look like a short-board, but with the length of a longboard for increased stability in these types of waters.

Of course there are other lesser known boards and styles of riding that I won’t cover in-depth. You may have seen a person standing up on an extremely large surfboard before using a paddle? That’s a paddleboard, and it’s usually as long as 14 feet, to create added stability. There’s also the Malibu, a slightly shorter and skinnier Longboard, created at the popular location in SoCal. There are many others like these, but they really don’t stray too far from the essential board-styles listed above.

Materials

Board construction materials also vary. Fiberglass is most common and makes for a less expensive board, but epoxy is more durable. Both of these types would contain either a polyurethane or polystyrene foam core (the part of the board that is ‘shaped’ and give it its buoyancy). In recent years balsa and other wooden surfboards have made a comeback. Wood was the original material of choice for surfboards. Many models now use some combination of wood, foam and epoxy or other materials.

Local Shapers


Choosing a brand of board can be overwhelming too. If you are a beginner, it is usually better to go with a used board, as you will definitely be replacing your first board at some point, either due to progression, or (hopefully not), wear and tear. Most longtime surfers recommend supporting local shapers (board designers/builders) whenever possible rather than purchasing from large corporations who build their boards overseas. This practice has the added benefit of being less damaging to the environment, but if you live in a remote area without a lot of shapers, it can really limit your selection.

Warm water vs cold water wax

The only other recommendation to give would be to make sure you’ve got good wax on your board (unless it’s a soft-top) that also jives with the temperature of the water you’ll surfing in. Consulting a list online or a local surf shop will do the trick for this.


-BZ

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20 comments:

  1. I've personally always been a fan of the long-board. I recently had to sell mine because I moved away from the beach. It was heartbreaking, but hopefully it won't be long before I am back by the beach. http://www.costa-rica-surf-adventures.com/surf_camp.html

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  4. I learned how to Surf in Costa Rica recently and I didn't know much about Surf boards thanks to this article I have more knowledge.

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