What are the Different Types of Surfboards?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

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.

Surfers of every type can find a surfboard that works for them.
Surfers of every type can find a surfboard that works for them.

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.

Surfboards come in a variety of sizes, from the shortboards of about  7-feet long to longboards, which can go up to about 14 feet.
Surfboards come in a variety of sizes, from the shortboards of about 7-feet long to longboards, which can go up to about 14 feet.

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 They are typically eight to 14 feet (2.4 to 4.3 m) in length and were originally made of solid wood.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.

Longboards are also called Malibu boards.
Longboards are also called Malibu boards.

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.

In kite surfing, large kites are used to pull boards similar surfboards.
In kite surfing, large kites are used to pull boards similar surfboards.

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.

Polyester resin is commonly used in the production of glass reinforced plastics, which may be used to create surf boards.
Polyester resin is commonly used in the production of glass reinforced plastics, which may be used to create surf boards.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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