I, like most surfers out there, paddled into my first waves on a longboard. The 9’0” singlefin absolute beater of a log was generously gifted to me from a previous generation. I was lucky enough to progress quickly as a surfer in Seacoast New Hampshire, and soon enough I had made the transition from the 9’0” to a 5’11”. Similar to the first wave you catch, the first pump you make on a shortboard again provides that unique feeling of exhilaration, the feeling that has you paddling back out, headfirst into the whitewater, craving another wave.
Fast forward to today. After my usual rude awakening this morning, Lucas and I set out for Playa Domes, a Rincón surf break known for being localized with seasoned longboarders who won’t hesitate to push you off a wave for trying to sneak a quick top turn in after they cruise by on their log. Flooded with longboards, the shoulder to head-high sets rolled through, and there I sat on the inside, praying that maybe JUST ONE wave would be left for us shortboarders to have a go at. The rides were few and far in between.
This got me thinking… Did I bring the wrong board today? These conditions would typically be shortboard city, but maybe I’m mistaken and missed the longboard memo? So what’s the call: longboard or shortboard? Lets look at the pros and cons:
- Easier to catch waves
- You can hang out on the outside and not worry about getting pounded by a Set From Tibet
- Paddling is easier
- You’ve got more board to work with, more footing options (think noseriding, more style, etc.)
- Bulkier boards are harder to be mobile with
- A 9’ board with a 9’ leash can get dangerous quickly
- You can’t duckdive
- You risk looking like a Kook, and you resemble a SUP-er more closely
- You risk getting your waves snatched up by longboarders on the outside
- Paddling out and into waves is more work
- Arguably harder and more exhausting
- Look like Kelly Slater
So what was right call this morning at Domes? When in doubt, my vote points to the old faithful longboard. The essence of surfing is to HAVE FUN, so I say save your frustration as well as your shoulder strength later in life and grab some nice long rides from the outside. This said, your decision also rides on (no pun intended) your location. At a longboard dominated spot like Domes, you can to expect a large longboard population, and you can level yourself with your surfing comrades by paddling out on the 9’0”. But show up at Lower Tresles on a longboard, good luck making it down the line without getting dropped in on by a handful of pros – no f*cks given.
So while there will never be a hard answer to the longboard vs. shortboard debate, I prefer the longboard, but in good taste with regards to the surfing background of your respective break. The pioneers of surfing started on these boards for a reason, and the history of our beloved sport deserves respect. Just be cautious of your in-water presence, and be sure to give the shortboarders some waves too. Surfing is a communal sport, and can only progress in a positive direction if we ALL leave the water satisfied, and on a good note.