Longboard designs come in tri-fin, single fin and 2+1 which is one big center fin and two smaller support fins. The tails can vary but it is common to see a square or round tail and even a rounded pin. These boards can be anywhere from 8ft up to 12ft, though most people max out at around 10ft.
Longboards are the only way to go if you want to surf every day. When it is 1-2ft, a big log will work wonders. Because of their massive size and stability longboards are easy to learn on for many beginners. Don’t let that fool you however, many of the world’s best surfers choose to ride in style on a 9’ single fin, riding gracefully from nose to tail. When paddling it might take some work to get going, but once it gets moving it will cruise. Be careful when paddling into big surf though, it’s almost impossible to duck dive so your only option in many cases is to turn over and turtle.
Riding a longboard will remind you that sometimes you have to take it slow. Due to the size it takes a lot of effort to swing the board around when turning. What they lack in maneuverability they more than make up for in glide. The planning surface on a longboard is huge. Combine that with a medium rocker and you have a board that will float over the surface of the water, cutting through chop and providing you with one of the cleanest rides you will ever experience. Everyone needs one longboard. If for nothing else, they are needed for small days. We think that if you take a second to appreciate the beauty of riding a longboard, you might just decide to take it out more often.
1. It Is 2ft & Rolling: Wave conditions are one of the best reasons to ride a specific type of board. Sometimes the only waves you have access to are small, slow and long. If, most of your sessions happen at San O, Waikiki or at a small point break in Western Oz where the waves don't pack a punch, a longboard is a good option to consider. The fact is, small waves like big boards. The extra flotation and paddle power that come with a big board make it easier to catch them, the extra weight helps you to carry your momentum as you glide and the lower rocker lets you plane even when going in a straight line. There are other types of boards that will work well in small conditions also, but the longboard is always a solid choice when its small, rolling or mushy.
Of course this isn't to say that these are the only conditions a longboard will work in. A lot of guys will take out their longboards in OH+ waves at certain breaks. Guys have even ridden longboards at places like Pipeline (see the movie Singlefin Yellow). But at the end of the day, because the waves are the variable we don't have control over, the question is not usually "what waves do I want to take this board on" but rather, "what board do I want to take out in these waves."
2. Noseriding: The singlemost differentiating element about riding longboards is the front 1/3 of the board. On most surfboards the front part is not used much. At best it is used for its entry rocker, at worst it is only cosmetic and sometimes only to display stickers. But on longboards, you can walk up there are camp, spending 50% or more of your time dangling your toes.
Along with the noseride is the element of cross stepping and footwork. Longboarders get to walk to the front and back throughout the ride, adding a new element of movement to the surfing experience. If you are interested in experiencing a new element to surfing, the only way to access these styles is on a longboard.
3. Increase The Number of Rideable Days: At the heart of the great joy and frustration of surfing is the variance in wave conditions. For the most part, it is out of our control. Sometimes the waves are pumping and we have commitments and other times we have all the time in the world and it is flat for weeks. Having a longboard in your quiver helps ensure that you will be able to have fun in the water on more days of the year.
A day that is 4ft and glassy will be fun on almost any type of board, but with a longboard you can have a fun session in conditions that are 1ft and crumbly. It would be pretty hard to do this on any other type of board. So now instead of only being able to get out and surf the 200 days a year where is is 3ft+ you will be able to also make use of the 100 days where it is under 3ft. Diversity in your quiver is the number one way to increase your surfing fun. A longboard is an essential part of a diverse quiver.
4. Increased Wave Count: Take this with a grain of salt. I don't mean to say it is alright to be a wave hog because you are on a longboard, but what is true is that you can catch more waves. If you are an advanced surfer, you can probably catch any wave you want on any board you are on. If you aren't, a longboard will help make sure you get plenty of standing time. If you happen to find a beach with no one out, you can literally spend a whole sessions doing turn and burns, paddling out, turning back and riding one in. Its a great workout and can charge up your stoke meter even if you don't have a ton of time to surf.
It is well known that longboards are great for beginners and that is because of the ease of catching waves on one. But even for the intermediate surfers, longboards help ensure you get a decent amount of waves. The more waves you catch, the better you will understand how waves form and break, which will come in handy if you switch down to a smaller board. To make sure you aren't being a hog, sit a bit further out, so you catch the waves earlier and make sure to let plenty roll through. With great power comes great responsibility.
