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How to Ride a Fish Surfboard

   July 27th, 2020   Posted In: How-To   Tags:

How to Ride a Fish Surfboard

A fish can equal a whole lot of fun depending on the waves

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 longboard but the length of a shortboard. They also have that funky split tail. So what’s the point behind all that? Well, the reason for the design could mean a lot of fun for you and I am about to explain why and how to ride a fish surfboard.

how to ride a fish surfboardThe 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.

What’s the Point of the Shape?

The shape of a typical fish surfboard is meant to give an intermediate rider a much more pleasurable experience on waves that are generally small and not all that thrilling. The wide and flat bottom makes it much more stable than a shortboard. It is also thicker and has more volume which adds to the stability. A shortboard has a concave bottom or what you call “rocker” which allows for quick turns but makes it very unstable especially for beginners.

Riding Technique Is Not Much Different

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 all that much different. Paddling a longer board will always be easier because there is more flotation which makes it sit higher on the water. Because of the thickness, a fish surfboard also floats high in the water which makes it much easier to paddle than a shortboard.

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. But on the flip side, if you’ve ridden a shortboard you’ll notice it’s much easier to catch waves on a fish.

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.

Riding the 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 riding a fish surfboard isn’t the shape but the type of waves that it works best in. A fish can make waves that are 1 to 3 foot tall very fun and shreddable. When the waves are small, mushy, choppy, and not defined you can 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 small and overall not appealing.

If you have a fish surfboard you can get some really fun rides off of waves that are not all that powerful and really have no shape. The fish is also a perfect board for the longboarder who wants to progress to a board that will allow them to do more maneuvers. It is great cause you can try these maneuvers in very small waves which minimize the risk of you getting hurt.

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.

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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