Surfboards come in a wide range of shapes and sizes that allow you to surf in very different ways. Above, you have a High Performance Shortboard allowing incredible carves and air moves. Below, at the other end of the spectrum is a Longboard and this one’s a Softboard that gives you cool cruising. How do you match your vision to the right surfboard? Come in store and talk to us
There’s a type of surfboard to match you, your personal style and how you want to surf. So how do you choose the right board or boards? There’s such a wide selection to choose from: High Performance Shortboards, Fish Surfboards, Hybrid Fun Boards, Longboards and Mini-mals.
Do you want to do high performance surfing, or just cruise, walk your board and hang five? Not only does your board let you express your surfing style it can also feature an infinite range of artwork options- your personal expression to the world.
Finding your perfect board is easy at Manly Surfboards with our wide range of boards and expertise. Here’s an overview of what to look for and what we’ve got available for you in store and online.
Surfboards Have To Work
Your physical characteristics have to match some of the characteristics of your surfboard. You need your surfboard to be able to float you and for you to be able to paddle it to catch a wave. However too much floatation will make your board unwieldly on your waves. So come in store and get some good advice on matching you to your surfboard size, volume and style
For a surfboard to work on the wave it has to match you, your skill and physical characteristics. Not all surfboards are the same.
For example, the surfboard used by an elite professional may not be surfable at all by a Beginner. If a surfboard is too short or too thin that it doesn’t give you floatation then it won’t work for you. Also if a board is too big or too thick and wide it may float you and paddle, but you will find it limiting on the wave. You may only be able to go straight.
So a surfboard has to work for you.
Surfboards come in general shapes and sizes so you have a starting point as to what works. Come in store, and if you’ve got an existing surfboard bring it in, and we will help match what you want to your best board possible.
As we talk through the common surfboard shapes below here’s an idea of general sizes. A High Performance Shortboard is generally under 6′ six feet in length. A Fish Surfboard is around 5’5 in length. A Hybrid Fun board might be 6′-7′. A Longboard 9′. A Mini-mal 7′-8′. These sizes do vary to match your characteristics.
High Performance Shortboards
There’s some things you can only do and some places you can only go on a High Performance Shortboard. This is a Superbrand board
High Performance Shortboards are the type of surfboards featured on the World Surf League where elite surfing professionals compete. These high performance boards push the boundaries of what is possible. Most recently we’ve seen surfboards capable of transitioning between the most powerful carving moves to aerial surfing seamlessly on almost any type of wave.
High performance shortboards work when ridden by elite level athletes. The boards are short, normally only as tall as you. They’re thin. This gives them responsiveness. As you push on the board it responds instantly. Thinness relates to the overall volume and the rails of the board. The nose and tail of the board tend to be drawn in. The drawn in nose reduces the chance of it catching in the wave face. The tail is drawn in too so as to fit snug into the wave for hold and carving in the wave power.
Side by side you can easily see the differences between Fish Surfboards and High Performance Shortboards. On the left the ECS Fish has a much wider nose to help paddling and wave catching, especially in small waves. It has a wider tail to capture more of the wave power so the board will glide and have speed over slow parts of the wave. On the right the Superbrand Black Viper has a drawn in nose. This makes it harder to paddle, relying on the ability of the surfer to catch waves. The nose is narrow so it doesn’t catch in the wave when the board is pushed into high performance turns. The drawn in tail allows the board to both bite and tilt side to side allowing it to instantly turn. A narrow tail relies on the skill of the surfer to keep the board moving in slow parts of the wave
Due to their minimalist design high performance shortboards take a lot of energy to paddle and experience to work on the wave.
At present all the surfboards on the World Tour are thrusters with 3 fins. There have been boards ridden with 4 and 5 fins though none currently.
This image gives you an insight into a difference between surfboards that is not one of the first things mentioned yet makes the most difference to the way the board feels on the wave. Compare the line of the bottom of the boards. Check the lower curve at the nose of the Fish surfboard and the gradual curve of the tail. This is a flatter rocker giving speed. The High Performance Shortboard has much more curve in the nose. This gives responsiveness with the board being able to turn instantly
In store we have high performance shortboards from the world’s greatest shapers including those from: Aussie Greg Webber; Hawaiian John Pyzel whose team rider John John Florence is a 2 time World Champion; Superbrand designs from a collective of the world’s best shapers; and many more.
