Surfboards are the closest thing to walking on water. Once beginner surfers get the basics down, this is the way that most of them would describe it. Surfing. The act of taking a board and heading out to sea.
The sport pops up frequently. On TV, movies, and anything else that wants to showcase a fun summer activity. These representations can be misleading, though.
Don’t get me wrong; surfing is fun. But it is also hard. Harder still when you aren’t using the right type of board. There’s more than one kind? Absolutely! There are several different kinds of surfboards.
To ensure the best performance, you’re gonna need the right tool for the job.
Surf Boards! What They Are And Choosing the Right One
Before we tear apart the specifics, let’s baby step this topic. Surfboards are narrow boards (typically) that are used for riding waves. The board you use is dependent on what specific need or style you are trying to pull off.
Considering there are different kinds of surfboard types. A beginner surfer will want a board that is easier to balance. Thanks to its added volume.
Intermediate and advanced surfers may require a board that’s made for turning. Cutting through waves. Choosing the right board is important for pulling off your desired style.
Once you get your first board, you can start planning that surfing vacation!
A Run Down of Every Major Surfboard Type
Classic shape. This is the board that comes to your mind when I say “surfboard.” There are three main surfboard shapes. Shortboards are by far the most performance-oriented. A traditional shortboard is most commonly used by intermediate and more advanced surfers.
These boards are best used for handling big and powerful waves. Typically, a beginner surfer works their way up. Eventually settling on a shortboard once they have the required skill and experience.
- Average Board Length: 5ft 8in to 6ft 8in
- Board Shape: Classic surfboard shape
- Fin Setup: Thruster three-fin setup
The original. For when taking it easy is demanded. The longboard surfboard was among the first surfboard types ever released. They remained the board of choice for several years. Only being dethroned once shortboards entered the fold.
Longboards are the generalist’s choice. They can be used by a wide range of surfers. Able to take on all kinds of conditions. Best used by intermediate surfers. Those that want to catch as many waves as possible.
- Average Board Length: 9ft to 11ft
- Board Shape: Round nose and flat tail shapes
- Fin Setup: One large singular fin
3. Fish Boards
The kings of the seventies. Recently experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Fish surfboards gained their first run of fame due to the invention of the dual fin setup. However, with time, their prominence waned.
It wasn’t until recent years that they once again received a surge in recognition. The reason? The combination of a fish surfboard with a quad fin setup. Best used for clean wave hunting of medium height.
Although, head-high clean waves can also be handled well by this board.
- Average Board Length: 6ft 8in to 7ft 3in
- Board Shape: Pointy nose with double point tail
- Fin Setup: Twin fin setup
The Mini Malibu. Mini-Mal surfboards trump any foam board that you put up against it. They aren’t called “fun boards” for nothing. Thanks to their stable performance and thruster back end, these make for a stable ride.
For anyone getting into surfing. Those without their sea legs, this is the board type for you. Mini-mal surfboards or “fun boards” vary wildly in all metrics. Length and weight are where the most variety can be seen.
Best used for small waves and easy paddling.
- Average Board Length: 7ft to 9ft
- Board Shape: Round tail and nose shapes
- Fin Setup: Three-fin setup
5. Gun Boards
The big wave slayer. No other board takes the fight to them like gun surfboards. A big wave gun surfboard is best used by experts. Those riddled with sunburn. Guided by years of experience.
Far more advanced in their build than foam boards. Thanks in part to the lead glass strips that have been inserted into the deck. All in an effort to add extra weight. Boost control. As for their appearance, imagine two shortboards that have been merged together.
- Average Board Length: Within nine feet
- Board Shape: Pinched nose and tail shape
- Fin Setup: Three-fin setup
6. Soft Tops
Calling all novices! Those nascent to the world of surfing. Often called Foamies, this board type can be found at surf schools around the world. You won’t find any fiberglass and epoxy resin here.
Instead, soft-top surfboards are designed to handle small and rugged waves. These smaller waves can trip up any beginner. Not only are they more stable than regular boards, but also safer.
Recently, various brands have begun creating performance-oriented soft tops. To be used by advanced beginners looking to improve further.
- Average Board Length: 8ft to 9ft 3in
- Board Shape: Round nose that is curved upward
- Fin Setup: Three-fin setup
7. Hybrid Surfboard
Can’t decide between one or the other? Get both! A hybrid surfboard design incorporates the best of two different styles. Now, the two styles being melded together will vary. No matter the combination, this board type always manages to satisfy.
However, picking out the right hybrid surfboard will be difficult. What a hybrid board will be good for depends on its design combination. Typically, these are performance boards.
- Average Board Length: 6ft to 7ft 4in
- Board Shape: Usually have a pointed nose and dual fin tail
- Fin Setup: Dual fin setup
8. Mini Simmons
Hard-boiled or scrambled? This “egg-centric” board is best used for handling small waves. The little pups that can’t go past head height. Mini Simmons are egg-shaped boards. They have this form due to their design mission.
The purpose of this board type was to take all the advantages of a longboard and then condense it. Despite their length, beginners should have no trouble riding with these. Even intermediates could make use of their oblong shape.
It’s their wide shape that grants them such great stability.
- Average Board Length: 5ft 4in to 6ft
- Board Shape: Egg-shaped
- Fin Setup: Dual fin setup
9. Semi Gun
The younger gun. Remember the gun surfboards from before? Well, this is their younger brother. Still capable of slaying the big kahunas of the surfing world. An impressive feat considering their length. As these boards are much smaller than regular gun boards.
