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How to Ride a Shortboard Surfboard

   July 23rd, 2020   Posted In: How-To   Tags:

How to Ride a Shortboard Surfboard

Starting short could lead to a very long learning curve

It’s one of the coolest things to see. A surfer shredding a wave on a shortboard, snapping turn after turn then launching himself into a dive over the lip at the end of the wave. They make it look so fun and easy but the fact is, it’s extremely difficult. But there are some tips and tricks to make it easier.

Have You Ever Surfed?

Sorry to ask such a basic question but if you’ve never been on a surfboard and have never actually stood up then just stop right now with this shortboard fantasy. Telling someone how to ride a shortboard surfboard for their first time surfing is like telling someone who has never seen a guitar to play some Jimi Hendrix.

Learning to surf on a shortboard is not impossible but most people learn it that way say they wish they would have started on a longboard. Instead of taking a few days or weeks to be able to ride the waves, it can take someone who starts on a shortboard months before they are even catching a wave and years before they are actually riding them as they should.

Access Your Skills

If you have surfed on a longboard and are thinking about making the conversion to a shortboard make sure you are ready.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

– Do you miss waves a lot?

– Do you fall a lot?

– Do your knees touch the board when you are standing up?

– Can you stand up fast?

– Can you catch the wave at an angle and ride the shoulder?

– Can you make sharp turns on your longboard?

If the answer to any of these is no I recommend staying on your longboard for while longer.

A Great Analogy

I watched a YouTube video where a surfer described the transition from a longboard to a shortboard perfectly. She says it is like moving from a 3-bedroom house to a 1-bedroom apartment. Everything has to be more organized and you have to get rid of some of your crap.

Crap refers to things that a shortboard doesn’t allow because it doesn’t have the same buoyancy and floatation as a longboard. That means it is much harder to find balance and little room for error on your part. Being sloppy with things like foot and hand placement will have you wiping out left and right. So be prepared to get your crap organized.

how to ride a shortboard surfboardFirst, Pretend to Paddle Out

If you already have a shortboard grab it, if not you can use a yoga mat or just the ground. Let’s see if you have what it takes to pop-up.

One of the biggest differences you’ll notice when you’re learning how to ride a shortboard surfboard is that your feet don’t lay on the board because it is too short. That means you don’t get a lot of help from your feet when you try to stand up like you can get away with on a longboard. It will require much more strength from your arms, shoulders, and core.

Take it Step-by-Step

  • Lay flat on your stomach and with your hands flat on the ground just below your chest
  • Lift up your upper body using just your arms
  • Lift up your feet so you aren’t using them to push you off the ground
  • Use your thighs to pop up off the board and quickly slide your back foot into position
  • Bring your knee from your front leg into your chest then plant down with your foot
  • Make sure your front foot is in the center of the board at about 45-degree angle
  • Stand up keeping even pressure on both feet

I would practice doing this 100-times until it becomes one fluid motion. It also uses a lot of muscles and flexibility so make sure you stretch before you do it.

This blog has some great photos of what it looks like on a surfboard. For more advanced riders, you can also try popping yourself straight onto two feet and right into position as demonstrated in this YouTube video.

Paddling is Different

Once you actually hit the ocean and start paddling you’ll notice a difference right away. A shortboard doesn’t float as good as a longboard which means it takes more work to move. You’ll no longer be just gliding over the water. You also now have the ability to duck dive under waves which also takes a lot of practice to get used to.

On your first time out on a shortboard be prepared to get sloshed around a lot, lose your balance, and tip over. Even just sitting on your board is harder. Do a lot of experimenting with how this new board feels. Don’t go out expecting to be carving up the waves cause for 8 out of 10 people that is just not a reality their first time out.

Catching a Wave

When learning how to ride a shortboard surfboard you’ll also notice you have to paddle much harder to get into a wave. You also can’t get into the wave as early on a shortboard which means the drop-in might be a little steeper than what you are used to. That makes learning how to take off on a wave at an angle very important if you want to ride the actual face of the wave and not just head straight toward the beach in the whitewash.

Apply What You Learned at Home

Remember when you did those 100 pop-ups? Now use that same motion right after you paddle into a wave. When you are catching a wave you have speed and gravity on your side. The movement of the wave and you pushing into the water provides a solid amount of stability to work with. You may not get up on your first try but just keep trying the pop-up move you practiced at home as you paddle into each wave. Once you get it a few times you’ll find the feeling and it will click.

Two Common Problems

The natural thing to do once you have caught a wave is to lean way back. For many people, it is scary to want to apply a lot of pressure to your front foot because of the fear that you will face plant into the water. But you won’t. Adding pressure to your front foot and leaning slightly forward will provide balance and control. It does take a leap of faith at first though but just trust that your front foot is placed on the thickest, most stable part of the board. It makes sense to have your weight there. The back of the board is skinny and not ready to hold the bulk of the weight.

The Other Problem Is the Opposite

Not being far enough back on your board happens to beginners all the time. When your back foot is not far enough back on the board it restricts the balance and your ability to dig your edge into the water to make a turn.

A trick you can use to get the correct foot placement is to run a piece of tape toward the back of your board. Put it far enough forward so that when you feel it under your foot you know your foot is too far forward. When your foot hits the tape pull it back into the correct position.

Gradually Get Shorter

Finally, when learning how to ride a shortboard surfboard it is best to make the transition gradually with different sized boards. Don’t just go from a 10-foot board to a 6-foot board and expect to have a fun day of riding. Go from a 10 to an 8.5 to a 7.5 to a 6.5 etc. Doing this allows you to feel the difference in each board which will get you better prepared and will make you a better surfer all around.

Don’t just choose a shortboard because it looks cool as you walk on the beach or because it is easier to fit in the car. Do yourself a favor, start big, and work down to small.

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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