The length of my KB… how long?
This is the question we no doubt all ponder when shaping or getting a board shaped. Perhaps you just buy one from wherever you can: eBay, mates, or the underground word of mouth movement. What length?
Have you noticed the short phase of boards at the moment: 6ft tall guys riding 5ft7”? “If you can catch it, you can ride it” I say. One of my clients – a big guy – would always insist I shape these tiny KBs for him whilst he played Santana at full blast and rolled one joint after another in the corner of my shaping bay! Those days are past, but ‘twas an era in which I shaped, surfed and lived. Today that big fella [no names, no pack drill] still is with us and so am I, thankfully.
5’9″ Single fin, had to surf them aggressively – 1978
What I go on for length is how tall you are. Then that is how long your KB will be… give or take an inch. Personally, my own KBs are longer than most. I like longer KBs – always have – 6ft2 is about my limit as I am around 5ft8. My hot-dogger is 5ft10. As a bloke in his sixties I think I’m entitled to go a little longer and take the long line.
5’6″ Single fin hot dogger – 1976
Back in the 70s, I was competing against the late, great Peter Crawford. He was taller than me, rode mostly 5ft6 x 24 and ripped! I was definitely influenced to the point of shaping myself KBs with that length in mind; although I dId hold off on the width for a while. I came runner-up to him twice in 76 and 78 in the National Titles. PC could get great run and carry through his turns; drive from behind; come up into the pocket with speed and precision and ride the tube, all on a 5ft6. I went down to 5ft4 at one stage but it was too small for me. I still had some great surfs on that little bat tail twin-fin.
5’6″ Shore break maneuverability – 1976
I realized that self-belief and backing your ideas is the way to go as extra length works for some and not for others. With going longer – I feel you have to break your shape up with a couple of flyers and subtle deviation of the rail. This is so you can still be loose when you need to be and with your change of fins you can go long and still be able to change direction quickly. I think we all love small boards for their advantage in the line-up where you can swing around and launch quickly; duck dive deeper and do more turns per square meter of wave.
Fin Adnam and his modern little rocket.
It also depends on your fitness and your height and weight. If you can go small and still catch waves… then turn back time bro, and go for it!!!
I had these 5ft7 x 22 double enders I loved. Without shame I was inspired by Michael Peterson’s “Morning of the Earth” board – I always thought it looked like the kneeboard I wanted to ride. In the late 70s his bro Tommy told me it was 5ft9, so that became my favourite length for many years. I found it a great length for most conditions. I have only gone up an inch since those days: old habits die hard.
It’s all a matter of what you feel comfortable with. Length has helped me in long paddles against strong currents and – to be fair – I couldn’t have caught a lot of those outside sets without length.
Yet on a suckie little beach break with a hit-that-lip shorey it’s get down on the length and have lots of fun.
So what will it be: long or short?
You can still take the long line on a short board!