I want to share my recent experience of trying out a shortboard as a beginner in his 30s and see whether anyone has any reactions / tips / comments (other than "stop surfing on a shortboard you kook"). Part of the reason I'm posting this is that it's very difficult to get serious advice on the hybrid-to-shortboard transition, especially for those who are still starting off in the sport. I am aware of all the drawbacks of moving to a shortboard early in one's skill development, but I have to say that my experience differed in some marked respects from what I'd heard from various detractors.
First, a bit of background. This is my second season of consistent weekend surfing in New England (along with a couple of brief trips abroad). I'm 35, 185 lbs, 6'1, relatively fit. I'd been surfing on a 7'6 Firewire ADDvance, which has felt very comfortable in every respect, except for the occasional difficulty of getting out the back (like a longboard, it's virtually impossible to duck dive). I can catch most waves, stand up almost every time, and ride down the line, though without too many fancy moves. Recently, however, I got the opportunity to buy a never-used 5'10 CH Weirdo Ripper at 50% off retail price. I couldn't resist the temptation, even though I know that it's crazy to switch to a shortboard as an "advanced beginner" (or whatever I am). I took out the shortboard for the first time yesterday in RI and loved it. The session wasn't without its challenges, but not nearly as many as I'd anticipated. The conditions were chest to head with side-shore wind - not ideal but still fun. Here is the rundown:
- My fear of big waves disappeared. Duck diving is a lifesaver, even when not executed perfectly. Not even the occasional overhead+ wave was a problem to get under.
- Pearling seems to be less of an issue. I worried about it every time I did a steep drop-in, but the pointed nose and weight distribution toward the back of the board prevented this from happening, much to my surprise (even when the nose got submerged a bit).
- The lightness, portability, and maneuverability of board felt liberating. I was in control of the board and not vice versa (this made a difference even when walking down the beach against the wind).
- The traction pad felt great when I managed to land my back foot on it. It felt like my foot was glued to the board and gave me extra confidence that my position on the board was correct. I'm thinking of getting one for my hybrid.
- Contrary to various warnings I'd heard, I didn't notice a huge difference in paddling, most likely because the board requires perfect balance just to stay afloat, which forced me to use better paddling form (this was driven home by my wetsuit neck rash caused by constant arching of the back and neck; incidentally, the arching also made it much easier to look back and sideways as I paddled for waves).
- On a related note, whatever I lost in slower paddling speed, I gained by making more steady progress during the paddle out, thanks to duck diving. Breaking waves rarely pushed me back very much, which is a very different story than what happens on a hybrid (the turtle roll helps, but it's no panacea).
- Wave catching is not necessarily all that much harder. Sure, fewer waves are suitable for the board, but those that are can be caught relatively easily. I just had to adjust my position on the break (closer to shore where waves wall up) and my expectations (not every wrinkle on the horizon turns into a rideable wave).
The tough part: the popup is a lot harder (but for reasons I hadn't expected)
- Foot position has to be perfect. There is much less room for error (ok, I'd heard that but it became even clearer in practice).
- In steep waves, the popup has to be executed immediately upon catching the wave, otherwise the centrifugal force makes getting off the board very hard at high speed. I tried getting up a few times but literally couldn't peel myself off the board and as a result rode in on my stomach or knees (sometimes finally getting up when the wave slowed down).
- It hadn't occurred to me that the popup is made more difficult by the fact that your toes are not actually on the board so you can't use them to push off. After analyzing the move at home later I realized that the contact points that should drive the move are your knees and hands (I should have realized this even on the hybrid).
- I did get up a eight or ten times but usually when I hadn't actually caught a wave, either in the whites after the wave let go or on top of a wave I caught late (though I did have a couple of failed well-timed popups). Dropping in and popping up at the same time will be a challenge, but it doesn't feel insurmountable.
- Despite all this, the session was a ton of fun. I didn't feel frustrated and the pluses of shortboarding seemed to outweigh the minuses.
Goals for next session
- Improve duck diving: lower head to the board when under, try to keep eyes open, dive deeper, remember to put hands far forward on board.
