How Surfing Works


Long and shortboards
Long and shortboards

The biggest and most expensive requirement is a surfboard, which can cost anywhere from $150 to $500. These boards come in a range of basic shapes and sizes within two broad categories -- longboards and shortboards. Both types can have permanent or removable fins on their undersides, as well as strips of sturdy material known as stringers to help hold the board together. The sides of the surfboards, known as rails, can be rounded or tapered in a variety of ways to suit different surfers' preferences. The bottom of the board, or rocker, can curve to different degrees, changing how much of the board is in contact with the water.

Longboards are usually at least 9 feet (2.7 meters) long, and some are as long as 12 feet (3.7 meters). They are generally less maneuverable but more stable than shortboards. Shortboards are usually between 5 and 7 feet (1.5 and 2.1 meters) long, and they come in several shapes. As their names imply, fishes and eggs are short and wide. Funboards are a little longer and work well as all-purpose boards. Long, tapered shortboards known as guns are for expert surfers and exceptionally big surf.


Early Hawaiian surfers carved and shaped their own boards using local wood. Today's surfers can choose from custom-shaped boards or mass-produced boards known as pop-outs. Pop-outs get their name from the manufacturing process -- they pop out of factory molds. Both types are usually made of polystyrene or polyurethane foam covered in fiberglass and resin. In some people's minds, these artificial materials contradict the environmentally-friendly mindset of many surfers. An alternative is the Eco Board, developed by Project Eden. The Eco Board is made from balsa wood, hemp cloth and plant-derived resins.

Some surfers follow the examples of Hawaiian and early modern surfers by making their own boards. These boards start as blocks of foam or partially-shaped foam boards called blanks. After shaping the board, the surfer seals, or glasses the board with resin and fiberglass cloth. You can see a step-by-step video guide of what it takes to shape a surfboard at Surfline.