First of let's get a few definitions out of the way with. What classifies a longboard as a longboard and how does it differ from a shortboard? A longboard generally is a single fin surfboard with a large rounded nose, its length is typically between 9 and 12ft. A longboard differs from a shortboard, which generally has 3 or 4 fin placement, and is a lot shorter anywhere from 5ft to under 7ft. Shortboards are easier to maneuver and more suited to bigger waves where the drops might be steeper and quicker turning is required. Longboards are better for more mellow waves than run either left or right and where the takeoff isn't as steep.
Getting Started with a longboard
If you're a beginner you'll probably start with a foam board which will help you master the basics such as paddling, riding the foam water and maybe turning.
Once you're ready for the next challenge, you'll want to progress to a fibreglass longboard, one where you'll apply wax or grip to. As for the length of the surfboard you should go for, probably you'll need some guidance from a local shaper or your local surf shop. Some beginners don't feel that comfortable with too long a board so something more around the 9ft mark or even a mini-mal might be best for a first board.
Duck diving a long board is something that takes a lot of skill and practice, and for a beginner is probably not something you want to focus on doing with a longboard. Far better is to practice a turtle roll, or timing your paddle out between sets.
Once you've mastered the turtle roll and feel confident in getting past the first few waves, you'll need to work on your paddling to move out to the lineup in a safe manner. Arch your back slightly and have your head up always looking where you're going. Try and maintain a strong paddling position, watching more seasoned surfers can also help on how they paddle.
Always follow the path of least resistance. Use rips or currents to your benefit to take you to the lineup. If the rips are strong, and you find yourself paddling and getting nowhere. Take a breather, and don't battle it move to either the left or right of the rip and you'll be able to either come back into shore on the next wave, or if you have enough fuel in the tank paddle out to the lineup.
Positioning yourself in the lineup
Where to sit in the lineup can be tricky to work out. Spend some time watching other experienced surfers and how they are positioning themselves in preparation for taking the next week. Always observe correct surfer etiquette and be conscious of other surfers. Before, paddling for a wave make sure you won't be dropping in on somebody already up and riding on the wave.
Before committing take a glance to both sides, if you're good to go then go, don't hesitate. Too much hesistation will give the green light for others to take liberties and can result in frustation from more experienced surfers. Once you've decided to go for a wave commit to it, even if you mess up, it's the only way to learn and get better. Try to work out what's going wrong.
Are you paddling too early, or too late? Are you angling your board across the wave face to make it easier for take-off? Do you need to work on your pop-ups? How is your weight distrbution - are you too far forward or too far back on the board? There's certainly a lot of things to think about and work on when it comes to the take-off alone. Giving yourself plenty of time to prepare before the wave comes can help keep your breathing relaxed and enough time to paddle into the wave and get to your feet. Working in the gym or at home by doing burpees and pop-ups can also help improve this movement.
Putting it all together
As with anything practive makes perfect, the more mistakes you make, the more you learn. Positioning, timing, core strength and reading the wave all improves over time. Remember it takes 10,000 hours to excel at a skill. So if you're goal is to be really good at surfing then you need to put the time in, between 6 and 10 years you'll be able to hold your own in the lineup and surf advanced waves. Remember we're all learning in this sport, and even though I've been surfing more than 15 years I'm still continuously learning that's why I love the sport so much.
So keep perservering, have a great but safe summer and watch out for your fellow humans in and out of the water.
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