Gear School


This may be a spring gear guide, but there's never a bad time of year to look at a ton of beautiful surfboards all put together. Go ahead and window browse this collection of new models, but don't stop here. First of all, we'll have even more boards, tips, shaper interviews, and other extras in our online gear guide. As well, if you see a board you like, check out the brand's Web site, and tell 'em we sent you.

Board Constructions

Standard PU Shortboard


Most shortboards have a pretty basic construction. They're a foam core, with fiberglass cloth laid on it, which is then saturated with resin. Standard boards are made with polyurethane foam and polyester resin, the combination of which is referred to as PU/PE. That creates a hard outer shell. Most shortboards will have two layers of four-ounce fiberglass cloth on the deck, and a single layer on the bottom. Most pros boards have only a single layer on the top, which is why they can be lighter, but this sacrifices durability.

Molded Boards

molded shortboards

The other major surfboard construction involves more separate layers of glassing and is often referred to as sandwich construction. While a standard board is also technically a sandwich construction, molded boards have a more complex layering process and usually use epoxy resin (as opposed to polyester resin) and EPS foam. While there are many variations, the most common starts with a foam core, which is laminated with fiberglass and resin, sometimes vacuum-bagged. That core is wrapped with another layer of higher-density foam, and then laminated with another layer of fiberglass and resin. They tend to be more durable than a PU/PE board. In the infancy of their development, molded boards were criticized for being too stiff, though today brands like Surftech's TL2 line and others have been able to make molded boards lively and flexible.

How To Order Your Next Board

Whether you're ordering a custom board from a shaper, or picking out a board off the rack from a shop, there are some key things that can help you walk out with a board that best fits your needs. Most of these tips are aimed at ordering a custom board, but you'll also find them useful for getting a rack board.

  • The best starting point is what you've been riding. If possible, bring your current board in to the shaper. Even before going in, though, gather some thoughts about what you like and don't like about the board. What maneuvers it does well, what you want it to do better, what surf it goes well in, and what kind of surf it doesn't.
  • Tell the shaper where you surf, how much you surf, your height and weight, and your ability level. You might not want to go on rant about how hard you rip, instead you could tell the shaper what maneuvers you're working on. If you're focusing on airs, he might take your board a different direction than if you're working on cutbacks.
  • If you have a trip coming up, make sure and mention it. You might want to order a board specifically for where you're going. A good shaper will be familiar with a ton of different waves and can help dial in a good shape for different spots.

Board-Buying Recession Tips

  • Mellow Yellow – With the economic hurt on, some shops may have boards that have been in stock a while and have begun to get a bit of yellowed tint from too many days sitting out in daylight. These boards are ripe for discounts, if they're not already marked down. They'll ride the same as a nice white one, and if you add some color on it with marker or a spray, it'll make it look fresh.
  • Get A Used Board – Like buying a used car, it takes a bit of work and you've got to really check the thing out. Look for any small buckles or flexes, any dings with yellow around them (indicating water is getting in), stickers covering dings, and other hidden surprises. If you get it from a reputable shop, they should be up front with you about any issues like that. If you go for a sled on craigslist, you can find some serious deals, but you really have to know what you're doing and do full due diligence.
  • Enter Reader Contests – We give away at least a board a month, and there are plenty more gear package contests out there. You'd be surprised at how few people actually take the time to enter them. If you enter a bunch of them and put some effort into your entry, you've got a solid chance at winning a surfboard, and maybe some new gear, too.

Sizing Guide

Wondering what size board you should ride? Here's a little chart that'll give you some basic parameters. It refers to the size of an average shortboard. You could subtract between two and six inches for an average small-wave type board.