I'm pretty much over trying to make the call about the bottom end dimensions for my stand up boards. Once upon a time, I popped off saying that I didn't really see any reason to go below 10'. Now my long board stando, the one I pull out when it's small and gutless, is only a couple inches longer than that. As our skills improved (meaning our balance got a whole hell of a lot better) we started wondering if we could loosen the things up a little bit. It was inevitable that we'd want smaller, more maneuverable boards.
What's happened is that we (we? I should really say, the shapers) figured out how to move the foam around to create small, yet surprisingly stable stand up boards. Sub 9' (and now even sub 8' or 7') stand up boards are now fairly common. If you've got the waves to power them up, you'll eventually want a smaller stick. My advice? Try before you buy. Surprisingly, the small board isn't a freak anymore. If you're ready to push your limits there are many choices out there.
Best of all are the hand made, custom boards. These will always be at the bloody end of the pointed stick of stando development. Us big guys benefit hugely from the research and design that these guys are doing. The results are boards available that will work if you're solidly in the two hundred plus range. The boards are designed and shaped by craftsmen who know how to blend the necessary volume into a small package. Sure you could hack out a sub-8', rounded version of Sponge Bob, paddle it around and even catch a wave or two but does the thing feel and move like a surfboard? Or is it just a fat disc of foam, more of a freak show than a purposeful surfing craft?
I am solidly in the sub 9' camp now- a true believer ever since I've started surfing this curvy little 8'6 mind blower that Stamps put together for me. The board isn't just a quiver filler- it's not a specialized tool to be used only under glassy conditions- this one might just become my go-to board, it's that fun to surf. Performance points include: on demand speed (a product of that wide tail), positive hold off the bottom and nice drive down the line (provided you run the right fin configuration- think big, wide twin fin outlines and a slightly bigger box fin). Off the top, the board is snappy and, with a little extra rocker in the front half (thanks Stamps!) the board is not prone to stuffing itself on the re-entry. I'm super excited to get this thing down south into some warm, blue Southern Baja surf; my winter time proving grounds with a girl who's ready to run. I'll keep you posted!