We all want small fast surfboards. But how small is small enough, and how big is too big for an all-round shortboard? This normally comes down to ability, weight and wave quality. But what is an optimal short board size range for surfers over 50?
I’m lucky enough to live across the road from the beach and waste a lot of time analysing surfers styles, technique, and how different boards seem to go. It’s intriguing how in 2 to 4 foot waves you can have two guys over 50 of similar ability, one on the latest shortboard, and one on a mini-mal or higher volume fish-style board, and the guy on the mini-mal or fish will often seriously out surf the short boarder. I don’t just mean wave count, I mean the whole package. Radical old guys don’t surf like radical young ones! They tend to surf pretty much the same on most waves, and interestingly they don’t actually turn much more or less when riding different boards of similar sizes. I often find myself watching a surfer thinking “you would be better off on a bigger board”.
I’m 54, 80kgs and arguably my best surfing days are behind me. Age steals our paddling and explosive strength and I’ve noticed that by the time surfers are in there mid 50’s, those that had it, have pretty much lost that magic pop and explosive power that differentiates them from the rest. They still have great technique, but not the POW. More are starting to ride quads as they seem to plane quicker too.
I theorise that we only need a surfboard that performs well enough to allow us to push our limits, and anything more high performance is probably just making things harder. My quiver ranges from 5’3” to 9’5” and I like 32 litres or more to have fun in normal waves. My current go to board for fun waves is 5’10 x 20 1/8”, and 6’2” x19.5” for bigger waves but I often wonder if I might surf better or at least as well on a longer board.
So my question to the experienced shapers and surfers out there is at what size does a modern short board stop riding and feeling like a short board?
Right now I am pretty surf fit. It makes a big difference to everything in the water - wave count, takeoff speed, confidence to swing around on a tricky takeoff etc. You can sense other surfers seeing your paddle speed and competence and letting you have waves. There are some challenging waves I am hoping to catch on where I would now paddle deep whereas if less surf fit I might avoid or sit on the shoulder.
I can't really maintain that level of fitness all year. But it has proven to me the importance of doing more rather than less out of the water. I like to catch a lot of waves and surf well. It is all cumulative in terms of fun and sense of self.
Hadn’t seen this thread before, good reading , I’m turning 60 this year and move between 90 and 95 kg , my grovler is 5’ 10” 35 litres , my boards for 3 ‘ to 6 ‘ are a 6’ 2” 38.5 ltrs and a 6’ 4” 41 ltrs , conditions dictate which one I use , 6 ‘ to 8 ‘ is a 6’ 8 “ 44 litres l don’t really go out in much bigger these days but have a nice 7’ Jim Banks hit the road model . My days of 8’to 12’ are over don’t enjoy the floggings like I did when I was younger. Had some nice size angourie last year in the 6-8 range and had a ball. When I was younger I preferred bigger boards and my range was 7’ to 7’10” , just liked the feeling when coming of the top of having the length in front of me . I’ve come down in length as I’ve got older but volume has increased. Beautiful day this morning , finished work and off to the beach.
Gotta agree with you Frog, fitness is the key. It's hard work but a daily routine no matter how short will help and allow you to ride the boards of your preference rather than a floatation device.
By the way, my comments are very specific to me and my own reasonably fortunate state of health. If I mentally scroll through the guys I know that are my age group I would say:
70% have little option but to go mini mal due to weight, injury, poor fitness issues to even catch waves. Better to go down that path than just give up. Lots of fun to be had still and surfing can give you many things that are precious and hard to find elsewhere in life.
Blowin did you end up finding yourself a Fishy type board ?
Not yet. Starting to move towards the idea of a hybrid fish / short board so I can still ride the weak beachies but with a bit more carve and lip action.
Oldish thread but gold! I'm 48 and about to return back to surfing after 20 years (wish me luck). As a grom I did most of my surfing along the Goldy down to the Nth Coast. I'm 5"10' annd 92kg. Moved to Vic 12 years ago and looking at surfing some small stuff along the Ocean Grove Coast.
Tossing up on which board to begin with. I'm thinking around 6"4' 37L? Not sure quad or thruster? Probably have to stick to small mushy beach stuff for a while till I get my fitness back up. Any ideas/thoughts for an old bum?
hmmm 48 5,10 @ 92Kg and not surfed for 20 years.
