Is a Fish Surfboard Right For You?
The first time you see a fish surfboard, you may think, “That’s a strange looking shortboard”. Upon closer examination, you discover that this strange board has some massive volume. Super thick, super wide, short - don’t forget about the huge tail and rounded nose...you say to yourself: “Wait a second...this board looks like a fish.”
1970 - San Diego, California. A huge revolution was happening in surfing, particularly due to the groundbreaking technologies that allowed shapers to let their imaginations run wild. The shortboard revolution was forcing people to reconsider what was possible on a wave, and new surfboard shapes were a major catalyst at this pivotal point in surfing history.
Aside from ancestors of the modern day short board being pioneered, the very first fish was born in the family garage of Steve Lis.
Since then, the fish surfboard has proved itself to be a necessary board in many surfers’ quiver. If you’re considering expanding your board lineup, and you’d like to learn more about the fish surfboard, then this article is for you.
What are the benefits of a fish board?
Note: if you want to learn the science of a fishboard, and really find out what makes a fish fly, then check out The Science of Fish Surfboards.
Speed in Small Waves
You’re excited the weather is getting nicer, you’ve finally ditched the wetsuit, and you’re ready to enjoy some summertime swell...You head to the beach and find...this:
Small waves. Mush. Ankle biters. Slow as snails. Slop. Choppy. Whatever you want to call these waves, they are small and mushy.
A short board can be difficult to unleash in small, weak surf. Sure, you have the option of a longboard, but you want speed in these small waves.
The fish can give you what you’re looking for, we’ll get into the science later, but for now, it’s important to understand is that the biggest benefit of the fish surfboard is the easiness in which we get speed in small waves.
A Fast, Easy Paddle
The fish board has significantly more volume than a shortboard. What does volume mean for a surfboard? High volume equates to buoyancy. Being buoyant will mean the board will cruise in the water, making paddling easier and faster.
A fish surfboard will also have very little rocker - the curve of a surfboard - which makes it easier to paddle, too.
Great Wave Catchability
Catching waves. It’s what’s for dinner. Sure, most of surfing is paddling, and when we’re learning, most of surfing is wiping out - but on the very best days, we’re out there, catching waves. Days when the surf is mushy and weak, catching waves can still become a reality. We have options as surfers. The first is a shortboard, which will may be a challenge that may not seem worth it in light of the other choices we have. The next is a longboard. The last, is a fish.
Even though a fish board will typically be shorter than a shortboard, its width and thickness is comparable to a longboard. Which means you’re going to be able to catch mushier smaller waves that may normally pass you by if you were on a shortboard (and go faster!).
Now, other than length, there is one special reason that really distinguishes itself from a longboard. To explain, watch this video of someone ripping on a fish surfboard.
Ask yourself - could you do that on your longboard?
The fish makes it possible to be able to have a lot of fun on the wave by giving you the possibility to perform some more intermediate and advanced maneuvers.
Possibility of Manuevers
The fish surfboard can do more than just “go fast in small waves” it holds the possibility to be able to complete some surf tricks. Of course, remember that the fish won’t be able to do everything your shortboard does in terms of tricks.
Is the Fish Surfboard the Right Choice for Me?
Let’s take a look at a three of the biggest questions to answer before deciding if the fish is right for your.
For a truly personalized surfboard match, take the Surf Science Surfboard Quiz.
1. What is Your Current Skill Level
The Brand New Surfer
Of course, most people will always recommend a longboard for people starting out. So if you’re looking for your very first board, then you may want to think about a longboard. The truth is, fish boards are going to be less stable than a longboard, which means they may not be the best choice for a brand new surfer.
That said, there may be some situations where an argument can be made that a fish can be a suitable learner’s board. For one, the learner should have experience with other board sports. This will cover some of the balance needed for a fish vs longboard. Next, the learning curve can be forgiven on a larger (about 7 foot) fish.
The Experienced Surfer Looking for Something New
This is probably the most popular group that picks up a fish. Maybe it’s the beginner who wants to transition from a longboard and start carving and becoming more dynamic on the wave. Or maybe it’s the seasoned surfer who wants an easier shot at having fun on days where the surf may be too slow and mushy for their shortboard.
Fish offer a huge range of possibilities for both the longboard-proficient and the short boarder.
2. What Kind of Waves Will You Be Riding?
If the waves are perfect: huge and hollow, then bring on the shortboards and get barreled. If the waves are smaller, mushier, sloppier, rolling - and you still bring your shortboard - you may find yourself struggling to catch every single wave, and will spend as much energy paddling for the wave as you will be pumping relentlessly to stay on the short-lived wave.
The waves are not always perfect, and if you’re looking to still have a fast, fun, adrenaline rush in mushy surf, then a fish will be the perfect addition to your board rack.
If the waves you will be riding are going to be 6 feet and up, then a fish is probably not the board you’re looking for. Because the fish has almost no rocker (the curve of the board), you risk pearling upon take off.
3. What Are Your Surfing Goals?
Are you looking to compete with Kelly Slater in 8 years in the ASP? (He’ll still be winning titles in 2020 right?) Do you only get stoked if you are pulling floaters, intense cutbacks, and aerials? If you’re only looking for a high-performance surfing experience, then the fish is probably not for you. Again, the biggest benefit of the fish is the ability to catch smaller waves. Yes, a fish does provide the opportunity for maneuvers, but it’s not close to what the shortboard has to offer.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re the weekend warrior who is just looking to catch waves and not worry about a skatey-board sliding out from underneath him on the wave, then it’s best for them to keep on enjoying their current experience. Stay stoked!
So...Is the Fish Right For Me?
In summary, the fish surfboard will help you get the most from your local break. You’ll be able to head to the beach and have fun on the days when the waves aren’t picture perfect. For transitioning surfers from beginner to intermediate, it’s a great transition from a longboard. You’ll still have the paddle power of your longboard, but now you’ll be able to incorporate a wider range of movements.
The fish surfboard will be a great addition to your board rack, as it will really broaden your experience in the water. Smaller days won’t seem such a bummer, because you’ll be out there ripping past struggling shortboarders on your fish.
Have you decided that a fish is right for you? Do you still have some questions? We’d love to help you on your journey and help find the perfect board. Drop us a line on our facebook page or our "Ask-a-Surf Scientist" page.