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Toes on the Nose: A Brief History of Longboard Surfing

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Yep, it's true: It all started with the longboard.

Surfing today began on the idea and symbol of the longboard, which represents the essence of surf history.

From the 1950s until now, this style of surfing has come a long way and continues to grow in the industry.

In this article, we will unpack the evolution of longboarding throughout the years and why this style of surfing is so special.

Origin of Longboard Surfing

The first origins of surfing can be traced back to 12th century Polynesians who carved paintings and illustrations in caves that are thought to have been symbols of their people surfing.

It is said that from there, the Polynesians brought surfing over to Hawaii.

However, surfing didn’t really begin to gain popularity until the late 1800s.

Around this time, tourists from all over the world would come to Hawaii to either participate in or watch those performing this fascinating sport.

During this time, the average length of a surfboard was 10 ft and was extremely heavy and lacked any rocker.

While the science around the longboard at the time wasn’t very sound or efficient, it worked for the time being.

Many surfers here would surf massive waves on their longboards, and this idea stuck around all the way until the 1950s and 1960s when shortboards began to emerge.

California Learns of the Longboard

In 1907, a local Hawaiian by the name of George Freeth brought his longboard down to Redondo Beach to show Californians what longboarding was all about.

This was the first record of a surfboard in the states. From this moment, surfing slowly began to gain popularity, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that new innovations were being made to improve the longboard technology.

At this time, Tom Blake made the first ever hollow surfboard. In doing so, Blake shifted the future for all of surfing.

Although he didn’t fix the issue of the poorly shaped boards, he made longboards lighter and therefore easier to transport from place to place.

New Shapes

After Tom Blake's influence, many other surfers decided they wanted to see changes and improvements in their surfboards and surfing.

In 1934, a group of Hawaiian surfers made some of the first changes in the shape of the longboard that similarly reflect those that you would see today.

The surfers decided to narrow both the tail and nose of the board, while also adding a v shape to the rail of the boards.

This shift to v-shaped rails would later turn into rounded u-shaped rails which we see used today.

After this innovation came the creation of the rocker in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

First created by Bob Simmons, this new innovation was coined “the most important design element of a modern day surfboard”.

Both of these additions to the traditional longboard allowed surfers to maneuver more easily on waves instead of simply going straight.

Longboarding Today

By the late 1950s and 60s, the emergence of shortboard surfing came into play.

Surfing became a professional sport in 1960 which gave way to a new level of high performance surfing that required the maneuverability of a shorter and thinner board.

With that being said, ever since then shortboarding has dominated the professional surfing scene.

Today, the WSL shortboard tour has 11 events, while the longboard tour is limited to only 4.


Even still, the expansion and prevalence of longboarding in surf culture today is undeniable.

In California alone, there are thousands of popular longboard shapers and individuals learning how to self-shape.

In addition, there are new yearly competitions emerging based solely around celebrating and watching the beauty of longboarding.

Two of the most well known are the Duct Tape Invitational and the Mexi Log Fest.

Both of these competitions focus on the style of traditional longboarding that is commonly overlooked by high performance surfing that you would typically see in a competition setting.

Why Get a Longboard?

Style and Creativity

One of the primary reasons people steer towards longboarding is the freedom of style and creativity that it offers.

Almost every longboarder has a distinct and personal style that sets them apart from everyone else in the lineup.

You can tailor longboarding to yourself. If you like to focus on walking up and down the nose, this type of surfing is perfect for you.

If you like to turn down the line of the wave, this type of surfing is perfect for you. If you like to just cruise out in the water, this is perfect for you.

You really can’t go wrong with a longboard, unless the waves are too big.

The Culture

I’m not one to play favorites, but it is said that the longboard community can be one of the most welcoming and uplifting groups of people.

While this isn’t a foolproof statement that can be said for every individual, many longboarders love to meet each other in the lineup and share waves!

Wave Selection

When waves are small, having a longboard can be extremely helpful.

The extra length can help you get into waves and stay on them.

When riding a shortboard may feel like a lot of pumping and not a lot of turns, it could be a perfect day to take out a log.

The Bottom Line: Longboard Surfing

All of surfing began with the longboard.

This style of surfing was so prevalent throughout surf history, and still can be seen in the professional and competitive world of surfing today.

If you don’t have a longboard yet, it’s time to add one to your quiver and have some fun on the smaller days!


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