The way you surf a longboard is completely different to riding a shortboard.
Sure, there are similarities up to a point: the way you paddle, pop-up, etc.
But past that point things change considerably.
In fact longboard surfing is almost an entirely different sport in many ways, and in this article we’re going to be diving deep into what makes surfing a longboard so unique.
And a whole lot more.
All will be revealed below 👇 but first up…
IS LONGBOARD SURFING EASIER?
This debate often ruffles a few feathers here and there, but there’s no denying it, it is easier to ride a longboard than a shortboard.
Because you have all that extra buoyancy in the board - extra length and volume too - which makes paddling and popping to your feet much easier than on a smaller board with less volume.
But with all that being said, getting good at riding a longboard is a different story altogether, requiring high levels of skill, balance and agility - taking a lifetime to master.
Is it easy to ride a longboard?
Hmm, to a degree I guess. It’s not all that hard to get the absolute basics dialled.
Is it easy to get good at riding a longboard?
Nah, not at all.
But, you’ve gotta start somewhere right!
WHAT MAKES LONGBOARD SURFING UNIQUE?
The ethos around surfing a longboard is a million miles away from traditional shortboarding, with the two disciplines chasing totally different things.
Let’s take a closer look at what things make longboard surfing so unique:
THING 1: STYLE
In shortboarding style is an afterthought, something to maybe work on and refine down the track.
However when it comes to longboarding, it’s ALL about style.
And the good thing about style is that it’s subjective, and it’s this subjectivity that encourages longboarders to unleash their creativity, their own unique approach to riding waves.
And this individuality is encouraged and supported by the longboarding community.
THING 2: GRACE
I know I said above that style is subjective above and I stand by that, but there are limits…
Of course if you want to get real creative go nuts, but there are some elements of good style that are universal.
And grace is one of those.
What do I mean?
Well, I just Googled what ‘grace’ means and here’s what came up:
Noun: Smoothness and elegance of movement. “She moved through the water with effortless grace”.
And that pretty much sums it up.
THING 3: FLOW
Flow is the similar in many ways to grace, just expanding on it a touch, and applying it to surfing.
If grace is the smoothness and elegance of movement, then the flow element is the way that’s translated onto the wave.
The way you transition from one point to the next, linking manoeuvres together seamlessly.
That’s flow right there!
THING 4: FUN
That’s right, longboard surfing is all about the fun.
It’s not about aggressively fighting for waves, trying to rip the bag out of everything you catch (that’s reserved for the shortboarders 🤪).
Far from it.
Instead it’s all about the simple joys of riding waves, sharing them with friends, and connecting with the ocean.
DRAWING LINES AND THE ART OF LONGBOARDING (THE RIGHT WAY...)
Longboarders draw very different lines on a wave to shortboarders. This is one of the big things that differentiate the two.
The lines a longboarder will surf are predominantly horizontal and down the line, whereas shortboarders draw more vertical extreme lines on a wave.
It’s these soft, drawn out lines that make longboarding so hypnotic to watch.
No thrashing of the arms, pumping and bouncing, battling to milk every last bit out of the wave.
Instead longboarding is more like a dance. A poetry of connection between the surfer and the ocean, ebbing and flowing in harmony together.
THE SHAPE OF YOUR LONGBOARD AND HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR SURFING
Lonboards can be broken down into two different categories: noseriders, and high-performance longboards.
Let’s take a look at each in a little more detail.
Noseriders are built for small, peeling waves - either pointbreaks or soft rolling beachies.
Counterintuitively the boards aren’t shaped for maximum speed, instead they are designed to manage speed so that the surfer can position themselves in the pocket of the wave more often (this helps with riding the nose).
This is achieved by the conscious design decision of having soft rails from the nose all the way to the tail. These soft rails create a kind of suction, sucking the board to the wave, and this helps the surfer to ride on the nose more easily.
Noseriders also tend to have flatter bottom concaves to glide over flat sections, a wider nose, and a large central single fin. This fin stays in the wave acting as a rudder, stabilising the surfer whilst riding the nose.
