The 12 Best Surfboards For Summer Swells

May 30, 2019

Category: Gear

Summertime is traditionally a lackluster season for swell. This fact of life is especially disappointing for those of us who spend the rest of the year looking forward to trading our winter wetsuits for boardshorts to soak up the sun when the water temperature finally allows for it. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to catch more than your fair share of waves during the warm summer months, you could hop on a longboard or an extra thick, heavily-glassed ‘70s-style fish. And those were pretty much your only real options.

But luckily, the board-shaping industry has really stepped up its interest in catering to average joes who surf mediocre waves most of the year. And for those of us who get to surf when we have the time, as opposed to when the best swell hits, this means we’re finally getting access to the right surf equipment. Today, there’s no shortage of summer-ready boards designed and shaped by the world’s best hands, and we’ve rounded up a dozen of the best summer surfboards to consider adding to your quiver now that winter surfing is behind us.

Summer Board Design

Shorter, Thicker, Wider

Summer surfboards are all about maximizing fun in less than ideal conditions. While they take design cues from the high-performance thrusters you’re used to seeing under the feet of championship tour surfers, they’re typically 3-4 inches shorter, have a lot more volume in the nose, a bit more width through the center, and a much flatter rocker (curve) from nose to tail. These design variations are implemented to offer better paddle power and more drive down the line, which is exactly the type of help an average surfer needs to make the most out of weak summer swells. At their core, a summer surfboard takes the best wave-catching elements from a classic fish and wraps them in contemporary design elements from a high-performance shortboard — giving us domesticated surfers the best of both worlds.

DHD Surf XRS

Australian shaper Darren Handley has a world championship pedigree, shaping boards for the likes of three-time men’s world champion Mick Fanning and seven-time women’s champion Stephanie Gilmore. But even a perennial title contender needs something fun when the waves aren’t. DHD’s XRS is a mushy wave machine that thrives in 1-4ft slop. The board paddles easy and carries plenty of speed down the line thanks to its medium to flat to low rocker. The 4x4x4 glassing schedule with a carbon strip and tail wrap keeps the board light and flexible with enough strength to keep it feeling crisp. Its double concave combined with a squash tail make this board extremely maneuverable. Order your XRS 1-2 inches shorter than your standard shortboard.

Purchase: $615

Superbrand Spam

The Spam was designed with tons of input from team riders to create a speedy board that performs well as a thruster and a twin fin with the addition of a small trailer fin. The board features a low rocker from nose to tail, single to double concave with a vee off the winged swallow tail, full rails, and a wide outline for exceptional performance in smaller conditions. Superbrand calls it a “flying skateboard for the sea” and boasts that the winged swallowtail offers an incredibly tight turning radius for high-performance surfing in less than ideal conditions.

Purchase: $615

Sharpeye Surfboards Modern 2.5

The updated Modern 2.5 takes the same rocker and thickness distribution from the Modern 2.0 — a design that borrows and blends elements from Mark Richard’s famous Twin with contemporary thrusters — and adds the outline from a wing pintail with minor elements from a double concave bonzer bottom (just above the fins). Head shaper Marcio Zouvi set out to design a board that had exceptional paddle power and speed down the line with optimal drive and carving ability for most summer conditions. And if you consider all of the design elements he’s borrowed, and the option of a thruster or quad setup, the Modern 2.5 makes perfect sense as a go-to board for summer.

Purchase: $680

Lost Surfboards Maysym

With a significant resurgence in asymmetric surfboards over the last few years, it was only a matter of time before San Clemente mastermind Matt Biolos reached into his deep catalog of designs to bring a highly-tuned asymmetrical board to the masses — a board that’s more forgiving on the heels with more resistance on the toes than your favorite symmetrical sled. The Maysym comes from nearly 30 years of experience playing with asymmetry. It’s based around his small wave V2-StubRocket — a design that’s been a small wave revelation for weekend warriors and once-great but aging surfers looking to make the most out of summer slop. The Maysym shaves surface area from the heel rail borrowed from wider Rocket tails, resulting in a round tail, and then slowly offsets the centerline while adding more rail rocker to the wider side of the tail along with some other minor adjustments to neutralize the difference between heel and toe body mechanics. The end result is a genial asym that makes riding a really wide and short board easier, especially when transitioning from heel to toe — something that can be a total speed killer in weak swell conditions for the average surfer.

Purchase: $695

Channel Islands Neckbeard 2

The original Neckbeard was a skateboard for the sea taken directly from team rider Dane Reynold’s hand-drawn template. Built for free-surfing, the board’s generous shape and large chop tail made it excel at paddling and catching waves — two requirements for a summertime board. But for the second iteration, shaper Britt Merrick went with a single-concave by ditching the vee out the back to enhance the board’s wave entry, down-the-line speed, and overall board control. They also widened the block by 0.5 inches and added a small hip to provide riders with additional responsiveness and maneuverability. The Neckbeard 2 is available in a thruster or quad-fin setup, and while Dane prefers the tri-fin setup, the quads offer a lot more speed down the line.

Purchase: $700

Chili Surfboards Pretty Sweet

It doesn’t take an expert in board design to know the wide and thick Pretty Sweet is a summer-oriented board. Chili calls it an ideal board for beginners transitioning off a soft board or advanced surfers who just can’t commit to having a longboard in their quiver. It features an aggressive single to double concave with a spiraling vee between the back fins designed to get you up and planing in even the smallest conditions. The round square tail, really low rails, extra wide nose, and ample volume — as much as 40.5L in the stock 6’0 model — result in a paddling machine with tons of surface area. If you’re looking for a tiny board with exceptional maneuverability that’s also going to float you well, you’ve found it.

