Today, it seems, everyone surfs. But what does it really mean to surf? I learned how to surf on a 7’10” mini tanker, but even before that, my friends and I would mess around and ride waves on what we called “boogie boards.” These days I ride a 6’3″ squash tail, throwing me into the category of a shortboarder. Still, when it is small, you can find me paddling easily into waves on a longboard, and occasionally for kicks I will throw on some fins and mess around on a sponge, but all the time I’m enjoying the sheer pleasure of riding a wave – which is exactly why I have trouble understanding the clash in the water.
Shortboarders hate on longboarders for hogging all the waves, while everyone rags on the rare bodyboarders for just being in the water.
Bodyboarding is arguably the earliest form of surfing and was probably derived from the ancient Hawaiian paipo board that was ridden while lying down. The sport was popularized in the late 1970s, through the ’80s and early ’90s, with names like Mike Stewart, Kainoa McGee and Pat Caldwell as pioneers of the sport. Bodyboarding went through a revolution as the old school style focused on more fluid and easy wave riding. Inevitably, guys got gnarly with their sponge, focusing on more critical aerial maneuvers on bigger and heavier waves. Bodyboarders have also been known as barrel fiends, with their ability to surf tubes that would be nearly impossible for someone on a surfboard to make.
While bodyboarders have the potential to rip just as hard as surfers do, it sort of fell off the scene after a while. A small group of guys are still killing it in competitions, but it just did not hit mainstream like surfing has. Nowadays surfers are delivering aerials just as insane as bodyboarders. Taj Burrow and Ozzie Wright are just a few guys that I like to see treat the ocean like a skate park, shredding the shit out of the waves and busting airs higher than you can imagine. Even chicks like Melanie Bartels are stepping into the scene to represent the progressiveness of surfing.
The key idea there, though, is progress.
Shortboarding is simply a progression of longboarding. Long ago when pioneers rode waves on gigantic wooden logs, little did they know that one day people would take it to such an extreme level. And while shortboarding seems to be what will take surfing into the next era, there are still guy – and girls – out there that kill it on a longie. Even one of our very own Gaucho women ended in the top-three of the Women’s Longboard World Championships in France last year.
So, as you can see, each variation of surfing has something to bring to the table. It is up to the individual to redefine the reputation of shortboarding, longboarding and bodyboarding, which currently represent the good, the bad and the ugly. Shortboarders these days are just plain good, and are only getting better with time and innovation. Longboarders are pretty bad-ass as they charge waves almost twice the size of their boards, while bodyboarders are sometimes the only ones who can get deep enough to drop into the scariest, most ugly bowling waves. So, when you’re out there, have respect for everyone. It is our common love of riding waves that makes us all surfers. And that’s the REAL long and short of it.