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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Surfboard Shapes Explained | Longboards, Funboards, Shortboards, Guns, Fishes

By Rick Bickerstaff
Have you ever been in a conversation with an experienced surfer and heard, "what kind of board do you have?" You pause and break eye contact as insecurities set have no idea what kind of board you have! All you know is that your old roommate left it on the balcony when he moved out, or that you found it in the dumpster one lucky evening before the trash man came. Maybe you're humble enough to admit, "I don't know." Only to hear, "Well, what size is it? What's the tail look like? Where did you get it?"

"Big...round...dumpster..." you reply, as you just realized you described a trash can, which is where this conversation is heading.

Well, my friends, now is the time to learn about your board! Who knows...maybe you've been riding the wrong board all along, and it's time to put that duct taped short board on Craigslist for something more your speed? Or maybe you're a pretty good surfer, but you've never really considered different boards to meet different needs. Either way, here's some information on board shapes.

This is an excellent chart to visualize the different types of boards, borrowed from Tactics.
Surfboard shapes can generally be broken up into five categories: longboard, funboard/egg, shortboard, gun, fish.

Longboards are where most surfers start. It's wide, long (8-12 ft.) and stable, and is a good place gain your confidence on the water. They usually have a single fin, rounded tails and thrive in small surf. Of course you'll sometimes see those old rippers tearing up a wave on a longboard and wonder, "how do they do that on such a big board?" Knowledge is no replacement for time and experience...

Funboard/ Eggs are a great mid-range board when you desire more maneuverability, but still want that stability and ease in catching waves. They're a little shorter than a longboard (6-9 ft.) and may have 3 fins (a thruster), which will help you get into those bottom turns and the such. Eggs are a little shorter, fat and have a "retro" look. I've been seeing a lot of these lately at Los Angeles beaches, as the waves aren't that big, but you can take one of these out and still have a lot fun.

Shortboards come in handy when you want performance, and are ready to sacrifice stability to get it. They are small (< 7 ft.) and thin (my dad calls them "potato chips"), which means you usually need a wave with a little size and/or swell behind it to really get going. They also typically have 3 to 5 fins.

Guns are long (7-12 ft.) and thin, and typically for really big waves. If you're reading this blog post, you probably won't be riding one of these any time soon.

Fish boards are small (< 7 ft.), wide and typically have a swallow tail bottom. Their width helps in small waves, but their design promotes maneuverability. They also often have two fins, which I find makes the board a bit more squirrely, but will help you turn faster and hit the lip harder!

My first board, a fish with a swallow tail.
There are other types of boards of course (as the image above indicates), but these examples will help you know a bit more about what you're riding, or what might be a good purchase for where/ how you surf. It's also a good idea to have a couple different boards in your arsenal, because you never know when a swell is going to hit your hometown or when it's going to be small. If that's the case, grab a surf rack to store your beauties, because they can stack up!