Gone are the days of the 6'1' x 18 1/2" x 2 1/2" shortboards only.

Those days are long gone!

Today you have a plethora of surfboard shapes to choose from, so much so that it's hard to know what differentiates one from the next. 

With so many variables, and so many different board shapes to dissect, it's no wonder surfers don't know which shape to choose, let alone why.

This ultimate guide to surfboard shapes hopes to change all that, give you that little extra insight, and clear things up once and for all. 

So if you're ready to go deep into all the different styles of surfboard people are riding and why, keep reading, as you're in for a treat. 


SHORTBOARDS

HIGH PERFORMANCE FISH

WAVE SIZE: SMALL

SUITABLE FOR: INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED

There are two types of Fish surfboard shapes, the new school version (as pictured above), and the old school version which we'll get to later in this post.

But here, we'll focus on the new school Fish shape for now. 

Fish surfboards are designed for surfing small waves and as such are wider at the nose and tail than high performance shortboards. 

This extra width provides more surface area, allowing the board to plane and glide better in small waves, it makes them super fast too. 

Fish surfboards are best surfed in weaker, flatter style waves as they hold their speed so well, however they have their limitations especially when the waves get bigger and steeper. 

Alongside their wider shaped outline, Fish surfboards are also synonymous with their wide swallow tails. 

This swallow tail set up allows the board to carry extra width into the tail for buoyancy, volume, and glide, yet allows the board to pivot from rail to rail too for more progressive surfing. 

HIGH PERFORMANCE SHORTBOARD

WAVE SIZE: SMALL/MEDIUM 

SUITABLE FOR: ADVANCED

High performance shortboards are built for exactly what the name suggests - high performance. 

These boards are built like a Formula 1 race car for the waves, and it's here where most surfboard evolution happens. 

Typically the shape of a high performance surfboard will be pulled in at the nose and tail to allow for sharper, tighter turns in the pocket.

You'll also find harder, sharper, less forgiving rails at the tail of the surfboard to allow the surfer to really put the board on edge as well.

And, just like a Formula 1 car needs to be driven at maximum speed for the downforce to take effect, tyres to heat up, etc. to fully perform at its best, the same goes for high performance shortboards too.

To work effectively they need the surfer riding them to be firing on all cylinders, pushing hard the whole time. 

Do this, and they'll work a treat.

If you're not quite here though with your surfing they can do more damage than good, so don't be in a rush to hop on one of these boards until you're ready.

THE HYBRID

WAVE SIZE: SMALL/MEDIUM 

SUITABLE FOR: INTERMEDIATE+

Hybrid surfboard are that middle ground surfboard shape that sits in between a new school Fish, and a high performance shortboard. 

They're for the above average everyday surfer that wants to be able to lay their board on rail, yet still be able to paddle into waves easily, plus have that little bit of forgiveness too for when you're not surfing every single day. 

The shape is a balance of slightly wider nose and tail shapes, oftentimes (but not always) a swallow tail, with a bit of added volume to get the board going too. 

If you're into high performance surfing and you surf only a handful of times per week and you surf a lot of small waves at your local, it's likely the Hybrid is the shape for you. 


BIG WAVE SURFBOARDS

THE STEP UP

WAVE SIZE: MEDIUM/BIG 

SUITABLE FOR: ADVANCED

As the name suggests the 'Step Up' surfboard is a shape that's built for when the waves step up a notch, and get bigger. 

A step up surfboard will typically be around 2-4 inches longer than your regular shortboard. 

This extra length adds extra volume into the surfboard making it easier to paddle and catch waves which is especially important when surfing bigger waves as they move that much faster. 

Furthermore, the outline shape of a step up surfboard is slightly extended too, this helps for longer, more drawn-out carving manoeuvres on bigger waves, plus helps the surfer handle all the extra speed too. 

THE GUN

WAVE SIZE: VERY BIG

SUITABLE FOR: ADVANCED

The Gun is a surfboard shape that has one purpose - helping surfers catch frickin massive waves.

A typical Gun will be anywhere from 8ft all the way up to 10ft plus for the psycho's that surf Jaws, Nazarre etc. 

The shape of a gun is thick, narrow, and long. 

The idea is to give the surfer huge amounts of paddle power to help them catch the massive waves early, provide heaps of grip and down the line speed to outrun the wave and not slide out, and be able to handle metre+ sized chop that's typical on a wave of that size. 

All in all there's a lot going on with big wave gun surfboard shapes, with a lot of innovation happening in recent years as surfers push the boundaries on a daily basis. 


