The Mini-Mal surfboard (shortened from Mini Malibu), comes from the Malibu surfboards that were very popular throughout the city in California during the 1960s.
The original Malibu boards were a lot like longboards, though a bit narrower with pulled in noses and tail sections that made them more maneuverable.
They were made this way to surf Malibu’s famous right hand breaks.
One of the first ever Malibu boards is held at the Smithsonian, and is called “Velzy”, named after its creator, Dale Velzy.
The board is made of Balsa wood with a fiberglass surface and a single 10-inch fin. Some called it the “Chip” because of its shape and design.
Because it was so light and easy to carry, many girl surfers began using it.
In California, the “Chip” really propelled surfing boom in the 1960s, as the sport turned into more of a gender neutral thing.
These boards made it possible to perform famous maneuver like “Hang Tens” and “Soul Arches”.
The issue with Malibu Boards is that they were too big for some women, children, and smaller men.
To fix that problem, Malibu manufacturers began shortening their ratios to create what we now know as the Mini-Mal.
How Did These Boards Become So Popular?
While surfing was introduced to Australians in 1915, the idea of modern surfing didn’t arrive to the isolated country until the mid-1950s. A group of Californian surfers arrived with their Malibu boards and began shredding the Australian waters. Aussie surfers had never seen anyone maneuver on a surfboard that way and needed to be in on the action.
It was then that some local Aussie surfers purchased the boards from the touring Californians, and began to analyze them closely. Many tried to mimic the design of the boards. The biggest issue was that these Malibu boards were made from balsa wood, a wood that was not very present in Australia. With a tweak in design and a new foundation of plywood, Malibu boards soon went into mass production and were then apart of two of the biggest surfing destinations in the world.
So What Is a Mini-Mal Exactly?
Mini-Mals are essentially a combination of longboards and shortboards and are made to incorporate the best of both worlds. With lengths between 7’ and 8’6”, wide noses, tons of volume, and shortboard setups, these boards were meant for beginners who hadn’t quite moved up to the Malibu ranks, or those who couldn’t handle the large size of a traditional Malibu.
Why did the Mini-Mal catch on?
For starters, Mini Mals were perfect for beginners. They’re easy to paddle, easy to catch waves on, and provide the same stability as a longboard without the issue of size. If you’re just beyond beginner, and have maybe started off on a longboard, these are excellent boards to transition to shortboards on.
Secondly, they are very versatile boards. Even experienced surfers can have tons of fun on these boards just like the Malibu surfers of back in the day had. Because of the reduced size, you can get a lot more control and maneuverability on bigger days.
Lastly, they’re much lighter and easier to transport than longboards or Malibus. If you couldn’t haul those logs around, or didn’t have the proper vehicle to transport them to the beach, you were pretty much out of luck. Think of beaches like Trestles where you have to walk a few miles just get to the shoreline. Mini-Mals made that transportation much more practical.
Why Should I Add a Mini-Mal to My Quiver?
Mini-Mals are excellent boards for small days. For days that make it near impossible to take shortboards out, Mini-Mals can come in handy. Many of us aren’t fortunate enough to have swells almost every day of the week. If you’re one of those many, get a Mini-Mal and have some fun.
Mini-Mals can now be found all around the world and are probably the most popular in surf training camps. If you’re just getting into the world of surfing and are planning on taking lessons, there’s no doubt that you’ll end up on one of these eventually, most likely one that’s a soft-top.
We hope you enjoyed our brief history of Mini-Mals and feel free to check out our other board history articles!