The modern shortboard is today’s high performance surfboard and is suited for intermediate to advanced riders. Its narrow pointed nose, thin rails and rockered shape are its main characteristics as well as its 3 fin set-up (as standard) although many come with 4 or 5 fins. Typically between 5’-7’ feet in length, this board has the least volume of any surfboard design.


Ideal surf conditions for the shortboard

Like nearly all other surfboards, most shortboards will perform at their best in classic surf conditions. An offshore wind is certainly ideal as things just get a little easier when every water droplet is in place. Paddle speed, positioning, dropping in and of course, riding the wave will be far easier when the surf is pumping. The board will always perform better when the waves are decent as the boards overall curve will fit the waves shape and is able to tap into the wave’s natural energy. Fatter waves that tend to back off are typically harder to ride. Optimal wave size can actually be anything from waist to triple over head depending on the board you’re riding.

shortboard
The standard shortboard. This particular board has a swallow tail & 3 fins. Boards don't typically come with a deck grip or a leash (although this one has both!).

Shortboard performance

When dropping into the steepest part of the wave, the rocker found in a short boards curve will glide much more effortlessly compared to a flatter board with little rocker. From this critical section of the wave, the surfer will access the most power & speed from the wave to sling shot them into the section ahead.  The same goes for riding the tube. The boards curve allows for a late drop-in and perfect positioning for the tube hungry surfer. For down the line sections, when needed, the board can generate speed & will always give you more control whilst in the barrel or when exiting a tight situation. 

No other board can match a shortboards bag of tricks. Thanks to its versatility, surfers have so many options available to them that it’s shaped numerous surfing styles along the way. Those that personify the “power surfer” will tend to prefer to bury the rail and destroy every square inch of the wave whereas a lighter footed rider will dance through sections, even performing a few aerials along the way. Whatever your preference is, there’s no denying the shortboard will remain the bench mark of surfing for some time to come.

ShortboardThe modern day shortboard

Advantages
 

If you put enough time into surfing then you’ll want to surf a shortboard as your weapon of choice, especially when the surf is good. Assuming the surfer is of an advanced ability, the shortboard offers unprecedented opportunities when the surf is pumping.

Once you’ve learned how to tap into the wave’s power, you’ll harness more speed. And with speed available, everything else then becomes possible. No other board design allows you to redirect so abruptly yet so smoothly between your turns. This speed related manoeuvrability even with the slightest of movements will allow you to get more tubed, make better turns and take your surfing to places other boards simply can’t compete.

Certainly of less significance but note worthy all the same, is that due to its low volume, the board is also easy to duck dive meaning that it’s far easier to paddle through the surf, especially at beach breaks. This low volume makes it light weight too and that’s a bonus for transport and general storage. If you’ve ever had a big board, you’ll soon appreciate a shortboards small stature.

Disadvantages

Unless your skills remain in the advanced bracket, then a standard shortboard can sometimes be a little frustrating, especially when it comes to generating speed. With speed, these performance shapes will open doors to your surfing, but in less than ideal conditions when the surf is weaker, speed can be hard to find. The other noticeable disadvantage is your decreased paddle power. Less float means more drag in the water which decreases your glide. There is still a sweet spot for catching waves but nothing like a thick flat floaty board will provide. Thin also means that they’re easier to snap than a chunkier hybrid or long board.

Modern day shortboards

Since the thruster’s initial conception more than 25 years ago, although the basic shape has remained, a new variety of boards have hit the market providing any semi experienced surfer plenty of choice to suit their needs. Although a focus on top to bottom surfing remains, a new niche has evolved with numerous models guaranteeing a higher wave count as well as increased performance in less than perfect surf. The general shortboard shape still remains but the overall outline, tail, nose and fin set-ups continue to evolve and improve, as surfing’s premier board design continues to achieve the highest level of performance in modern day surfing.  Only the most experienced can master absolute control, but intermediates do have plenty of choice in today’s market but should progress step by step, taking particular consideration to the boards volume (measured in litres) as this will help the transition onto surfing’s most rewarding surfboard design.