The difficult of surfing short boards is related to the needed expertise and strength when the volume of the surf board becomes smaller.
Surfing Skills for a Short Board
New surfers have often been motivated to surf by the movies. Some are inspired because their friends are surfing short boards and are so dedicated.
When I teach new students to surf, we begin on a 9′ surf board that has lots of volume (length x width x thickness). This allows the board to catch foam waves, makes them easy to paddle, and easy to ride.
As the volume becomes smaller, the board needs more strength and stamina to paddle. It has to catch waves that arc and require master timing. Surfers have to land their pop up perfectly or the board gets squirrely.
The main reason a short board requires more strength is it sits lower in the water and has to be pushed through the water rather than effortlessly gliding.
The reason it is harder to catch waves is long boards can be pushed easily by any wave. A short board has to catch the wave just as it arcs and has maximum power. The surfer has to intersect with the forming wave at just the right time. The short boarder paddles or waits until the wave comes under the board and then paddles down the face before popping up.
The pop up on a short board has to be precise. It is more difficult to pop up on a lower volume board because it sinks into the water, has no room for the feet to help support the push, and requires the feet to land perfectly positioned or the board goes out of control.
How to Phase into Short Board Surfing
I like to cross train for strength, stamina, and flexibility. I do yoga poses each morning. I ride a road bike to help stamina. I work out at the gym to develop upper body strength. I practice the pop ups 5 times every morning.
Reduce board length slowly maintaining width and thickness. This allows for a shorter board with still higher volume. The board increases one’s ability to paddle if volume is maintained and makes catching real waves easier if there is more volume.
Increase time in the water. The short board requires good timing because on sand bar beaches waves look different every day. Learning to feel the waves and having the instincts for timing require lots of practice, regularly.
If you can’t put in the time, it is all the more important to stick with a higher volume board.
For surf lessons in Oceanside, see the Home Page
Bottom turns are an important first maneuver for short boards. (video)
Video on doing cutbacks for both beginner and short boards.