In Understanding Surfboard Shapes Part 1 we found out how the various parts of a surf board work but what are the differences between the boards shapes on offer?  Tim Jones of Surf School Sri Lanka and Surf School Lanzarote is back to help you figure it all out. With names like Fishes, Mini Mals, Short Boards, Longboards, Fun Boards, Quads and Thrusters, how do you know the right type of board to help with surfing progression, or perhaps even more importantly, to have the most fun?

There has never been a wider and more varied selection of boards to beg, borrow or steal as currently exist. We are inundated with visits to surfboard designs of the past, totally new performance concepts and ever more user friendly surfboard shapes for beginners. To add to the excitement, we are at the very start of the industry embarking on a trip down a more environmentally responsible path for the wave riding crafts that give us so much joy. Who knows? You might even go buy one!

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Short Boards

It’s a strange name, but in comparison to the rest of the shapes, seems suitable. What we really need to take into consideration is that as much as we would like to ride whatever board the pros ride, that’s often not the best board for ourselves. Unless you have grown up surfing on a daily basis, the short board that a pro uses will usually be unsuitable for you. So if you are a weekend warrior, or you didn’t start surfing until you were older than fifteen, you would fit in with the “late starter”category and a typical short board may not be your best choice.

beachbeat-disco-shortboard-surfboard-surfingNever mind your late start though because with some of the newest user friendly short board designs, like Lost Surfboard’s Puddle Jumper, Channel Island’s Pod Mod or Fire Wire’s Almond Butter have changed the way we think about short boards. They have opened up a whole world of manoeuvrability and paddle power for those with less than pro tour ability. A larger volume of material within the board together with extra width and flatter (hence easier) rockers (to understand these terms, see previous article), which is then set up with either quad, triple or twin fins can offer wave catching options often lacking from a standard short board. These variations can always be used in the less than perfect conditions we often have to surf in as an average Joe. I rode a Puddle Jumper the other day in far from perfect surf conditions and the board was really excellent.

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Mini Malibu

This shape has many names. I much prefer the title“Mid Range” for those boards that are not long boards, but not short boards either. Even more odd is the europhile name “Fun Board”. We hope all boards are fun don’t we? and the worst name must be an “Evolution” model. When did Darwin become a shaper? Walk into a US surf shop and ask to see their “Mini Malibu’s “and you may be meet a blank stare of confusion.

Anyway, let’s stick to the tired name of “Mini Malibu” or “Mini Mal”. To avoid any confusion these mid range are not long boards. Longboards start at 9 foot, end of story. These days there are so many great mid range boards around but quite a few awful ones too so do be careful what you buy. The Torq range of mid range boards offer a great start and don’t forget the Egg design, a real ‘do it all’ of a board and Fluid Juice’s Flow Egg and Speed Egg are classic examples of this amazing style. Of course the late, great Donald Takayama made some of the very best mid range boards.
bic-surf_2016_benthouard_749_3000px-81f17b90These types of shape allow progression for those who are learning, but also act as a go-to for many experienced surfers as well. They handle lots of different conditions with aplomb, work at all experience levels and can be kept as an excellent back up board when the more experienced surfer feels like drawing some extra big carves with style.

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Long Board

A longboard is whole different style of surfing and when done properly is a joy to watch. The camp of long boards has a split too. The lower volume modern longboard has more radical rocker so turning with more short board style lines is possible. The South Point range includes the Bonga Perkins MK 2 which is a great example of this type of board  It’s able to take on bigger waves and is often used in competition long boarding with a triple fin or a 1 + 2 set-up,  (1 + 2 is when there is a large central fin and 2 smaller ones on the outside).

A really good alternative to the more expensive epoxy and polyurethane  boards out there are BIC’s too longstanding designs, the 9 Classic and the 9’4” Nat Young model.  Both these designs have all the right long board features but are at an affordable price for many.

maxresdefaultThen we have the classic “longs” or Mals (short for Malibu) built with smaller waves in mind, full of glide and nose riding possibilities. These are always single fin boards that hark back to traditional pre short board surfing. Wonderfully crafted examples of this style of board are Paul Blacker’s shapes.

Be warned however that using a Mal just to catch more waves than the next guy is frowned apon and shuffling up and down just isn’t the way to go. Learn to cross step to the nose please. In fact when done well, longboarding is one of the more difficult surf skills to master but a joy once learned.  Longboards can make a decent beginner board as well but of course learning to turn a Mal can be quite a difficult task for the novice surfer.

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Fish & other f
lavours
A few years back I was inundated by people I coached asking if they should buy a Fish design. It seemed that the industry would call any spilt or swallow tail board a “Fish”. But in fact a real Fish is quite a specific style of board as seen ridden beautifully by surfers such as Dave Rastovitch and there’s even a really good documentary out called Fish that traces the evolution of this design .

09aa47f4bd4b7c774051f743d6a947d2A Fish is super short normally, with a huge ‘V’ shaped split in the tail, sporting two keel shaped fins. These are really not what the manufacturers were selling, but ‘fish’ was a buzz word that made your average 3 fin, wide outline board with a split or swallow tail sound cool. The real Fish design can be tricky to ride but it’s off-shoots did offer a move towards user friendly alternatives, however the boards we already saw in the short board section of this article already fill that gap in design very successfully.

What’s also very exciting is the rise of the “mini longboards” like the McTavish Sumo or The Greek’s Shorty and Guts Surfboards’ Mullet. These types of board really fill a nice gap in the market for surfers coming off longboards for a change or short board riders wanting a bit of glide. They are simply super fun and great in lots of conditions too.sumo
So we have tonnes of alternative designs out there now with lots to choose from. I  haven’t even touched on big wave boards but that’s a very small world given all the hype on big wave surfing we see online. For all the average Joe there’s never been a wider selection of functioning shapes made by shapers who are really looking at giving choices to keep us stoked and hungry for the next surf.

Book surf lessons using Tim’s methodology at Surf School Sri Lanka and Surf School Lanzarote.