Different Types Of Surfboards (A Beginners Guide)


Surfboards come in all manner of different shapes and sizes.

But what do each of them actually do and why would you pick one over the other?

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of surfboards we use to catch and ride waves.


High-performance shortboard

The weapon of choice for any surfers on the WSL World Tour, these high-performance blades are the most refined surfboard you can buy.

Best under the feet of advanced surfers these surfboards really come to life in steep, powerful waves that suit their pronounced rocker (curve of the board) and rocket-like outline.

They’re fast surfboards that can turn on a dime with nose shapes, not unlike that of torpedos or space rockets.

This space is dominated by global shaping brands like Lost, Pyzel and Channel Islands, all churning out quality boards for performance surfing.

Don’t miss our comprehensive guide on shortboard surfboards for a deeper look at these performance blades.


For those of you looking for smaller waves and smoother rides, the longboard is the ideal choice.

These long surfboards are the epitome of style and finesse, allowing competent surfers to traverse up and down the length of the board with grace and skill.

All the added fibreglass or epoxy in the board makes it easy to paddle and catch waves and the thicker shape makes the board much easier to balance on while you surf.

It’s worth noting that the extra weight involved with a longboard can make transporting them to and from the beach quite a challenge.

Mini mals

Minimal, mini mals, mals, fun boards the names go on, but in essence, this surfboard shape is a compact longboard in the 7-9ft range.

The shape came about as a solution for people unable to easily carry the heavy and cumbersome balsa longboards being used at the time and boy did they create a whole lot of fun.

As well as being easier to transport their shorter length made them much more responsive on the face of the wave but still buoyant enough for easy paddling and catching waves.

This quickly positioned the mal as one of the most popular types of surfboards around the world, which it still is to this day.

Mini mals are a perfect board for someone just starting out on their surfing journey, they’ll let you master the basics easily but still offer enough manoeuvrability to start to learn surf tricks and manoeuvres.

Head over to our detailed guide on mal surfing for more about the history of the board and how it became one of the most ridden boards on beaches all over the planet.


Grovellers take your standard shortboard and compact it down to make it wider, stubbier and much better suited to small wave surfing.

These shorter boards typically have wider tails and chunkier rails than their sleeker counterparts but more than makeup for any loss in performance with the ability to fly over flat sections and tackle knee-high surf.

These pocket rockets normally work well with a quad fin set up to really increase your drive and ability to float over flat or crumbly sections

Gun boards

Big wave gun surfboards are specifically designed and shaped for riding large waves while still providing the same feel and responsiveness you get from a standard shortboard.

They’re unique due to their elongated shape, increased rocker, and reinforced construction, providing stability and manoeuvrability in the high-speed, high-stakes world of big-wave surfing.

It’s unusual to see guns in the surfboard racks at surf shops so if you want to start tackling larger waves then your best bet is to speak to your local surfboard shaper about creating a custom gun just for you.

Foam boards 

Foam boards started out as a cheap way for surf schools to buy beginner-ready boards in bulk, they’re light and virtually indestructible making them a perfect choice.

They utilise a foam soft top for the deck of the board with a smooth plastic underside so you don’t create any drag in the water, much like a slick bottom bodyboard.

More recently surf brands have been making a whole range of different surfboard types and shapes, marketing them as a less breakable alternative to your normal board.

This recent advancement means you can get foam surfboard alternatives for most of the surfboard shapes on this list with loads of options for fish and grovellers in foam construction.

*Beginners tip- Foam surfboards are a great option for a beginner because they’re much cheaper than fibreglass boards but you can still learn just as well as you could on a real surfboard.

Tow boards

Tow boards are essentially high-performance shortboards with straps for your feet fixed onto the deck of the board.

Using a jet ski and a tow rope you can launch yourself into waves at speeds considerably faster than you could ever paddle.

Tow surfing is strictly for experienced surfers who have had practice working as a tow team in large surf (which requires some great skill and timing).

Mini Simmons 

The Mini Simmons surfboard is a scaled-down version of Bob Simmons’ classic but still uses the traditional Simmons design planing hull.

They’re thick boards with chinky rails, flat decks and tails nearly as wide as the board’s widest point.

On the underside of the board, you’ll find two small keel fins helping to make the board fast and skatey on the face of the wave.

Twin fin 

Twin fins were designed back in the 70s by Mark Richards (four times world surfing champion).

These boards are identified by their noticeable lack of a centre fin and two larger side fins.

Without the added drag of a centre fin, these boards absolutely fly down the line and surf smoothly from rail to rail.

But as the waves get bigger you’ll start to lose traction and drive with the board starting to slide out, particularly as you push through turns.


Hybrid models are a cross between two very different surfboards, the shortboard and the minimal.

They can come as PU, epoxy or foam boards with the idea being they act as a perfect bridge for amateur surfers trying to work their way down to smaller more manoeuvrable surfboards.

I’m a big fan of hybrids for intermediate surfers, the sharper tails are much more responsive than their mal counterparts but the extra volume under your chest still lets you catch waves easily.


Grovellers are your go-to when you’re surfing in average to poor conditions no bigger than head high.

They’re stubby little boards that make the most out of choppy or small surf, allowing you to still generate speed and perform turns.

Coming equipped with wide tails and relatively soft rockers they’re all about speed on flat sections and less-than-perfect waves.

Some notable grovellers in recent years include the Pyzel Gremlin and the Channel Islands Rocket Wide, both of which excel in small waves that your shortboard hates.

Daily drivers

Daily drivers are high-performance modern surfboards with a slightly thicker, wider outline than a traditional shortboard.

Surfers will normally ride their driver in every day, less than perfect conditions where you need a slightly more forgiving ride.

Notable daily drivers would be boards like the Pyzel Phantom or the OG Flyer from Channel Islands, which both shred in subpar conditions.

*Pro tip – Daily drivers are a great way for beginner surfers to start surfing shorter shortboards because provide a bit more stability and surface area due to their added width, thickness and higher volume. 


An asymmetrical board by definition is a surfboard that isn’t symmetrical in design. The trial, rails and even shape can vary from one side of the board to another, but why?

Asymtericals are the brainchild of Carl Ekstrom who found that while he loved some boards for his frontside they just didn’t perform well when he was surfing backside.

So he took his favourite boards for lefts and rights and melded them together into what was a truly new surfboard shape.

While these boards may have a slightly uncanny look to them the results seem to speak for themselves but I’ve never had the chance to surf one myself so can’t comment. from personal experience.

Different constructions

It’s also worth noting that nearly all the different types of surfboards on this list can be shaped as traditional PU polyurethane or epoxy boards.

As a general rule epoxies are lighter, more ding resistant and tend to perform well in smaller surf with little to no wind.

Polyurethane boards are the weapon of choice whenever waves get much overhead where the extra weight helps stabilise your board through manoeuvres.

For a really authentic experience, you could even consider a balsa wood surfboard inspired by the surfboards of the early 1900s.