Purchase: $700

Pyzel Surfboards Gremlin

Superstar Hawaiian team rider John John Florence may not need any extra help catching waves in the summer on any board in the world, but that doesn’t mean his long-time shaper Jon Pyzel doesn’t know how to make a small wave-catching machine for the rest of us. His Gremlin takes the primary elements for a summer board — low entry rocker, wide overall outline, full nose, extra volume — but keeps the curve through the tail rocker to maintain some semblance of a high-performance surfboard. This blending of user-friendly designs with a high-performance tail makes this the ideal board for surfers who need “a little bit” of help catching waves but know how to maintain speed in and out of turns. If you’re looking for a board you can still rip when the report reads 1-3 feet, the Gremlin is definitely worth a test drive.

Purchase: $725

Hayden Shapes Hypto Krypto

Whether it’s Craig Anderson’s unmatched style riding anything from three-foot slop to well-overhead tubes or Haden Cox’s skills in the shaping bay, the Hypto Krypto changed the way a lot of surfers look at their equipment. The massively successful ‘one board quiver’ with FutureFlex technology marries a high-density custom shaped EPS core laminated with biaxial fiberglass, epoxy resin, and a parabolic carbon fiber frame instead of a traditional stringer to maintain flex. The Hypto Krypto keeps its volume up front for easy paddling, but its complex bottom (deep vee nose, single concave, double concave, vee double tail) and narrow round tail make it an extremely versatile board for a wide variety of conditions — especially those of the summer. If you’re only going to bring one board on a surf trip and you’re not sure of the conditions, it’s hard to do better than this one.

Purchase: $735

Firewire Chumlee

While most boards in this category ride well as a thruster or a quad-fin setup, the Chuymlee is really for lovers of the quad. It’s a small deviation from their popular Sweet Potato groveler, offering another performance-oriented small wave machine for less than ideal conditions. The updated design features a significant double concave designed to funnel water to the quad trailing fins, but the setup also works well for thrusters so long as you select fins with ample rake. The board’s helium shape and relatively thin design help the Chumlee work well in a decent swell, making this a good choice for someone who’s looking for a daily driver to add to the board bag for everything from 2-foot slop to just under head-high surf.

Purchase: $785

JS Industries Psycho Nitro HYFI

The Psycho Nitro HYFI is a modern update to one of the shaper’s all-time favorite small wave weapons. The latest version features a full nose that places extra foam under your chest for effortless and smooth paddling, allowing you to really dig into the water to catch smaller waves. The board’s flat rocker from nose to tail provides maximum surface area for easy acceleration and paddling power. The brand’s HYFI glassing schedule adds another level of flex and pop, matching perfectly with this groveler’s tight turning radius for a board that’s easy to move up and down the face in the smaller stuff. Other updates include a pulled in swallow tail with deeper concaves around the fins — providing a lively rail-to-rail feel you’d expect from a much narrower high-performance board. If you’re looking for a truly modern fish that works anywhere you like to surf, this is it.

Purchase: $790

Mark Richards Super Twin

You can’t ever really call your quiver complete if it’s missing a super twin. Four-time world champion surfer turned world-class shaper, Mark Richards combined Dick Brewer’s twin-fin design with that of Reno Abellira’s to create a board that was faster and more maneuverable than anything available in the late 1970s. And in the last 40+ years, MR has refined his famous design to keep it at the forefront of small wave, high-performance boards. It’s got a single to double concave focused on speed, a wide outline with foam pushed to the nose for buoyancy and paddling power, and a classic winged swallow for a tight turning radius. It’s the gentleman’s small wave tool and can be ridden as a classic twin-fin or with a rear stabilizer for a little extra bite and stability.

Purchase: $795

Album Surf Doom

If you don’t already know, Album is a boutique surfboard brand set up a few miles north of Southern California’s premier high-performance wave, Trestles. Their approach to board design is an artistic endeavor that embodies the spirit of old-school boards and modern design principles — making them the ideal craftsmen for your next summer board. The Doom is a skateboard for the ocean, featuring a rarely-seen concave deck, robust outline, and a low entry rocker that makes for an incredibly fast, responsive, and loose board that’s easy to throw around in the small stuff. It’s got a tried and true single to double concave with a vee out the back that will feel similar under your feet to any high-performance shortboard you’re likely to grab off the rack. Order yours 4-6 inches shorter than your standard shortboard and shred the small stuff like you’ve never been able to do before.

Purchase: $890

Honorable Mention

The Softboard

Catch Surf Blank Series Funboard

If you surf at a popular beach break during the summer, you probably know that you’re going to share the water with dozens if not hundreds of swimmers, bodyboarders, and the SUP crowd. So when the lifeguard raises the blackball flag, signaling the end of hardboards in the water, you’re going to need something soft if you want to keep surfing. You can’t do better than Catch Surf’s Blank Series Funboard. The preferred 7’0” x 22.0” x 3.125” model has 72 liters of volume, making it buoyant enough to carry you through the flats and small enough to maneuver through the oblivious crowds. The California-designed board features a Stiff Dual-Composite Core, Triple Maple-Wood Stringers, Durable HDPE Slick Bottom, an Old-School PE Deck, and a thruster fin setup. It’s not high-performance surfing, but it’s still a great day at the beach.

Purchase: $300

The 12 Best Airbnb Surf Shacks

Just because the waves don’t turn on in your neck of the woods during the summer doesn’t mean you can’t get into a deep tube. Grab your board bag, your favorite good-wave board, and a groveler (just in case) before you book a stay at one of the best Airbnb surf shacks on the planet.

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