It’s no longer mainstream to ride only high-performance shortboards. In fact, it’s no longer mainstream to ride anything mainstream. Today, at any given lineup you will, of course, find your standard shortboards, but you will also be met with a plethora of fun size crafts, grovelers, twin fins, stand up paddle boards, soft tops, and even foils. The recent eruption in popularity of the alternative surf craft has done wonders for the advancement of fun, which is what surfing is really all about. There’s no point in trying to force your 6’0” leaned out thruster to go on a two-foot day. There’s no fun involved in stomping repeatedly down the face of a wave with your front foot, only to have the wave close out on you because you couldn’t make the section. Riding boards that are designed for the waves you’re actually riding will increase your fun levels tenfold, especially when you have the ideal board for your skill level.


A longboard is anything 9 feet and over. Traditionally, longboards have single fins, but now it is common to see longboards with a “two plus one” set up. Meaning two thruster style fins with a traditional large single fin in the middle. Longboards are truly an every man’s tool. All surfers start out on them, they’re excellent for learning. But plenty of advanced surfers choose to ride longboards as well.


As previously mentioned, longboards are the perfect option for beginners. Ideally, a first-time surfer will start out on a soft top, and then progress to a traditional longboard. Longboards are also a great option for advanced surfers who enjoy cruisy rides and want to improve their style. Nothing is more stylish than a skillful long boarder cross stepping his or her way to the noise of their board.


While a truly talented longboarder will take out their trusty log no matter if its 6 inches or 6 feet, most of us turn to longboards when the surf is just a bit too small for a traditional shortboard. Longboards make even the most petite swells enjoyable and riding a longboard (or any board that will increase your wave count) will help improve your understanding of wave mechanics.


While riding a longboard, you can expect long, cruisy, drawn-out lines. You will also have the ability to catch and ride small waves that would otherwise be considered uncatchable.


funshape surfboard
funshape surfboard
Fun size boards are called fun size for a reason, they make what would be otherwise dull surf amusing. A fun size board is high in volume, wide, and has thick rails. A fun size board stands anywhere from 6’6” to 8’6” in height. One of the most popular fun size shapes is the egg shape, which is often called the “mini-Malibu for its similarities to a longboard.


Fun size boards are a great option for beginner surfers who are looking to progress towards a smaller board. If you have mastered the popup and you can ride clean lines down the face of the wave, then a fun size board will be a great fit for you. Similar to longboards, fun size boards will give intermediate and advanced surfers a thrill on relatively small days.


As stated earlier, fun size boards can make a relatively small wave day a lot of fun. That being said, there are a select number of surfers who ride mid-size boards on hollow, barreling days.


Fun size boards offer a similar feel to longboards, with a bit of added performance. Long cruisy rides are met with increased maneuverability that is made possible by the reduced length of the board. Fun size boards offer beginner surfers a chance to begin to learn to carve and turn in the same vein as you would on a shorter board, while still providing plenty of stability.


groveler surfA groveler may appear to be just a standard shortboard, but upon closer inspection, you will find that a groveler is typically shorter and stubbier than the average high-performance shortboard. What this means is that while grovelers may be ridden at a reduced length, they have an increased width, thickness, and therefore more volume than normal shortboards.


A groveler should be part of every surfer’s quiver, whether they are just starting out or they are a sponsored pro. Grovelers serve as a longboard replacement during the small waves of the summer season or any small day for that matter. The increased volume in a groveler allows the board to paddle easily and catch virtually any sized wave. Grovelers are also a great stepping stone for beginner/ intermediate surfers to advance their surfing. The high volume of a groveler will provide more stability than a high-performance shortboard, making them a valuable step in surf progression.


Grovelers excel in small waves. 2-4 feet is where you will get the most out of a groveler. Most grovelers are too thick to perform well on large waves with steep faces. There are a few exceptions of course if a groveler has a slight entry rocker and a thinned-out tail (such as the Hypto Krypto by Hayden Shapes) then they may be able to perform in larger surf.