Does the idea of a High Performance shortboard appeal to you? Even if you don’t have the experience and athletic fitness it’s still possible to make one of these boards work. For example we can get you one a little longer or a little wider. You can get one that is flatter and thicker. In this way you can get to experience some of the high performance of the Pros.
Fish Surfboards & Small Wave Boards
A comparison of an ECS Fish Surfboard and Superbrand Fling Small Wave Board. Both boards have generous width to maximise wave energy so in small waves you get speed. Speed equates to fun. Both boards have a full nose giving good paddling and good entry momentum onto the wave. The Fish has the distinctive Fish tail. A Fish gives you a cruising style of surfing rather than a hitting the lip style. The Small Wave board has a rounded square tail and a hip where the tail starts to narrow though it is still wide. This hip gives a point to turn off so it will allow more responsive turns. Note the fin setups. The Fish has two side fins. The Small Wave board has a 5 fin setup so you have a wide range of options for a mix between drive and looseness. In the side profile images you can see both boards have a generous thickness under your body. The Fish has slightly less thickness as it’s wider
These are boards that are generally designed for smaller waves. Their characteristics make them fast and fun and these same characteristics make them a good Beginner option. They are mostly your height or shorter though some can be longer.
Fish and Small Wave boards tend to be wider, thicker making them stable. Specifically they have a full and thicker nose. This makes the board easier to paddle and easier to get onto waves. They work across a range of conditions so even if the waves are small or fat, or sucky and fast, the boards will work. Because they’re so versatile you’ll be catching more waves, getting more and longer rides.
The extra width and volume in these boards distributes your weight and harnesses the wave energy effectively so these boards tend to be fast. They’re great for turning off the bottom and turning off the top. Not being too radical. They don’t turn as easily as a high performance shortboard so you have to setup and plan your turns on the wave.
The difference between a Fish board and a Small Wave board is generally in their tail. A Fish tends to have a wide swallow tail while a Small Wave board can have a wide tail that is square, diamond or rounded in shape. There’s no special rule however these are design elements that are proven to work well together.
Small Wave boards are a heap of fun. They give you speed to do turns and carves even when the waves are small. This is the Superbrand Fling. Note the tail and nose are out of the water and the board is releasing energy with a solid amount of spray. This type of move is only possible with speed and power, yet the wave is barely waist high. The Fling is harnessing the most of the energy from the wave and making it available to you
Longer Fish Boards can be good in bigger surf. They catch the bigger waves more easily and have speed from their extra area. However their extra area can also be a drawback as bigger waves have more power and there’s more of the board to be picked up by the wave making for heavy dumpings.
Fish surfboards tend to have two fins. Small wave boards can have two, three, for or five fin setups.
Hybrid Fun Boards
Hybrid Fun boards blend features of Fish Surfboards with High Performance Shortboards. Check how both these boards have full noses and carry the width through most of the board then narrow at the tail. This gives good paddling, good entry into waves, then the ability to turn more tightly. The NSP Elements Tinder is on the left. The NSP Fighting Fish on the right incorporates more advanced features of a double flyer and swallow drawing in the tail quickly
Hybrid Fun boards take some of the features of a high performance shortboard and some features from a Fish surfboard and blend them. So you may get a wider thicker nose with narrower tail. Or a medium nose and medium tail with a wider middle.
The rocker or curve of the board that runs from nose to tail can also blend features from both styles of boards. It can be flatter at the nose like a Fish so you get fast paddling and easy wave catching. Then the tail may have more rocker, more curve to help turning. So this blend gives you a board that when you stand forward you go fast, when you step back your board will turn easily.
Hybrid Fun boards have been very popular as they give you speed and they can turn. They also work well in a range of wave sizes from smaller to medium.
It’s common for Hybrids to incorporate some advanced performance features. In the bottom of the board these could be a concave or channels to give more drive and speed. In the outline the tail could have a flyer or a hip. These give you speed when you stand forward on the board and then better turning when you step back.
Hybrid Fun Boards tend to come with a Thruster 3 fin setup or Quad four fin setup.
Longboardiing might take place at a slower pace but it still gives you a heap of fun and excitement. Walking your board, hanging off the nose, using your hand to slow yourself in the wave is so good
Longboards are traditional surfboards that are longer and wider. They can be half as long again as a 6′ long High Performance shortboard so in the 9′ length.
Their general surfing characteristics are that they paddle well, can go fast, and they can turn. However everything tends to happen more slowly. This makes for a more cruising style. This slowness can be good for Beginners who need the slowness and extra time to catch the wave stand up, get their balance, and turn their board.
