The last few years have seen a lot of transformations in surfboard design. One thing that seems to be sticking however is that more and more people are realizing 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 so the free surfers than the guys on tour. 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 around the 5’10 mark, whereas everyone else was riding 6’8’s or boards above 7 foot.
Since then the popularity of the shorter, wider, thicker boards has caught on. Many people refer to these boards as “hybrid” shapes – A blend of fish designs and HPSB designs. They usually feature 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 Hypo Krypto by Haydenshapes.
So what is it that is so appealing about being able to go super short on your performance boards? Personally, they are a blast to surf in a wide range of waves and conditions. Since they are so short you don’t need much rocker. They fit right in a tight pocket quiet 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.
So, you can see the appeal of these boards as they are very functional. There seems to be endless reasons why they work so well. And let’s not forget other styles of boards too. We don’t have to limit shorter boards to these hybrids only.
Truth is, there isn’t really a limit to how short we can go (within reason, go short enough and you simply have a hand plane). As long as you can harness the surface area and volume 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 Catch Surf’s Beater Boards. At just 58 inches long surfers like Jamie O’Brien and Julian Wilson have started really pushing them to the limit.
Photo: Red Bull
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.
For a majority of us, going super short 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.
After-all, take something like the Pocket Knife from DHD. If Darren designed this board with a wide squash tail, it would more than likely work best in smaller 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. This is just an example of how shapers are getting creative by combining different design elements to make smaller boards fun to surf.
The point is there are many variations of shorter boards. Some are more inline with a particular type of wave while others are 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 6’8, going down to 6’0 may seem short enough, 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. At least take the chance to try one whether it be a fish, mini-simmons or a hybrid. They are a blast to ride and will open you eyes to new lines and new sensations