Is The Shortboard The Fastest Surfboard to Paddle?
A common question from beginning surfers is, "Which is the fastest surfboard to paddle?"
If you asked a person with an interest in surfing that hadn't ever surfed, which surfboard they thought would be the fastest surfboard to paddle; a shortboard, funboard (mini-mal) or longboard, the likely answer would be the shortboard.
The surfboard which is the fastest to paddle is not the shortboard. A longboard is the fastest surfboard to paddle. Funboards, also known as mini mals, are also faster to paddle than shortboards.
Although a shortboard is lighter and more maneuverable than longboards, they are thinner and not as bouyant and therefore they paddle slower in the water. Also they are less stable, making it more difficult for new surfers to maintain proper paddling position on the surfboard.
So where does this perception likely come from?
There are two things that likely lead to the perception that the shortboard is easiest to paddle.
1) Over the past 30 years, the shortboard has ruled the waves with surfing's elite. Check out any surf video, and you will see the pro's shredding the waves on incredibly small surfboards. These surfboards are so fast and maneuverable on the waves.
2) Stand on shore and watch surfers paddling out. As a wave is approaching, you will see surfers on shortboards, duck dive under the oncoming wall of water. A surfer on a longboard can punch through the smaller waves, but will be forced to turn turtle with a larger wave. This will enable the surfer on the shortboard to paddle to the outside faster if there are large waves to get through to get to the outside line-up.
Learn to Surf - Catching a Wave:
If a shortboard is so fast and maneuverable on the wave once you are standing up, then why does it matter if it is slower to paddle? Well, catching a wave is all about getting your surfboard paddling speed up as close to the speed as the incoming wave as possible. The faster your surfboard is moving, the easier it will be to catch the wave. The larger the wave, the faster you need to be paddling your surfboard to catch the wave.
An example of this is tow-in surfing. Prior to the 1990's,
some waves were considered just too big to be ridden. It wasn't because
surfers lacked the stones to try to catch the waves. The problem was
that it just wasn't possible to paddle a surfboard fast enough to catch
the big waves. By big waves I'm talking over 40 feet high. Anything
over that and it isn't physically possible to get the surfboard going
fast enough to catch the wave. With the advent of tow-in surfing, big
wave surfing changed forever. Now waves over 60 feet can be surfed
because the surfer is pulled in front of the wave and the surfer
releases the rope if he is in position to catch the wave. Until
it was generally agreed the largest wave ridden by a tow-in surfer was
What is the largest wave ever surfed?
The largest wave ever to be surfed is .... get ready for this ..... over 100 feet! In Patagonia, Miguel del Toro, a surfer really only known among big wave surfers shocked his peers with an incredible ride on a 100+ foot wave.