5. Longboarding is More Relaxing: The word that comes to mind is glide. Longboards have a certain grace to them. Since the board is bigger, it won't move around as quickly and so your motions have to be more drawn out. Most longboards make wide sweeping turns and gracefully walk the nose. (Then there is the Blackies crowd...)
Longboaring can be a nice way to relax, score a few waves and get some sun. Its easier to share waves and since most guys get the waves they paddle for, there aren't many paddle battles for the peak. If what you are looking for is a nice calm stress reliever, longboarding might be for you.
1. It is Steep, Hollow or Shallow: Wave conditions are one of the best reasons to ride a specific type of board. Longboards are great in many conditions, but not so much if its steep or pitching, especially if the wave is one that rises quickly. Longboards do best catching waves a bit further out. Once you're cruising the line, you can deal with some pretty steep sections, but dropping in is the troublesome part. Some waves come in fast, pitch up quickly and throw hard. A longboard will tend to pearl straight into the floor. That could mean sand, rock or some other reef, none of which is good for the board.
Sometimes there is a nice longboarding peak just down the beach, but other times the whole area is just better fit for smaller boards. Ask around, look at what other people are riding and you should be able to figure out what the situation is where you surf. If there isn't a decent longboarding spot, don't try to force it.
2. Maneuverability: Longbaords aren't known for their maneuverability. When you want to make quick turns, you are left with a pivot off the tail with 80% of the board sticking out of the water. Its a goofy move. Even on high performance longboards, what we call maneuverable is taken relatively. Like jumbo shrimp are big for shrimp but small compared to most fish, the best longboard doesn't compare to even slugish shortboard, fish or gun.
If you would like to be able to dig rail and make fully committed turns where you feel the g forces as you shoot off the bottom, you're not going to want a longboard. There are a few amazing longbaorders that will argue that you can do anything on a longboard that you can on a shortbaord. But keep two things in mind. 1. You're not them - you'll be able to maneuver better on a shorter board. 2 - Their tricks look the same, but they don't feel the same. The turns are sliced, they depend on pivots instead of driving. Its apples and oranges but in the end the average guy on the average longboard isn't as maneuverable.
3. Big Waves/Duck Diving: Paddling out a log on a 3' day is a nice experience. The board has great paddle speed and glide. You can race out before anyone else in the water and chill. Paddling out on a 12' day is a different story. Channels help but when it comes to getting caught inside or facing an outside set, you're in trouble.
Unlike a shortboard which can be duck-dived pretty deep on a longboard your best option is to turtle. Despite your best efforts, there will come a time when you get dragged back towards shore with the board tumbling in the whitewater. As it gets bigger, there will be waves that everyone just bails on their boards against. They will jump off their boards and dive down, acting as anchor for the board as the wave passes. You won't stand much of a chance on a big board, it floats too well. For bigger days, smaller boards work better and you really don't need all of that foam where the wave has a lot of power.
4. You Don't Like Dancing: Longboarding is a lot like dancing. It is graceful, draws long lines, involves delicate footwork and sometimes some spinning. You might not like that sort of thing. Longbaording has a deep tradition of hot-dogging, style, footwork, spin tricks and show poses. As you get better at longboarding you will start to watch others to progress. You will be exposed to this style of surfing. If it isn't your thing, acknowledge that from the get go and either focus more on modern high performance longboarding or transition to smaller boards.
5. They Can Be A Pain: This one has more to do with the out of the water aspect of longboards. Basically, there is a lot of foam to deal with. Storing, transporting and handling a longboard is a lot more work than doing so with a smaller board. If you have a small car, small apartment or small arms those difficulties will be compounded. Its just something to keep in mind when getting a board shape. Sometimes the difference between an 8' funboard and a 9'6" noserider will mean your board fits in the car and through your front door.
Another aspect to consider is travel. One reason to not ride a longboard in certain situations is the difficulty in getting it somewhere. Some airlines charge more for boards over 7' and others don't take anything over 10'. Once you get where you are, you will have to deal with the same transportation issues (recall the scene from Endless Summer. Even when you're not traveling overseas, getting to some beaches is nearly impossible with a log. I've done the Trestles walk, Blacks hike and various Sunset Cliffs trails with a 9'6" and it is not something to look forward to. The way is even worse once you're tired. If you really like longboarding, you will put up with it (like I do) but if you're still deciding, this is something to keep in mind.