Surfboard Types: Explained

A quick guide to surfboard options, including characteristics and best uses

Flickr/Alex Proimos

Surfing has evolved over the course of time from humble, obscure beginnings. What is believed to have started as a Polynesian fishing technique has become a massively popular leisure activity and professional sport. Even more than that, surfing has inspired an entire subculture—something that can’t be said for too many other sports.

The growing popularity in the last few decades has led to a few changes. Different types of boards became necessary to accommodate a wider variety of skill sets, surf styles and wave heights. Today there are a ton of surfboard variations and even more spin-offs—like stand up paddle boards and skim boards—but we’ve gathered six basic styles below. It’s a good idea to rent a board if you’re just starting to surf, but if you’re curious about the types of boards out there, you’ve come to the right place.

Typically suggested for beginners or those who would like to maintain a more fluid style, the longboard is stable, easy to paddle and good for catching waves. What you gain in ease of use, you lose in sharp turns and quick maneuvers—but longboard surfers certainly maintain their own style and finesse. Long boards are usually eight or nine feet long, at least two inches thick and feature a rounded nose.

The Malibu is shorter and slimmer than the longboard, which allows for a compromise between maneuverability and stability. Malibu boards typically have either one large fin or three smaller fins and vary in size. Smaller versions are called Mini-Mals.

Very long, narrow and pointed on both ends, the Gun is a force. These boards range in length from six to more than ten feet long. The name supposedly comes from the term “elephant gun,” meaning that this board is the tool surfers will need to take on the really big and steep waves.

Ideal for less experienced surfers or those looking to transition to using a shorter board, Funboards offer stability of a long board, but with better maneuverability. They range in length from six to eight feet, are usually around 20 inches wide and come in a variety of nose and tail shapes. Funboards are versatile, working well in most conditions.

Most commonly found in contests and often used for tricks, the shortboard is for the more advanced surfer. The board is tough to balance on and makes paddling difficult, but is a great board for speed, power and control. Shortboards are less than seven feet tall and are typically 16-18 inches wide, featuring sharp noses.

A wider board than the shortboard, the fish features a rounded nose, larger mid-section and a unique tail. This board is ideal for smaller waves and is less than seven feet long.

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