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Surfboards, How Short Can You Go?

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Surfboards are getting smaller. In the last few years we have seen a lot of transformation in surfboard design. One thing that seems to be sticking however is that more and more people are realising that you can go a lot shorter than what used to be deemed reasonable.

There have always been a few pro surfers riding unbelievably short boards, more free surfers though, not the guys on the CT. So the super short boards have been around for a while. But the mainstream surfing population really started paying more attention to it when (not surprisingly) Kelly Slater came out with his Wizard Sleeve way back in 2009 or 2010. He was blowing minds, surfing waves like Pipe on a board that was likely around the 5โ€™10 mark in length whereas everyone else would have been riding 6โ€™8โ€™s or boards above 7 foot.

Tom Curren skim boarding
Big wave skim hellman Brad Domke gave Tom Curren his skimboard. Curren transformed it into a surfboard...a tiny tiny surfboard.

Since then, the popularity of the shorter, wider, thicker boards has caught on. Many people refer to these boards as โ€œhybridโ€ shapes. A blend of fish designs and High Performance Surfboard designs. Usually featuring flatter rockers, wide points pushed forward a touch, slightly rounder outlines, but with more performance orientated tail shapes as well as tail rocker.

Boards like this have proven themselves in everything from knee high slop to well overhead. Just look at what Craig Anderson has been able to put himself into on his Hypto Krypto by Haydenshapes.

Craig Anderson, Ando,  surfing the hypto krypto
We have all seen what Ando can do on his Hypto Krypto. Knee high or triple overhead, this board can handle it.

Why is it so appealing to go super short on your performance boards?

First of all, they are a blast to surf and in a wide range of waves and conditions! Since they are so short, you donโ€™t need much rocker. They fit right in a tight pocket quite nicely and with the lower rocker, they are super fast down the line. Also, due to their shortness, they have less swing weight, so whipping turns around in a tight radius is a breeze. Their wider outline, wide point forward a touch, combined with the flatter rocker also makes them very easy to paddle. Even into bigger waves.

Asher Pacey tucking into a barrel on a DHD Mini Twin Two
Asher Pacey loves the free flow feeling of riding short twin fins. Pictured here on a 5'1" x 20" x 2 1/4" DHD - Mini Twin Two

So, you can see the appeal of these boards - they are very functional.

There seems to be endless reasons why these boards work so well. And letโ€™s not forget other styles of boards too. We donโ€™t have to limit shorter boards to these hybrids only. A super short fish like the Dreamcatcher by Joel Fitzgerald Surfboards, or a mini-simmons style like the Mini Pip from Gary McNeill Concepts are extremely fun.

Is there a limit to how short you can go?

Not really, as long as you can harness the surface area and volume you need, the only real thing holding a surfer back from going as short as possible are the waves they intend to ride and their own ability to paddle them.

This is being proven by the range of Soft tops from Catch Surf. At just 58 inches long, surfers like Jamie O'Brien and Julian Wilson have started really pushing them to the limit.

Jamie Obrien SoftTop Pipeline
Jamie O'Brien charging some heavy tubes on his signature Catch Surf - Stump Model

Simply put, you can go as short as you want as long as you can still paddle in and catch the wave in the first place.

Going super short however, for most of us, is best in fun playful waves. That ability to whip a board around so quick, fly through sections and sit nicely in a tight hollow pocket, makes your surfboard feel more like a skateboard. Most shapers today have their version of a shorter board of one style or another to choose from, and many of them play around with different bottom contours, fin set ups, rails and outline to give you the best squirt for what you are riding.

Take something like the Black Diamond from DHD. If Darren designed this board with a wide squash tail, it would more than likely work best in smaller manageable surf. But he wanted the board to be way more versatile. Having a rounded pin opens up the range of waves you can surf it in. It still has the width and surface area needed to plane through flat sections and fly down the line, but the tail allows you to still hold your line in bigger hollow surf.

Black Diamond EPS Boardcave DHD Surfboards
The Black Diamond by DHD is short but able to handle a wide range of waves.

The point is, there are so many variations of shorter boards, some more inline with a particular type of wave, others more versatile. Most of them can be shaped to suit a wide variety of surfers too. Also, your perception of what is considered short (for you) will vary. If you normally ride a 6โ€™8, going down to 6โ€™0 may seem short enough for you and you could still even go much smaller than that and likely have fun.

Going super short is going to be up to you and the shaper you pick to make your board. Everyone should at least have one board in their quiver that is much shorter than their average board. Or at least have the chance to try one whether it be a fish or a hybrid. They are a blast to ride and will open you eyes to new lines and new sensations.

Check out the Board Engine to find board recommendations all made in Australia by professional shapers at the top of their crafts that will help improve your surfing. Email [email protected] with your details for a detailed report of board recommendations for you.

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