What’s the difference between longboarding and shortboarding? Which one is better? Which one is right for me?

These are the questions that have plagued aspiring surfers since the dawn of time (or at least since shortboards came into being). For thousands of years preceding the shortboard’s creation, longboarding was the only option.

Surfing is rooted in ancient Polynesian culture. Surfers would use heavy solid wood longboards that could weigh over 100 pounds. In the 60s, shortboards were created and popularized by performance surfers for their maneuverability.

Today, there are two ways to ride the tide!

We’ve broken down the main differences between the two types of boards and the pros and cons of each so you can decide which one is right for you. Certain wave and water conditions are better suited to certain boards as well.

All about longboarding

Photo by C Watts

Longboarding is the more ‘classic’ and relaxed style of surfing. It’s perfect for first-timers and beginners.

This board type is good for smooth rides on gently sloping and peeling waves. Longboarding allows you to easily catch smaller swells and waves that are further from shore. Plus, the board’s generous surface space provides lots of options for tricks and maneuvers. Keen on cross-stepping and hanging ten? Pick up a longboard.

All about shortboarding

Photo by Dave Young

Shortboarding is a favourite of advanced surfers, who enjoy a more intense, challenging, and high energy style of surfing.

It’s harder to catch waves on a shortboard, so if you’re looking for ride quantity over ride quality, a longboard may be better. What shortboarding does provide are fast rides on steep, strong, and hollow waves. When shortboarding, opportunities for radical turns, cutbacks, and aerials are ample.

What are the differences between longboards and shortboards?

From the left: Three shortboards with 2+1 set up fins, and one rounded diamond, one rounded and one hip tail shape. To the right: Two longboards one with 2+1 set up fins, one with a single fin, and both with hip tail shapes. Photo by Tyler Karaszewski

Board length: Longboards are usually 9-12 feet in length, while shortboards are usually 5-7 feet in length.

Board nose: Longboards have rounded noses, while shortboards have pointed noses.

Board tails: Longboards often have rounded or squash tails, while shortboards have a wide range of tail shapes.

Stringers: Longboards may have 1-3 stringers, while shortboards may not have any.

Fins: Longboards have either a single fin or 2+1 set up (3 fins), while shortboards have a wide range of fin set ups.

Wave conditions: Longboards are suitable for riding mellow waves, while shortboards are suitable for riding powerful, steep waves.

Pros of longboards:

  • Stable and ideal for those learning to surf
  • Allow for easier paddling while kneeling
  • Require minimal effort to catch a wave
  • Can be used to ride small waves
  • Lots of boardspace for maneuvers

  • Cons of longboards:

  • Bulky and take up space
  • Harder to transport or travel with
  • Not suitable for bigger surf
  • Harder to duck dive
  • Have less speed and mobility
  • More likely to break or snap

  • Photo by BOMBTWINZ.COM

    Pros of shortboards:

  • Compact and easy to transport
  • Aerodynamic shape
  • Perform sharper turns, trims, and cuts
  • Easy to duck dive
  • Lots of fin set-up options

  • Cons of shortboards:

  • Difficult to learn on
  • Physically challenging
  • Demands quick-pop ups and hard paddling
  • Require effort to stand up
  • Harder to control

  • Precise timing is needed to gain speed

  • Have you made your choice? No? That’s totally fine! Some surfers own both a longboard and shortboard. This allows them to surf different kinds of waves in different styles.

    Some surfers also opt for a funboard–a hybrid of a longboard and shortboard. They are usually about 6.5-8.5 feet long, with wide, rounded shapes, good buoyancy. They are easy to paddle and balance on. Funboards can be used as a transition between learning to longboard and shortboard. Their main drawback is that they’re not as fast as longboards or as precise as shortboards.

    Whatever kind of board you choose, make sure that you check the water quality of your surf spot on Swim Guide before heading out.

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