An unabating feud has long existed between long- and shortboard surfers ever since shortboards entered the surf scene in the late 1960s. While both have strong arguments supporting their side, we are all essentially doing the same thing – riding the tides! If you’re an aspiring surfer, you may wonder which is right for you.
Longboards are more buoyant, stable, and easier to ride. They are ideal for beginners and surfers looking for a laidback surfing experience. Shortboards are designed for high-performance and powerful waves. They are difficult to ride, making them better suited for intermediate and expert riders.
Although both longboard and shortboard surfboards belong on the waves, an extra three or four feet of foam can make all the difference. Let’s compare the difference between the two surfboard styles to discover which suits you best.
Table of Contents
Difference Between Longboard Surfing And Shortboard Surfing
The primary difference between a longboard and a shortboard include the length, shape, foam volume, fin setup, surf level, and the wave type they’re intended for.
If you want to skip the reading, take a quick scan through the seven main differences:
|Longboard Surfboard||Shortboard Surfboard|
|Length||9ft +||5ft to 7ft|
|Shape||Wide, curved outline (rounded nose)||Pointer, upturned tip (rocker nose)|
|Fin Setup||· A large single central fin
· Central fin and two smaller trailer fins on each side
|Smaller fins with various setups
· Bonza (five fins)
|Surf Level||Beginner +||Intermediate +|
|Wave Type||· Any wave
· The ideal is 1 to 3ft green wave
|· Large range, but better suited in larger surf
· The ideal wave is 2ft+
Now, for those looking for a bit more detail, let’s look at each board.
Traditionally, longboards have a height upwards of 9 feet – they should measure at least three feet taller than the surfer’s height. These surfboards feature wide decks, large, rounded noses, and thick foam rails for increased volume. They are typically set up with a single fin but occasionally feature two smaller trailer fins on each side.
Shortboards range between 5 to 7 feet in height. They are low volume and feature a pointier shape and thinner foam rails. Shortboards have much smaller fins available in various setups, including twin-fin, thruster, quad, and bonza.
Longboard surfboards offer a more laid-back cruising experience. They are easy to paddle, stable, and guarantee to catch more waves and ride them for longer.
Longboards are suitable for a range of surfers, from beginners to professionals and avid longboarders. Logging – a common surf term for riding a longboard – has experienced a revival since the shortboard revolution. If you are collecting a quiver of surfboards, adding a classic longboard to your collection is a must!
Shortboards are specially designed for speed and high maneuverability; their high turn response makes them ideal for larger, more powerful waves. However, their small size makes them much harder to paddle and balance – they are better suited for intermediate to advanced surfers.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Shortboard Surfing
Shortboard surfboards range onto the high-performance spectrum of surfing. The better you understand the surf, the better you can channel the power and speed of a shortboard. Here’s a rundown of a shortboard’s advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages Of Shortboard Surfing
Here are the top advantages of a shortboard:
- Performance:It is specially designed for speed, high maneuverability, and high-performance surfing.
- Size:The small size and light weight make the surfboard easy to transport and store.
- Duck diving:The shortboard is the easiest to duck dive and get “out the back.”
- Hollow waves:The shortboard has a more prominent rocker in its nose, making it perfect for steep drop-ins and hollow, barrelling waves.
- Durability:Shortboards are mostly from epoxy or EPS blanks, making them highly durable.
- Versatile:They have a wide variety of fin setups – twin-fin, thruster, quad, and bonza.
Disadvantages Of Shortboard Surfing
Here are the disadvantages of a shortboard:
- Advanced: Shortboards are the most challenging to surf. They are better suited for intermediate to professional surfers with solid technique.
- Usability: Shortboards are built for optimal performance. They do not perform well in small, mellow waves.
- Paddling: The lack of volume makes it harder to paddle.
Choosing Between Longboard Surfing And Shortboard Surfing: Factors To Consider
From skill level to wave shape and board style, there are various factors that you need to consider when choosing between a longboard and a shortboard.
