People aspire to surfing when they see experts in movies cutting it up on their short boards.  The short board is the ultimate in maneuverability which makes the masters able to create such astounding feats. They can duplicate both snow board and skate board tricks.

What we don’t realize when we learn to surf is that it takes years to get to their expertise even if we are in the water several times a week.  I once raced cars and I went from a covered wheel formula car recommended for old guys (over 30) to an open wheel formula car and I couldn’t keep it on the track.
The same kind of frustration hits surfers who advance too fast. Not only might they lose their enthusiasm, but they great slow their progress for so many facets of the sport that need to learned as you move to shorter boards.

The right board to start with is a soft top 8′ board if you are under 200 pounds and longer if you weigh more. Or you can start with a long board of 9′ plus. These boards start developing the muscle specific stamina you need for surfing that you can’t get any way but paddling. At the beginning, no board will prevent early exhaustion.

Secondly, it is difficult to catch waves, even foam. You have to move at the speed of the wave. Boards with higher volume make this easier. Volume is length x width x thickness.

Thirdly, the bigger the board the more stable it will be when you pop up.  I advanced too quick with some trial rides on short boards and the board wouldn’t stay under my feet. If your pop up is not quick and perfectly placed, the board gets away from you.

Finally, controlling a board while riding it is easier if it is bigger. You might not rip the lip on a big board, but you are not ready to do that anyway. You need to learn to drive, accelerate, pump, do cut backs, and bottom turns. Plus you will want to keep riding bigger waves and then learn to position your board and compete in the line up.

Having a board you can handle is crucial to advance in all these areas.  After a soft top I stepped down to a mini long or fun board of 7’6″ in length and 21″ wide. It was a good move and a great board. If I had it, I would still enjoy riding it today. I found paddling more difficult and popping up became manageable.

I then moved to 6’10″ which may have been my best board ever.  I was competing in the line up for the best waves and riding waves at 5′ plus. I had the desire to get shorter and the next moves I made educated me. I got shorter but everything was more difficult and I had to ride longer boards to get back my skills and learn new ones.  Then I could adapt to the shorter board.

Even though I have surfed shorter boards, I have moved to my current board of 6’4″ that is 21″ wide and 2 3/4″ thick. It is not considered a high performance board which would be narrower and thinner but it is good on all waves and makes paddling and catching waves on soft days easier.

Start big and move down slowly to preserve the fun and the learning curve. Progress in surfing is by inches not miles.

By Mark Kaplan