Personally i think you might need a but more volume than 37Litres (what do others think??)
6,4 would be fine but maybe go wider and thicker so you have a board around 40 L or possibly more.
If you havent been surfings for that long, a bit more foam would only be of benefit to paddling and catching waves, especially in Victorian beaches that even when small can have decent rips/sweeps that you sometimes need to paddle against.
For perspective im in my 40s about 5,8(maybe 5,9) and 80Kg and surf boards about 30-33Litres and my 30L boards sit way under the water when im sitting on them, I've been thinking of getting a board around 35L just for that extra paddle factor.
I like quads, but if you getting back into things id stick to a thruster set up to start with. (but if you can get a board with both fin set up options even better) but id still stat back on a thruster.
What do you realistically feel your prowess was 20 years ago. (muscle memory and all that).
Blakey72, as Indo says I'd definitely go for more volume and after 20 years not surfing I'd even go for a Softlite type board Popstick, 7'0. Go thruster not quad. Volume will be your friend at this stage
I recommend getting a 7’0 or 7’2 mid length, ride it for six months and just enjoy riding waves without the frustration of a really low wave count. Once you have got your fitness and skills back up, then transition back to a short board. Sometimes pride and image gets in the way of having fun.
Agree re fitness is crucial.Came back from 7 months out of the water with ankle injury(usually ride 6 ft 32litre thruster) was told go longer it'll be easier etc.Worst thing I did, not only getting over the injury(physically and mentally, yeah it fucks your confidence)but adjusting to a new board sucked, back on my old faithful and after 12 straight days of surfing(Queensland points) I'm back to peak fitness and not missing a beat.I've often debated going bigger, but never works for me except with a step up 6'4 for 6ft plus days.I find extra width through the chest area works a treat for keeping boards short.
Ocean Grove + 20 years out = mal
Im with B.B.Blitz line of thinking assuming 20 years ago he was a fairly regular competent surfer, i wouldn't want to go too long, if he rode a 6,4 back then it was probably super narrow and thin, like 18, 1/4 x 2 1/4 but a 6,4 these days at say 21 x 2 3/4 would give a volume of about 40L plus
But to me a 7ft board or mal is like a totally different sport
It would be interesting to hear or know how somebody goes after 20 years of surfing, i wonder if the muscle memory is still there?
I recall (sorry forget his profile name dude that use to do Goldie surf report) saying he went a few years without surfing moved up the snow or something, if reading how did you go coming back to surfing?
pants-shitter so what would you surf at small shelley beach then after 20 years? Shelley isn’t exactly the same as small ocean grove but you get the idea or most likely you don’t.
You been a surfer so go something like this
Secondhand gd value - 45 litres
Just for the hell of it heres my Vic Gumtree picks for him all cheap brand boards but all look like decent deals and all good condition and suitable type boards IMHO to get back into it then upgrade to a better board if he continues.
"6’4 Zephr vessel short board (dimensions: L: 6’4, width: 21 5/8, thickness: 2 7/8, volume: 42.8L) leg rope fins"
Comes with board bag too.
Super wide lots of foam up front for paddling and catching waves, heaps of volume.
6,6 only cheap epoxy, but would suit getting going again, again comes with fins and board bag, leggie etc
Again quite wide, heaps of foam upfront, expect it would be over 40L
Or even this one, again just cheap epoxy, but for $50 comes with fins leggie board bag but only 6,3 @ 36L though (i think it would be risky going that low in volume even with this shape with lots of foam up front)
Ha ha you read my story, yeah was pretty bad.
Yeah i get it totally different waves even at 1 ft
Wow thanks for the reply's guys,much appreciated. Yeah just wasn't sure how to approach it, I've gotta do it though,life is just too short. Fitness will come with time I guess and persistence. I'll just make sure I stick to the smaller stuff, no 6 foot walls for this puppy for a while.
I might go a something with more more volume however going much longer (mal) I think changes the game a bit. It would aid in paddling/fitness however it would be working totally different muscles from something a bit shorter when it comes to take up and balance. Thanks for taking the time to look udo and indo, The second option at 6,6 could be the go indo. Something that floats but isn't going to force me into relying on length, I may get fit but lazy on a mal.
It's gunna be a shit fight for the first few sessions just getting out in 4 footers but I'm sure I'll be stoked just to be on a board and feel the freedom again. My kids have all left home now so the bucket list begins. Life speeds up big time as you get older, don't waste it. Cram in every experience you can!
