The shortboard is a term used to describe more than just a surfboard’s length.
Many surfers, especially those that start really young or surf competitively, become shortboard obsessed – and not surprisingly.
Shortboards are what you see in competition.
They’re what are used to perform gravity defying airs, above the lip snaps, and vertical maneuvers that sometimes seem to exist outside the realm of possibility entirely.
They surf fast, aggressively, and exciting – it’s hard not to get wrapped up.
And they’ve certainly earned their place in surfing history – pushing the limits of performance and design.
What is a Shortboard Surfboard?
A shortboard really describes a high performance surfboard – overall length varies, but their best defined by their:
- Light weight
- Low volume
- Large rocker
Shortboards are best suited for good waves. They work really well in clean, steep, fast conditions. When it’s small, mushy, or slow a shortboard is going to be a pain to surf.
They’re a type of surfboard that needs to be surfed actively. Unless you’re pumping from rail to rail and building speed off the fins and flex of the board, you’re going to slow down.
Shortboards are capable of surfing steep waves, getting deep in the barrel, performing vertical and above the lip maneuvers, and super aggressive/powerful surfing.
The lightweight of shortboards means they are also a lot more fragile. They come with a light glass schedule and are easily broken if hit, dropped, or crushed under a heavy lip.
Is a Shortboard Good for a Beginner?
A high performance shortboard is probably the absolute worst choice for a beginner surfer.
The only advantage I can imagine a shortboard having for a beginner is its ability to duck-dive easily.
Other than that, the low volume and the wave-awareness required to get the most out of it makes shortboards a bad choice for a beginner.
If you pick up a shortboard as a beginner surfer, you’re going to have a difficult time paddling, catching waves, and actually surfing if you are able to catch stuff.
Stick to something with a bit more volume.
History of the Shortboard – The Shortboard Revolution
The shortboard revolution has came and went. It started in the 1960s and probably lasted through the 1990s. And it is responsible for driving a lot of progress in the surfing world.
It seems like it has been relatively recent that more alternative shapes, hybrid and retro designs, and classic logs have overtaken the popularity of the shortboard.
When you’re interested in picking the right board for the waves, this approach makes a whole lot more sense.
Up until the late 1960s, surfboards were mostly made out of wood in the 10’ range. As surfing spread from Hawaii to California and to Australia, there began a desire for shorter, more maneuverable boards that could get more vertical and do things that you really couldn’t on the longboards at the time.
Two big drivers of the shortboard revolution were Australian shaper Bob Mctavish along with surfer Nat Young, who began shaping and surfing boards that were shorter and thinner – inspiring experimentation with flex, rails, tails, noses, rocker, everything.
It really opened up high performance surfing to vertical maneuvers, powerful turns, deep barrels, and getting above the lip.