There are High Performance Longboards that have a thinner design and are made with lighter high performance materials. These offer a good option if you want to do more lively turns while still having the longboard characteristics of easy wave catching and being able to walk your board.
These are two big longboards. The NSP Sleep Walker on the left has a full nose that blends into full width that’s carried all the way to just in front of the fin box. This gives great stability so it’s easy to get up and walk the board to the nose. You also get great glide. You can make long rides and cruise. The Island Latitude on the right is also a big board. It’s nose is slightly more tapered and the tail also starts tapering from just behind the mid point. So it will be a little more responsive, easier to turn. The tradeoff in stability means it may not be as easy to nose ride. Note both these boards are big so will get much harder to get out through the break as the waves get bigger. They’ll also be very hard to ride in powerful dumping waves
In general Longboards are noticeably heavier. They take longer to get their speed going when you start paddling. With their extra weight they are harder to turn.
A longboard is at its best in smaller easy rolling waves. In conditions where waves are messing, shifting around and dumping Longboards can be challenging.
Longboards tend to have a single fin or two small fins and a single fin in what’s called a 2+1 setup.
Mini-mals look a lot like Longboards. They take the same general Longboard characteristics and put them in a shorter more easy to handle form. On the left is the Island Drifter. On the right the Clyde Beatty Jr Mini-Mal. Note both boards have a full nose with the width carried from the nose through the first part of the board. This makes for easy paddling and easy wave catching and riding. Standing forward you get good speed and glide. Both boards taper from the mid point back to give you a narrower tail. So when you step back you can turn the board more more easily. You get a great balance between ease of riding, fun, speed and turning
A Mini-mal is a shorter Longboard. It has the same general shape just shorter. It’s still longer than a shortboard and this extra length makes it easy to paddle and easy to catch waves. Because there’s less length it’s easier to turn and handle.
The Mini-mal used to be the general surfboard for Beginners. However the Hybrid Fun board can provide much the same characteristics while also being more modern incorporating more performance features.
The difference between a Hybrid and modern Mini-mal can start to blur. Both of these boards are Mini-Mals. On the left the NSP 04 Dream Rider has a lot of style, it’s not just a short Longboard. The nose is full yet fine and the tail has a series of flyers to reduce area quickly. So you still get good speed from the area in the middle of the board with a lot of responsiveness from the drawn in tail. It could almost be a Hybrid. On the right the Sunride Mini-Mal hasn’t gone for high tech but a classic shape called a Hot Dogger. It’s gone shorter and wider. This board will catch waves easily from it’s width and volume, yet it’s extra curve in the outline and shorter length will make it easy to make zippy turns. It’s a Mini-mal with a lot of fun
A Mini-mal is still a good option if you want longboard style where you can cruise and turn more easily.
Mini-mals tend to have a similar fin setup to a longboard. This is a single fin or two small fins and a single rear fin in the 2+1 setup.
This image gives you an idea of how a foam core is overlaid with fibreglass and is the construction used for most surfboards. Some boards are made out of plastic in a mould and others may use timber or some other laminating material as well as fibreglass. Note both these cores are EPS and don’t have stringers. Info graphics from NSP
Surfboards get their hard finish with a certain amount of planned flex from the fibgreglass construction.
Within this fibreglass construction there’s different foam blanks used such as PU or EPS. PU foam tends to be denser so gives a controlled feel. EPS gives a more lively feel. So comparing a PU to EPS board the PU might glide on the wave better, handle bumps better, while the EPS will go faster and turn quicker when the wave has speed, tend to loose speed quickly too and feel the bumps more.
There’s also different resins used within the fibreglass construction such as polyester resin or epoxy resin. In general polyester resin is used on PU foam. Epoxy resin is used on EPS foam. The main difference is that epoxy resin with EPS gives a lighter yet stronger finish.
Additional fibres can be used on boards to either add stiffness or recoil, for example carbon fibre. Sometimes wood is also used to laminate the board.
Softboards are a great option for a Beginner to learn on. The shapes above mimic those of a Longboard so you get all the benefits of great paddling, wave catching and stability. The added bonus is that the Softboards have a soft finish so your chance of harm is greatly reduced. Softboards are fun
Softboards are a different type of construction. They use materials found on bodyboards. So you get a soft foam on the deck and rails and a plastic slick on the bottom.
They get their own mention here as all the board types above can come as a softboard. From High Performance Shortboard to Mini-Mal – all can come with a soft deck and plastic slick.
