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Learn to Surf – Can I Paddle Faster on a Shortboard?

Updated on June 1, 2011

Can I paddle faster on a shortboard?

I just answered a learn to surf question in the Magic Seaweed Forum and it is a question I have heard many times from new surfers. The answer is no, you won't be able to paddle faster on a shortboard. Paddling speed is greater on a longboard or funboard. By the way, funboards are also known as mini-mals. You can use either term, it is more common in North America to say funboard and in the UK and Australia they tend to use the term mini mal.

Longboards and funboards are more buoyant than shortboards. Because shortboards are less buoyant and thinner they are slower to paddle and less stable. I think new surfers see the ease that shortboarders have in paddling out through the whitewater to get to the outside line-up where the waves are breaking. They then make the assumption that shortboards must be easier to paddle. This isn't the case. Where the surfer on the shortboard has the advantage is the ability to duck-dive under the approaching whitewater and wave faces. It is much more difficult to duck dive a funboard or longboard. Most people, myself included can't duck dive a longboard.

Why are people concerned about paddling speed? Paddling speed is an important part of surfing. How To Surf. To catch the wave, your surfboard has to be closely matching the speed of the incoming wave, or the wave is going to simply pass under you, or worse if you are too far in it will lift up the rear of your surfboard and flip you into the water.

Example of a Funboard Surfboard

Paddling Conditioning

Building up paddling strength is one of the most difficult things for new surfers. It takes a lot of time out in the water. Going out once a month isn't going to cut it. To improve your paddling conditioning it is best to get out surfing two or three times a week for at least an hour. At minimum once a week. If you can't get out surfing, then get down to the local swimming pool and get some laps in each week and try to do some surf fitness specific exercises. Things to improve your flexibility and core strength will go a long way to help you enjoy yourself more out in the water. You'll be able to surf longer and catch more waves if you improve your surf fitness level.

I try to surf three times a week. Recently, I was back in Canada for almost a month and when I returned to Costa Rica, almost 4 weeks had passed since I surfed. The first time I went out surfing again, I couldn't believe how difficult the paddle out felt. I surf in Dominical, and there is a fairly heavy section of whitewater to paddle through to get out to the line-up. By the time I got out past the breaking waves, my arms were already burning. When I was paddling to catch the waves, most of the waves were passing under me and I missed the ride. Other times, I was paddling too slow, which put me too deep into the wave before my surfboard began it's glide and then the wave would close-out while I was just getting up. The reason why I was missing the waves or being caught where they were closing out was that my paddling speed was too slow. If my speed was faster, I would have caught the waves sooner and been up on my surfboard prior to the waves closing out or passing under me. A shorter surfboard would not have helped me catch those waves.

Longboard Surfboard

Shortboard Surfboard


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    • surf traveler profile image

      surf traveler 7 years ago

      Hi SG. Yes, I think that it is the ease they see experienced shortboarders duck-diving as well and they just think it will be easier overall on a shortboard. The buoyancy and stability of a longboard makes it so much easier to learn on.

    • SurferGirl1 profile image

      SurferGirl1 7 years ago from California

      Agreed. Many people want to start out on the shortboard because that is what they see in surf videos, but they aren't going to be able to paddle a shortboard into waves. It takes a lot of strength and skill compared to a softop longboard.