The shortboard is typically 6'10" or below, as anything bigger starts to enter Mid-Length territory. What we think of as a shortboard began it's evolution in the late 60's and was as much a part of the counter-culture revolution as the hippies/ anti-war movement.
"The Shortboard Revolution" kicked into high-gear in 1967 when Australian shaper Bob Mctavish & Californian George Greenough worked together bringing the standard 25 pound 10' logs down to a nimble 14 pound 7'6" board. At the same time Hawaiian shaper Dick Brewer creates the "mini-gun", an 8'6" design that increased board speed and hold in the hollow, powerful waves of Oahu's North Shore.
This innovation has continued to present day giving us high-performance shortboards, the fish, grovelers, hybrids, and everyday drivers.
Less Round Nose, Generally Pointed -> Reduced Drag
Increased Rocker -> Easier Turning & Maneuverability / Better For Steeper, Hollow Waves
Any Combo of Fins: Single, Twin, Thruster, Quad
Less Volume Than Longboard or Mid -> More Effort to Paddle
More Dynamic Turns
Any Type of Tail: Pin, Round, Squash, Square, Swallow, Diamond, Etc.
When a boards length is reduced the rider is able to turn and trim from the same spot rather than having to move forward to the nose to trim, then back to the tail to turn. The reduced volume allows for easy duck diving, but this results in less buoyancy and more effort to paddle. This decreased buoyancy makes it more challenging to get over/ through the flats (dead-spots), but enables the rider to pump down-the-line to build speed and maneuver with great accuracy / speed due to the boards light weight.
Is a Shortboard right for me
The type of wave you ride regularly has a lot to do with what board you should be riding.
If you are a beginner it's much harder to improve on a 5-6-foot shortboard that doesn't have excess buoyancy and stability, as it will limit your ability to catch enough waves. Even on a longboard, it can take months to learn to consistently catch a wave, pop up, and ride a wave.
Shortboards may limit the type of waves you want to surf, as shortboards are a lot more fun in good quality waves and more difficult to ride in slop. If you are looking for a board that will go fast. throw buckets of water when you turn off the top, and allow you to take to the the air, then a shortboard is for you.
Keep in mind that once you have progressed beyond the beginner and are looking to take your surfing to the next level, then your local surf shop has or can order a shortboard tailored to your abilities.
Next week we will look at fin types (Single, Twin, Thruster, Quad, Bonzer).. Then the following week, I'll move onto the topic of tail shapes (Pin, Round, Squash, Square, Diamond, Bat Wing, Fish).
Please let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer them ASAP.