The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Longboard
Once you understand the difference between the different types of longboards, you still have to decide what board is right for you. Choosing the wrong board can negatively affect your surfing experience, because today’s boards are highly specialized, being built for specific styles of surfing and sizes of surfers.
If you are a beginner, then the best option is likely a user-friendly high-performance board. These tend to be lightweight but still have the volume you need to help you catch waves, and the 2+1 fin setup, modern rockers and bottom contours, and edge in the rails makes them easier to turn and more forgiving. For those who are between 100-150 pounds, you are probably looking for around a 9'0", while heavier or more powerful surfers might want to move up to around a 9'6". If you are over 200 pounds, then something in the 10'0"+ range will help increase your paddle speed and make you more likely to catch waves.
Once you develop a basic proficiency in surfing, you may decide that you want to move to something a bit more advanced. While entry-level high-performance longboards are pretty universal and can be surfed well by good surfers, pro-level high-performance boards will tend to be a bit lighter, lower in volume, and more sensitive, making them better for advanced high-performance surfing, such as barrel rides, aggressive turns, and even airs. If you are looking to do shortboard-style turns but want to keep riding a longboard, then you will do well on a high-performance longboard specifically built for intermediate to advanced surfers. These boards tend to do well on faster, hollower reef breaks and punchy beach breaks, although they can also thrive in long point breaks.
If you would rather spend your time trimming and noseriding in small (knee- to chest-high) peelers and prefer the traditional feel and glide of a heavier single fin, then a traditional noserider/log might be a better choice. These tend to be a bit longer and heavier than high-performance longboards, and feature softer rails, reversed rocker, and large single-fin setups to provide stability while on the nose. These traditional noseriders thrive in perfect, long, small peelers, but tend to be more difficult to surf when the waves get into the head-high+ range. Because they are heavily glassed and are lacking a number of modern design elements (such as edge in the rail and a 2+1 fin setup, they are much harder to turn and control, especially when the waves get hollower. That being said, they are specifically designed for noseriding, so if your goal is to spend as much time as possible on the nose, then this is the go.
Finally, if you enjoy the feeling of trimming and locking into the pocket on waist-high waves but aren’t too concerned with noseriding, then a glider or a long keel finned “super fish” might be the best call. These longboards have tons of volume, so they can glide over flat spots and carry their speed, but are quite a bit more difficult to turn than a high-performance board and don’t have the typical characteristics you’d see in a noserider. Both designs are relatively rare and considered a specialty niche of longboarding, but they provide a completely different feel and the ultimate gliding/trimming experience, so if relaxing on a 10'0"+ board while cruising along in the pocket sounds fun to you, then these are definitely great options.
Regardless of what board you decide to choose, the important thing is to understand what it is made for. While a good surfer can technically ride just about anything in any conditions, generally speaking, you will have a lot more fun if you match your board to the waves.
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