Shortboards 101: Your One-Stop Guide to Riding Like a Pro

Shortboard surfboards 101

Are you new to surfing or looking to upgrade your surfboard?

Surfing a shortboard could be a great choice if you’re looking for more manoeuvrability on the face of the wave.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about shortboards, including their history, design, pros/cons and how to choose the right one for you.

Shortboard surfboards 101

The History Of The Shortboard

The thruster as we know it today was created by non-other than surfing legend Simon Anderson.

Shortboards first gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s during the shortboard revolution and the thruster only added to their popularity all over the world.

Surfers wanted a more manoeuvrable board that could handle the steep waves they found in places like Hawaii and Australia.

Shortboards, which typically measure between 5’6″ and 6’4″ in length, were a significant departure from the longboards that were popular at the time.

The Design of Shortboard

Shortboards are designed for high-performance surfing, making them the go-to choice for advanced surfers who want to be as dynamic as possible on the wave.

These boards have a pointed nose and a narrow tail making them easier to turn and control in the pocket of the wave.

They also feature a rocker, which is the curvature of the board from nose to tail. This curve helps the board sit in the pocket and makes the shortboard the best surfboard choice for powerful, fast-breaking surf spots.

The bottom of a shortboard surfboard is usually flat or slightly concave, which helps to create lift and generate speed.

The rails are sharper than other surfboards to help bring more control and manoeuvrability allowing you to cut through the water and turn on a dime.

Different types of shortboards

Even among shortboards, there are a vast variety of sub-categories, we’ll cover some of the most popular here.

High-performance shortboards

HP shortboards are thinner surfboards that typically have low volume, sharp rails, pulled-in tails and a noticeable rocker, all designed to get the best out of good waves in the head-high to overhead range.

If you’ve ever watched the WSL world tour then most of the men and women you’re watching will be using a high-performance blade as their competition surfboards.

If you want to perform tight turns in large surf you really can’t look past a good high-performance shortboard, their lower volume also creates an advantage when trying to duck dive under big waves.

Examples of high-performance shortboards include:

  • Pyzel – Ghost
  • Al Merrick – Proton
  • Lost – Driver
  • JS – Monsta
  • DHD – DNA
  • Sharpeye – SB1

Daily drivers

Drivers are slightly wider, slightly thicker shortboards with a flatter rocker and more forgiving rails. They work well in a variety of conditions and as the name suggests they’re a go-to for most surfers in average daily conditions.

Drivers are a great way for intermediate surfers to step down from a minimal and still benefit from a little extra volume to help you catch waves and glide along flatter parts of the wave making them a perfect transition board.

*Pro tip – Drivers are as close as you can get to a one board quiver which makes them a great pick if you can only take one board on a surf trip.

Examples of daily drivers include:

  • Pyzel – Phantom
  • Al Merrick – OG Flyer
  • Lost – Sub-Driver
  • JS – Black Box
  • DHD – 3DX
  • Sharpeye – Disco Cheater


Grovellers are generally rounder surfboards with lots of volume that can have the same sort of shape and the width of a longboard but in a pocket-sized board.

They’re all about making the most of small waves while still allowing you to perform surf tricks and manoeuvres like you would on a traditional shortboard.

To help them work in smaller waves shapers make them much wider and thicker which helps with better paddling and the shorter length means you’re unlikely to bog the nose in choppy or messy surf.

You’ll often find grovellers available as soft tops that allow you to be a little rougher without worrying about excessive surfboard damage or nasty dings.

Examples of daily drivers include:

  • Pyzel – Gremlin
  • Al Merrick – Rocket-Wide
  • Lost – Puddle Jumper
  • JS – Sub Xero
  • DHD – Phoenix
  • Sharpeye – Modern 2

Surfing a shortboard, what to consider

When you’re choosing a shortboard there are a few important things to consider, including your skill level, the type of waves you’ll be surfing, and the size of the board.

Skill level: Shortboards are designed for experienced surfers, so if you’re a beginner, you may want to start with a longboard or a funboard. If it’s your first time transitioning to a shorter board consider a groveller or a daily driver for a more forgiving ride.

Wave type: Shortboards are designed for high-performance surfing in steep waves, so if you’re surfing smaller or slower waves, you may want to consider a different type of board.

Board size: The size of your board will depend on your weight and height, as well as your surfing ability. Head over to this surfboard volume calculator from Firewire to find the perfect board for you.

Board shape: The shape of your board will affect its performance in the water. A narrower board will be more manoeuvrable, while a wider surfboard outline will be more stable and forgiving.

Rails: Sharper rials are going to help you cut into the face of the wave during carves and snaps but they make getting over flat sections much harder.

Tail: Narrower tails are great for rotating quickly in the pocket of the wave but they can struggle on mellower waves with less power.

Surfboard brands to look out for

Without a doubt, your first port of call for a new shortboard should be your local surfboard shaper.

They have an intrinsic understanding of local surf conditions and with a bit of digging, they can normally understand your ability and the best board for your needs.

But if you can’t get your hands on a freshly shaped custom surfboard then stock shortboards are going to be your next best option.

You can pick up most of the major designs online or opt for a custom but don’t be surprised if you have to wait a while for shaping and delivery.

Some of the best surfboard brands in the world are pumping out quality sticks and we’ve compiled some of the biggest names below.

Channel Islands 

Channel Islands is a surfboard brand based out of Santa Barbara, California. They’ve been making amazing boards since the 1960s with Al Merrick at the helm and have sponsored some of the best surfers in the world including Kellly Slater.

Lost Surfboards

Lost Surfboards is the brainchild of Matt Biolis aka Mayhem, known for his great shortboards you can’t go wrong with some of his fibreglass under your feet.


Sharpeye has busted onto the global surf scene with multiple world tour events being won on their magic boards. Look no further than the likes of Kanoa Igarashi and Filipe Toledo.


Pyzel is a north shore legend and with none other than John John Florence championing your boards it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world wanted their hands on these amazing boards.


JS and its iconic tractor logo have been under the feet of some of the world’s most famous surfers including the likes of Mark Occhilupo, Julian Wilson and Ryan Callinan.


Darren Handley has been shaping boards for the Gold Coast’s best for decades and he shows no signs of stopping with shredders like Ethan Ewing and Mick Fanning in his stable of team riders.


How long should my shortboard be?

Shortboards typically measure between 5’6″ and 6’4″ in length, but the best size for you will depend on your height and weight, as well as your skill level.

What’s the difference between a shortboard and a longboard?

Longboards are typically over 9′ in length and are designed for stability and ease of riding in softer waves. Shortboards, on the other hand, are designed for high-performance, high-octane surfing.

How do I know if I’ve got a shortboard with enough volume?

If your boards are still underwater even when you’re paddling then your board is more than likely too small. Try surfing with a few extra litres to help you catch more waves.