Surfboard Types Explained, Your Choices

Surfboard Types Explained

Duke Kahanamoku

Surfboard types explained, there are many types of surfboards, and the information I’m about to present to you are not hard and fast rules but a general guideline.  There are five basic types of surfboards:

  • Shortboards.
  • Funboards.
  • Longboards.
  • Stand-up paddle boards.
  • Guns.


These are the boards that you see professional surfers like: Gabriel Medina, Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Felipe Toledo, etc. riding.  On these surfboards, these surfers perform aerial moves that seem to defy gravity and balance, as well as astonish the viewer.

Shortboards are usually under 7 feet in length, are narrow, thin and have a pointy nose with tapered rails.  Shortboards will have a more pronounced rocker (, defines rocker as: “a dimensional curve along the bottom, top and rail of the surfboard usually referenced from nose to tail”). Because of their smaller size and narrow width, catching a wave is harder as well as standing up.  Paddling out to a line up and paddling around are also more difficult.

However, because of the shortboard’s size they are great for making sharp hard turns, surfing vertically and doing above the wave maneuvers, aerials.  Duck diving, how you get through or under a wave, is much easier on a shortboard.

Though some will give fish surfboards their own category, I think they are a sub-category or type of shortboard.  The main differences between your standard shortboard and fish, are the fish is wider, has more rounded pointy nose, flatter rocker and fuller rails plus has a swallow tail (a tail that looks like an inverted “V”).  This surfboard is called a fish because they somewhat resemble a fish in its outline.

The shortboard is not a board that is recommend for the beginner because it requires more skill to learn on.  You should also keep in mind that what you see the pros do on a shortboard, will most likely be something that you’ll never do.  The pro surfer is like any pro athlete, they were gifted with skills and talents that the average Joe, like you and me, just won’t possess.


Surfboard Types Explained

Click on image to enlarge.

Funboards are the surfboards that the shortboarder would step-up to and the longboarder would step-down to.  For the shortboarder, it could be they want a board that can catch waves easier and has some of the same characteristic of a shortboard, maneuverability.  For the longboader, it may be they want a board with more maneuverability but still want to catch waves relatively easy.

Funboards generally are 6 – 8 feet in length, they are wider and thicker than a shortboard and will have a rounder if not rounded nose.  The fun board will also have a flatter rocker.  With a funboard you will still be able to make sharp hard turns and surf vertically on a wave.  Duck diving with this type of board is not as easy as a shortboard but definitely it can be accomplished.

Some will give the hybrid surfboard a category of its own, but like the fish, I believe the hybrid is a sub-category or type of funboard, it could also be a shortboard.  The hybrid surfboard is called a hybrid because it combines the designed characteristics of a shortboard and funboard.


The first surfboards were 10 – 14 feet in length, they were long, which is why I believe that the first surfboards were longboards.  Longboards are between 9 – 12 feet in length and generally have wide rounded noses.  A longboard will usually be 21 inches or wider and can be between 2 ½ – 4 in thickness.  Your standard longboard will have fuller, rounded rails.

Because of their size, width and volume (basically buoyancy) longboards can get into and catch waves easier that a shortboard or funboard and are more stable.  The longboard is the perfect board for a beginner, it’s easier to paddle, catch waves and stand-up using one.

Longboards can be designed and made with shortboard characteristics in mind, these board are referred to as high performance longboards.  They have less volume and tapered rails, which makes sharp hard turns possible plus vertical surfing.  2 time World Longboard Champion, Taylor Jensen, even does aerials on a longboard.

If you are the right size and weight and the volume on your longboard is not too great you can even duck dive a longboard.  Click here to read my post on “How to duck dive a longboard?”

Stand-up Paddle Boards

Surfboard Types ExplainedThough the stand-up paddle board seems to have been just invented, this is not the case.  It is said that the Ali’i, Hawaiian Royalty, would surf stand-up paddle boards and were the only ones allowed to do so.  The stand-up paddle board is not a recent invention but something that was brought from obscurity to prominence.

When the stand-up paddle board was re-introduced to the surfing world, they were basically larger versions of a longboard, except you used a hand held paddle to catch waves and to get around.  They were long (10 feet and longer), wide (over 30 inches) and thick (3 ½ – 4 inches).  They needed to be this size, for increased stability and volume, a surfer was required to stand-up to catch waves.   All other surfboards, require that you are lying down or prone when catching a wave.

With the improvement in technology and surfers skill, stand-up paddle boards can range from 6 ½ – 14 feet in length.  They have both rounded and pointy noses and the size you choose is based on your skill level and what you wish to do on a wave.  The paddle that you use with the stand-up board is used as an extension to your arms, not only do you use it for paddling but you can use it to help you make sharp, hard turns and also as a pivot point.

The stand-up paddle board is not a recommend surfboard for the beginner.  You should at least know how to surf a standard surfboard before you try surfing a stand-up paddle board.  If you are constantly falling off your stand-up board and wiping out at the beginning of a wave, this can have a tendency to irritate the other surfers around you plus it’s dangerous.


Surfboard Types Explained

Big Wave Surfers

Guns are the boards used by Big Wave surfers, surfers that like to surf waves as big as mountains.  The board look like the combination of a shortboard and longboard.  They need to be long enough for the Big Wave surfer to paddle into these monstrous waves but also maneuverable.  The boards also need to be strong enough to take the beatings of those powerful waves.

Based on what I observed during the 2016 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, the guns used during that event range from 8 – 14 feet in length.

In Conclusion

There are basically five types of surfboards:

  • Shortboards.
  • Funboards.
  • Longboards.
  • Stand-up Paddle boards.
  • Guns.

The information I provide you, are not hard and fast rules but a general guideline.

The shortboard is the board you will see professional surfers like: Gabriel Medina, Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Felipe Toledo ride, this is not the recommend board for the beginner.  The funboard can be thought of as transition board, for a shortboarder who wishes to step-up and a longboard who wishes to set-down in surfboard size.

The longboard is the perfect board for a beginner because it’s: Easier to paddle, easier to catch waves and stable.  The stand-up paddle board should be used by someone already familiar with surfing a standard surfboard.  The gun is for the Big Wave surfers, surfers who like to surf giants.

Check out my posts: “How to buy a used surfboard” and “What to look for in a surfboard.”

Thank for dropping in and should you have any questions or comments, please post it in the comments section of this page.

6 thoughts on “Surfboard Types Explained, Your Choices

  1. Nice..they all seem fun but i think i use the paddleboard,seems the funnest to me.Im sure the others could be fun to but seem more risky

    • Hi Sammy, As a beginner I would not suggest starting with a stand-up paddle board, it’s a lot fun, but you can make other surfers irritated if you don’t know what you’re doing.

      Thanks for the comments and dropping in!

  2. Thanks Stuart

    A great description of different board types mate. Living in Australia, the beach and surfing are a huge part of our lifestyle.

    If you live anywhere near the coast. There’s a fair chance you’ll see plenty of kids (and adults) making their way to their favourite spot, clutching their favourite board.

    • Hi Andrew, Some of my favorite surfers are Aussie, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, just to name a few. I visited Perth when I was in the service, but wasn’t a surfer then.

      Thanks for the comments and dropping in!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *