To Shortboard or to Longboard

Longboarding Indonesia Lombok

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You’ve learnt the fundamentals of surfing. You can now catch waves by yourself, ride down a line left or right and perhaps have a bit more control over your board.

At this point, surfers all face an inevitable question.

To longboard or to shortboard?

Sure, you can enjoy both and will often change your board based on the conditions.

Faster, steeper, and bigger waves typically lean towards shortboards (except for REALLY big waves).

Small, slow waves usually mean the longboards are being strapped onto the roof racks.

However, over time surfers will generally develop a preference for one or the other depending on the way they like to feel on a wave.

Shortboards

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Shortboards typically range in size from 5’6” to 6’6” and have a more pointed nose than longboards.

They are more often than not set up as thrusters (a three-fin setup) though there are many different fin configurations that allow for different experiences including a twin or quad fin.

Because of their small size, they are very responsive to small changes in body movement and weight distribution which allows for better speed, maneuverability, and powerful turns when compared to larger boards.

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Big snaps off the lip, airs, and barrel riding are done almost exclusively on this type of board which is why you’ll see most competitive surfers on them.

They also allow their rider to take off on steeper waves as they are able to fit into the curve of the wave better as opposed to a larger board.

As an additional bonus, they are usually cheaper than a longboard due to the significantly fewer materials required to construct them.

This type of board does not come without drawbacks.

It is a lot harder to paddle and stabilize on which is why beginners will almost always learn to surf on larger boards with more volume. It also limits surfers to swells with more size and power to them which can be inconsistent at best.

Longboards

Longboarding vs shortboarding

Longboards are usually 9+ feet in length with a more rounded nose.

They are generally set up with a single long fin or a 2+1 setup (one large fin in the middle and two smaller fins on either side).

These boards are easier to paddle because of their volume and allow surfers to get into waves earlier so they are able to sit further out in the line-up.

If shortboarding is about speed and power, longboarding is all about flow and style.

You might not get the same radical turns or throw buckets of spray but there is nothing quite as enchanting as watching a talented longboarder glide on a wave, cross-stepping to the nose of the board and hanging ten.

Many liken it to a graceful dance with the ocean.

Longboarding vs shortboarding Indonesia Lombok

On the negative side, longboards are large and as such make them difficult to travel with.

Many airlines won’t accept checked baggage at the length of a longboard and they often don’t fit in smaller cars so require roof racks and strapping down.

Additionally, because of the sheer amount of material required to make up its volume, they are traditionally more expensive than your average shortboard.

The Shortboard Revolution

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Longboarding Indonesia Lombok

The shortboard revolution emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s as surfers started to experiment with shorter boards as new manufacturing techniques and materials became available.

Up until this point longboards of up to 14 feet dominated for the previous few decades.

Starting in Australia, it quickly spread through the global surfing community and transformed the sport into what we know it to be today.

Shortboards gave surfers the opportunity to be progressive and push the boundaries of what they could accomplish on a wave.

They could take off deeper, go faster and lean into their rail to create searing turns on and above the lip.

The Resurgence of the Longboarder

While high performance surfing has stolen the show since the early 1970s, longboarding has gained a renewed level of interest over the last decade or so largely fuelled by social media.

It has an obvious aesthetic appeal on platforms like Instagram which mesmerizes viewers with the grace and style of a talented longboarder. So much so that the World Surf League created a dedicated championship tour for longboarders.

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Longboarding presents an element of nostalgia to the surfing world, immersed in its Hawaiian historical roots.

Before surfing was trendy or a potential career path, it existed in its purest sense, simply for the stoke of riding a wave.

With lineups getting increasingly hectic and surfers hustling for the best set waves, longboarding takes us back to a time when surfing was taken a bit less seriously and done for nothing more than childlike fun.

With millions of hobby surfers around the world with no ambition to drop into 10-foot barrels at Pipeline but want to simply experience the sense of escapism that surfing provides, its recent increase in popularity is easy to understand.

To Conclude…

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At the end of the day, surfing is about fun.

There will absolutely be moments of frustration when the ocean, your board or your body simply won’t cooperate on a wave.

While there is no reason why you can’t enjoy both shortboarding and longboarding, if you’re struggling with the choice between the two, choose the one that will bring you the most joy.

Ask yourself where you find the most pleasure from surfing.

Is it the rush of dropping into a powerful wave at speed? Or the ease of gliding down a two-footer, flowing to the rhythm of the ocean?

The best part about this question is that you win either way.

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