Whether it’s a surfboard to battle the winter elements or one that is best learnt on, it certainly can be a hard task choosing the right board.
Short boards are highly sensitive performance boards that require the rider to consider every detail. Getting these steps right is essential to giving yourself the best chance of nailing that so called "magic" board. The best board for winter would definitely be something with a bit more volume; it doesn’t have to be all about length and width. Ask your local shaper or retailer and they should be able to help you find the right volume (litres) for your weight, height, ability, fitness and type of waves you want to be riding.
Winter swells mean bigger waves and stronger winds so ideally your short board should be somewhere between 6’0 – 6’8 to make sure you can paddle a little easier and you don’t get thrown off the wave with the bumpier surface. If for example you’re in Victoria try putting your thruster fin set up away for a couple of months and throw a stiff set of quads on your fish/short board.
Board for the break
Whatever the quality of the point break a board that has good down-the-line speed is ideal so you can make those critical sections when you’re right on the edge of the rocks. If you’re surfing the famous point breaks on the Gold Coast a 5’10 high performance board would be a good choice as these waves tend to have a great variety of punchy barrels and sections for big turns. If you’re surfing a point break like Noosa then crack out that 10’0 Mal and enjoy surfing countless waves with minimal effort. When the surf gets above 6 foot on a point break it could be worth having a semi-gun type board as a lot of water will be moving around making a smaller board almost unrideable. If the wave is barrelling then definitely keep your thruster fin set up but if it’s a long super-fast wave then put your quads on for some serious speed.
Everyone loves a beach break because a good sand bank can offer so much. It can have a variety of waves from sucky hollow barrels to thumping freight train sets. Usually a really responsive board is ideal as you tend to need to get up to your feet quickly and make that bottom turn or take the steep drop. A fish/funboard or a 5’8-5’10 short board is fantastic to surf on a good sand bank as you’ll have no trouble staying in the pocket of the wave and still be able to pull off big turns. When the swell gets bigger you may need to add a couple of inches so you’re able to paddle into the wave and get over that ledge otherwise you’ll find yourself eating a sand sandwich. Medium sized thruster fins usually does the job on a good sand bank.
Arguably the best waves in the world are reef breaks like Pipeline, Cloudbreak, Teahupoo and Uluwatu; all offering very steep and hollow waves. This is usually because the wave jumps from deep water to very shallow reef meaning only one thing, some serious tube time. Your standard short board will do the trick and you don’t want too big a board, as you’ll need to be nimble for some tube-weaving. When the wave gets six foot plus then you’re definitely heading in to snapping your board territory, which is a good time for your 'step up' short board, which usually is a 6’2-6’8 pintail. Although some people enjoy having the Quad Fin set up on a reef break it’s definitely worth going with a thruster set up as you’ll be able to remain in the pocket of the wave a lot easier and get your barrel.
Learning to surf can be extremely frustrating so getting past this stage needs to be as short a period as possible. The best board for an absolute beginner is no doubt a G board. This board is designed to make it significantly easier to stand up and has every feature made larger including rails, width and length. They also have the hard foam deck & rails, and rubber fins to make sure no one gets hurt in your journey to becoming a pro.
The step up from a G board usually is a mini Mal. Once your standing up regularly it’s time to start learning to ride the wave for longer and with more turns and this is when you will catch that surfing bug and always wanting more. The mini mal can offer this greater movability whilst still making it easy to catch the waves and offer stability.
Transitioning from Mini Mal
Progressing from your Mini Mal to a short board can be a bit tricky as you won’t be used to your board being so responsive and unstable, so make sure you start with a board that has some width. Then you can slowly get shorter and smaller and work your way up to a performance short board as these are the most fun.
If you find yourself frustrated and not catching enough waves, re-think your board choice and don’t just go for the shorter option.