Building a proper quiver takes time and experience. Before you graduate from your single soft top or beginner board, you'll need to surf well enough to know what you like, and where your skill level is at. You don't need to be at a pro level. If you've got a good handle on navigating a lineup, catching waves, driving the line, and making some smaller turns, then you're ready to try a more progressive shape. It's likely that your home break will have some variation in conditions throughout a year, so it makes sense to have a couple of different surfboards to choose from. This will maximize your fun in a session. Of course great surfers can make any board work in nearly any surf conditions, so it's ultimately up to you to develop your own preferences. The rush and sensation of sliding down a wave changes greatly when you switch up the vehicle under your feet. So in this blog I'll review some of the basic concepts of board shapes, from a regular surfer's perspective, and hopefully help you get started in building your own quiver... or refining the one you've already got going.
Surfboards can be broken down into some basic categories. In the beginning you should focus on shortboards, longboards, and hybrids. There are other categories, as well as a slew of sub-categories, with more detailed and subtle differences... but there's no need to get into that right now. There's a step-up category, for example, if you live where the waves get extra large. But when you're just starting out, a three-board quiver will likely cover 90% of what your beach is capable of delivering (that goes up to 99% if you live on the US east coast). So in the early stages of building your quiver, you should aim for these three board types- a performance shortboard to use as a daily driver, a hybrid fish for groveling, and a longboard for the smaller days... or the days that you just want to change things up.
Shortboards - There's a ton of range in this category, you just need to figure out what works best for your skill level, style, and typical surfing conditions. Most shapers will have a chart that maps out the range they think you should ride for a particular shape. So pick a shape that matches the waves you'll be surfing, and choose a size that's suited for your height and weight. Using trial and error, you'll just have to muddle through some shapes until you find what you like. For me, I like my shortboards a little shorter for my height, but with wider tails and more foam in the middle. I generally like less rocker in the nose with more curve out the tail. Most of my boards are single to double concave bottoms with some vee in the tail. As far as outlines go, when it gets good, I like curvy, center point middle to back, with round and swallow tails. If it's wedgy and more vertical surf, then I'll go straighter and more knifey in the noses with round and sqaush tails. You pick a shortboard based on the waves you'd typically surf when the waves get good at your home break. My home break in Costa Rica is punchy and hollow nearly all of the time, so my shortboards are different than my New England shapes where the waves are more mushy and slow for most of the year. You also need to add foam to compensate for winter. My shortboard volume varies by 3-6 liters between summer and winter depending on the particular shape.
Hybrids - There's a lot of range in the hybrid category from fish, to fun shapes, to mid-lengths and mini-longboards. I recommend a fish for everyone's quiver. Fun shapes and mid-lengths are fun crafts too, but they're pretty nuanced with shapes that range from fat railed fun boards for beginners, to high performance mid-lengths capable of laying down some real turns. If you're just getting into the hybrid category choose one that is closest in size to the board you're most comfortable on. For example, if you're looking to step down off a longboard, go with a fun shape or mid-length. But if you're already somewhat comfortable on a shortboard, then go with a wide-tailed fish to increase your wave count. Wider boards with bigger noses and tails give you more wave catching ability. The drawback to riding a hybrid though is that there may be limitations in performance when the waves get good, unless you're a pro. There's plenty of video on the internet of professionals ripping on hybrids in really good waves. That's probably not you. For us mortal surfers, riding a fat, planky fish at a super hollow and wedgy peak is only a recipe for going over the falls or sliding out on the bottom turn. But hey, you do you hipster shredder.
Longboards - There is also some range in the longboard category. There are traditional logs with single fins, but there are also quite a few shapes that utilize 3 and 4 fins to increase the performance. Longboarding is a completely different style of surfing compared to shortboarding. You're riding different parts of the wave and you've got to use some savvy to turn and position for a maximum slide. While the wave catching ability of a longboard is as simple as it gets, turning and navigating with grace and style is another level. The best longboarders more resemble a dancer than a high performance surfer. You'll choose a longboard based on what you want to do. Noseride? Turns? Both? Honestly, it's difficult to go wrong choosing a longboard. If you're still a beginner, or even a traditionalist, go with something thicker, in the 9'4 - 9'6 range, with softer rails. If you want to go more performance, go thinner rails and pulled in tails. My all-time favorite longboard is 22 years old and still somewhat active in my quiver. The 9'2 performance single fin pin tail works in small waves with a tall flex fin, but it really lights up in overhead surf using a short upright fin. I recently upgraded to an HP longboard with a quad setup made my VEC Surfboards... it's my go-to for tropical storm surf in Nantasket beach. The fucking thing charges!
Some of my surfboards are up for rent on thequiver.com at a reasonable rate. My board rental collection is customized for my liking, skill level, height, and weight, but nearly all of them will work for beginners under 6 feet tall, and less than 175 pounds. If you're bigger than that, like I am (6'3 +/-200 lbs), the shorter boards in my quiver will feel more sensitive in order to maximize performance . But again, my hybrids, mid-lengths, and longboards will work for just about anyone who wants to give them a go. Below is a list of boards I've got in and out of rotation, and why I like them. I've got a little bit of what they call a surfboard shopping addiction. I guess there could be worse things. So what are you waiting for? Drop me a line, and let's go surf! Too broke to afford a rental? Tell me your sad story and maybe I'll comp your rentals firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you're surfing where you are!