Some people think it’s a tough question. Most of my friends reckon stick to what you feel comfy with but you could try a different one for a change. No, I’m not talking about haircuts…a polarising question nevertheless when it comes to your choice of surfboard. Longboard or shortboard?
I remember back in the days when I first started surfing. I don’t know why but for me, a longboard meant ‘beginner’ and ‘boring’ whereas shortboards where equivalent to cool and for good surfers only. I recall the conversations when I was about to purchase my first board “…oh really…a 7.6? But, but surely I’m talented enough to start on a shortboard considering I’m very sporty and yes, no problem, I’ll be able to paddle on a shorter board and you know I’ve been snowboarding for years so really I don’t need a long board I can start surfing on a short board straight away.” Reluctantly, I agreed to a mini mal (as short as mals come) as my first board. A month later, I’ve managed to snap my mal into two pieces. Whilst I was a bit upset about having broken my first board, I was convinced at the same time that it must have been a sign for me to move on to a ‘real’ board – a short board…since mal are for babies, right?
For a good 3-4 years, I’ve surfed short boards and never even considered a longboard. Yes, it was a pain in the butt to catch waves sometimes, especially on small days… how frustrating when it’s impossible to catch a wave and you watch longboarders catching one wave after the other with ease. On bigger days, I did not envy them it all, but I did admire them and wondered how the hell did these guys managed to get to the line-up without being able to duck-dive (I still do)?
Either way, all these years, it would have never crossed my mind to ride a longboard. Actually, I almost took it as an offense, if anyone who asked me what type of board I’m surfing insinuated I might be surfing a longboard.
Then, the unthinkable happened, I started to date a longboarder. And he was actually a pretty good surfer. A much better surfer than I was (even though I was much cooler because of the short board thing, right…). Well, he never bothered discussing the pros and cons surfing a short board or long board, but I guess actions speak louder than words. Even though I bravely tried to ignore my frustration, the smirk on his face would not escape me when he caught 30 waves as opposed to the 3 waves I would catch on a small day.
I’m not sure if he
a) felt sorry for me for not catching any waves
b) wanted to sit closer in the line-up (if we went for a surf together we never really went for a surf together, cos he was out the back in the longboard pack and me on the inside with the shortboard pack)
c) was over me being grumpy not catching any waves on small days…
Either way, one day he gave me one of his longboards. And even though I was not exactly a fan of longboards at the time, you never say no to anyone who gives you a board for free. However, for quite a while I came up with all sorts of excuses to not take out my newly acquired longboard. One day I could not take it any longer though. No waves to speak of for weeks. Weeks of fairly weak 1-2 footers…desperate for a wave, I carried my mal to the beach for the first time. Jeez, it was heavy but once in the water…oh my god…how easy is it to catch waves and oh how much fun is it to ride waves all the way to the beach? Ok, I did stack it quite a bit to start with as it’s a completely type of surfing and requires different weight distribution. I managed to wipe out quite often with the longboard going straight while I was trying to go sideways.
All in all I had a ball and ever since I’ve loved riding my mal. It’s just the best on small days. On anything over 2ft I still prefer my shortboard out. I just love being able to switch between different types of boards depending on the conditions. Some of my die-hard short board friends still swear by their short boards and seem to be rather sitting for hours in small surf without catching any waves rather than using a longboard. Well, you live and learn. I was one of those until I’ve met Bruce (my longboard that is). I actually think surfing a mal from time to time makes you surf better on your shortboard anyway.
It took me quite a while to realise but it does not matter what board you decide to get – shortboard, mal, fish, softie – who cares … it’s all about having fun and catching waves – whatever works for you.