WHO ARE NOSERIDER LONGBOARDERS SUITED FOR?
Noseriders are perfect for surfers that live in an area with a lot of small waves, or locations with soft rolling pointbreaks.
They’re also for the surfer that’s looking to learn how to cross step, and how to ride the nose of the board.
The flatter rocker, plus the added width and volume, not only make these boards super fun and forgiving, they also make noseriding much easier too.
HIGH PERFORMANCE LONGBOARDS (HPLB)
As the name suggests, HPLB’s are built for high performance longboarding.
That might be for performing more radical arcing cutback manoeuvres, or for surfing bigger, steeper, more challenging waves.
The board shape will be a little thinner (especially towards the tail) and the nose often comes to a blunt point. You’ll also find that these boards have more rocker than a noserider too, and it’s this added rocker that helps the board to turn more easily, and tackle steeper waves.
HPLB’s are usually ridden with more than one fin, oftentimes as a 2 + 1 (two side fins, one big central fin), or as a quad + 1 (four side fins, and one big central fin).
These extra fins are there to help the board perform sharper pivots, and carry more speed and drive through turns.
WHO IS A HIGH PERFORMANCE LONGBOARD FOR?
These boards are for people who live in areas that frequently have larger, more challenging surf.
They’re for the surfer that still may want to noseride (although noseriding on these boards is much more difficult), but also wants the performance aspects of riding a shortboard too.
LONGBOARD FIN PLACEMENT
Did you know that the placement of the fin on your longboard makes a BIG difference to the way the board surfs?
Well it does.
Here’s what to look out for:
FIN PLACEMENT OPTION 1: TOWARDS THE NOSE
Placing the fin further towards the nose of your board will give it a looser feel, and make it easier to turn.
This fin position makes it easier to pivot and move around on the wave, but, it can cause the board to slide out more easily.
FIN PLACEMENT OPTION 2: TOWARDS THE TAIL
Placing your longboard fin closer to the tail makes it easier to noseride, giving your board more grip. You’ll also find that your board has more drive a stability too.
However with this added stability you lose a little when it comes to turning your board and pivoting tightly.
WHERE SHOULD YOU PLACE YOUR FINS?
In truth there’s no right or wrong on this one, it’s all about feel, and the type of surfing that resonates with you.
But something to bare in mind…
...changing the fin position even slightly will have a big impact on the way your board rides.
So the best thing to do is run a little test, moving a couple of cm’s each time, seeing how it feels then testing again.
Using an iterative process like this you’ll find your fin placement sweet spot in no time.
LONGBOARD SURFING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Alright, I’m going to assume you already know the basics here - paddling, popping to your feet and all that jazz.
If you’ve got all of that good stuff dialled then here are a few tips and tricks to help you on your journey:
LESS IS MORE
Good longboarding isn’t about thrashing around, going ham from A to B.
Instead it’s about removing all of the erratic movements, slowing things down, and taking things back to the simplistic basics.
The best longboarders make it look effortless, and keep erratic moves to a minimum.
You should too.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE SPEED
Speed isn’t always your best friend, in fact oftentimes you're trying to wipe off speed as much as possible.
To position your board in the right spot to quickly run to the nose.
So next time you’re in the water, think about the speed you’re carrying a little differently, and look for opportunities to wash off speed and position yourself in the pocket for noseriding.
FEET TOGETHER, STAND TALL
The stance you’re taught for riding a shortboard is very different to the stance used for longboarding.
The shortboarding stance is all about being low and compact, with feet relatively wide apart ready for explosive manoeuvres.
Whereas the longboard stance is quite different.
Feet are much closer together, with legs and back more upright.
It looks pretty damn stylish when it's done right.
WRAPPING IT UP
Longboarding is about the dance - style, grace and flow. It’s more than just a sport, it’s a way of life.
A life where you enjoy the simple things and go with the flow.
Embrace all of the above, and if you haven't already go and give it a go.
A whole new world of surfing awaits.
Ex WQS warrior, and all-round frother - Loz is the technical coaching queen at the House of Surf.
She is also a mindset and life coach and has a habit of living in her van way too much.