I have the “surf everything” mindset. This has always been my way, owning a quiver of boards that are completely different from each other. But is there a secret to surfing better?
At first, surfing different boards was just a way to get me out in the water on days that hardly had waves. Riding a longboard opened my mind and my ability to surf most of the time, regardless of the conditions.
That evolved into getting a fish, then a single fin egg shaped board, than a mid length with flex fin, then older ’80s style shortboards, onto hybrids, mini Simmons, etc, etc. I found that the more alternative my quiver was, the more fun I was having on any given day, and the more I was surfing in general.
I would call up buddies who were stuck in the 6’0 x 18 7/8 x 2 1/4 squash tail rut, only motivated to get wet when the waves were good quality and decent size, which, depending on where you live, doesn’t happen all that often. And then to top it off, they would normally surf the same spot and bust the same maneuvers wave after wave.
1. Surf with the wave, not on the wave.
Owning a diverse quiver not only gets you out in the water more, it teaches you to look at waves in a different way, which can in turn translate into how you surf different boards…including your shortboard. A prime example is surfing a 20-something pound log.
The weight combined with the long rail line and general size of the board makes you surf with the wave a little more than surfing on the wave. You have to look further down the line to anticipate sections so you have the time to react and move the behemoth. Get a good feel for this, and you can take that approach to your shortboard.
Sure, you can still attack the wave, but you might even slow your surfing down a notch and get a better feeling for the sweet spot where you can easily generate speed without having to pump the board so much.
Your eye also becomes trained to look a little further down the line, not to spend that time setting up your move, but more so that you can link your maneuvers better…hit that section, but have a good idea already of what the next section is going to be like.
2. Open your mind.
Don’t be scared to test out hybrids and concept boards. Maybe even get yourself a single fin or bonzer style shortboard, either hybrid shape or performance. You get a whole new sensation of trim and rail work as opposed to your standard thruster. You may not be able to whip turns around as much, because they won’t have the same release, but you would be surprised by their performance. These boards will almost produce their own speed when you find the sweet spot on both the board and the wave.
Your turns will be more drawn out and you will learn how to use your rail more. This will translate back to your ability to surf and perform on other boards; having that feeling of trim and knowing how to engage your rails instead of relying on your fins.
3. Try out a fish.
One style of board that everyone should have in their quiver, whether you are a logger or shortboarder, is a fish. The term fish has been taken over by many just to simply mean their slightly shorter, wider board for smaller conditions.
What I’m talking about is a good twin keel, deep swallowtail fish. Wider and thicker, but shorter than your normal board. And don’t be shy to surf these boards when it is pumping either. A board like this will teach you to take new lines and look at surfing in a whole new light. They work in anything from knee high and mushy to overhead and barreling. They really show you down the line speed, but force you to control it.
The deep swallow tail acts like two separate pin tails (depending on rail is in the water at the time), and can fit in the pocket of a wave wonderfully, and the wide tail and twin keels keep them loose when it needs to be, but loves to be surfed off the rail and fast down the line.
These boards translate over well to your shortboard as a fish, like a shortboard, wants to be pumped to generate speed, but teach you how to harness and control that speed.
4. Move those feet.
The cool thing is that a lot of boards want you to move around on the deck depending on the part of the wave you are on. That is an obvious case with classic longboards where you are literally walking up and down the board, either perched up at the tip when nose riding, surfing from the middle finding that “trim” or dropping back to the tail for a cutback. This can carry over to mid lengths and shorter boards, including performance shortboards.
You see it a lot on alternative surfboards, but you can even notice it with experienced surfers on high performance shortboards. When they are driving through a barreling section, you will often notice their back foot is forward of the tail pad, helping to bring that weight forward a touch, only to drop it back all the way to the end of the tail pad to crack a nice big turn.
5. Experiment with your equipment.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your equipment. It doesn’t really matter what variety of boards you are surfing, just try to mix it up now and then to freshen up your game. Some boards love riding high and tight on the wave, some like to generate speed by coming off the bottom and springing into action. Even a simple fin change can help to transform your surfing.
If you really are adamant on surfing high performance shortboards, grab yourself a quad every now and then. Or better yet, make sure your next order has a five fin setup so you can surf one board as a thruster or a quad. You will notice how the board changes from down the line speed and carving turns as a quad, to having to pump more for your speed, but having more control and tighter arches with your turns on a thruster.
Surfing the board as a quad will teach you to use your rail more and draw out your turns. Then you can bring that knowledge back to you thruster set up and you don’t always have to slash your turns…it’ll help smooth out your overall surfing.
6. Swap Out Your Fins
Let’s say you only have one board with removable fins, but you only set it up as a thruster. Simply change out the fins that you have.
Put in fins with a wider base, giving you more drive down the line and learn to harness that power and leverage your weight when you need to turn. Bring that back to your smaller fins and really start laying into gouging turns with your rail and use the catch and release with your fins to your advantage.
Whatever it is you do, try not to stick with one board all the time. Having a wide variety of different surfboards increases the number of surfable days you have, and it makes you a better, more well-rounded surfer.
Some people may claim that it’ll hurt your surfing as you will have to re-adapt back to your go to board, but I say that’s rubbish…it’ll teach you how to adapt to any style of board and bring new approaches to old equipment.
Yes, finding the right board to suit your experience and ability is crucial for progression, but being able to adapt to how a board wants to be surfed is just as crucial, if not more. Build your quiver, open your mind and go have some fun!