Transitioning to a Smaller Surfboard? 9 MUST-Know Tips

For beginners and intermediate surfers, the journey is all about progress, honing skills, and riding waves with finesse. As you evolve in surfing, the desire to ride a smaller surfboard often becomes a pivotal milestone. However, this transition is not as simple as swapping out your board; it requires careful consideration of various factors that can impact your performance and overall experience.

Going Short?

This guide will delve into the intricacies of moving to a smaller surfboard, offering nine pro tips to make your transition smoother and more rewarding.

  1. Know Your Volume.
    • The volume of the surfboard is one of the most critical factors because it determines how much you float when paddling. Low in volume; the more you sink in the water, the slower your paddle will be. Therefore, it has a direct impact on wave-catching ability.
    • Reducing volume gets more critical as you reach the lower end of the spectrum. For example, two litres of volume at 9’0 is not much change, and you will not feel much different. However, at around 30L of volume, two litres make quite a difference, and you will quickly reach a point where it will feel too small to float you.
    • Therefore, dropping your volume from 9’0, you may quickly go down to 8’0, then down to 7’0 in a minimal or rounded nose shape. However, once you reach 7’0, I recommend dropping volume 2-3 litres or 2 inches long every time you downsize.
    • This incremental approach ensures you maintain control over your board and do not compromise your paddling power and wave-catching potential.
    • If you want to catch more waves with better paddling techniques, read here.
  2. The Timing of Trying a Smaller Board.
    • If you can catch waves and ride the waves somewhat consistently, you can try a smaller board. There is no perfect timing, and it’s a trial and error.
    • I have heard many people suggesting you should only go down in size if the board limits your surfing. However, the criteria are also quite vague because it begs a similar question. How good is good enough?
    • Therefore, if you find a board that excites you and you feel ready, jump on.
  3. Keep That Old Faithful Board.
    • How do you know if you have gone too small? You will find everything is a struggle. Most importantly, you cannot catch waves with your new small surfboard. If you have made too much of a drop in volume, you can always return to your old board a little longer and try the new one again with improved skill.
    • It’s not only the volume that you will miss. You remember how a board feel riding a wave, and you may want to bring the feeling back.
  4. Know your waves.
    • To ride a shortboard, you need some power in the waves because less volume means less floatation, needing continuous speed to stay afloat. Going shortboard might be counterproductive if you only enjoy riding smaller waves or your local break offers smaller, gutless waves.
    • Don’t judge the new board too early. Try on different conditions, and see when the board works the best.
  5. More competition in the line-up.
    • Transitioning to a shortboard entails sacrificing some paddling power. You’ll find yourself sitting closer to the shore in the line-up, competing with fellow shortboarders for waves. Additionally, you might watch longboarders catch waves early due to their increased buoyancy
    • So, if your regular surfing spot is heavily crowded, think hard before you make a choice.
    • Please read here if you want to learn how to deal with crowds.
  6. Starting on Shortboard?
    • You can start on a shortboard, but it can be a little forceful. Firstly, you must paddle extra hard to get onto the wave. If your paddle is not great, you will likely take off slightly later, making you in a little hurry to pop up.
    • This causes you to jump up on the board rather than smooth the transition from prone to standing.
    • Anything rushed and forced tends to cause a stiffened-up body, resulting in poor style.
    • It’s not just a style. With less volume, you will likely catch fewer waves, meaning slower progression. You will get there, but maybe a little slower.
  7. Get second-hand
    • Second-hand surfboards are an excellent option when trying out different surfboards. Most reasonable to great-condition surfboards are 50% – 70% per cent of their original value.
    • However, you need to know what to avoid. Here are some tips on purchasing a second-hand surfboard
  8. Same volume but a shorter board?
    • Don’t assume the same volume surfboard would paddle the same. If you put two surfboards next to each other, with all dimensions the same except the length, the longer board will travel faster because speed is directly related to length based on Froude number (Some hardcore boat speed engineering! Read This post if you want more details).
    • The shorter board tends to wobble side to side more when you paddle. Therefore you you will need to build some core/balance muscles.
    • Therefore, people starting on a shortboard tend to get onto their feet a little too late due to poor paddling. But, with persistent practice, you can make it happen.
    • Suggestion: Getting slightly more volume than you think can be beneficial when going short. Many beginner surfers worry that having extra volume will compromise their surfing. However, usually, the surfer’s ability is the problem.
    • The shape of a surfboard can make a significant difference, too. For example, A board with a broader nose can make the transition smoother by increasing stability and ease of take-off.
  9. Take your time.
    • Adapting to a new surfboard is a gradual process that takes time and patience. Switching to a different board always feels unfamiliar, and finding the sweet spot for paddling and surfing takes a bit of adjustment.
    • Different conditions can bring out distinct characteristics in a board. Take your time to surf in various conditions and observe when the board performs at its best. This patient approach will allow you to understand and unlock the potential of your smaller surfboard fully.


My name is James, the person behind With 15 years of experience in surfing, I am excited to help you on the journey to becoming a competent surfer.

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