Its shorter length does come with some benefits. Turning is much easier, and performance as a whole is solid. Best used by advanced surfers.
- Average Board Length: 6ft to 7ft 5in
- Board Shape: Pinched tail and nose
- Fin Setup: Three-fin setup
10. Foil boards
Motor ready! Foil boards are for those that want to level up their surfing experience. With these boards, you can zip across the waves.
Thanks to the motor attached to them, high-powered and effortless riding is a possibility. And you can forget about traditional fin setups. You won’t be needing them any longer. Foil boards are among the smallest of all board types.
There’s much more to foiling, but the above is the pure basics.
- Average Board Length: 4ft 6in to 5ft 6in
- Board Shape: Pointed nose and flat tail
Everything That Affects Your Board’s Performance
From nose to tail. A board’s length directly correlates to how many waves it can catch. Longer boards also have a longer waterline. This results in greater stability. That there is the main reason why boards for novices are usually long.
The added stability helps beginners stay afloat. Board length and paddling power are also connected. Longer boards will increase your paddling power. Allowing you to go further while doing less.
Elongated boards may seem optimal, but shortboard surfboards do have their benefits.
Width Of Board
Board width and stability are symbiotic. Much like in skiing and snowboarding, the wider a board, the more stable it is. Stability. It’ll come up frequently when discussing surfboards. Of any kind.
It’s because that is the single most important trait a board should have. After all, you are trying to ride waves. Not exactly the easiest thing to do!
Boards with smaller widths are performance oriented. The opposite of those with wider widths. Wider boards are also slower than their narrow counterparts.
Board thickness can vary in two ways. First is where the thickest point of the board is located. Usually, this will be the center. The second is overall thickness. A board’s thickness will determine its strength.
Stronger boards are thicker. This increase in strength helps support the rider. Due to the fact that there is more foam underneath the surfer. Thinner boards are made for performance. These boards are faster and can maintain higher speeds better.
Keep in mind that board weight is also affected.
Otherwise known as the profile. A board’s foil refers to its distribution of thickness and volume. This trait determines where a board is at its thickest. Also affected is how that thickness is dispersed.
As we know, thickness is connected to strength. As such, so is a board’s profile or foil.
More than performance, a board’s build material affects its longevity. How long your board will last is determined completely by what it is made out of. When it comes to performance, your board’s weight depends on its build material.
More weight equals greater stability. The downside is slower speeds.
Types of Surfboard Materials
There are several types of materials that can be used to make surfboards. Some of the most common types include:
Polyurethane (PU) foam: This is the most traditional material used to make surfboards. The foam is shaped into the desired shape of the board and then covered in fiberglass cloth and resin.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam: This material is similar to PU foam but is lighter and more buoyant. EPS foam is often used in combination with epoxy resin to create lighter and more durable boards.
Balsa wood: Balsa wood is a lightweight and buoyant wood that has been used to make surfboards since the early days of the sport. Balsa boards are typically covered in fiberglass cloth and resin.
Carbon fiber: Carbon fiber is a strong and lightweight material that is often used to reinforce high-performance surfboards. Carbon fiber is typically used in combination with epoxy resin to create a strong and lightweight board.
Epoxy resin: Epoxy resin is a type of synthetic resin that is often used in combination with foam or wood cores to create strong and durable surfboards. Epoxy resin is more environmentally friendly than polyester resin, which is often used with PU foam.
Cork: Cork is a natural and eco-friendly material that has been used to make surfboards in recent years. Cork boards are typically covered in a layer of fiberglass or other material to provide additional strength.
Bio-based materials: There are also a number of bio-based materials that can be used to make surfboards, including hemp, bamboo, and other sustainable materials. These materials offer an eco-friendly alternative to traditional surfboard materials.
Types of Surfboard Tails
There are several types of surfboard tails, each with its own unique characteristics that affect a board’s performance in the water. The most common types of surfboard tails include:
Squash Tail: The squash tail is a rounded square shape that is one of the most popular tail shapes for surfboards. It offers a good balance between stability and maneuverability, making it a good choice for a variety of surfers and conditions.
Round Tail: The round tail is a smooth, curved shape that provides a lot of control and hold in the water. It is often used on longer boards and in larger waves.
Pin Tail: The pin tail is a narrow, pointed shape that offers excellent control and speed in larger waves. It is not as stable as other tail shapes, so it is typically used by experienced surfers.
Swallow Tail: The swallow tail is a shape that is wider at the front and narrower at the back, with a deep split down the middle. It provides a lot of lift and allows for quick turns, making it a popular choice for small to medium-sized waves.
Diamond Tail: The diamond tail is a shape that is narrow at both the front and back, with two diagonal cuts on either side. It offers a lot of control and stability, making it a good choice for bigger waves.
Bat Tail: The bat tail is a shape that is similar to the swallow tail, but with a wider, rounder split down the middle. It offers a lot of lift and allows for quick, tight turns, making it a popular choice for small to medium-sized waves.
Square Tail: The square tail is a shape that is similar to the squash tail, but with straight edges instead of rounded ones. It provides a lot of stability and is often used on longboards or in larger waves.
These are just a few of the most common types of surfboard tails, and there are many variations and combinations of these shapes as well. Ultimately, the best tail shape for a particular surfer depends on their individual skill level, the type of waves they are riding, and their personal preferences.
Who knew there was so much variety when it came to surfboard types? Whether you go with a fiberglass board or try your hand at some foam surfboards, just make sure you’ve got the right tool for the job.
The waves you plan on going up against and your own skill level. Those are the two determining factors that will help you pick out a board. And don’t try anything fancy, until you got the basics down.