Softboards tend to be used by Beginners due to the safety factor. If you get a hit from the board the soft finish doesn’t harm as much. Softboards also tend to be used by surfers for novelty conditions. For example surfing close to shore on dumping days.
Softboards can be generic, just a Beginner shape such as the El Nino Cruiser on the left. Or they can be exciting with advanced features like the Ocean & Earth MR Epoxy Twin Fin Softboard on the right
Softboards tend to be associated with fun and good surfers can get high performance from them.
In terms of fin setups Softboards come with all the same fin setups as their fibreglass counterparts. The fins can be soft plastic that cause less harm if they hit you through to high performance solid fins. Some Softboards use a fin setup with limited options to change fins while others have industry standard fittings.
Making the Choice
In making a choice for your board you are free to choose within the constraints of what will work.
This means your physical characteristics, primarily your weight and fitness determine the size and the thickness of your surfboard. Once these basics are determined you can look at the different styles of boards.
High Performance Shortboards, Fish Surfboards, Hybrid Fun Boards, Longboards and Mini-mals can all suit a smaller lighter, smaller heavier to taller lighter and taller heavier surfer.
If you’re having a hard time deciding between surfboards why not choose several?
Several Complementary Boards
Getting several boards can be a good idea. A mix might be a Fish surfboard that will be fun and fast in primarily smaller waves yet able to scale to mid waves. The Fish tends to be good with easier turns. A Hybrid Fun board could be a good complement to this. It’s okay in smaller waves yet its extra length helps in mid size waves and turns better.
Another mix could be a High Performance Shortboard and a Longboard. This way you get the best of high speed zappy surfing with old school style.
There’s also the option of a Custom board. This is a surfboard that is made just for you. By coming in store we can check your characteristics and your skill and blend that with the surfboard design you want so you get your ideal board.
You can put any design you like on your surfboard. It can be photo realistic, completely artistic, or a blend between the two. We can put on your surfboard anything your inspiration can think up
As the raw materials such as the foam and fibreglass of a surfboard tend to be white and clear most surfboards are white. Brand and model decals and stickers add detail.
Colours and artwork for your surfboard can be added in several ways.
The resin that makes the outer layer can have colours added. These tend to be only one to two or three as they are applied as an integral part of the construction process. The colours tend to be uniform over an area, the deck or bottom. It is possible to dribble or smear colours as you do with a painting to go for psychedelic or arty styles.
The other option is spray paint. This can be sprayed on the white foam or on the outer coat of the resin. Almost any design or combination of colours and fading of colours can be achieved. Spraying opens up the design to the creativity of the artist and any type of artwork can be replicated on your board.
Decals can also be applied on a larger scale than just the board brand and model. Decals can be printed to cover the whole deck and bottom. In this way a favourite image, painting, or photo, anything at all can be printed out and put on your surfboard.
New Vs Second Hand
Two Second Hand boards above show you what you can get. They’re both in good condition. Going for a Hybrid, Mini-mal or Longboard second hand is a good option as these boards tend to remain consistent in their designs over time. High Performance Shortboards tend to change their look and so quickly date
Surfing tends to be a passionate sport and so surfers tend to like boards with a style to match their passion. Getting a brand new board, especially a custom surfboard made for you, is inspirational.
On a purely practical level though you can get a surfboard that has already seen use. If it matches your characteristics it will go great too. In store we have a great selection of Second Hand Surfboards covering all the categories above. These are a great way to get surfing at great value.
This is a pic of an older surfer having a great time on a Softboard. You don’t have to have a High Performance Shortboard to be able to have fun and get good waves. You’ll have the best time on a surfboard that matches your characteristics – both physically and in terms of the type of surfing you see yourself doing. With our expertise we can get you the perfect board
Boards can be a commodity that you turn over and progress through. For example getting your Beginner board then selling that and moving to an Intermediary board, selling that then moving to a High Performance Advanced board.
Alternatively if you have a board that you feel is especially good for you, you don’t have to to sell it. You can keep it as those positive characteristics tend to remain with the board for a long time if not forever. It can be a faithful board you can go back to. The Pros have ‘magic’ boards that they keep forever out of the hundreds of boards they go through.
From that faithful board you can try new boards and as you come across other great boards add them to your quiver. Some surfers have boards in their quiver from the early days of surfing so your surfboard choice doesn’t always have to be about getting the newest, latest and greatest. Even though technology changes, surfboards can give you great surfing through your surfing life.
At Manly Surfboards we can make sure you get the perfect board for you physical characteristics and in terms of the type of surfing you see yourself doing.