Too many? Photo: TheQuiver.com

The Inertia

Lately I’ve been flipping through my boards like a deck of cards, which got me wondering: does constantly switching surfboards help or slow our progress as surfers? This inquiry started from a place of necessity. As I healed from a back injury, I wanted to ride smaller boards again, but it was too painful to do it every day. So, I hit the switches: alternating between a 5’10″ shortboard, a 5’8″ fish, and a 6’6″ egg, going about 2-3 days on one board in no particular order.

I’m not talking about playing surfboard roulette based on the conditions. For surfers lucky to have more than one board, taking out the right stick for the right wave makes perfect sense and is the main way we can adapt and ensure that we have the most fun possible. On the other hand, many surfers and surf companies sing the praises of a one-board quiver like the Lost Quiver Killer or Hypto Krypto.

But, I’m more interested in the question of whether riding a veritable carousel of different boards can sharpen our skills and improve our style and technique. Keeping in mind that I only have three of my boards here in California to flip through, here is what I’ve found. 

Making the Adjustment

If you’re going to switch like Nintendo, be prepared for some on-the-fly adjustments. Going from my smallest board back to my largest is a confidence boost because everything’s a little easier, from making a late drop to relying on the increased paddle power to get out of tight spots. 

On the other hand, going down from a stable platter of a board to a smaller, looser stick can sometimes damage my pride, as I sacrifice a wave or two before I re-sync myself with foot placement, the new board’s sweet spot, and the speed that say, my twin-fin carries versus the other two boards. The question is: do these minor struggles strengthen different skills and build our ability to improvise, or are they a waste of waves? 

Embracing New Styles

I used to pretty much ride my fish every day, only going to the 5’10″ for a bigger swell; and I’ve quickly noticed the impact that getting reps on a bigger board has had on my surfing. With everything slowed down, I’m more patient and attuned to the glide. Sometimes, when I go back to a smaller board, I realize that I was rushing things: pumping too fast or slinging the board back and forth to try to get more speed, when I could be reading the wave and effortlessly flowing. Instead of only trying to exert my own ideas on the face or the frothing lip, I’m now also eyeing the next section and linking carves and snaps together – and, going down to a smaller board and doing a roundhouse cutback feels pretty sick

Plus, the opposite is also true, and we can learn from going back up the scale. When I go from my shortboard to the egg, I’m pivoting the bigger board in new ways, and feeling my fins bounce off that first bottom turn, or off the lip, differently. Overall, I think my sense of “feel” and style has changed for the better because of my constant shuffling.

Kicking Around

I’m not the first to wonder about the possible advantages of throwing different boards around, and surfer Adam Fischer supports the idea that a diverse quiver can help with feet placement and movement. Forcing myself to ride an egg in solid-to-good conditions has demanded that I move my feet much more nimbly to tap into the wave’s power at the right place and time.

I’ve taken this new skill to my other boards now, too. Whereas I used to unconsciously lock my feet in place, I now consciously think about moving my back foot a few ticks forward to accelerate out of the pocket, or a few inches back to pivot off the lip. Fischer agrees, suggesting that “a lot of boards want you to move around on the deck, depending on the part of the wave you’re on.” 

We often focus on foot movement with bigger boards and cross-stepping, but Fischer highlights the way advanced surfers on high-performance shortboards utilize their feet, saying “When …driving through a barreling section…their back foot is forward of the tail pad, helping to bring that weight forward…only to drop it back all the way to the end of the tail pad to crack a nice big turn.”

Continued Improvisation

When I first moved out here, I only brought my twin-fin fish, and I rode it day in and day out, without fail. The board has held up, but I think my surfing became predictable, and I began to miss both the little quad and nine-foot longboard I have back in New England.

When you change shapes, you see the waves differently and take different lines. My 6’6″ loves to stick to the high line, and once I discovered this, it became a whole new way of surfing. Drag the hand, angle the board, stand tall and skip the traditional bottom turn for a different rush. Highlining was even more fun when I found myself flying across the steepest part of a wave on my twin-fin, as I naturally pulled a habit from one board over to the other. 

The One-Board Quiver

Many surfers gravitate towards the one-board quiver, since most of us ride average conditions most of the time, unless we’ve got a surf trip scheduled. Since the conditions are already in perpetual flux, surfers like Jacob Holke advocate for the idea that sticking to one board helps us surf more consistently. “Swapping your board every session only throws more variables into the mix,” says Holke, “[and] you have to figure out the waves you’re trying to ride, but…also…remember how your board is going to ride in the conditions.” I’ve found the adjustment period gets easier with time, and the energy that switching boards injects into your surfing is worth stumbling through your first wave.

Surfer and writer Evan Quarnstrom, after traveling the surf world with one board, found that the one-board quiver is a “practical, serviceable, and affordable solution” to the problem of dragging 3-5 boards all over the place, but ultimately arrived at the idea that the “two-board quiver is a superior solution” and remains doable for long-range travel.

While switching boards may interfere with the idea of maintaining uniformity and consistency, the ocean’s conditions perpetually change, so why not continue that trend, and keep challenging yourself? I often get excited to ride a “new” board in the morning, and if I don’t, then I just log another day on my current board. There are no hard and fast rules. Over the long term, I think continually riding different boards will make me a more flexible, aware, and experienced wave rider. Different surfboards have different strengths and weaknesses and paddling them out helps discover new things about our own powers and fallibilities. 

One thing that’s inarguable is that having a few more riding options helps us get in the water more, and that’s a good thing. So, however many boards you decide to ride next week, stay stoked on the endless fun – and endless choices – surfing provides.


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.