Surfboards literally come in all shapes and sizes. There are many different categories of surfboards and if you want to you can break them up into as many different categories as genres of heavy metal. However, there are five main types of surfboards: Shortboard, Fish, Funboard, Longboard, and Gun. Continue reading below to learn more about the different surfboard types and uses.
The classic description of a shortboard is a thruster (three fin) around 6 feet with a pointy nose. However, a shortboard can have any fin setup still be considered a shortboard. The forefront of surfing technology and technical surfing is done on a shortboard. Most shortboards are not ideal for beginners as they trade off stability and paddle speed for maneuverability. So you really have to know where to place yourself on an incoming wave in order to catch it. A shortboard works best in larger waves that are waist high to double overhead. If you are a complete beginner surfer, do yourself a favor and do not start out on one of these.
Some of the first “shortboards” were kneeboards that surfers decided to stand up on, and many kneeboards share the same characteristics of the Fish. A Fish is a surfboard that is generally under 6 feet long, and is characterized by a wide nose, wide tail with a deep swallow cut into it, and a flat rocker. A Fish can either be a twin keel or a quad fin setup and excels in lined up waves. The main ride characteristic is speed and flow. A Fish has more built-in glide than a shortboard and for this reason they are easier to get up to speed and to get working in subpar conditions. Fish work best in thigh high to overhead waves, although at a lined up point break they can be pushed into waves larger than overhead.
Funboards are surfboards that are between 6 and 9 feet long that have a wide nose, relaxed rocker and foil, and are designed for ease of riding in a wide range of conditions. They are commonly known as eggs or midlengths. A funboard can have any fin setup as well, but they work best when they are built with a fin setup and tail that you would see on a shortboard. Since these boards have extra stability and work in many different waves they are good for beginners, but a well-designed one can work well as a one-board quiver for an advanced rider as well. Depending on rocker and fin configuration, a Funboard can work in waves from knee high to well overhead.
A longboard is a surfboard that is 9 feet and longer and is designed for ultimate stability. This board should have a wide nose, a lot of volume, and should be a single fin or 2+1. Longboards are the original surfboards in the surfing world, but have not escaped evolution over the years. There are longboards that are designed for high performance longboarding as well as the more traditional noseriding and cruising. A single fin requires less rider input (more glide) while a 2+1 setup gives you more hold with the expense of some glide. When the waves are really small nothing works as well as a longboard. Longboards are the perfect surfboard type for beginners to learn on, but they are difficult to ride in average beachbreak conditions. Longboards are best in ankle high to waves that are just overhead.
Not for the weak of heart or unskilled, a gun is a specialized surfboard designed for serious, death-defying waves. The measured dimensions on a gun can be much the same as a longboard (although they can be as short as in the 7ft range as well) but no one would ever mistake a gun for a longboard. A gun will have a pointy nose and a pointy tail and can have any kind of fin setup. These are the most specialized surfboards there are because they are designed for waves of consequence where the rider’s life is literally in danger. Guns are for waves double overhead and up.
Even with these descriptions there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all description. Many boards are custom, and many of the runaway successes that shapers have had are hybridizations of characteristics from two of the different surfboard types.
For example, in the early 90s, the “Glass Slipper” shortboard became popular. Extreme thinness and extreme rocker characterized the Glass Slipper. These boards were great for people like Kelly Slater in good waves but were absolutely not the best choice for average surfers in average waves. People then rediscovered the Fish design and those once again became popular. Shapers started hybridizing the characteristics of the fish with the design cues of shortboards and the “shorter-wider-thicker” shortboard was born.
We hope that this article explained the different surfboard types and uses and you will be more educated when it comes to purchasing your next board. Keep in mind that like anything else, surfing requires different tools for different jobs or in this case waves. The difference is that your surfboard’s job is to create fun for you, the rider.