The transition to a shorter board

Downsizing from your learning board is an exciting and critical turning point which requires good advice. Get it right and you will confidently paddle your way into a whole new approach to wave riding.

Longboards are a learners best friend. They are solid, stable and very forgiving.

The reduced volume and length of short boards makes them highly responsive so making gradual transitions is important. You aren’t quite ready for a high preforming thruster model just yet…a rounded nose mini-mal or fish is what you now need.

THE PLACE TO START IS HERE… these are the important things to consider when you are downsizing from your very first learning board. Laid out. Clear and simple.

So where and how do you find the right fit?

Talk to surfers, surf shop assistants and board shapers. They all offer priceless advice. If you get the opportunity to trial a board that looks like it could be a good fit for you, take it!  Your budget is likely to dictate your choice about going for second hand or brand new. The price difference is big.

Second Hand

Trawling the internet and visiting surf shops are the obvious places to begin when you’re looking for a second hand surfboard. You can also ask around some of those acquaintances in your local surfing community. Second hand boards will have pressure dings on them which are fine.

The main thing to steer clear of is fibre glass boards that feel excessively heavy for their size. They are most likely waterlogged due to holes in the fibreglass which have been left unfixed. If you spot small cracks in the fibreglass, but the board doesn’t appear to have taken on any water, a D.I.Y resin kit could be all you need to fix it up.

Brand New

Finding yourself a suitable smaller board that is brand new can be a real breeze compared to finding a suitable second hand board. There are literally thousands of makes and models, fibreglass and foam, that are being pumped out of factories and are sitting in surf shops around the world.

Keep in mind that brand new fibreglass boards can lose their value pretty quickly, particularly when you are still learning. You are naturally going to donk your knees, your head, your elbow and create dings which effect overall value and re-sale.

Be aware of the tendency to get a little attached to brand new boards! It is worth noting that finding the right fit board is actually ongoing. Your needs change as your skill level develops. It’s common practice to continuously review and make refinements to your board(s) and trade them in fairly regularly or as needed.

The first surf…

Well done. You have detached from your trusty learning board. You’re armed with your newfound smaller model and are ready to embrace the next chapter wholeheartedly. 

You will absolutely love how much easier it is to carry your new board, pop it up over oncoming waves and spin it around into position.

Stay in the whitewater (or conditions that you are very comfortable in) for a little while to get a feel for the difference in paddling, catching waves and popping up. It will feel different. Persist and trust in the subtle adjustments that your sub-conscious is making. Before you know it you will have progressed through the transition in no time!

A couple of things to note:

  • Your body position when you are lying on your board will need to be further forward than what you are used to. Review the images and video here.
  • It you constantly feel on the verge of (or you constantly are!) nose diving, go back and review this page.
  • You will need to paddle harder and earlier to catch waves.
  • Gliding along waves will require more weight on your front foot.

You could even have a go at duck diving if your board is small/light enough. You’ll know by doing this simple test: Lye on your board,  hold the rails under your shoulder and push all your weight into your hands. If you’re able to sink the nose down, then duck diving is worth a shot. If doing this doesn’t sink the nose then continue eskimo rolling.

If you continue to struggle it could be a good idea to review the board size guide above.


You just know when it is the right time to make further refinements to your board choice and there are a literally thousands of variances in performance specifications for a thruster.

Exploring the details can become overly technical when you are just starting out. Shapers and experienced surf shop assistants are passionate. They know the technicalities of board dimensions inside out, be it the difference in one sixteenth of an inch in width, or an eighth of a litre of volume… it’s true!

Be honest when discussing your  surfing abilities with them and the scope of your understanding of dimensions. Showing them your current board is a good idea.

In the mean time, this chart lays out important considerations when progressing towards a higher prefomring thruster. With a bit more technical terminology thrown in…because you’re ready for it.

To add to the dynamic, thrusters also come with different options for fin systems. Go here to learn more.