FUN BOARDS

THE RETRO FISH

WAVE SIZE: SMALL

SUITABLE FOR: INTERMEDIATE+

The Retro Fish is inspired by the surfers in the 70's that used these boards for the most technical surfing of the time. 

Their shape is typified by a very flat rocker, with lots of thickness throughout the whole length of the board. 

Couple that with a wide outline nose shape, and big retro swallow tail and there's your Retro Fish right there.

But there's one more notable feature - the Twin Keel fins. 

These fins are glassed into the board (not always, but mostly), with big, hyper extended wide bases. 

An ode to the old school shredders in the 70's, these boards can be one heck of a lot of fun.

THE EGG

WAVE SIZE: VERY BIG

SUITABLE FOR: ADVANCED

Egg shape boards are like the choads of the surfboard world...

Short, stumpy and thick. 

They're designed to go like a 'bat out of hell' in small waves, but they're not much good for anything else. 

When it comes to turning they suck, and when it comes to performance surfing they suck.

But if you want to go in a straight line and wiggle around like a cockroach real fast, this is the board for you.


LONGBOARDS

THE NOSERIDER LONGBOARD

WAVE SIZE: VERY SMALL

SUITABLE FOR: INTERMEDIATE+

Nose rider longboards are built for (you guessed it) nose riding. 

Sure, you can do turns and carves on them too, but they're purposely built to help you get those 'toes to the nose'. 

The shape of a nose rider longboard will be wide at the nose and tail for stability, alongside soft rounded rails to enhance the coanda downforce effect at the tail.

You'll oftentimes find a big single concave running through the nose of the board to add that extra little bit of lift too. 

Oh, and one last thing, these boards are almost always ridden as a single fin, so you can ditch the thruster set up here. 

HIGH PERFORMANCE LONGBOARDS

WAVE SIZE: SMALL - MEDIUM

SUITABLE FOR: INTERMEDIATE+

High Performance Longboards, or HPL's for short, are for the surfer that likes to do 'shortboardesque' surfing, on a longboard. 

These surfers will shred the hell out of waves on these boards doing big roundhouse cutbacks, snaps, laybacks and carves, heck they even do airs on these nowadays. 

So naturally the shape of the surfboards will be much different to a traditional nose rider. 

They'll have a more pulled in nose, oftentimes coming to a rounded point, and a much more pulled in tail - with thinner, sharper, more refined rails too. 

And, these boards are almost always ridden with three fins - as speed and drive are the object with these boards. 


ALTERNATIVE SURFBOARD SHAPES

THE MIDLENGTH

WAVE SIZE: SMALL/MEDIUM

SUITABLE FOR: INTERMEDIATE+

Popularised by hipsters like Alex Knost, the Midlength has been all the rage for the past few years. 

As you'd expect the mid-length sits between a shortboard and a longboard, striking that balance between the two. 

Whereas in the past this size surfboard was reserved for the mini-mal shape, nowadays they're shaped much more for high performance surfing. 

A good mid-length will still allow a surfer to put the board on rail, and do some nice carving manoeuvres, with the added benefit of being able to surf in gutless, small waves.

THE FINLESS

WAVE SIZE: SMALL

SUITABLE FOR: ADVANCED

If you go to Byron Bay you'll be inundated with surfers riding boards without fins.

Why?

Mainly because they think it's cool, but secondly, they're actually pretty damn fun too. 

The shape of a Finless surfboard will vary depending upon the rider, but a few things will remain consistent. 

They'll typically be around 6-8 inches longer than your normal sized shortboard, they'll have a decent amount of extra volume for buoyancy, plus they'll have deep channels on the underside of the board for grip too.

Oh, and not to forget, they'll have no fins either.

ASYMETRICAL SURFBOARDS

WAVE SIZE: SMALL+

SUITABLE FOR: ADVANCED

Asymmetrical surfboards are a relatively new phenomenon, whereby one side of a surfboard will be shaped differently to the other. 

The thinking behind such surfboard shapes is this; surfers will ride the wave differently on their backhand or forehand, and a surfboards shape should reflect that. 

Makes sense in a lot of ways, but takes a little to get used to visually. 

Asymmetrical shapes haven't yet hit the mainstream fully, but with the likes of Stab's 'Electric Acid Surfboard test' and other such experiments putting these designs out there to the public, who knows, they could become the de facto in the future. 


CONCLUSION

It's pretty wild how many different surfboard shapes there are nowadays, with every surfer looking for a unique feel, individual to them.

And as with everything these shapes are constantly evolving, constantly iterating, to ever enhance that wave riding experience. 

There's a different size and shape for every type of condition imaginable, so now there really are no excuses not to get in there. 

Yew!
Rowan 🤙

ROWAN CLIFFORD

Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life.

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