The surfer’s quiver - a.k.a. his or her armory of surfboards - is much like the handyman’s toolbox. Like the handyman, who must carefully select the right tool, the surfer must be selective when deciding which board to choose from his or her quiver. And if either the handyman or the surfer chooses the wrong instrument for the job, they’ll find themselves unfit to execute it, whether that means being unable to catch a wave or tighten an iron bolt.
It is for this reason that surfers, handymen, and other individuals whose hobby or line of work requires specialized equipment are often over prepared, even when only a select few of their devices are commonly used. In the case of surfing, this hyper-preparedness causes surfers to collect surfboards with hoarder-like obsessiveness, when in reality only a few trusty boards are required to appease the many moods of the sea.
A professional surfer’s quiver is composed of an uncountable amount of surfboards, mainly because pros are constantly handed free boards. Everyone else has to purchase their water sleds through retailers or previous owners. While our surfboard collections will probably never equal those of professional surfers like Pat O'Connell, who explained to Surfline that he used 48 surfboards in one month, outlets like Craigslist and second-hand sport shops that offer cheap surfboards are contributing to the frivolous trend of overbuying. Despite what you think you need, or what consumerism is causing you to think you need, the common surfer’s quiver doesn’t need to be any larger than four surfboards.
The first surfboard of an ideal four board quiver is the most important board of them all. This board should be your standard surfboard, meaning the sled you use the most. The surfboard will ideally be in the best condition of the four, and will be most useful for your home break’s average wave conditions (effective ~70% of the time). When choosing a standard board, try to select a surfboard with diverse dimensions. You want this board to be reasonably thick for waves that are smaller than usual, but responsive for waves that are bigger. All in all, your standard surfboard should be your go to, so make sure that it's a board you’re familiar with and love to ride.
The second board of a four board quiver should be a big-wave board. It is important to mention, though, that “big-wave” is a very relative term. For those residing in Half Moon Bay, a big-wave board might be a 10’ gun for when Mavericks rolls through. For New Jerseyan surfers, however, a big-wave board might simply be a sled that is a little longer and more maneuverable than their standard surfboard, for when the 10’ waves arrive in the winter. Having a longer surfboard for big days will make paddling easier, and will increase stability when you need it most.
Antithetical to your second, big-wave surfboard, it is important to have a surfboard in your four board quiver for smaller waves. These boards are most useful on those bright, sunny days when the waves are thigh high, and peeling slowly. There are many options when seeking a small-wave board, like the common fish, hybrid, foam top, or longboard. Small-wave boards are a fun option to add to your quiver, and can be used on bigger days, too, if you aren’t feeling your big-wave board or standard board. On the other hand, with a small-wave surfboard in your toolbox, you’ll never have to deal with the torment of trying to surf small waves with a small surfboard ever again.
The last surfboard necessary in a four board quiver is a backup standard board. Why, you ask? Didn’t he just speak badly of excessive overprepardeness, you ask? Well, if you’re going to be overprepared, having one extra standard board is the way to go about it. Assuming that your standard board will be your most used surfboard, that board will receive the most damage in the form of dings, creases, or a clean snap in two. In instances like these, it is extremely useful to have a replacement for your standard surfboard on deck. While it is possible to use your small-wave or big-wave board as a replacement, most of the time these surfboards will not do, and unless you have $600 to blow at the surf shop the next morning, the swell will pass you by as you're scrambling for another surfboard. No matter the circumstance, it is always wise to have a secondary “go-to” surfboard.
Whether you’re new to surfing or not, the four board quiver system is a great way to manage the amount of surfboards you own and store. If you have far too many surfboards, perhaps this article will inspire you to sell them, filling your pockets with a fresh wad of crispy Benjamins. Or, if you’re new to surfing, perhaps this article will serve as a valuable surfboard shopping reference, helping you to avoid falling for consumer ploys and saving you a few of those Benjamins. Either way, I shouldn’t have to try too hard to convince you that going through 48 surfboards in one month, as surfer Pat O’Connell did, is a complete and utter waste of time, money, and material. To use what you need and nothing more is the most sustainable way to go about living, and this minimalist code applies to surfing like anything else.
In the end, the amount of surfboards you own is your business and your business alone, but remember that many surfers get by with four or less surfboards not because they’re humble or cheap, but because they’re functionalists who see no reason or cause for more. Surfing is the exploration of nature by interacting with the ocean. This is a simple phenomenon. Let’s not make things complicated by focusing too much on the surfboard as an object, and not enough on the astounding activity that it allows us to perform.