you are thinking of adding a mid length board to your quiver, but where do you start? Unless you have a board engine close by to help you sort through your options, it’s easy to get lost. Lately, more people are riding mid-length boards, and for good reason.
Mid-length surfboards fit right in that slot where you don’t want to longboard, but still want the glide without lugging around a 9’ log. They’re perfect if you love a mini-simmons or a fish for smaller days, but still need the length that your simmons or fish can’t give you. These boards aren’t to be reserved for just small mushy days, however.
A head high, lined up day will give you a sensation that your shortboard, fish, mini simmons or even log can’t beat. That feeling of coming off the bottom, springing back up the face of the wave and sitting perfectly in trim right in the pocket.
Mid-Length Surfboard Styles There are a few different styles of mid-lengths you want to consider before pulling the trigger. Depending on what you are looking to get out of one of these boards, each style will offer something different. One style is not necessarily better than another, they are just built for different waves and different styles of surfing.
One thing these boards have in common are the fin setups. They are primarily used as either a single fin or a 2+1 set up, which means a single fin with two stabilizers. And of course, their length range.
Mid-lengths fall into a size range from about 6’8 to around 8’0. Any shorter and they are really just a short fun board, a step up, or single fin. Any longer and they start falling into the longboard category. There is no defined size range, though, so there is room to move either way.
The 2+1 fin set up is a great option for most mid lengths, if you use a removable fin system like FCS or Futures boxes, you have more options.
A couple of the main attributes that commonly differentiate these boards (apart from the fin configuration, single to 2+1) are the bottom contours and the rails. You can lump the bottom contours into two main categories: hull bottom and concave bottoms.
Hull Bottom Mid-Lengths Less forgiving and often frustrating–but there’s nothing like them once you get them dialed in–the hull bottom boards are essentially boards with no concave to them at all. In fact, their bottoms are convex or vee bottoms all the way through from nose to tail.
This type of mid length wants to use the power of the waves as opposed to pumping down the line generating speed. The hull bottom basically lets the board sit in the water instead of planing on top of it. You don’t pump these boards to generate speed, you just let the board and the wave do the work for you while you control moving up and down the face. They sit nicely in the pocket, and when you do want to get farther out on the face, or if you see a section that you want to make it around, simply take a high line and let gravity do the work. Get low, keep your center of gravity tight, and let the board glide right past that section until you can park it in the pocket again.
The rails are normally fairly tapered and the single fin, or fin box, is set father forward than traditional single fins. They usually get paired up with an ultra flexible fin which helps add to the projection back up the fact of the wave off a bottom turn.
This makes for a board that needs a lot finesse when surfing. The rails are usually tapered quite thin, but will still be a soft rail with no hard edges. It creates a rail that releases easily, but being so tapered, it is easier to catch your outside rail when rolling between the rail that is in the face of the wave and the bottom of the board.
This style of mid-length really works best in lined up, clean waves. A nice point break is ideal, and since you need to surf with the wave, the longer the wave the better. Punchy surf is no fun, as the board isn’t designed to snap turns. Instead, it wants to be surfed from the middle, run down the line, and glide up and down the face with the occasional cutback to get you back to the source of the power.
Concave Mid-Lengths For the purpose of this article, all other mid-lengths can be lumped into this category. Apart from the hull bottom mid-lengths, your reasoning for looking for one of these boards may vary. You might be feeling a little older, slower and looking for a fun sized board to keep you out there surfing without having to resort to a log. Maybe you normally ride a thruster, but are just simply looking to take new lines without drastically changing the way you surf.
Concaves, on any board, are designed to get you up on a plane. This usually requires the surfer to help generate the speed by pumping the board, keeping him or her up on top of the wave instead of letting the wave do all the work. You use the fin or fins a little more, and can surf the board with the rails, rocker and fins in conjunction.
Some of the early versions were really designed for hollow, heavy surf… think Gerry Lopez at Pipe. Longboards couldn’t really fit that style of wave, so they were getting shorter, the wide point was being pushed forward for ease of paddling, and tails were being pulled in to hold and fit in a steeper faced, heavier wave.
Others just simply came about with the “short board revolution.” People started chopping their longboards down into smaller craft, again to enhance performance but not necessarily for heavy, hollow surf. Think Michael Peterson and crew here, throwing down carves that were never seen before. The 7’0 – 8’0 surfboard was the shortboard of the time. Now it is either a mid-length or a semi-gun for heavy surf.
There are so many styles that can fall into this category, like the single fin egg, mini nose riders, fun boards, etc. All with varying degrees to how they can be surfed and what waves they excel in.
For the most part, they will still be set up as a single fin or a 2+1, but the fins will be a little more upright and stiff compared to what you want on a hull. This provides more drive and release, giving you much more performance than its hull counterpart. You can snap it off the lip, carve gouging cutbacks, re-entries, etc.
If you looking for an easy board for fun in the sun, look for a fuller template with softer rails. This will give you more stability and is a very forgiving board to surf for most people.
On the other hand, if you are planning on surfing this board on good days that may have a bit of punch and some shape, a nice down rail will go a long way. Add in the 2+1 set up, and you really have some performance to work with.
Whatever You NeedWhatever it is you are looking to do, you can find a mid-length to do it. You just have to know what to look for and take into consideration the type of waves you plan on surfing. A vee’d out bellied hull bottom board is not going to work too well in punchy beach break conditions. If you don’t surf points that often, steer clear of this style unless you want one sitting in your garage until you do. On the other hand, the average single concave to vee out the tail with a 2+1 setup is so versatile you can pretty much surf it anywhere and in most conditions.
There are so many other variables and combinations available, so don’t take this article as the end all and be all for mid-length designs. Think about what you need out of a board like this, look around, try a few out or feel free to ask us at Boardcave for advice and information, or plug your details into the Board Engine with a couple of advanced settings and see what you get.
A mid-length surfboard can be as unique as the person surfing it, so get out there and have fun with it. Check out Boardcave.com to find an US Custom mid-length that will suit you.