Choosing a Longboard: Interview with Legendary Surfer, Shaper, and “The Endless Summer” Star, Robert August

Any avid surfer would agree there is no such thing as having too many surfboards. Different lengths, widths, rails, tails, fin configurations, and composites are all factors that affect the way we ride and can be adjusted depending on the particular wave conditions. It doesn’t matter how big of a shredder you are, there are days when it is going to be small, mushy, or you simply want to mix it up a bit, and having a longboard in your quiver just makes sense.

But if you are like most surfers who don’t have a bottomless board budget, picking the right longboard can be a daunting decision.  To confuse matters, the surf shaping and manufacturing industry is highly competitive with many different options. You’ll find well-established outfits with deep rooted histories backed by brand names who have obtained legendary status, progressive companies with unique business models and environmental practices, and larger corporations that produce a multitude of models in factories overseas.  At the end of the day, you want to be stoked with your decision as you look forward to a long relationship with what could be considered to some surfers as another member of the family.

So how do you narrow it down?

Endless_SummerTo help clarify questions that I had (and I suspect you will as well) when it came to choosing your first longboard, I turned to an individual who undoubtedly has been and continues to be an enormous influence on the evolution and expansion of surfing, Robert August.

I still clearly remember seeing my first surf film, “The Endless Summer.” Even though I was only 12 years of age, I knew what I had witnessed was the embodiment of the stoke, awe, and allure of surfing that hooks us all for life. Watching Robert August and Mike Hynson explore the world in search of waves made my life feel small, but it opened my mind to the endless possibilities.

August has come a long way since then having worked on several other films, established his own line of surfboards, and benefited many important charities. In case you had any doubts, he is still tearing it up.

Robert Going Left

With over 50 years of surfing experience, let’s just say he knows a few things about buying a longboard.

Questions and Answers with Robert August:

Q: With the understanding that I am a shortboard surfer who is looking to get into longboarding, what should I be thinking about?

A: Watch Wingnut’s “Art of Longboarding.” It is a great instructional DVD that explains the ‘basics’ very well.

Q: When it comes to buying a longboard, I think the first question all of us have is what length is right for me?

A: Your weight, surfing ability and location are the determining factors. Big is stable while smaller is more maneuverable.

Q: I know epoxy is lighter and easier to repair than glass, but is there anything related to performance or sustainability that I might give up?

A: Not sure that epoxy is really easier to repair. You do get more float with epoxy, while glass gives you more of a feel of being ‘in’ the water. Cosmetically, glass is nicer looking.

Q: I see some longboards that are narrower at the tail and some that are wider. What is the difference?

A: They are narrow for larger, hollow waves, and wider for stability and nose riding.

Q: A lot of boards now come with support fins. What do they do for me vs simply having the single fin?

A: In my opinion, very little except for maybe when it comes to high-performance longboards. You might want to put in the side fins for a larger, hollow wave.

Q: I’ve noticed that some of your longboards feature a concave tear drop under the nose and some do not. Why isn’t it standard and how does it improve nose riding?

A: I like the turbulence and lift that it creates. It’s a pain to shape, but I like it.

Q: I noticed the “What I Ride” longboard features a 60/40 rail combination. What does that mean?

A: It’s taking some of the bulk off of the top half of the rail. A fat rail goes through the water slower.

Q: Why do you ride the “What I Ride” longboard?

A: Because it’s so versatile – medium-fast, medium rocker, medium maneuverability. And it paddles nice and looks great!

Q: How do you decide which boards should be distributed to dealers?

A: Of course, there would be different shapes for Hawaii or Florida, but it’s a personal preference. Our dealers have a pretty good grasp on what their customers need and want for their surf conditions.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the relationship with Surftech and why you chose to work with them?

A: The technology is great and they realize the importance of involving top shapers and designers.

Q: What is some of the best surf you’ve ridden lately and where?

A: August 10th, 2009: Witches Rock in Costa Rica. I was with Scott and David ‘Dipshit’ Yeager and Juan Chaves. It was all time, and we surfed for hours.

First_WaxI concluded my longboard search with the Robert August 9’4 “What I Ride.” I am 5’9 and 175 lbs with a fair amount of surfing experience, and I wanted something that would bridge the gap between all the characteristics you associate with a longboard, but with some flexibility for dynamic moves.

I have so far taken it out in both Hurricane Bill and Tropical Danny waves and had an absolute blast. In each case, I actually started out with my short board and switched, but then never returned back to the shorter board. Once you get a taste of the speed and distance a longboard can offer it is hard to go back. Try it!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *