Mid-Lengths Are Surfing's Cheat Code
Every surfer should have a mid-length in their quiver, because for the everyday surfer looking to maximize everyday conditions the versatility of a mid-sized board operates as a proverbial “cheat code”.
The oldest trope in surfboards is “I want a board that paddles like a longboard and turns like a shortboard.” … and with good reason! What more could you hope for while surfing than a board that paddles great, catches waves with ease, and responds to your every command under your feet.
I’m here to tell you that the closest thing you are going to find to that is a well-designed mid-length.
When everything in surfboard design is give-and-take, blending together the best elements of longer boards and the best elements of shorter boards is the most logical way to construct a versatile surfing device that is suitable for a wide range of conditions.
Now, whether you're a life-long longboarder, a dedicated shortboarder, or a novice looking to advance your skills in the surf lineup, there is a mid-sized board for you. The trick is finding the right bit of equipment for you.
Mid-Lengths for Longboarders:
If you are coming off of a lifetime of predominantly riding longboards, a mid-length will provide you with much of the familiar paddle and glide that you are accustomed to, but will unlock all new levels of maneuverability and mobility on the face of a wave.
You likely want to find a mid-length that paddles great and glides well (with little assistance from the rider) on the face of a wave. This will help the board feel as familiar as possible while unlocking new lines, tighter turns, and quicker reaction times.
Generally, we tend to suggest our Joy model for customers who are coming off a longboarding background. Our experience has been that the Joy is an easy and enjoyable transition for folks more familiar with longer equipment. The Joy provides great glide and the fluid arcing turns are a delight for the surfer who is used to swinging a 9’6” around.
Other good mid-lengths for longboarders include:
- Longer Pleasant Pheasants
- The Big Bueno Fish
- The Cash-Yew II (mini glider)
- The Beach Chicken (for softer waves)
Mid-Lengths for Shortboarders
If you are coming off a lifetime of predominantly riding shortboards, you are going to love the boost to your wave-count that a mid-length provides. Your mechanics and fundamentals are likely really good, but the waves aren’t always cooperating with your equipment.
Adding a lively and versatile mid-length not only makes those in-between days 8x more enjoyable, but can actually help you unlock your surfing by opening up new lines and different approaches.
In the words of a dear friend who wishes to remain anonymous, “Dude this board is cheating, I almost feel bad.”
However, if you are intimately familiar with the lively feeling and connectedness of a shortboard, jumping on the wrong mid-length can feel as though you may as well be riding a 9’8”. You want the added wave-catching that a mid-sized board without feeling like there is an aircraft carrier under your feet.
Our experience has been that a smaller Pleasant Pheasant is the way to go—like 6’2 to 6’6. Friends & customers who have added a “Plez Phez” to their quiver have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of fluid control they still have over the board. Fin placement is key here. Don’t be intimidated or off-put by the center fin box—just play with the placement of the 7” flex fin to get the right feeling of stability versus tight-turning-radius.
Other good mid-lengths for shortboarders include:
- A longer Quadkumber
- The WTRP
- The Arrowhead (for a full 1970’s approach)
- The Big Bueno Fish
Mid-Lengths for Novices
If you are a novice surfer—which I would define as “less than two years of regular surfing experience”—then a longer mid-length is where you likely should be spending nearly all of your time. I cover this in more detail in Almond’s Guide to Your First Year of Surfing, but you want to have a board that is enough board to paddle well and catch waves regularly, but also not be so much board that it becomes unwieldy to control.
Whether you prefer fiberglass construction (a hard board) or the R-Series construction (our take on a foamie), our recommendation is the same for most novices: get an 8’0 Joy.
The Joy is our most proven, most versatile, and most loved mid-length model. It’s a board we know incredibly well and are incredibly confident in putting novice surfers on.
Sometimes, customers will push back a bit and say “but won’t a longer board paddle better?” and while that is true, a longer board is also a lot to try to turn and control in most surf lineups. The only instances where a novice really needs to be on a true and proper longboard is if they are surfing a slow, rolling, Waikiki-style wave or they are older and the joints don’t move as quickly as they used to, and they really need the extra time to get to their feet.
If you are serious about learning how to surf, and making it a regular part of your recreation time, grab a Joy and a copy of our Guide to Your First Year of Surfing and invest the time in mastering the art of wave-riding.
Whatever your personal surfing history is, my advice remains the same: get a really good mid-length and surf it often.