It's long been conventional wisdom in the surf world that shortboards are for hotdogging while longboards are for real soul surfing – the closest tradition we have to the original curl cruisers, the early Hawaiians. The problem is that longboards are, well, large and long: Not only are they often taller than you, but they're also quite wide and consistently straight for most of their length. Try turning on one of them, not to show off, but just to stay with a temperamental wave, and you'll quickly learn that this is no easy task. This age-old shortcoming is being ably challenged, though, by award-winning surfboard designer Thomas Meyerhoffer. "I wanted a longboard which turned better but still kept its drive and speed," says Meyerhoffer. "I experimented with many shapes and ended up with a board that has a very uncharacteristic outline, with sidecuts that let the board rock from rail to rail." The result is the most original and successful attempt at solving the problem, dubbed the Meyerhoffer 2 Evolution: a curvy hybrid that's longboard-length, but still offers shortboard agility.
The Evolution's design is a complex marvel. It's not only widest where you stand, giving you a lot of control, but convex like a hull in the middle on its bottom and then double concave (meaning concave on its top and bottom) in the back, leaving the front of the board the narrowest section. "It's just like on a speedboat," explains Meyerhoffer. "The front touches the water the least, the planing area gets smaller the faster you go, and the side cut makes for a shorter rail and smaller surface area in the water, forcing the wave to stay behind you." In lay-surfer's terms, you can turn on a dime aboard a nine-and-a-half footer and still keep a strong sense of grip in bigger waves, a feat traditionally difficult with longboards, which turn about as well as "a super-wide ski," according to Meyerhoffer.
More impressively, experts can nose-ride the front of the board with great stability, and yet the board is still a perfectly good option for novices who need to start with the basics. That said, we'd still caution you to watch your speed, because this stick really moves from your first paddle. And you'll want to practice with it on ripples before taking on anything sizable – like, say, the big waves of Oahu's Sunset Beach, where a well-known pro who must remain nameless is currently using it to great delight. On a more practical level, the smartly tailored board, which surfing legend Kelly Slater has publicly complimented, is still priced on par with traditional longboards. "It doesn't cost anything extra to use less material," says Meyerhoffer. [$925–$1,025; meyerhoffersurf.com]