Surfing: transitioning from a longboard to a shortboard requires a lot of practice | Photo: Shutterstock

Let's be honest. Going from a longboard to a shortboard is a slow and tricky process. Learn how and when to make the transition with a few useful and practical tips.

Initially, you'll feel like you're starting all over again. No worries, though. You won't need to relearn how to stand up on a surfboard.

The only thing you'll need to train is your muscle memory.

If you've just learned how to pop up on a foamie, there's still a road ahead before transitioning from a beginner board - traditionally sized between 7'5'' and 9' - to the classic shortboard.

And if your average wave at your home break is a small summer ripple, you might not need to consider buying a new board in the 5'5''- 6'4'' range.

In other words, if 66 percent of the waves you ride are one-footers, the best advice is to keep the longboard and enjoy it.

Shortboards are rarely the weapon of choice in small surf conditions because their low volume will sink in underpowered waves.

One will only get the most out of them when the swell is, at least, arriving at a knee-high level.

Beginners hardly resist the temptation of moving to a shortboard.

They want to mimic the pros and hit the busiest lineups, even if their trimming skills are still in the early stages. Shortboards look cool and surfy, but they serve precise purposes.

When to Make the Move

So, if you're planning to switch a big board for a short, high-performance thruster, ask yourself the following questions, and if all answers are "no," then continue training with the big rocket:

  1. Are You Able to Catch Unbroken Waves? If you can't get into a wave with a longboard, you're not ready for the switch;
  2. Can You Angle the Board on the Take-Off? If you can't enter a wave at a 45-degree angle, continue practicing with the longboard;
  3. Can You Ride a Wave Down the Line? If you can only ride the wave straight toward the beach, it's still not the time for the transition;
  4. Have You Tried a Friend's Shortboard? Do it, and analyze the experience before buying a new board;
  5. Are You Confident Enough to Take on the Shortboard Challenge? If you've got time and patience, go for it;

Surfboards: build your quiver with different sized surfboards | Photo: Shutterstock

Finding Balance is Key

The first thing you'll feel when transitioning from a longboard to a shortboard is a balancing issue.

You'll have problems lying and sitting on the smaller model and must be mentally ready to adapt to the new equation. It's only a matter of time.

So, try to find equilibrium and start paddling whenever you feel comfortable. Sit up on the board, return to prone mode, and repeat the exercise until you get accustomed to it.

Shortboards may be light and easy to duck dive and transport inside your car, but they're less stable and harder to paddle for waves.

You'll lose balance frequently, and you'll struggle with popping up after taking off.

Take your time finding balance. Progression is made of mistakes and wipeouts, too.

Keep your body centered over the stringer, and avoid laying too far forward on the surfboard.

Paddle slowly, one stroke at a time, and don't let the nose dive underwater.

Once you're stable, try catching a wave, but make sure you start paddling for it as soon as you see it coming.

On a shortboard, you'll need more strokes to take off on a roller than on a standard longboard.

Remember: shifting from a 75-liter board to a 25-liter stick will immediately result in less buoyancy. If possible, don't sell the bigger board - keep it and build a quiver.

Sooner or later, even after moving to intermediate and advanced levels, it will be extremely useful.

Finally, keep in mind that your weight and height must be taken into consideration when buying a small surfboard.

Learn more about volume, and check out the surfboard size chart.

Top Stories

The most successful competitive surfer of all time, Kelly Slater, rode what may have been the last heat of his 24-year professional career.

We can't choose our height, and 80 percent of it is genetic. But if you're into surfing, taller and shorter surfers feel noticeable differences in getting acquainted with boards, paddling for, and riding a wave.

Big wave surfing is an industry with an industry.

Ryan Crosby is the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the World Surf League (WSL).