Volume of a Surfboard
The board's most important element is its volume. This article will help us understand why it is important to know your surfboard's volume and how it affects the way you surf.
Like all niches, surfing has its own jargon and terminology. For those who are aspiring to be surfers or even for novice surfers who want to acquaint themselves with surfing by doing some reading first, the jargon might sometimes be confusing and that can result in some put-offs. Therefore, in our experience, demystifying the air by offering clearcut explanations on the terms are a very important part of surf coaching.
The surfboard volume is one of those terms that has the potential to confuse newcomers. What is it? How important is it when choosing a board? How can I calculate my surfboard's volume? Will getting it right help me catch waves more easily?
Well, let's try to answer these questions, so you're as informed as you can be when you're purchasing a surfboard.
How to Calculate Surfboard Volume
Surfboard volume is calculated the same way a volume of any three-dimensional object is calculated: on the basis of length, width, and thickness in terms of cubic litres. With rectangular objects, it's easy. You just multiply them and you get the volume.
However, surfboard dimensions are not similar to that of a perfect cube. There are more details in a surfboard that you need to address when calculating its volume: curves, convexes, and concaves. You might have two surfboards with similar dimensions, but they might have very different volumes due to their curves. So, how do you calculate the volume of such an object?
Well, a traditional method is putting the board in a bathtub filled up with water to the brim and seeing how much water it displaces. The volume of the displaced water is roughly equal (or similar) to your surfboard's volume. However, it's an outdated method that can never give a perfect number.
Nowadays, most surfboards come with their volumes written on their webpages or on their packaging. So, unless you ended up with a board that mysteriously appeared on your doorstep and doesn't have any technical specifications written on it, you won't need to calculate it by yourself.
But you can still ask how the boardshapers are calculating the volume of the surfboards they produce and how you can be sure about it. The answer is quite predictable: technology. Nowadays, the calculation of a board is handled mostly by computer software, unless your shaper needs to make a case for being a traditionalist.
You can also easily find an online surfboard volume calculator if you look hard enough. But, let us tell you that they can only give approximate numbers, too, as they don’t know the curves of your board to the point.
Why Is Volume Important?
Beginner surfers might sometimes get too hung up on the ratio of their surfboard to their body weight, and they think that they're going to catch more waves if they get that ratio perfectly right with less or more volume. First, let's do away with that assumption since that is not always the case. Instead, let us give you a realistic idea about surfboard volume's importance.
Knowing the surfboard volume is important not because it needs to be a perfect match to surfers' weight, but because it makes catching or riding waves easier depending on the skill level of the surfer and the quality of the wave they need/want to ride.
If you're a beginner, you need to ride weak waves to learn basics such as how to stand in balance or how to paddle out into the ocean with less effort. So for novices, a bigger board with a higher volume will be the choice for you as it won't transfer the wave's movement to your body, so you won't wobble and it'll float more easily. So, the surfer's weight doesn't actually play a major role here.
If you're an advanced surfer, on the other hand, you'll want to ride bigger waves and the key to riding big waves is feeling their energy. For that, you need a surfboard that can provide good feedback to you so that you can adjust your knees, hips, and upper body accordingly. Then, a smaller board with a lower volume will suit your purpose better.
These two surfers might have the same weight, but the volume of the boards they'll ride will inevitably be quite different. Similarly, a heavier surfer doesn't always have to ride bigger boards and vice versa. The perfect surfboard volume for you depends more on your skill level and the type of waves you want to ride.
The Relationship Between the Surfboard Volume and Skill Level
Without proper surf coaching about the relationship between the surfboard volume and your level in the surfing journey, you'd just go and calculate surfboard volume in what passes as the perfect weight-to-volume ratio. Rest assured that it's not a major surfing sin, but it might be a giant block in your progress.
How? Well, there's a tendency among young surfers: they see legends like Kelly Slater or Mick Fanning ride short boards shaped like a potato, interpret this as a trend, and jump on one. Yet, the waves they surf are small, flat, and mellow ones. So, to generate speed on these waves, inexperienced surfers start wobbling on their surfboards, trying to do quick turns left and right, changing rail like an iPhone, and in the end, they cannot learn how to maintain a balanced stance.
Having boards that are not suitable to the wave, no matter its length or width, presents an obstacle for you to develop the correct technique. However, if you start learning on big, long, and thick boards, you'll spare energy paddling, catch waves more easily, generate speed without shaking and waving on the board, and grasp what balance really means.
When you go rail to rail by doing quick turns on flat waves, you might be feeling like you're killing it, and you might get intoxicated by your performance. You might even think to yourself: "Well, is this what my surf coach was sweating about? There's nothing to it. They'll see how I pulled it off and think that I'm a wunderkind."
Get ready for the frowns that'll cloud the whole shoreline for you. You didn't only lack the proper technique, but also the style expected from a surfer - especially from one who makes board decisions inspired by Kelly! Just have a look at our own Anthony's experience with boards in his quiver, and you'll understand.
The surfing world is not without its sins and that's especially the case for someone who's trying to enter that world by surfing websites first. When you start reading, you'll see some terminology that doesn't really amount to anything but takes space nonetheless.
Like, the question whether you're a goofy-footed or a regular-footed surfer. As long as you find your balanced stance, maintain it by compressing and extending your knees and keeping your upper body straight, and have hand-eye coordination, why should it matter which foot goes front and which one goes back?
The volume question is somewhat similar. The buoyancy of your surfboard by itself doesn't matter at all. What really matters is how buoyant you feel on the board. In the end, finding the right surfboard is a process of trial and error. The kind of board on which you are not struggling to balance yourself, you are effortlessly capable of turning, and most importantly, you are having the most fun is the right one for you no matter the volume.