SURFBOARDS/ TECHNIQUE/ TEST
Surfing a Fish. What you need to know, and why this could be the most fun addition to your quiver.
Why should you buy a fish? And why should it be a great small wave board? In my post about a one board quiver I say:
“I usually compromise and don’t bring a small wave board at all. Instead, I surf my regular board until it is too small to surf.”
This actually works! Of course, you have to paddle hard, and it’s not easy to generate speed. But if you’ve got the right Allround board, you can surf it even in very small waves. And as long as the waves are steep enough, you’ll be fine anyways.
But as so often in life, it’s not only size that matters. If the waves have little power, are fat, and slow, your high-performance Shortboard might be still surfable, but you would have more fun on another board. In fat (not steep) waves, and flat sections, it helps a lot if you’ve got more volume under your feet, and your board has more planning area (the part of the board that is actually in the water).
To get more planning area, you can surf a bigger board, a mini Mal or Longboard for example. This works absolutely perfect and you’ll get more waves than usual. But it makes it harder to turn. And this is where a fish board as a small wave weapon comes into play. It has almost no rocker and is fairly wide. Thanks to this, it offers a big planning area with a short length. This in combination with a different fin placement that creates less drag, your Fish is fast, even if the waves leave much to be desired.
But there are a couple of different styles of boards with the same idea behind. Mini Simmons, Biscuit, Egg, etc…
This planning area helps you to paddle faster, what equals to get waves earlier and easier. And it helps you in flat sections of the wave or if they’re powerless.
As soon as the waves get steeper, it becomes more difficult to surf such a board. The short length, the missing rocker, and the wide nose make the transition more difficult and you’re more likely to nosedive. I’m not saying you can’t surf a fish in steeper or bigger waves. It just loses its advantages.
Not every wave is steep, and no wave is steep everywhere!
Do you always surf steep waves? And do you surf them at the steepest part of the wave? Are all your turns straight up and in the pocket, or do you surf more in the open face and away from the curl? Is the line you surf super radical, vertical up and down, or maybe a more relaxed horizontal down the line?
It’s a fact. Most people surf the wrong board! Only because John John Florence surfs a 24 Liter toothpick, it doesn’t mean this is the right board for you and me!
If you’re honest with your self, about your abilities and how you want to surf and can surf, you might come to the conclusion that a high-performance Shortboard is not the right thing for you. Maybe because you’re not there yet to surf such a radical line.
Or maybe because you actually enjoy cruising along the wave way more than zig-zagging around all the time! And there is nothing wrong with that!
So if you know that you don’t even want to surf the line an HP (high-performance) Shortboard is made for, why would you want to struggle with all the hard work that comes with it?!
Let’s have a look at different lines you can choose to surf.
If you look close, you can see that this guy surfs a very wide board, probably a typical Fish Surfboard. The whole wave in front of him is holding up perfectly. The two meters next to the white water look like the wave is pitching a little bit and would be perfect to hit the lip.
But looking at the angle of his board, and his position in the wave, I think it’s safe to say that he won’t hit the lip, but just want to make speed and cruise along the wave.
To do this, surfing a Fish Surfboard is ideal.
It looks like this surfer went straight down the wave to do a deep bottom turn in front of the white water (he should start getting into his bottom turn right now), to surf up the face of the wave where it ‘s steepest.
You can see that his wave flattens out on the shoulder, so he really should make sure to stay close to the curl, and not to surf too far away from it.
These deep, hard bottom turns are difficult on a Fish. Especially with a Twin Fin and classic keel fins. If the red line is how you (want to) surf, a Thruster definitely helps. I’m not saying you can’t do it on a Twinny, it’s just more difficult. But on the other hand, I’m not saying you can or will surf turns like this only because of a Thruster. The right board helps, but it’s still you who has to do the work. And even if it feels like you’re going up 90 degrees, you’re most probably not, sorry! It can be devastating to see the difference between how it feels and how it looks!
With more volume in your board, you have to worry less about staying in the steep part of the wave.
His wave doesn’t look like it’s disappearing. It keeps the size but becomes really fat. With the top of the wave tumbling down the face, probably the best thing he can do is, to speed up, and surf a big cutback. When he finishes his cutback, he has the whole wave in front of him again. Then he can decide what the next section asks for. This is a maneuver that can be done with all kinds of boards. From HP Shortboard to Fish, to 9’ Longboard!
The wave on this picture can be surfed on any kind of Surfboard. In this case, it’s mostly your style, your ability and what line you want to surf, that should help you choose your Surfboard.
But here are a few reasons why you should start surfing a Fish.
#1 You don’t (want to) surf super progressive, so you don’t need an HP Shortboard.
The line you choose to surf is more horizontal than vertical, and once it gets a bit steeper, you prefer to surf in the open face, rather than in the pocket.
#2 The waves you’re surfing are rather slow, weak, fat and/ or mellow.
All you would do with an HP Shortboard is pumping and humping around, trying not to sink and to find a section for one single maneuver. You might have more fun on a Fish.
#3 You’ve got the right HP Shortboard, but you’re looking for a different feeling.
#4 You want a board with a lot of volume, but think a Mini Malibu is too long to travel with.
For me, it was a mix between number 2 and 3.
We decided to do a trip, where we expected to find beautiful and uncrowded beaches, but probably not perfect waves.
Having a board that feels different, can give you back the excitement to paddle out doesn’t matter how bad it is.
And having a good board for bad waves is awesome! In good waves, you can surf anything!
My personal experience
As said in the beginning, I usually surf my normal board in small waves, and it works. If I get the chance to take out a longboard or a Mini Mal on a really small day, I do it. Same goes for foamies, I love them!
Over the years, I tried a couple of different groveler boards. Different shapes and different fin setups, but nothing got me really excited. It was possible to surf them but never felt really good.
So I decided to give it a last chance and bought a Twin Fin from Robi Hendra Surf Shapes in Bali. This time with the right dimensions, right Finns, right everything. I told myself if I still don’t like it, so be it. BUT I really did like it.
Robi Hendra said he usually makes those small wave Fish with around 10-15% more volume than the normal boards. Just to make it even easier to catch waves and have fun. And as such a board is usually not intended to go radical and vertical, a little bit extra volume doesn’t matter. The short length, the swallowtail and the absence of the center fin make it lose and maneuverable enough.
My normal boards are just under 6”, and around 27 liters. And I’m somewhere between 70-72Kg. I’ve got a volume chart in my article about ordering a custom board. Just to give you a vague idea what volume could work for you. But always keep in mind: Volume is your friend! The best board is useless if you can’t get waves.
But back to my Fish…
It’s a 5″5′, has around 30 Liter, what means a good 10% more than my normal board and it’s shaped with an EPS core, what makes it float even a bit better. The board has Futures Finns, as I like them best.
Don’t worry, I won’t become a full-on retro Hipster! I still prefer the feeling of my normal Thruster, and the line I surf with it. But it’s great to own a board that is fun even in the smallest waves. And if I want to do something more than just cruising down the line and the odd floater, this board likes to be put to the test. If it passes is more up to me, that to the board…