Should you move to a bigger surfboard and how to manage changing boards up or down
Most surfers are aiming to always go to a shorter board, but there are times when you want to go back to a longer board. This guide will tell you everything you need to know.
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The Full Guide
In the last few years, what choices have you made around board choices?
Have they consistently gone smaller and shorter?
For the average surfer, there is an idea that you have to work towards surfing smaller and smaller boards to get to a shortboard.
But is that what you want to do in your surfing? Do you want to be surfing shorter boards and surfing like Mick Fanning? Or do you have another goal in mind?
This whole guide is about that topic and why you should scrap that idea and follow what you want to do but also if you are gunning to go shorter, why sometimes going longer will help.
There’s a previous guide here all about how riding a longboard will help your turns, stance and surfing in general. This guide won’t tackle any of those improvements to your technique for turns.
Why go for a shorter surfboard
The obvious reason people move to a shorter board is that it’s more manoeuvrable. A shorter, less wide and less thick board will give you a more responsive feeling.
It’s this belief that most surfers feel this is what they need to start turning.
But this can be a trap, especially if you have bad habits and bad coordination in your turns. A shorter board will amplify those bad movements and respond more to them than your previous bigger board.
What this means is that your smaller surfboard is going to be more uncontrollable if you don’t have control of your technique.
Work on this before you go down to a smaller surfboard
If you make the plunge to a smaller surfboard, first think about how you want to surf that smaller board. Can you adapt some of that style or work on some of those manoeuvres already?
Generally, nothing is stopping you from surfing that way or trying to do those manoeuvres on your current board. So have a go and start trying to figure out how to surf that way or how to turn better while on a board you are familiar with and understand.
By working on the technique or style before the board change, you will give yourself an easier time figuring out the kinks in your technique. The board you ride may need to be ridden to suit its design, especially if it’s a longer board meaning a longer turn.
Once you change boards, there will be a learning curve and time you need to spend learning to adapt to it. When that change is going to a shorter board, it can throw your control, balance and style out the window, as that board will respond to every bad movement more now.
Why go for a longer surfboard
Other than wanting to ride longer boards, move into mid-lengths, performance longboards or nose riders, there is a lot to offer from a longer board.
As I mentioned at the start, they are great for practising technique, drawing out your turns to be longer and flow with the board, as well as giving you the time to relax, find your stance and slow your surfing down. As well as making it easier to catch waves and pop up.
But what else? If you don’t want to longboard or anything like that, why move back to a bigger board?
The advice I would give centres around either a desire to surf that board, smaller conditions or conditions that suit it better, always surf the board that looks the most fun for that day, but it mainly centres around frustration.
Typically someone has moved down to a smaller board and after a while, they just aren’t gelling with it. The pop-up has gone to crap, the board isn’t responding the way you want it to and/or your technique is just suffering while trying to wrangle the board in.
When you get to this point, this is when you think, ok I need to either identify the issue, push through and fix it, or you need a pattern interrupter, you need to break the cycle and reset.
That bigger board is now the pattern interrupter that will help you break that bad habit. How long you ride it etc is up to you and the conditions you surf.
You will either want to just have a few surfs on it, slow it all down and work on technique with a less uncontrollable board, or you will want to reset completely and rebuild the confidence over a longer period.
There is no perfect option, it’s what works for you and the conditions you surf. You don’t have to blindly force yourself to just surf one board over and over without surfing any other board.
Variety is the spice of life. Don’t let yourself be stuck riding only one board. Let all of your boards teach you to be a better surfer by mixing them up and adapting your surfing to suit each board. This will make you a far better surfer in the long run.
If you move back to a bigger board
If you make that move brief or longer, focus on building confidence, that’s the biggest and most important part. Just go have fun, catch waves and let the pain points disappear for a bit. When you are ready to work on technique, slow it all down, introduce trigger words and pattern interrupters to help you work on that and just take your time.
Be curiosity-driven, fail forwards and challenge yourself to have a go more than seek perfection in every manoeuvre or thing you do.
Making the switch to a bigger surfboard
If you make the switch to a bigger board, understand how that design works and how it responds to your movements.
Generally, it will turn slower and be similar to like turning a bus compared to a shortboard. So move with the board.
Surfers moving from a smaller board to a bigger board will generally have the issue of expecting the board to get on rail easier and end up applying too much force or incorrect technique, where they lean over the board too much, the board doesn’t move much and they just face plant into the water.
This is good, but only if you learn from it. You need to figure out how to get that board on the rail and move with the pace it wants to go. You need to adapt the movements and how you flow in those movements to suit the board.
Moving to a bigger board will also open you up to different lines, and different options. Play with those, and find the fun in riding a longer board. Not every bigger board is suited to cross-stepping or nose riding but if your board is designed to suit, have a go, and don’t be stuck in I only do performance surfing.
Don’t fall into the trap of every surfer should ride shorter boards. Set your goals of what you want your surfing to look and feel like and make choices on boards to suit that.
Move to a shorter board after you have worked on technique with a board you are used to and make the switch when you are ready and looking for a board that gives you a more responsive feel. Embrace the change and challenge of riding a different board early on and that will take time to adjust how it responds.
If you find your technique or surfing is feeling worse or you are getting deep into consistent frustration, make a change. Go to a board you can build confidence on, have fun and then reconnect with better technique. A longer board will allow you to work on drawing out turns and provide a more stable foundation for the pop-up.
The main thing is variety is the spice of life, don’t be stuck riding only one board. Choose the board that looks like the most fun for that day and mix and match your boards.
Has this helped you want to pull out your bigger boards again?
Or has it given you the idea of how you can use all of your boards to help your surfing right now?
Are you stuck in a rut, surfing only one board and maybe it’s time to mix it up?
I’d love to know, you can reach out anytime, message me in the app or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.
Next week I am going to cover the idea of effective surf training and practice. How you can ensure you get more out of the time you spend and how to apply slow is smooth and smooth is fast.