Why You Should Shortboard
Shortboarders have all of the fun. They get all of the girls and are obviously the coolest surfers. Consider walking down the beach with that light little board under your arm looking good and thinking about the tricks you can land. Plus, there are tons of cool words you get to use to describe your surf session like: getting shacked, busting air, shredding the face, blowing the lip. All very cool, and that is why you should shortboard.
There is obviously a lot of sarcasm in that last paragraph. None of those should be reasons to shortboard, but unfortunately for many surfers they are. The point of this article isn't to convince you that shortboards are the best type of board, but to help point out that surfing a board that is a good fit for your skill, conditions and body type will allow you to have the most fun in the water. 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.
Before we go any further, we'll need to define what a shortboard is. (Feel free to skip ahead to point #1 if you already read the cons article.)
Length isn't everything when it comes to board definitions. A 5' fish is no more a shortboard than a 10' gun is a longboard. The term shortboard is currently used to refer to the modern high performance surfboard. They typically have 3 fins though quads are popular right now and twin fins or super twins are not unheard of.
One of the main distinctions that makes a board a high performance shortboard has to do with how the board generates its power. Shortboards do so by being put on rail. They are thin, have a good amount of rocker and will slow down when heading straight, so to make them work, you have to pump them from rail to rail, putting pressure on the board's flex pattern and fins. You then release that pressure by straightening out into your next maneuver.
Most of the guys you see in magazines and at the beach will be riding shortboards, and there is a good reason for that. The shortboard offers many strengths that make it a great board. So, what are the strengths associated with shortboarding? Here are some reasons to keep in mind when making a board decision.
Why You Should Shortbaord
1. It Is 5ft+ & Pitching: Wave conditions are one of the best reasons to shortboard. The waves you have access to might be steep, fast and powerful. You might surf somewhere on the North Shore of Hawaii, at a local reef break or a A-frame. These sorts of waves work best with a board that is fast, maneuverable and that can make use of the pocket and critical zone of the wave. Because these waves are steep, you don't need a lot of paddle power to catch them and so a shorter board can suffice, but make sure you have plenty of rocker as flatter boards tend to pearl in these conditions. Though many types of boards like these conditions, the shortboard, with its curved rail outline, dramatic rocker and shorter length, can work wonders when dropping into a nice head high wave.
You might see some guys on bigger boards out there catching waves earlier, but they will probably be surfing more towards the shoulder of the wave and not making use of the the steep curl section which is where the majority of a waves power comes from. That steep section allows you to build potential energy which you then convert into kinetic energy. Or in non science terms, you turn height into speed. On a day when the waves pack a punch, make use of what nature offers by riding a board that can tap into that energy.
2. Barrels: Shortboards work well inside of barrels. Yes you can head dip on a longboard. Yes you can tuck in on a fish. Yes you can get shacked on a single fin. But the performance shortboard was born for the barrel. If you want to get deep, long barrels & make a home inside the green room, then riding a shortbaord would be a good decision.
3. Greater Diversity Of Maneuvers: Shortboarders have a versatile arsenal of tricks and riding styles. Some shortboarders like to bust airs above the wave. Others like to surf with power, digging deep into the wave and sending spray everywhere. Some shortboarders draw long smooth lines, doing figure eights while others do fast snaps and make quick pumps on the face of the wave.
A large part of the reason there are so many ways to ride shortboards has to do with their ability to function well on a large part of a wave's face. Every board works best on a certain part of the wave, but shortboards are quick enough to jet off to other sections before coming back to their ideal spot in the pocket. If you want to open yourself up to new surfing experiences, shortboarding is a great way to do so. You might have a lazy back-footed day where you cruise the wave, slowly pumping the line, but you can turn that around on the same board and surf off of your front foot, slapping the lip repeatedly.
Every surfboard offers a new style and the shortboard offers a few, so if you're looking to mix up your style, try one out.
4. Shortboarding Is Competitive: Some of us just like to compete. We like to find challenges that give us a way to push ourselves. By competing against worthy opponents, we can push ourselves further than we thought possible, reach new heights and experience a level of stoke and satisfaction only available through conquering a challenge.
Shortboarding is one part of surfing that really opens itself up to competition. As you paddle out you'll see other surfers drop buckets and float sections. You'll return the favor as they paddle back out and watching each other will inspire and drive each of you further. You might grab a burrito afterward or just talk in the lineup, giving them tips on where they can improve and getting the same. For some of us, there is no greater joy.
Of course it comes with frustration at points, but without the lows, would the high be as great? Look at Mick Fanning & Joel Parkinson, two great competitors fighting against each other since they were boys, but now, two of the best performance shortboarders in the world. For some of us, this makes sense, and that is part of why we shortboard.
5. Shortboards Are Lighter/Smaller/More Manageable: Made for high performance surfing, shortboards typically are built with lightness in mind. The board has less foam and less glass used in the construction process. By using less resin, the board is lighter which offers you a range of benefits.
In the water, you will be able to put yourself in some gnarly situations without worrying as much about your board. The fact that there is less foam means you can push the board under easier which will come in handy for duck diving set waves. Riding closeouts is also a lot of fun on a shortboard because whenever you're ready to get off the wave, all you have to do is grab rail and lean into the wave, you will pull the board through the water easily, which isn't an option on bigger board.
On land, the shortboard is easier to store, maneuver and transport. Its not hard to find a nice corner to lean 5 or 6 thrusters, but if you've ever had big boards, you know that sometimes its a project finding a place to keep them, especially if you live in a rented apartment.
Part of being smaller is that shortboards are less expensive. There is less material used and so there are lower costs to the shaper. You might pay $600 for a shortboard where as a longboard could cost $900 or more. That might not be a major factor, but it is something to keep in mind.
Conclusion: When buying a surfboard you should make sure the board will be a good fit for your surfing. Some people enjoy surfing a longboard but you might have a few good reasons to get a shortboard that tip the scales in favor. 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 is the first step to having fun.
The best part is that you don't have to pick one or the other. You can get a few boards or borrow from friends, riding different boards as the waves call for it. A longboard session in the morning class and a shortboard at the reef down the way when low tide comes around. Try a few boards out, see what they have to offer and remember to have fun out there. That's what its all about.
Read our article on the cons of shortboarding: Why You Shouldn't Shortboard
Are there any other reasons you like shortboards? Leave a comment below and let us know.