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Myths of the Mid-Length: Modern surfing’s most controversial ride

Do they deserve the hate? A chat with Harry Reid, a mid-length dabbler.

Recently the mid-length surfboard has been derided by some as the scourge of the surfing world. Owners of the sharp-railed, wide-nosed shooters have been greeted like COVID-infected Volvo drivers in lineups around the globe. Some short-board fascists have even used the net as a platform to boast about the pleasure they have derived from burning surfers riding the semi-popular pseudo-logs. So are mid-lengths really an abomination of foam and fiberglass or an opportunity to experience a distinctive and rewarding surfing sensation?

We spoke briefly to ride-everything aficionado, Harry Reid, who occasionally enjoys the glide of his 7’8″ Gato Heroi, Jungle Acid model.

Firstly, what would you classify as a mid-length?
I would classify a mid-length as shorter than 8’6” or 8’7” and bigger than around 7’0”… somewhere between there.

In terms of surfing one, what’s the attraction?
It’s essentially like a longboard that you throw around. You can step up on it; using the forward part of the board is really beneficial. You can transfer the weight forward and get the board into a really nice trim, and you’ve just got a platform to work with, which I really like. And also paddling on to waves is just so straightforward.

How do they perform in the tube?
Amazing. I reckon they go really well in the tube. I mean depending on what shape you ride. I usually like to ride them real flat and with real knifey rails and obviously with one fin.

Harry utilising the forward trim in the tube. Photo: Edward Mulvihill

Are they inspired by any particular era or are they a modern take on a particular period or type of board?
The mid-lengths I ride are a modern sort of take on a mid-length. Pretty modern, 50-50 rails the whole way through and real flat rocker – maybe 1 ½ inches in the nose and 2 inches in the tail. It’s definitely about taking that 60s pig outline and shrinking it down a bit. Like a 9’4” pig outline and then shrinking it down. I usually ride them with a pin-tail.  *    

What Conditions do you typically ride your mid-length in?
Anything from two-foot to four foot or head-high… Ideally, you want a bit of wall and clean conditions… if you get a clean face then – especially on a single fin – the transition from rail to rail just becomes so smooth. It’s a rock (side to side) you know as opposed to something with a ton of pivot.    

How do you actually ride one?
It’s rail to rail – heal to toe. Toe off the bottom and then back on to the heel…

It’s all about trimming, I guess to ride it really well and feel them like how they’re meant to be ridden and to get into that trim you really need to move up the board. You can’t just be on the back of it, you’ve got to move forward. That’s sort of the essence of them. In order to be able to get into a good trim, generate speed, and make sections, you need to step forward and if you don’t you are sort of under-utilising the board.

Everyone gets hung up on performance, but is half the fun just about experiencing a different sensation?
Definitely. It’s a dance. Like longboarding, you know. It’s just a different style of dance. Like all surfboards, you have to adjust your style to suit the board.

Have you had had any grief for riding your mid-length or experienced any kind of discrimination?
I’ve definitely heard about it. I reckon the way to combat that is as soon as you go out in the surf, you pre-empt that and then you make the first move by saying ‘Hi’.

*Natural Rockers are written in number of inches that the tip of the nose and tip of the tail rise from the bottom plane of the blank.

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