As stated above, a groveler will make mushy, small surf more enjoyable. The increased volume allows you to catch more waves with ease. The relatively flat rocker of a groveler gives the board plenty of speed through flat/ closeout sections that would otherwise be difficult to get around. Grovelers will be a tad more cruisey than a high-performance shortboard but will still offer the necessary thrills of performance when the surf is less than ideal.


fish surfboardThe fish is an immensely popular shape that has been around since the 1970s. Fishes have a few defining characteristics that separate them from normal shortboards or grovelers. The most notable characteristics of a fish are the wide swallowtail and the twin fin (often keels) set up. Fishes also tend to have a lot of volume under the chest and somewhat flat rockers.


Like the groveler, the fish will bring an ample amount of fun to any surf session. The classically drawn outlines of the swallow-tailed twin fin are some of the most stylish in surfing, making fishes popular with intermediate and advanced surfers. That being said, the fish has similar characteristics to the groveler, making it an equally as viable option for progression for those beginner/ intermediate surfers who are looking to improve.


Similar to any groveler, a fish will turn any small day session into something to remember. Few surfers choose to ride fishes on large days, in part due to their large wide noises, which make steep drops challenging.


On a fish, you can expect long cruisy lines, plenty of speed, and a loose, skatey feel. A fish may not be able to bank turns like a high-performance shortboard, but when they’re ridden well they sure are fun to watch.


High-performance shortboards vary in size from about 5’4” to 6’8.” They are designed for one thing and one thing only, to turn on a dime and make the absolute most out of the open face of a wave. A good high-performance shortboard will allow surfers to fit as many turns possible into a wave while maintaining speed and control.


High-performance shortboards have thin rails, pointed noises, and low volume. They take time and patience to master, meaning that only advanced surfers will truly have a good time on them.


There needs to be a bit of size for a high-performance shortboard to truly shine. If the surfer is 4 feet or over, then it is time to grab your trusty shortboard.


High-performance shortboards are generally thin, with low rails, and rockered out. This gives them the ability to turn on a dime and carve up and down the face of a wave with ease. If you’re riding a high-performance shortboard for the first time, expect to work a lot to generate speed and set up each maneuver, but know that if you get that cut back just right, it will feel amazing.


There is no right or wrong in the surfboard shape you choose, our advice is to try out the different surfboard shapes in various conditions and see which one suit your style and surfing ability best. Or don’t choose and mix and match boards to the right conditions or state of mind you are into. Some days are better for glide or speed, others are better for a high-performance approach.
Whatever you do, make sure to have fun, since that is essentially what surfing comes down to.; putting a smile on your face.

At Swell, we have an extended surfboard rental pool for people that already know how to surf and don’t want to travel to the Dominican Republic with their surfboard. Our range exists of 25+ boards ranging from 5’10’ fishes to 9’6′ performance longboards and everything in between.

Never surfed before? Have a look at the learn to surf and surf coaching packages we offer

Surfboards for beginners we have too.

Links and resources:
Mollusk surfboards sell some of the best looking ‘alternative’ surfboards.
Channel Islands is one of the leading manufacturers of high-performance shortboards


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  • Think of Swell as the anti-surf camp. There’s plenty of surfing, of course, but the similarities to other surf camps end there. For starters, the rooms are stylish — more boutique surf hotel than reggae-loving surfer digs. Then there are the legendary breakfasts (omelets, pancakes and crepes, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and fruit bowls). Structured surf lessons take place each morning, with an instructor alongside you and the head surf coach watching from shallow water, ready to offer learn to surf tips between riding waves. If you are serious about learning to surf, then Swell should be on top of your destination list. Highly recommended!

    Reference Source:
    [Frommer’s Travel Guides]

    Designed with the discerning surfer in mind, Swell Surf Camp is far from a crash pad. The spare clean lines, plush bedding, modern photographs and funky furniture say ‘boutique surf retreat’ but the pool, ping-pong and foosball tables and social vibe suggest otherwise. A huge wood communal table is the center of the hanging-out action, after all the surfing is done. Highly recommended!

    Reference Source:
    [Lonely Planet]

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