I'll let you know how I go.
Rusty, prowess 20 years ago......Geez probably strength, speed and balance. I was fairly fit through athletics, martial arts and gym and I guess the MA helped with balance. I rode state boards back in the 90's too when it was 'big'.
But back then I was 70kg and most of that was on my arms and chest. It has since re-located to my guts. So I've gotta persuade it to make the move back and there's only one thing that will do that. I think I might start swimming as well to help with cardio,your screwed if that's shit.
It might be kind of a crazy idea after 20 years but I can only see it as a positive. Getting back my fitness, getting back into the salt water and fresh air and getting back into something that I love. I'll tell you this, I might be 48 but I don't feel it (only the body perhaps). I don't feel any different to when I was 21 in my mind. I guess I know a few more things now however 98% of what I loved then, I still love now.
48 is young.
things will happen quickly if you do it regularly.
good luck mate.
my only advice would be little and often at the start, that gets surf fitness back fastest with less fatigue injuries.
If you are going to do it, id recommend doing it soon, water is currently as warm as it gets and not too bad until about May lots of smaller swells and light winds, and crowds not as bad a peak summertime.
Goods luck with it.
Hi Blakey, good luck
Grove breaks very gently on such a slight slope I'd suggest the mini-mal of 7ft to 7'6"or so... But as you all said above, if you've lived your surfing life based off the front-foot and using the jet of trimming or pumping the fins to generate speed - maybe the really floaty thruster is the go. (And more shortboardy waves around the corner...) The mini-mal and longboard might be more back foot in turns, like a single fin: turn only to slow down rather than a necessity to generate speed. Point and shoot rather than side to side.
It's fascinating really, two completely different biomechanic approaches. Reading lines on the wave is be similar for both - eg when to take a high line, when to head back to the power, etc As so many young people are taking up longboards, the old way is new again...
Update on the super wide flat rocker short board high volume experience. Still happy. In quick hollow waves you really notice the width and can feel it does not quite fit the curves of the wave or make quick reaction ankle driven turns and adjustments cutting into the wave face in hollow sections easy.
However, you can make it work. I am a big believer in learning to adapt to the board not fighting it or getting frustrated.
Often you don't even notice the width and slip in as quickly as on a narrower board. I had one wave a while ago where it lined up forever down the beach and I swooped in fast and just took off so fast that my eyes watered - just pure down the line speed with the flat rocker doing its thing. I made something that almost seemed a closeout.
Occasionally, though, I might take my more standard thruster out in hollow, fast reaction type stuff. The benefit of going short, not long, is that the transition should be easy.
I have lost a few kilos partly due to the motivation of not relying on mini mal volume and overall feel 10 + years younger and positive about my surfing.
A mate grumbled the other day in an email about crowds, age, better in the old days type stuff. That can be a real trap of your own making for the older surfer. I really proved this summer "seek and ye shall find" - picking the right spot choice, time of day, tide, swell, place in line-up etc.
Whereas I looked back over one of my better summers of surf in years and anticipation for autumn and felt very fortunate. And, that is all partly due to one new board decision.
Good stuff Frog, sounds like the board's been a good investment!
Is the rocker pretty flat throughout, or does it have a bit of a tail kick? What's the bottom contour like? And related to those two, how's it go with controlling & utilising the speed it gives you, and how well does it "hold" on a steeper wave?
Glad it is working for you Frog. In a somewhat similar fashion, my current fave board is relatively short (for me at least) and with a really flat rocker, but not so wide. The meat is in the domed deck, allowing for finer rails without the loss of volume, which, combined with the width, make it possible to put on its rail pretty easily. The speed is what makes it so much fun. Getting the right fins has been the hardest part but that is sorted now. Also fully agree with the "work with it not against it" approach.
The board has limited tail kick. No problems holding in on steeper waves. Once you are trimming the rail is what you are riding. Forward trim is fast but pretty straight lines but so are most boards. Further back it feels more like normal thruster - you can pump it, weave or turn.
Be a fun ride .....as a long Twin even ..?
nice fitment of Futures boxes against the channels
shame about the price..
Have you seen Hilts surf this Freeride ?
I'm not sure Udo, I would think so.
I like the look of that shape.
I reckon that’s a hideous looking surfboard