Longboard Surfing: The Basics
There is nothing like riding a longboard. The amount of stability and speed you will get from it is second to none. It’s the original surfboard for a reason.
For most surfers out there, the longboard was or is their introduction to surfing. The gold standard, the board that made surfing into the sport we love and cherish today.
Before the shortboard revolution, getting a longboard was the way to go. And in many ways, it still is because it has a lot of advantages over a shortboard or any other type of board when it comes to beginners and inexperienced surfers.
The main reason is that it’s a lot longer and bigger than other boards, and that makes it a lot more stable.
Why Get a Longboard?
Another important factor to consider is that longboards are a lot easier to manage. This means that you won’t be exerting yourself as much when surfing longboards. By extension, this means more time on the waves without feeling tired or exhausted.
If you’ve decided to go for a longboard, be mindful of where you’re moving, remember that you are driving a bigger object now, and if the reef is crowded, you might want to pay some extra attention to your surroundings.
Be observant when you're paddling out and consider other surfers that might come toward you along the way.
More Balance for Less Control
Surfing on a longboard is easier than surfing on a shortboard, but there are still challenges that you should pay attention to. Start off by practicing on land.
Try your regular moves and pop-ups. Does everything feel right? Or is something pulling in a different direction? You want to make sure that you’re at least somewhat familiar with the board before you set out to sea.
Regardless of whether you’re on your first surfboard or simply making a switch, you will need some time to get used to the new board. If everything is to your liking, after going through the basic motions, it’s time to stretch out, warm up, and head for sea.
If you are new to longboard surfing, you will immediately notice how the board reacts to small waves. In essence, all of your motions will be more stable, but your moves will be slower. A bigger boat takes longer to turn, right? The same principle applies here.
Paddle out to your spot and wait for a good-looking wave to come up on you. Once it’s in close proximity, start moving up to it and go into your regular pop up motions. You will immediately notice that you are a lot more stable and that you have a lot of room to operate.
Don’t get carried away, though; once you are on your longboard, make sure that you get into a good stance—keep your knees bendy and your center of gravity low.
The Longboard Stance
Your feet should be in line with your shoulders. You don’t want to be standing way out in front of the board.
This is something that new longboard surfers do on the regular. They have gotten used to having a certain length of board in front of them, so when they get on a longboard, they end up going a lot more towards the nose than they ought to.
Try to be conscious of this in the beginning and stay on the lower third of the board for maximum control.
Even without looking, you can notice that you are way too forward on the board if your momentum is suffering and not giving as it should.
The main thing to get down on a longboard, the biggest adjustment, is recalibrating your turns. You will immediately notice that you need to do your turns a bit differently.
When to Add Pressure
Add pressure to your heels or toes and transfer your weight from side to side in order to feel out the board and how it reacts.
You will definitely need some time to get used to the new maneuvers, but you should be able to perform your bottom turns just fine in a couple of days.
When it comes to longboard bottom turns, you should always keep in mind that you want your feet to be positioned a bit further back toward the tail.
It is very important to get your balance on point when transitioning to a longboard. Your stance has to be modified, along with the way you apply pressure with your heels.
When the board is parallel with the wave, you can move a bit more forward and cruise the rest of the way before you go in for a maneuver.
Start by applying various trimming motions. Set your board tail to the curl and try to go for a cross-step while turning. How did that feel? Were you comfortable, or was something off? You will quickly notice that a longboard will help you a lot when it comes to stability and balance, but you will have to recalibrate your movements, some more than others.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself if there are certain spots that are more suitable for longboards than others, and while the longboard is by far the most utilized board in surfing history, the longboard surf is all about chill vibes and being loose. It’s the embodiment of the surfing spirit.
That being said, let’s get a couple of things out of the way. Longboards have more to them in heft and size. It’s like moving from driving a sedan to driving a truck. You will need to adjust for the size of your vessel.
Wear a Leash
Don’t even think of heading out to the ocean on your new longboard without a leash. You might never get it back, and you might cause some serious harm to some fellow surfers that are out on the reef.
Remember that because of its size, the longboard is a lot more dangerous to bystanders. Yes, we are well aware that a leash can get in the way of your movements and tangle up around your legs when performing cross-steps.
Because the board offers great stability, you might start thinking that you could do without a leash and take it easy. Word to the wise: don’t make that mistake. You will probably regret it in the first week.
Do your best to stay far away from crowds and lone swimmers, especially at the beginning.
Keep in mind that because of its size, you won’t be able to turn or move the longboard at a moment's notice. You will need to make that decision way beforehand. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
If the spot is crowded with paddlers going for a wave, just stop and let them pass you. It just isn’t safe for anyone involved to cram that massive board in there when you’re a beginner.
Pick a time when the other riders are more laid back and are relaxing instead of going for it. Yes, things might become frustrating over time, but you will also become better at navigating the size of your longboard.
Before long, it will start to feel like an extension of you, just as your old board did. So, be patient, and good things will come your way.
This sort of adds to the whole “mind your surroundings” notion, but you should add a rearview mirror to your longboard if you can.
Of course, you can’t physically do so, but you have to be aware of what or who is behind you at all times. This is not a joke. If that longboard goes flying backward and hits someone in the head, it might be the final curtain call.
Avoid Big Waves
When choosing a longboard, you are not looking to go hunting for big waves that come cruising in. As we said, the longboard is more of a leisure board than a high-performance maneuver rocket.
You will lose control of it if the surroundings keep switching on you, not because your reflexes will go bad, but because the board simply won’t comply with your commands.
Once you are coming down off a wave, make sure that you keep your board close and not kick it off to oblivion. This might seem like an obvious thing, but you might be used to going for some theatrics at the end of the ride. When surfing a longboard, you are going to have to reel those theatrics in so that you don’t hurt someone else.
How did that one go? With great board, comes great responsibility?
Longboard surfing is one of the best ways to catch waves. You don’t even have to spend a ton of money on high-performance longboards. Beginner surfers will find riding waves and small waves an absolute joy regardless if they own a high-performance longboard or not.
However, a breaking wave can be both a joy and a headache for a longboard surfer, especially for novice surfers that haven’t gotten used to progressive surfing yet.
A longboard surfboard is the closest thing that you will be able to get to traditional longboards. So, start off by riding weak waves and catching waves that don’t require much nose riding. In time you will get used to the surf and tackle steeper waves without any problems. The most important thing is to take things one step at a time and be patient. Don’t expect to jump on a longboard and get a seamless transition. It will take a bit of work and getting used to, but the rewards are that much greater once you get through to the other side. Longboard rides are pure dopamine.