There is a common misconception in surfing that shortboards are for large waves and longboards are for small waves. This is far from the truth, and you may be surprised just how much fun and progression you can have on a shortboard in small waves.
As a surfer, you need to be able to adapt to surf in different conditions. The greater the range of conditions that you are able to surf in will increase the amount of time you are able to surf, and therefore it will improve your surfing!
Owning a shortboard that can be used in small surf is a fantastic addition to your quiver. Not only will you no longer miss out on surfing on those small days, but the low risk of smaller surf will enable you to try maneuvers that you otherwise may have not. Add in a soft board to this equation and the risk becomes even lower. Time to try that first floater or air!
First, let’s bust a few Surfing Myths
- You can only surf a shortboard in large waves
Nope, this is just plain wrong. The size or length of the surfboard is not the main factor for getting on small waves. A shortboard with plenty of volume will get you on just as many small waves and will be a great place to practice and progress your shortboard surfing.
- You can only surf a longboard in small waves
Guess what, this is also wrong. This is however higher effort and risk, but if you don't believe me that longboards can absolutely rip in large surf then check out this footage of the 2018 longboard pro in Portugal.
- Surfing a shortboard in small waves is no fun
See above. We already confirmed that a shortboard can be surfed in small waves. If you are surfing you are having fun!
- Surfing small waves is not 'cool'
Let me just answer this with the video below, and you try and convince yourself that this is not cool after watching.
Why surf a shortboard in small waves
It is quite simple really, the more waves you surf the faster you improve. By adding a board to your quiver that can be ridden in small waves, you are opening up so many more days to surf and waves to catch.
The mechanics of surfing in small waves are the same, however, the high-volume shortboard is quite different from more traditional sized shortboards. The most noticeable difference is the buoyancy. Your weight needs to remain centered when standing on such a buoyant platform, and any lapses will be punished. This can be frustrating at first, but once you adapt it will greatly improve all your surfing, regardless of the board or conditions.
Small wave shortboards typically have a very loose feel. The additional volume is created by increasing the thickness, and thick rails create less bite in the wave. Combined with a flatter rocker profile, this allows the board to easily release the fins (if you have any!) and slide around on the wave. The loose behavior allows you to practice slides and cutbacks despite the lower speed and momentum on a small wave.
Gaining and maintaining speed on a small wave is not as easy as surfing on a large wave. This requires you to pump the board from rail to rail, a full-body exercise that can be practiced in small waves and then unleashed in larger surf for small pumps between maneuvers to gain that x-factor speed. If you are not used to pumping, or would like to practice on dry land then I strongly recommend you check out a Swelltech Surfskate.
Ok, enough with the sell you say. You are already sold that shortboard in small waves is possible, fun, cool & good for my surfing.
Bring on the boards.
Available in two sizes and as a twin fin or finless, the beater is the ultimate funboard for small waves and shore breaks.
The larger 54 size is 4’6 and 35 liters, and also features twin wood stringers.
Made famous with pro models by both Jamie O’Brien and Ben Gravy, there is a wealth of evidence on social media about what this board can do.
With only two fins and a tiny surface area, this board feels like a skateboard, or at least a wakeskate on the waves.
Keep your weight centered and be prepared to have some large size fun in small size waves
The retro fish shape is the ultimate small wave cruiser. Stormblade has done a great version with this full-featured soft top.
Available in one length of 5’8 and 48 liters, this board will float even a large surfer in small waves but remain small enough to perform.
There you have 3 soft top shortboards, all with large volume and perfect for ripping in small waves. From top to bottom they transition from the completely loose & wild finless Beater, to the Penny 4’10 which is like a skateboard on waves, and through to the Modern Retro Fish for a more locked in surfboard to cruise on.
You could happily add all three of these surfboards to your quiver as they offer such a different experience. If you can only have one, then choose the one that most suits your style of surfing.
Whichever you pick, it is going to make a huge difference to your small wave surfing.