- Angle into waves.
- Lower head and add three hard paddles as wave begins to break.
- Pop up earlier and set rail immediately.
I'm curious if any of you have had similar experiences or have any suggestions. I imagine that I'll get a few comments advising me to give up shortboarding, but the truth is that I probably won't (unless the novelty wears off and serious frustration sets in at some point, but I can always work in some sessions on my hybrid to regain confidence). Constructive tips would be greatly appreciated.
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Oct 28, 2013, 07:02 PM #1
Early transition to a shortboard (I know, I know...)
Last edited by NEstoke35; Oct 28, 2013 at 07:06 PM. Reason: Formatting issues (HTML tags visible in post)
Oct 28, 2013, 07:18 PM #2Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jan 2012
Right length.. right age.. is the Emass with a new name? Busted kook stay outta winthrop!
Oct 28, 2013, 07:53 PM #3
NEStoke or emass or whoever. I feel your pain. Get a 6'8'' Stoker V Machine. Looks like a shortboard, paddles like a longboard. Look it up. I got to demo a 7' and it was dreamy.
Oct 28, 2013, 08:00 PM #4Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jan 2012
Ok Im going to give you the secret: #1 when you see a wave coming that you want the first thing to do is paddle for it. #2 The key is popping at the right time # 3 when your riding down the face the wave will end and you have to go out the back.Hope this helps bro!
Oct 28, 2013, 08:03 PM #5Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2013
- Singer Island
This is kinda old school, but if it is steep enough, you can just sit there nose of board facing down the line in the direction you are planning on riding. As the peak starts to jack up, as you are sitting upright on your board - push down and backwards with your body weight on the tail and push the tail down into the water towards the wave (as deep as you can) as it starts to suck up. The natural buoyancy and water displacement will cause the board to lunge forward in the opposite direction, giving you a brief mini burst of speed. You can jump to you feet, or paddle a couple extra strokes and then jump up. As in most things, timing is essential.
Oct 28, 2013, 08:11 PM #6
- Join Date
- Aug 2012
- Turtle Island
^^^^Dude that's some high level shyte right there...some sick vids out there of Wingnut doing no paddle take offs.
Oct 28, 2013, 08:27 PM #7Senior Member
- Join Date
- Jun 2010
Stay pretty far forward on the board, arch your back alot to keep from "pearling" as your trying to catch the wave. You should probably be paddling harder than you do on the bigger board, but you may not need to start paddling as early.
Oct 28, 2013, 08:54 PM #8
Hellooo fellow Bostonian! Good on you for making the jump to a shortboard! Definitely important to have the right board for the right conditions. It sounds like you’re on the right track with what you’re saying. One thing that I know I struggled with when I was transitioning to a shortboard (that I didn’t see you mention) was not going to my knees before popping to my feet. The balance thing can be tough so it’s easy to drag your knees as you’re popping up. As I’m sure most people on here (and in real life) will tell you, that’s a big no-no. Make sure you’re going straight from your belly to your feet. No knees!
Oct 28, 2013, 10:53 PM #9
KookieMonster: At first I had no idea what the hell you were talking about (EMass??), but then I searched through the archive and got it: same equipment, similar skill level, equally verbose posts, same overly analytical style. Definitely not the same person, but it was actually useful to read some of his comments, so for that, thanks. As far as Winthrop goes, worry not, I have never been tempted to surf there. That "break" is all yours.
Sissurfdog, pkovo, and pinkstink: Thanks for the tips! I bet they will be really helpful the next time I go out. So far, I've heard the following: stay forward (have been doing my best), don't do a two-step popup using your knees (I avoid that as much as I can), try out the no-paddle drop-in (I've done that on the hybrid and it worked well at times, but haven't tried it on the SB yet). Anything else?
Oct 28, 2013, 11:14 PM #10
- Join Date
- Jun 2010
- Carolina Beach
You definitely don't have time for a slow popup on a shortboard since you're taking off in a more critical part of the wave than with a longer board. That sounds like your biggest problem. Just work on using your hands only and hopping up right to your feet every time. You should never be using your knees during the pop up.