1. Skill Level
What is your skill level? If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to opt for a longboard. It’s easier to ride and more forgiving than a shortboard thanks to its wider, more stable shape.
If you’re an advanced surfer, consider getting a more performance-orientated shortboard to help push your limits and grow your skill.
2. Fitness Level
You’ll be surprised how big of a role fitness plays in choosing the correct surfboard for the best surfing experience. You don’t want to compromise your wave count on account of your surfing fitness (or rather, your lack thereof).
A high-volume longboard adds buoyancy to your surfboard, making it easier to paddle into the lineup. Remember, you still want enough paddle power to catch those waves!
As you gain stamina, your paddling and endurance will improve. Stronger paddles allow you to consider switching to a thinner, less buoyant shortboard to enjoy a more performance-based ride.
3. Wave Type
What wave type do you enjoy surfing most?
Naturally, your skill level will impact the wave types you’re riding. Here’s the best surfboard based on the wave type:
- Small waves: Longboards with a high volume are best for small, slow waves and for cruising around those ankle biters.
- Medium waves: You can still have a blast riding a medium wave on a longboard, but you can also consider busting out your performance shortboard.
- Big waves: Intermediate and advanced surfers should use their shortboards to challenge bigger, hollow waves and to catch a barrel.
Most surfers have a quiver of surfboards rather than owning just one, which allows them to catch waves no matter the surf type. So, if you know you’re going to spend a lot of time surfing, consider investing in more than one surfboard.
4. Style Preference
Longboards are designed for a more laid-back, cruising surfing style, making them an ideal choice for beginners and surfers looking for a more relaxed ride. Conversely, shortboards are strategically designed for high-performance surfing, making them better suited for intermediate to advanced surfers that know their way around a surf.
5. Length & Volume
Length and volume are vital factors to consider. As we mentioned earlier, longboards are more stable and easier to ride. Beginners or larger surfers should consider opting for a longboard.
Shortboards are less stable but more agile, responsive, and maneuverable, making them an ideal choice for advanced surfers that like to perform tricks.
Longboard Surfing Vs Shortboard Surfing: Which Is Easier To Learn?
A longboard is the quickest and easiest way to learn how to surf. Beginners should start with a longboard and work their way up to a shortboard after mastering paddling, pop-ups, balance, trimmings, and turning.
Learning how to surf requires practice to learn how to catch a wave. A longboard is the quickest and easiest way to learn how to surf. Beginners should start with a longboard and work up to a shortboard after mastering paddling, pop-ups, balance, trimmings, and turning.
Beginner surfers learn fastest using a surfboard with extra float and stability. A longboard is stiff, buoyant, and reacts slower to the water, which gives surfers more time to respond to the waves. They also ensure a more leisurely paddle, perfect for inexperienced surfers who need to grow stronger and build stamina.
Longboards handle smaller, slower waves better than shortboards, which are naturally much better for learning. The extra length and volume make paddling a lot easier, allowing unfit and inexperienced surfers to save energy for catching waves.
While you can learn to surf on a shortboard, shortboards are more responsive, which requires accurate positioning and weight distribution. The smaller surface area makes paddling harder, pop-ups are more unstable, and takeoffs are steeper.
Tips For Transitioning From Longboard Surfing To Shortboard Surfing (And Vice Versa)
Transitioning from a shortboard surfboard to a longboard is easy. If you can ride a shortboard, you have already mastered the trickiest part. With a bit of muscle memory, you’ll master riding a longboard in no time. However, transitioning from a longboard to a shortboard is tricky and takes a whole lot of practice.
Here are the top tips for transitioning from a log to a rip stick.
1. Ensure You Are Ready
Before even considering transitioning from a longboard to a shortboard, ensure you can catch green waves consistently, angle your surfboard at takeoff, and ride waves down the line.
2. Try Switching Between Multiple Sizes
A slow, gradual transition from a longboard to a shortboard is best. If possible, try to switch between as many board sizes and only knock off a couple of inches at a time. You can rent a board from a local surf shop. It takes time, practice, failure, and some more practice before you will be comfortable riding a shortboard. Size down and ride the surfboard several times until you are reasonably comfortable before sizing down again.
