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How to Ride a Fish Surfboard

   August 15th, 2023   Posted In: How-To   Tags:

You’ve Seen Them

If you spend a lot of time on the beach, then you probably see them all the time… Those surfboards that have the shape of a fish with that funky split tail. What’s the point behind it? Well, the reason for the design could mean a lot of fun for you. I’m about to explain why and how to ride a fish surfboard.

The Shape

The first thing you need to do is make sure you know the difference between a shortboard and a fish surfboard because they are generally the same length. You can see the green board in the photo has a shape that looks more like the body of a fish. It is a little wider, thicker, and flatter than the other shortboards in the photo.

how to ride a fish surfboard


What’s the Point?

  • Perfect for weak waves
  • Higher wave count
  • Easier to catch waves
  • Increased down-the-line speed


Riding Technique

If you have gotten the hang of riding a longboard and you’re now learning how to ride a fish surfboard, then you will notice that the paddling experience isn’t very different.

Catching a wave on a fish surfboard isn’t much different than catching one on a long or shortboard. The only real difference you should notice is that it might be a little harder to paddle into the wave than it was on the longboard.

Standing Up

The next step in how to ride a fish surfboard happens once you have caught the wave and are about to stand up. The motion of popping up takes a little more fluidity than it does on a traditional longboard. Because a fish is generally short there is not as much room for forgiveness which means standing up needs to happen faster and your initial foot placement needs to be more precise. If your footing is not centered as you are getting into the wave, chances are, you are going to wipeout.

If you are making the transition from a longboard to a fish, then it is helpful to practice the motion of popping up at home on a yoga mat. Make sure you can get to the correct footing in an efficient manner before you head out and try it on the water.

A fish offers more stability than a shortboard, so if you are going from a shortboard to a fish then you should have no problems popping up and will most likely recognize right off the bat that it is easier.

Catching Waves

Riding a fish surfboard when you have caught a wave is more like riding a shortboard. Make sure your weight is centered on your front foot. The weight distribution of your feet makes a bigger difference on a fish than it does on a longboard. Make sure you are able to get your feet quickly into a place where you can immediately start turning. Once you are riding the wave keep your knees slightly bent with your upper body leaning forward to where it is in line with your front foot. Pressing or pumping your front foot is a way to generate speed as you glide across the face of the wave.


Learning to snap turn after turn is the next step when you’re learning how to ride a fish surfboard. The split-back design of the fish is made for turning and cutting but the flat bottom design allows the board to be somewhat flighty. The board can slide out from under you if you try to turn too sharp because there is not as much concave to dig your rail into the water. Once you get the feel for how far you can take your turns you will be in good shape. The overall technique of how to turn a fish does include the same principals as turning a long or shortboard. It is a matter shifting your weight and pointing your body in the direction you are trying to turn.

Why You May Want One

The true beauty of a fish surfboard isn’t the shape, but the type of waves that make the difference. A fish can make small waves very fun and shreddable, and you still get the speed you need to make quick turns and even catch air. The design is essentially built for speed in any condition, which makes it a great board for those summer days in California when the waves are, overall, not appealing.

So rent a fish or borrow one from a buddy and see what you think! Chances are you’ll be converted after one or two rides.

Check out this helpful video: 

Editor’s Note:

This post was originally published in 2020 but has since been reviewed and updated. 8/23*

Wes Severson is a fitness enthusiast and bodyboarder from San Francisco, CA who is always at Ocean Beach hitting the waves. He is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news writer and producer and a recording artist who goes by the name Wes Magic.

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