What Stick is Right for You?

So, you have learned how to surf, all you need now is a board right? Not quite! Well, you do need a board, but you need the right type of board. And when it comes to choosing the right board, it’s not always as easy it sounds, but have no worries. With the right info, a little patience and some help from an experienced surfer of 25 years, choosing the right board doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Where can I find such a knowledgeable person you ask? Look no further and take a step into my office…the world of Surfing! Allow me to enlighten you about the variety of stick styles to choose from. Let’s go shopping and find the right ride for your surfing lifestyle. The selection of the board is key to maximizing your performance in the water and looking good doing it.

Beginners should first consider training on a longer and thicker board. The old cliché’, “Bigger is Better” should be applied. A Long board style board is suggested which ranges anywhere from 8-12 feet in length and 20-23 inches wide recommend you take a lesson with a qualified instructor or school. In my school, Sandybeachsurfing, LLC; I teach students basic board anatomy and function, paddling and pop- up techniques and coach in the dos and don’ts of surfing on a foam long board. I usually encourage students to stick with the long board to gain confidence for a while as it is the easiest board for practicing on. My suggestion to them is to get a used or semi new board. The average cost of a new long board is 600-800 dollars and used ones can be purchased for 100-400 dollar depending on the condition. The first board usually gets beat up pretty badly and often dinged so watch your investment. Once comfortable and confident on the board, if you would like to try another board type, now is the time.

To make a smooth transition, I recommend the Fun shape or fun board. These boards are shorter, anywhere from 6-8 feet long, but are still wide enough to remain stable. They do, however require a more aggressive paddling style. Once in the wave, the board can be ridden in the same style as the classic long board or can be used to pull off some trickier, more squirrelly maneuvers. I consider the fun shape to be a great transition board.

Another wider but much shorter board, less than 7 feet, is the Fish style board. These boards originated from the Olympic style knee boards, all being short and flat and usually wide. Boards like this are excellent in mushy conditions and in getting through flat sections of the wave, as is often the case here in Florida. This style of board has increased in popularity in the recent years and is often seen dominating our lineups.

The Short board has a sharp nose with lots of rocker, or curvature of the board. They are usually shorter than 7 feet also and ridden in waves waist high or more. The sharper nose and increase in rocker allows for steeper drops, sharper turns and an overall increase in maneuverability. This is the type of board that dominates the competitive and professional level of surfing.

Other board types include hybrids which combine 2 or more different board styles. One such example is the hybrid fish, a combination of a fish and short board, another common board seen out in the lineup as of recently. Other hybrids include “Slugs” or “egg” shaped boards.

Big guns or as the Hawaiian’s call them, “Rhino Chasers”, are used in big wave conditions where short boards are too small and slow to catch the waves. This design allows for fast, steep drops into double overhead conditions such as Waimea Bay located on the North Shore of Oahu. Another style of board that has grown intensely in popularity is the SUP or Stand Up paddle board, although not a surfboard, it is often seen being used as one all over the world.

Ok, so now you’ve figured out the type of board you want to ride. But before you make the final decision, there are a few more things you need to know. We have covered the length and width of the board. Next, we need to discuss the rocker or the curvature of the board. Long boards and fun shapes have less of a rocker so as to keep you in the face of the wave and steady on the board. It allows for slower, more controlled turns. The short board has a lot of rocker, especially in the nose region. This allows a steeper drop and lets the surfer pull tight, quick turns. A board with a lot of rocker is usually reserved for more experienced surfers. The next thing to consider is the section of the board we call the Rail, the outer edge or side of the board. This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of the board but is probably one of the most important aspects of surfboard design. The rail influences all aspects of the ride. It impacts the planning capability of the board, especially on long boards; the speed of the board and how it turns and grabs the wave. Long boards have a softer rail than that of short boards. That is, the rail is more rounded which is more forgiving in that it is harder to catch the edge and pitch sideways or forward. However, the thicker and wider rail creates more drag. The short board has a much harder and sharper rail. This permits the board to “knife” in the water and plane faster which allows a quicker turn. Unfortunately, the sharper rail is less forgiving and is easier to catch and pitch on, also referred to as a wipeout. There are several variations of these rails including round, downed, rolled, egg, 50/50 and 60/40. The best type of rail is a medium rail, especially for beginners. A rail that is not too sharp or too soft, a 50/50 or 60/40 is great for this purpose. 50/50 rails meet in the middle or center of the board where 60/40 rails meet slightly lower than in the center.

The Tail of the board or the back of the board, effects maneuverability and overall control. There are many basic types of tails to choose from. Pintails or pointy tails have a tendency to maximize traction and control. These are seen mostly on Gun style boards but appear on both short and long boards. The Round tail is the most common for long boards. It increases the lift and tends to be looser and turnable. The squash tail is the most common for short boards. The square shape allows the board to be very responsive. Again a more responsive board allows for faster, sharper and looser turns. The swallow tail is most common on Fish boards but can be seen on hybrids and long boards. The tail has two points that allow more hold and traction. This upside down “V” gives the surfer more control when going into and out of turns.

The fins, located on the underside of the board are the engine of the board. Long boards have a single, while short boards and fish style have a 2-4 fin set up referred to thrusters, twinnies or quads. Single fins are usually bigger, wider and thicker. The single fin set-up teaches the surfer to look further down

the face of the wave. It’s very stable and holds the board in the wave amazingly well. It’s fast in a straight line because it has less drag from the reduction of fins, unlike the multiple fin set ups. Despite having their own specifications and capabilities, the multiple fin set ups all have two things in common when comparing them to a single fin system. They are all much faster, looser and more responsive in performance. The fin set up is based on the individuals needs in the water, both single and multiple set ups can be found in most models. Try them all to determine which set up best suits your needs. The single fin is recommended for beginners.

Well that is basically everything you need to know in order to properly choose the board that best fits you. It is your job to learn how to stay on the board after learning from a reputable surf school or trainer. It’s a lot to take in, I realize, but knowing these basic facts even if just a little will lend credibility to you as a well informed surfer, which in turn will get you more respect in and out of the water. Even though there are several styles to choose from, my suggestion…learn them all! Take the time to explore each style of board and try them out in several different conditions. This is the best way to maximize your surfing experience while having fun in any type of condition you may encounter. Now all you need to do is get out to the beach, paddle out on your favorite new board, catch some fun waves and …Experience the Stoke of a Lifetime!

By Sandy Beach of Sandybeachsurfing, LLC

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