3. Wait For Medium To Large Waves
Nothing will frustrate you more than transitioning from a longboard to a shortboard in gutless knee-high surf. The additional volume of a longboard helps with overall buoyancy on smaller waves.
Ride your shortboard in waves that are at least stomach height and have sufficient power.
4. Pay Attention To Positioning
Scaling down to a shortboard immediately tightens the central area and offers less paddling power. So, reading the surf zone and correct positioning is vital in the lineup.
If you are too far out, you might miss the wave, and if you are too far on the shoulder, you might miss the wave.
You will want to practice having a good style on your board. Practice improving duck dives, smooth drops, proper stance, flowing turns, and correct body placement. While minor errors won’t greatly impact a longboard, the same mistakes can make riding a shortboard near impossible.
How To Choose The Right Surfboard: Factors To Consider
The surfer makes the surfboard, not the other way around. Choosing the right surfboard that suits your abilities, style, and surf conditions is vital to ensuring maximum success and fun on the water.
We have narrowed the most critical factors down to three key elements – rider skill level, surfboard volume, and surfing style.
1. Identify Your Surfing Skill Level
Identify your surfing skills level before calculating the ideal surfboard volume.
- Beginner: First-timers and part-time surfers performing at a basic surf level. You’re standing up and catching white and small unbroken waves.
- Intermediate: Progressive surfers that have mastered the basics of reading the surf and trimming waves and are developing maneuvers with limited consistency, speed, power, and control.
- Advanced: Surfers with reasonably consistent maneuvers and good speed, power, and control. You catch around 8/10 of the realistic waves you paddle for.
- Expert: Elite surfers with excellent maneuverability, speed, power, and control. You can do multiple tricks and catch around 9/10 of the waves you paddle for.2. Calculate Your Ideal Surfboard Volume
The appropriate board volume is unique to each individual, but it is arguably the most essential variable to consider when choosing the right surfboard size, whether you go for a 5-inch or 9-inch board. The ideal volume is generated by each surfer’s weight, age, fitness, surf ability, and personal preference.
Choosing the proper volume will impact the following characteristics positively:
- Paddle Power
- Speed, Drive, and Glide
Higher-volume surfboards paddle easier and are more stable and buoyant, making them better for beginners and older riders. Whereas lower volume boards turn faster with less effort but are less stable and require more skill to catch waves.
As a general rule, beginners should be riding a board equivalent to 100% of their body weight (kg) in volume (liters). For example, a beginner surfer weighing 198 lbs/ 90kg should choose a surfboard with approximately 90 liters in volume.
An experienced surfer can ride a surfboard at around 40% of their total body weight, and a professional can even ride as little as 30%.
This formula may need to be adapted to your age, fitness, and wave conditions.
3. Style Of Surfing
You want to choose a board that supports your surfing style and preferences. If you are new to surfing or prefer cruising and trimming the waves with minimal thought about performance, the longboard is the way to go.
If you’re looking for a board with more speed, maneuverability, and agility to perform sharp turns and tricks and pack barrels, the shortboard is your best bet.
There isn’t one surfboard model that excels in all surf conditions. Each model is designed to perform better in specific wave conditions. For example, a longboard with a wide tail is better suited for weaker waves than a shortboard with a narrow tail that excels in powerful waves.
Conclusion: Which Surfboard Is Right For You?
There are multiple ways to ride the tide! Longboards are more buoyant and stable, making them better suited for beginners and surfers who want to cruise the waves. Shortboards are perfect for intermediate to advanced surf junkies seeking speed, high maneuverability, tricks, and powerful waves.
Torsten Bird is a talented and adventurous waterman from Western Australia, passionate about surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, hydrofoiling, skimboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding. Torsten has spent countless hours mastering his skills and his dream is to one day represent Australia as an Olympic athlete. Follow Torsten’s adventures on Instagram.