I had a bed experience when I was 9. And only as I type this out do I realize how bad that vague statement sounds. When I was 8 years old I peaked. I made the best decision of my life which was to coax my parents into letting me go surfing. They agreed that whatever funs I could raise they would match the price and buy me a surfboard. I was so excited about my plans I spent every waking minuet knocking on neighbors doors asking if i could mow the lawn or wash the car in exchange for the nickels and dimes that would eventually add up to that magical board I could call my own.
Finally the day came, I rolled all those nickels into those heavy cardboard tubes and ran down to the surf shop. When I got there I felt like a kid in a candy store. I told the beach bum behind the counter I wanted to get my very own surfboard. Then it all took an unsuccessful turn. 9 year old Luke didn't realize that different surfboards (although they are all for surfing) are not all intended for the same type of wave.
Different board shapes look, feel, and respond differently in accordance to the waves. A lesson I learned through tremendous disappointment. The commission-eager dude at the surf shop sold me- as I would discover later- the absolute worst board shape for my body type and for the San Diego waves I would be taking it into.
The Surfboard was essentially a toothpick. Thin, sharp, and short. Not a good fit for the smooth-mellow So-Cal waves I had available to me and a horrendous tool to learn on. I spent months just trying to stand up on the board. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. All of my friends would ride wave after wave but I was stuck just trying to get traction into the wave.
One afternoon I was given the opportunity to ride a friends board, much larger, more buoyant (volume), and effortless to catch a wave. Only then did it occur to me that no two board shapes are the same and at last the world of waves was now open to me.
So why are there so many shapes to surfboards? Its simple. Its because there are so many shapes to waves. The wave you are going to paddle out in dictates the shape of the board required to ride it and not the other way around. http://archive.clubofthewaves.com/surf-culture/types-of-surfboard.php
Picking a board is not to different from how you would pick a car. If your commute is fast and winding mountain roads you would probably want something fast, low to the ground, with sharp steering. Likewise if you used your car for hauling things or had a family of 5 maybe you would go for a truck or van. The vehicle suits your terrain. If I'm surfing slow moving, small ripples of San Diego I would want a big hulking board with a lot of paddle power. Something that can easily paddle into little waves with no gusto. If i'm paddling into hulking-fast waves that crash double-overhead I'm going to want a tiny, sharp surfboard capable of making those tight turns. Physics man... its crazy but not unreasonable. A great read for the Physics of surfing can be found at: https://adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/water-sports/surfing4.htm #Howstuffworks
I'll have a new post coming out soon about the board you want to choose for the worlds most popular surfing destinations but for now here are some (Very) basics to get you started:
1. Big Waves = Short Board
There are of course a few breaks out there that feature huge waves that roll in at such a slight angle it merits a longboard but a general rule of thumb is the bigger and steeper the wave, the more power (water density) it holds- the smaller and narrow the board should be. It has to be sharp enough to cut into that hard angle.
2. Small Waves = Longboard
The math is there... and it adds up. A short board would have the buoyancy to get into those soft and mellow waves. A longer board with more foam to the nose and tail will have have an easier time catching the slow rollers.
More often than not the waves are not one extreme or the other. They live somewhere in-between steep and smoushy. If the waves where you live are big but gentle or small but pack a punch try getting a hybrid. These board either look like a sharp nosed short board but measure 7'2-7'8 or they a very short 5'8- 6'2 but have twice the thickness and extra foam is added to the nose and tail offering the ability to maneuver the board around waves and carve but still holds the paddle power to get you started in the first place.
4. Don't buy a board because it looks cool. Just don't.
Think that board design looks awesome. It won't impress people much if you can't catch a wave on it. Go for what gives you the best ride on the wave you intend to surf the most. But if you want to marvel at some cool designs check this out: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/08/50-of-the-best-surfboard-designs.html
5. (Don't) ask a professional.
Like any retails store, chances are the person behind the register isn't an expert. They are a sales person. I have on countless occasions have sales reps of beach front board shops try and sell me on flat out misinformation. Get recommendations from someone who doesn't stand to gain from a sale. Like this blog for example, or #Google, or If you wish to get free consultation on what board to buy www.Calibungasurflessons.com offers free assistance and advice in board purchasing by phone or email: 818-810-7084 or Info@CalibungaSurfLessons.com.
6. Let the wave be your guide.
Board shape and success is always dependent on the wave type you are surfing. Let that remain the golden rule as you paddle out into those golden rays.
Calibunga Surf Lessons