The age of having an arsenal of 6’1″ thrusters has gone the way of the beta tape. In its place, the modern surfer has stacked their quiver with a range of boards that suit nearly every occasion. From a fish to a hybrid thruster to a step-up and everything in between, if you want to make the most of the conditions year round, you’re going to need the proper equipment under your feet. Here’s our take on what you’ll need to bring your quiver to the next level.
Fish: First cut by kneeboarder Steve Lis in the 1970s, the board gained major traction under the feet of David Nuuhiwa and has seen a number of popular rebirths since then. Stubby, wide, and versatile, having a fish in your quiver is a must for surfers looking to take advantage of meager conditions without having to ride a longboard. “I think we’re really seeing a design renaissance right now,” says renowned California shaper Chris Christenson. “We’ve seen a lot of variations on the design of the fish over the years and a lot of different shapers are really evolving the model a lot. Although there’s a lot of dispute as to what makes a fish, the overall design has really proven itself over the years.” Take a gander at Lost’s monumental films, 5’5″ x 19 1/4″ and the follow-up, 5’5″ x 19 1/4″ redux for some inspiration.
Thruster hybrid: Ushered in by Slater, Dane Reynolds, and other World Tour surfers, the thruster hybrid takes your standard thruster outline, shortens the length and adds a bit of girth to the width, giving the board the feel of a thruster with increased paddling power. Did you really need all that nose and rocker anyway? “It’s all about variety now and I think it’s a great thing that so many surfers are diversifying their boards,” says Mikala Jones, a man known for holding an eclectic collection of boards. “It’s the same way you wouldn’t want to eat the same thing for lunch every day. Why would you want to ride the same thruster every day?”
Thruster: The go-to surfboard for the last three decades, the thruster has become a staple in the quiver of every surfer worth his salt. When Simon Anderson first ushered in the board at Bells in the early ’80s, the world took quick notice. Just a few short years later and the model was a widespread success and propelled surfing into a new dimension. Since then, we’ve seen the design morph and shift its specs, but by in large the general outline has stayed nearly the same. When conditions turn optimum, you’ll want this tried-and-tested model under your feet.
Step up: When the swell begins to max and riding your standard thruster becomes a liability, reach for your step-up. Typically an extended version of the thruster, the step-up eases your ability to get into waves earlier and hold your rail in consequential conditions. Word to the wise: use this board sparingly, you don’t want to be the guy on a 6’10” when it’s 5 feet. It’s just uncouth. “When I’m ordering a step-up board, I like to go up in about 2″ increments for how big the surf is,” says Zeke Lau. “So if my normal shortboard is a 6’0″, I’ll start making my step-ups at about 6’4″, 6’6″, to 6’8″. It’s just a bigger version of my regular shortboard, but it really helps when the surf starts to get solid.”
Longboard: Let’s face it. There are plenty of days when it just doesn’t seem proper to ride a board under 9 feet. Forget all past rivalries; there’s a time and a place for every type of board. If it’s lapping up on the reef, you’re going to have infinitely more fun on a noserider than you would flailing on a shortboard.
Travel board: When airlines are charging upwards of $500 in baggage fees, most of us can only afford to travel with one board. Enter the Travel Board. “I actually shape a board made specifically for surfers who want to bring one board on a surf trip. It’s a blend of a stubby board and a step-up and it can handle in bigger waves as well as the smaller stuff,” says John Pyzel. “It’s got a little more thickness and a semi-pulled-in tail. It will get the job done in pretty much anything. It’s basically a one-board quiver for traveling.”
SUP: Just kidding.