Why You Shouldn't Longboard
The point of this article isn't to convince you that longboards are the best type of board, but to help point out that you will have the most fun in the water if you surf a board that is a good fit for your skill, conditions and body type. This article is part of a series where we will look at the pros and cons of the various types of surfboards in hopes of helping you make smarter board riding choices.
This article was written by a longboarder of 10+ years. We had them take a serious look at longboarding and identify what the most frustrating and difficult parts were. Hopefully you'll benefit from their experiences and knowledge. Keep in mind though, they still longboard to this day, so don't count out the positive aspects when making your decision.
Why You Shouldn't Longboard
1. It is Steep, Hollow or Shallow: Wave conditions are one of the best reasons to ride a specific type of board. Longboards are great in many conditions, but not so much if its steep or pitching, especially if the wave is one that rises quickly. Longboards do best catching waves a bit further out. Once you're cruising the line, you can deal with some pretty steep sections, but dropping in is the troublesome part. Some waves come in fast, pitch up quickly and throw hard. A longboard will tend to pearl straight into the floor. That could mean sand, rock or some other reef, none of which is good for the board.
Sometimes there is a nice longboarding peak just down the beach, but other times the whole area is just better fit for smaller boards. Ask around, look at what other people are riding and you should be able to figure out what the situation is where you surf. If there isn't a decent longboarding spot, don't try to force it.
2. Maneuverability: Longbaords aren't known for their maneuverability. When you want to make quick turns, you are left with a pivot off the tail with 80% of the board sticking out of the water. Its a goofy move. Even on high performance longboards, what we call maneuverable is taken relatively. Like jumbo shrimp are big for shrimp but small compared to most fish, the best longboard doesn't compare to even slugish shortboard, fish or gun.
If you would like to be able to dig rail and make fully committed turns where you feel the g forces as you shoot off the bottom, you're not going to want a longboard. There are a few amazing longbaorders that will argue that you can do anything on a longboard that you can on a shortbaord. But keep two things in mind. 1. You're not them - you'll be able to maneuver better on a shorter board. 2 - Their tricks look the same, but they don't feel the same. The turns are sliced, they depend on pivots instead of driving. Its apples and oranges but in the end the average guy on the average longboard isn't as maneuverable.
3. Big Waves/Duck Diving: Paddling out a log on a 3' day is a nice experience. The board has great paddle speed and glide. You can race out before anyone else in the water and chill. Paddling out on a 12' day is a different story. Channels help but when it comes to getting caught inside or facing an outside set, you're in trouble.
Unlike a shortboard which can be duck-dived pretty deep on a longboard your best option is to turtle. Despite your best efforts, there will come a time when you get dragged back towards shore with the board tumbling in the whitewater. As it gets bigger, there will be waves that everyone just bails on their boards against. They will jump off their boards and dive down, acting as anchor for the board as the wave passes. You won't stand much of a chance on a big board, it floats too well. For bigger days, smaller boards work better and you really don't need all of that foam where the wave has a lot of power.
4. You Don't Like Dancing: Longboarding is a lot like dancing. It is graceful, draws long lines, involves delicate footwork and sometimes some spinning. You might not like that sort of thing. Longbaording has a deep tradition of hot-dogging, style, footwork, spin tricks and show poses. As you get better at longboarding you will start to watch others to progress. You will be exposed to this style of surfing. If it isn't your thing, acknowledge that from the get go and either focus more on modern high performance longboarding or transition to smaller boards.
5. They Can Be A Pain: This one has more to do with the out of the water aspect of longboards. Basically, there is a lot of foam to deal with. Storing, transporting and handling a longboard is a lot more work than doing so with a smaller board. If you have a small car, small apartment or small arms those difficulties will be compounded. Its just something to keep in mind when getting a board shape. Sometimes the difference between an 8' funboard and a 9'6" noserider will mean your board fits in the car and through your front door.
Another aspect to consider is travel. One reason to not ride a longboard in certain situations is the difficulty in getting it somewhere. Some airlines charge more for boards over 7' and others don't take anything over 10'. Once you get where you are, you will have to deal with the same transportation issues (recall the scene from Endless Summer. Even when you're not traveling overseas, getting to some beaches is nearly impossible with a log. I've done the Trestles walk, Blacks hike and various Sunset Cliffs trails with a 9'6" and it is not something to look forward to. The way is even worse once you're tired. If you really like longboarding, you will put up with it (like I do) but if you're still deciding, this is something to keep in mind.
Conclusion: When buying a surfboard you want to get something that will be fun to ride and a good fit for your lifestyle and expectations. Some people enjoy surfing longboards but they might not be for you. If you're looking for something convenient, maneuverable and able to handle steep conditions, a shorter board might be a better fit for you.
There is nothing that says you can't ride a few different types of boards though. In fact, having a diverse quiver is one of the smartest ways to build. When one style of surfing gets stale, you can switch to another for a while so that it is always fresh and exciting. Don't feel presured to ride one type of board rather than another because it seems cool. Surfing is about having fun and being on a good board for you is the first step to having fun.
Read our article on the pros of longboarding: Why You Should Longboard
Are there any other reasons that you sometimes leave the longboard at home? Leave a comment below and let us know.