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What Are the Different Types of Surfboards?

Surfers of every type can find a surfboard that works for them.
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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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Surfboards come in a wide variety of models. The two main types are the longboard and the shortboard, but these are only the tip of the iceberg. There is a surfboard to suit surfers of every style and personality.

As their names suggest, longboards are longer than shortboards. They are also wider, thicker, and more rounded at the nose, the front part of the board. Shortboards, on the other hand, have a more pointed nose and are generally easier to maneuver.

Longboards, also called Malibu boards, are the original model of surfboards, first used by the Polynesians who settled in Hawaii. They are typically eight to 14 feet (2.4 to 4.3 m) in length and were originally made of solid wood. In the 20th century, hollow plywood and balsa wood surfboards became more popular because of their lightness.

One modern twist on the longboard is the tri-fin, which has three fins descending from the tail of the board rather than the usual one, resulting in better maneuverability. The 2+1 longboard can be seen as an intermediate between the classic longboard and the tri-fin. It also has three fins, but the two on the sides are smaller than those on a tri-fin. The gun is another variation on the longboard with better performance than the classic style; it features a more streamlined teardrop shape.

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Shortboards are usually five to seven feet (1.5 to 2.1 m) long and have from two to five fins. Surfboards with four fins are known as quads. An egg is slightly longer than a typical shortboard and has a more rounded shape, making it easier to use than traditional surfboards. Another variation of the shortboard is the fish, which is very short, under six feet (1.8 m), and has a fishtail shape, usually with two fins. Other sizes of surfboards may also have a fishtail.

While most modern surfboards are made of polystyrene or polyurethane foam covered with epoxy or polyester resin, some are made entirely of balsa wood. Balsa has a long history as a surfboard material, dating back to the ancient Hawaiians. Balsa surfboards are preferred for their durability, environmental friendliness, and aesthetic value. Hollow wood surfboards made from such materials as cedar, redwood, and spruce are also available.

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