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The shortboard is generally described as a high performance surfboard. Shortboards are usually between 5'6" and 7'0" long and between 16" and 19" wide. Their small size and narrow shape make them less stable and harder to paddle. However, true performance and maneuverability is what they are about. Shortboards are good for the younger crowd or the more advanced surfers. Shortboards aren't very good in small wave conditions.
The fish is a variation on the shortboard. Fishes are generally wider, have less rocker, a fuller nose and usually have a swallow tail. Fishes are great when the wave conditions are smaller and less than perfect.
The funshape is basically a larger version of the shortboard. Funshapes are usually between 6'6" and 8'6" long and between 20" and 22" wide. The size and shape of the board closely resembles a shortboard, but they have a fuller nose and are generally thicker. The flotation and stability qualities are very similar to a longboard. Funshapes are a good choice when you are learning to surf because they perform well in most wave conditions and can be forgiving to the less experienced. If you're a big guy and don't want a longboard, this is your board.
The longboard is the classic surfboard design used since the beginning of surfing history. True longboards start at 9'0" and can go up to 12'0" long or longer and are between 21" and 24" wide. Longboards are very stable and easy to learn on. The downside of a longboard is that they tend to be somewhat heavy and difficult to carry for smaller surfers. The upside is that you can catch even the smallest wave. Longboards are probably the most varied type of board. You can get longboards shaped for cruising and nose-riding knee high waves or one that is shaped for overhead surf and serious performance.
The rocker of a surfboard is described as the curve of the surfboard along the length as seen from the side. Bottom rocker is the most important design feature of any surfboard since it determines how the board will turn. A flatter rocker will prove a faster and more stable board, but will lose maneuverability. More rocker slows a board down, but increases the maneuverability. Not enough nose rocker can cause the board to pearl, or nosedive, in steeper waves, while too much nose rocker in a longboard will be harder to noseride.
The fins of a surfboard are the part of the board that sticks into the water. In the past, a surfboard used to come with one large, non-removable fin and that was that. Nowadays, you can mix and match the fins to the current conditions with hundreds of styles to choose from. The basics are that as the amount of fin area in the water increases, the stability increases and there is a loss of maneuverability. Almost all surfboards today come with a removable three-fin setup. The only difference is that longboards have a larger and longer middle fin.
The rails are the outside edges of the surfboard. The rail shape determines how far and how the rail sinks into the wave face. Rails are described to be soft if they are rounded or hard if they have more of a point. Softer rails are more forgiving during a turn allowing it to move through the water easier. Hard rails tend to be snappier and quicker in turns. Most surfboards have a soft rail that turns into a hard rail just above the side fins. Where the top and bottom rail meet also makes a difference on how the board handles. Rails that are 50/50 meet right in the middle while boards with down rails meet right at the bottom of the board. Basically, the harder and lower a rail is, the faster and snappier it will be. The softer and rounder a rail is, the slower and more forgiving it will be.
The tail of the board is the end of the board that is closest to the fins. There are many different variations on surfboard tails. The major difference between the tail shapes is the amount of the tail area that makes contact with the wave. The two basic tail shapes are pintails and square tails. Round tails, rounded pins, swallow tails and rounded squares are variations of these two types. A wider square tail catches waves easier and is more maneuverable. Pintails give smoother control and holding power especially in larger and steeper waves, but can drag in smaller, weaker surf.
Wax provides traction to the deck of the surfboard. Without it, you would slip right off. There are different brands on the market, but they are basically all the same. Each brand has temperatures from cold to tropical. The key is to match the current water temperature with the wax. If you don't, the wax will melt off or be too hard.
A traction pad can be used in place of wax for the back foot on shortboards and some funboards. They give you better and more consistent traction especially during longer sessions. Most styles have raised areas for a better fit and a tail kick so you can add a little more power to the turns. Unless you want to be called a kook, don't put one on a longboard.
The surfboard leash is fastened around your ankle. It keeps your board from heading to the shore without you or knocking someone else in the head. Unfortunately, it increases the chance of your head getting knocked by your board, but the benefits outweigh the risks. A basic rule of thumb is that you should use a leash that is the same length as your board.
Surfboard bags are primarily designed to protect your board from costly repairs that happen during transportation. Most bags not only protect your board from dings, but also from the damage caused by direct sunlight. Also, the wax gets all over the inside of the bag and not on the cloth seats of your new car.
Repair kits are used to repair small damage, or dings, on a surfboard. Some kits come with resin and filler pre-mixed in a tube and cure in sunlight in minutes, while others come with the resin and hardener and can take several hours to cure. Most surfers go for the easy fix with the pre-mixed and leave the other to the surf shops. Either way, if you try it yourself, it may save you some cash.
A nose or tail guard is a piece of adhesive rubber that sticks to the nose or tail of the surfboard. The main purpose is to protect the surfboard and hopefully reduce expensive repairs to those areas. In addition to saving your board, it's always nice to have a little extra padding between your head and the board. This is especially true on boards with a pointed nose or when a child is using the board.
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