How To Transition From A Longboard To A Shortboard

Getting barreled at Playa Grande, Costa Rica
Do you currently only ride a longboard, but you really want to learn how to ride shortboard? Are you ready to do tighter turns, drop in deeper, and take your surfing to the next level? 
 
After meeting and teaching thousands of aspiring surfers, this is one of the most popular questions we get. But before we get started, here’s a mild disclaimer: Surfing is NOT about out-shredding the person next to you. Surfing is about enjoying “the dance” between you and mother nature, and this does not require a small board.
 
In fact, some of the best surfers in the world rarely even touch a shortboard. People like Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, Joel Tudor, and even the Chief Operating Officer of WRSC, Patrick McNulty, are all seasoned shredders and are pretty faithful to their longboards.
 
But if you have the burning desire to transition from a longboard to a shortboard, here are some tips to help you make it happen.
 

Transition Slow

Have you ever seen the movie North Shore (greatest surf movie ever) where the salty surfboard shaper Chandler guides his apprentice Rick Kane through the full spectrum of surfboards in training for the Pipe Masters? If you haven’t seen this surf classic, it should be at the top of your Netflix list.
 
As corny as the movie is, this scene represents the importance of a slow, gradual transition from your longboard to a shortboard. Try as many boards as you can between your current board size and your goal surfboard size. Try knocking off 2 or 3 inches at a time. Utilize surf shops in your area that rent boards. Or even better, get down to the surf camp where you can try over 250 boards of all shapes an sizes.
 
It’s going to take longer than you expected to feel comfortable riding a shorter surfboard, even one that’s only a few inches shorter or a few liters less of volume. Take your time. Size down, ride the surfboard for a few sessions until it starts feeling somewhat normal, and then size down again. You’ll most likely need to go through this process at least 5-10 times to transition comfortably from riding a 9’ longboard to a 6’ thruster or alternative shape shortboard.
 
Little wave breaking right along the Tamarindo beach break

Wait For Good Waves

There is nothing more frustrating than trying out your high-performance shred stick in knee-high gutless surf. To ride a shortboard, the waves must be AT LEAST stomach high and have sufficient power.
 
Remember, the extra volume in your longboard helps with paddling faster and overall buoyancy on small waves. As you transition to a smaller board, you as the surfer and the wave itself will be responsible for the successful ride.
 

Tighter Positioning

With less paddling power, you need to pay more attention to your positioning in the line up. If you’re too far out, you’ll miss the wave. If you’re too far on the shoulder, you’ll miss the wave. Dropping your board length automatically tightens the central area you need to be in so pay attention to your position and do your best to read the surf zone.
 

Make Sure You're Ready

Realistically speaking, you must hit a few prerequisites before you even think of riding a shortboard. If you can answer “Yes” to the ALL of the following questions, you’re ready to start the transition.
 
Can you catch a green wave consistently?
Can you angle the board at take-off?
Can you ride the wave down the line?
Surfing down the line at the Tamarindo beach break, Costa Rica

Keep At It

The first time you ride a smaller board, you may feel like you’re sitting on a popsicle stick. Don’t get discouraged, change is always hardest in the beginning. This is true in all aspects of life. Through your failures and successes, you make steady progress towards your goal.
 
The best way to stay motivated is to find a surfing buddy, preferably one that surfs better than you. Nothing like friendly competition to push your cresting ability.
For a more in-depth discussion on how to transition from a longboard to a shortboard, listen to the Get Out and SURF podcast: Episode #3 with Witch’s Rock surf instructor Paco Vega.

Or better yet, come down to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp here in Tamarindo Costa Rica and sign up for our Intermediate Coaching Program. You’ll surf world class waves where the transition will be much easier with the help of our expert coaches.

Contact us today for a free quote or to just “talk surf” with our surfer reservations agents. Good luck with the transition, you can do this. Pura vida!

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