So you have mastered the long board and want a new challenge, something more maneuverable, lighter and easier to turn? It may be time for you to step down to a short board. It is important to note that it is just as difficult to learn to surf on a short board as it was to begin surfing on a long board. However, with the right preparation and enough practice, you will be sure to find the challenge rewarding and worth the effort. Not to mention, riding a smaller board also opens up new possibilities for your surfing, including new maneuvers, different types of waves and even greater ease in paddling. Here are the basics to learning to ride a short board.
Paddling on a Short Board
Learning to paddle on a short board is as much a challenge as actually riding it. This is mostly due to the fact that if you're coming down in length, width and thickness, you're going to begin to feel your weight more. Instead of relying on the thickness of a long board to push you into waves, you must learn to center your weight on a short board and use more of your upper body weight to pull you in.
The key to paddling on a short board is to keep your body in the center of the board, and keep forward so that your nose only stays about an inch or two above the water at any given moment. Although this may feel awkward at first, you will realize when paddling into a wave that if you're too far back on the board, the wave will roll right past you. So make sure to stay forward and try to center your weight.
Getting to Your Feet
Now that you've learned the basics of paddling in, the next step (and often most difficult) is getting to your feet. This process is more difficult than doing so on a long board, because the board will be much less stable and you must rely more on your balance and body movement. The most important thing to remember in transitioning from paddling to standing up on a short board is quickness. The faster you can get to your feet, the more likely are you are to make the drop in.
When you see a wave coming, turn around, use the paddle technique mentioned previously, using wide and deep arm strokes, and once you feel the board moving with the wave, push evenly with both arms and stand up in one motion. Remember too that standing up on a short board is all about balance and foot placement, as you must center your weight more efficiently than a bigger board. In order to make the drop, be sure to keep your weight on your back foot so you don't pearl the nose and fall forward. Try to take a wider stance so that you have more control of the board; you can always move your feet around once you get onto the face of the wave.
Riding the Wave
Now that you've gotten through the difficulty of paddling into a wave and successfully dropping in, it's time to learn how to ride the wave. This is where you'll really see the benefits of having a smaller board (depending on wave size, of course). If you're riding a decent wave, then you will feel more control dropping in and a greater ability to move up and down the face. Again, the key here is centering your balance, so that your legs are about equal with the width of your shoulders. It is also important to stay further back on the board so that you don't dig the nose into the water. Something that helps is getting a grip pad for your back foot, as this will help you control your stance better and have some sort of measuring point of where the back foot should go.
Once you're riding down the face, to retain speed you can "pump" using your body weight to move the board up and down, thus increasing speed. This is a somewhat difficult maneuver to describe, but if you watch other short boarders, you'll begin to notice them doing this frequently.
Just like anything else, the key to getting better at riding a short board is practice. The more you do it, the more you'll get a feel for you're own style and comfort. This is something that can't be taught, as it is all personal preference.