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Everybody Go Surfing - A Guide to Choosing the Right Board

By Danielle Montgomery

Posted: 20th February 2013 16:33

There are many people with envious jobs; talentless actors who get paid millions; CEO’s of companies who delegate all of their responsibility to someone else; food critics who are literally paid to eat.  However the surfer is probably the coolest job of all.  Tanned, fit and exuding confidence, we watch them with both envy and admiration as they ride the epic waves of the ocean sporting cool hairstyles and a carefree attitude (two things that I don’t have).  But what we can get is a surfboard, and lots of them.  No longer shall we stand on the shores wishing we were pro-surfers, we will become them, cruising through the super swells like masters of the sea.  But like every captain needs their ship, the surfer needs their board.

With so many choices, brands, shapes and sizes, it can be confusing to know which board to go for, especially when the shop assistant then starts discussing fin sizes and curve dimensions of the rocker.  If this would send you nodding your head in fazed agreement as you wonder what a rocker and a fin could be, your beginner status would benefit from a Foamboard; perfect for a novice to learn with.  With a light plastic bottom covered in soft foam, these are ideal for anyone keen to learn how to catch a wave, as they are much less likely to hurt the surfer or anybody else in the water.  But don’t think because these boards are foam they’re not resilient; designed to withstand more mistakes than an average board, the foamboard is tough and barely depreciates in value.

Although the foamboard is desirable for learning, it’s not practical for long-term usage.  An ideal choice for those wanting to take their surfing skills to the next level is the Longboard, otherwise known as a ‘cruiser’ or ‘log’.  Usually measuring 8ft – 9ft, these boards have plenty of room for manoeuvre and are easy to paddle with, but more importantly they’re great for catching waves.  Despite not being able to perform radical sharp turns like a shortboard can, the longboard is perfect for drop-knee turns, hang fives and even tandem surfing!

If style is a factor you’re not willing to subside when you’re learning to surf, get cruising on a Malibu, or as they’re more commonly known, a Mini Mal.  Even the name of this surfboard shape implies it’s exotic, trendy and chic.  Slightly narrower than a longboard, the Malibu has a pulled in nose and tail for extra manoeuvrability and easier paddling, making it a perfect board for those still being tested by the waves.  Catching a wave on the Malibu is simple and predictable thanks to its rounded template that spreads your volume evenly across the board, meaning less nose-diving into the water! Although the common misconception is that these boards are only suitable for beginners and intermediates, a well looked after mini mal can see you through your entire surfing career, with smaller and lighter epoxy boards available for when you improve to advanced status. 

However the majority of advanced and professional surfers use Shortboards as they allow for quicker and tighter turns.  They’re short in length, hence the name, meaning the pop up onto the board is tricky to master but once stable the surfer can cut back into the critical section of the wave.  Also known as performance surfboards, shortboards allow you to discover bigger and more challenging swells, developing advanced techniques like slide, aerials and cutbacks.  The demand for this style of board is incredibly high, and choosing the right one can be a complex process being that there are endless designs, shapes, and lengths to consider, so it’s essential to be honest about your own ability!

A great starter shortboard is the funky hybrid Fishboard; a fast natured board with a flat platform that eases any riders transition to learning on a shortboard.  They have been on the scene since the late seventies, and many surfers still opt for the retro twin fin design despite there being countless variations of this quirky board.  Fast, loose and dynamic, the fishboard encourages its rider to surf aggressively through the waves so they can proceed to the classic shortboard.

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