The 5 Major Surfboard Types

The 5 Major Surfboard Types

When looking for the right type of surfboard, it’s important to understand the different categories of surfboards and how they’re used. The five major surfboard types are:

  • Longboards
  • Shortboards
  • Fish boards
  • Fun boards
  • Guns

Before trying to find the best surfboard for you, it’s important to have a basic understanding of some components that differentiate one type of board from another. Some important components are:

  • Rails
  • Nose
  • Tail
  • Fins
  • Rocker


The rails of a surfboard are essentially the edges around the board’s perimeter. There are soft rails (very rounded), hard rails (less rounded with more of an edge), and rails that fall somewhere between the two.

Soft rails are common on longer boards and perform the best in small, weak surf due to the added volume and stability they provide.

Hard rails are most commonly found on performance shortboards due to their ability to “cut” into the wave, allowing the surfer to make sharper turns and hold speed.

Major Surfboard Types Rails


The nose refers to the front end of the surfboard. A rounded nose, typically found on longer boards, adds more volume. This makes for easier paddling and more stability. A sharper, narrower nose is more commonly found on performance shortboards. A sharp nose allows the board to fit better in hollow waves and prevents the board from nose diving, or pearling, when paddling into the wave or making turns.

There is a wide variety of nose shapes between round and sharp noses, so it is important to understand how the shape of the front end of your board will impact its ride.


On the other end of the board, we have the tail. The shape of the tail mainly affects the board’s ability to turn and generate speed.

A more rounded tail helps the board plane in weaker surf. On the other end of the spectrum, a sharper tail will help with transitioning from rail to rail (which helps you generate speed).

As with the nose, there are a ton of variations on tail shape.


The most common fin setups are single fin, thruster, twin, and quad.

Single fins are most commonly found on longboards and create less drag, helping you maintain speed.

A thruster setup comprises three fins in a triangular configuration. Having three fins adds some stability and maneuverability to your board.

The twin fin setup (two fins rather than three) also adds maneuverability, with less stability and more speed than a thruster setup.

Quad fin setups are found mostly on shortboards, and help with acceleration by funneling the water behind the tail of the board.

Major Surfboard Types On Beach


The rocker is the overall curve of the board, most visible when looking at the surfboard from the side. Longer boards tend to have a less noticeable, or flatter, rocker. Shorter boards vary in the amount of rocker ranging from flat to very curved.

A flat rocker will create less drag, making paddling easier. However, you are more likely to pearl in steep waves on a board with less rocker.

More rocker will create more drag when paddling, but prevent you from pearling when dropping into steep waves.

Now that we have a basic understanding of some of the key components of surfboards, let’s take a look at the major types of surfboards and their uses.


As the name implies, longboards are the longest type of surfboard. They are typically at least 9 feet in length. Beginners will typically start on a board this length, but surfers of all levels can appreciate a longboard.

The beginner surfer will benefit from the high volume and ease of paddling, and the more experienced surfer will appreciate the longboard’s ability to perform well in small surf.

Longboarding has a distinct style, and advanced longboarders can perform maneuvers like cross stepping and nose-riding. The downside is their length and volume makes them much more difficult to turn than shorter surfboards.

If you’re heading to a break that has small, weak waves, you’ll catch the most waves with a longboard.

Major Surfboard Types Longboard


Shortboards are also named for their length. Length varies but shortboards are typically between 5 and 6 ½ feet. Shortboards also vary greatly in overall shape, with different noses, tails, rockers, and fin setups. Because they have far less volume and planing surface than a longboard, they are more difficult to paddle. This makes shortboards the most useful in bigger, more powerful surf.

Shortboarding is a quicker style of surfing because the board is more responsive. This makes making turns and cutbacks easier. A very experienced surfer may even be able to perform airs on a shortboard, but don’t expect to be flying through the air on your first day out on a shortboard.

These are the boards competitive surfers ride. Check out the ISA championships for more info on those boards.

Transitioning from a longer board to a shortboard is difficult for most beginners, as they find it is much harder to balance on the ever-responsive shortboard.

Fish boards

Fish boards are also short in length, but unlike standard shortboards, they are thicker and wider. The extra width and depth give fish boards a bit more volume than a shortboard. Fish surfboards have more maneuverability due to their shorter length, with added stability from the extra volume.

The fish is a great option for beginners who are looking to transition to a shorter board once they have gotten the hang of surfing on a longboard.


Funboards are another great option for beginners looking to reduce the length of their board. They are typically long, but shorter than a standard longboard, generally in the 6 ½  to 8 foot range. The overall shape is similar to that of a longboard as well, with a rounded nose and thick rails. The shorter length makes the board more responsive and easier to turn, but still has plenty of stability due to the high volume.

If you want more maneuverability than a longboard in weak surf, the funboard is a good option.

Major Surfboard Types Funboard

Gun boards

You probably don’t need a gun (unless Laird Hamilton has stumbled across this article). Of all the boards on this list, this is the one you’re the least likely to ever ride. Guns are designed specifically for massive, fast surf

Guns are longer boards, typically between 7 to 10+ feet long. Unlike longboards, guns have a very narrow nose and tail, maximizing the amount of rail available to cut into the wave.

If you’re on a wave suitable for a gun (good luck), you’ll be going fast, which is where that long rail comes into play. Having more rail cutting into the wave will keep the board from wobbling at high speeds. There’s no reason to be surfing a gun in casual head high waves, as they are designed specifically for big wave surfing.


Learn more about Surfboards:


Frequently asked questions

What type of surfboard is best for beginners?

If you’re a beginner, you’ll want a long, soft top surfboard. Soft tops provide more volume, which makes paddling and standing up easier for beginners. Soft tops are also safer, because as the name implies, they’re soft.

You’re much less likely to be seriously injured if you collide with your soft top than if you were to get hit with a poly or epoxy surfboard.

Learn more about the Types of Surfboards.

What boards do pro surfers use?

A pro surfer is most likely using a high performance shortboard that allows them to hold speed in powerful surf and perform maneuvers. A pro big-wave surfer is going to be riding a gun for paddling into massive surf, or a tow-in board if they have the assistance of a jet ski.

Learn more about the Types of Surfboards.

Is it harder to surf on a shortboard?

Yes and no. If you’re just learning how to surf, you’ll find the low volume of shortboards challenging. The lack of volume makes shortboards much harder to paddle. They’re also much more responsive than longboards. If you lose your balance, the board will wobble with you. However, because of how responsive they are, it is much easier to perform turns and cutbacks on a shortboard, provided you have the skillset to do so.

Learn more about the Types of Surfboards.

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