What’s the Ideal Surfboard Size?
Identifying different kinds of surfboard sizes is easy, but how do you know which one best fits you? It's not just about your height and weight, but also the way that you surf is a key factor.
While we’re well aware that surfers and surfing enthusiasts would like a straight answer on this one, unfortunately, no such answer exists.
Let's take a look at the question first. So, board size; what's the best, most convenient, most sought-after, and most importantly, which board size is the best for you?
Does it depend on the weight and height of the surfer? Are certain sizes of boards more suitable for tall or heavier riders?
The fact of the matter is that an engine by itself can’t move an inch unless it’s placed in a scenario where it can be utilized to do so. Pretty much the same goes for your potential surfboard. It’s how it works in conjunction with everything else that makes it greater than the sum of its parts.
The saying of how deep the rabbit hole goes, well, this here is a prime example of it. Even though the size of your surfboard alone is relevant, it can’t be the sole factor without some context around it. But, worry not; we will consider every facet that is worthy of your attention and share our OMBE insight.
Let's get those logs in the perfect shape, shall we?
Research The Market
If you really want to dive into it, then you’ll have to know everything from surfboard measurements to surfboard length and reading the surf conditions.
Keep in mind that longer surfboards are generally more stable, but most intermediate or advanced surfers would sacrifice stability for mobility. If you want a more relaxed surf or if you’re not that experienced, you can always go for a larger board.
That being said, surfboard sizes are much like pants. They come in every dimension that you can think of. There are various different board types. Less speed means a higher fitness level.
When a rider gets a new surfboard they want to start surfing, but it’s a good idea to go through a thruster setup. A lot is also riding on your surfing ability skill level. Don’t expect to conquer the world as a novice surfer.
If you aren’t an advanced surfer, look into thinner boards, a beginner board, a bigger board— literally everything is on the table.
As we touched on above, the shape of the surfboard goes hand in hand with the length.
The board outline consists of the nose, the rails, and the tail. All of these need to come together in order to deliver a balanced product that will be able to offer an enjoyable experience.
The part of the surfboard that’s known as the nose is the third of the board that stands in front or up. Its width is one of the most crucial parameters to get right. It’s absolutely paramount when both paddling and catching waves that the board helps you do just that, and that’s where the nose comes in.
Wide nose boards perform exceptionally when on smaller waves. On the other hand, surfers that opt for narrow board noses are usually professionals that are after surgical cuts at a drop of a dime.
A general rule of thumb is that boards that feature pointy noses are geared towards competitions where time and speed are the main measuring parameters. Of course, it’s a provisory rule, and it's not something that’s required when surfers sign up for surf races.
Short surfboards that feature point noses aren’t the best when it comes to paddling and stand up paddle because they don’t provide enough stability. In turn, the rider has to compensate all the time throughout.
The parameter that’s the most on par with the actual length of the surfboard is the rails. While the nose and the tail maintain their dimensions, for the most part, the rails are the first thing to go when the board gets shorter.
The rails cover the entirety of the board and can be altered in a million ways in order to provide a tailor-made board optimized for the task at hand.
That being said, the main two types of rails across the surfer market come as either soft rails or hard rails.
Furthermore, both of them come in tapered or full formats, so there are really four main distinctions to be made.
Soft rail surfboards are usually longboards. They catch waves well, but for the most part, they lean towards the more affordable end of the spectrum.
Hard rails, on the other hand, are better suited for high-performance surfing because they feature more refined edges that go under sea level and into the water. The fact that the rails move unto the wave instead of gliding on it makes for a much more stable surf.
It’s a way to lock the board under the surface, which gives it a better response time when the pop up moment arrives. So, should you go for a hard rail or a soft rail? Well, unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer for this one either.
Remember, the thicker the rail, the more buoyancy the board has. Consequently, a board with hard rails might come off flying up in the air should the pressure take a turn. This goes for paddling as well; no one wants the ocean pushing up at them because they will have to use their core to compensate.
The bottom line is that, whatever you go with, you should always have the thickness of the board in mind. However, that’s not all that there is to consider.
Even though tapered rails are known for pulling the breaks unexpectedly, once the rail goes a bit further into the wave, it's the rail foil that will determine if the board will maintain its balance. The foil works in conjunction with how light the board is, as well as the shape, in order to deliver the best possible results.
Some of the most popular choices when it comes to foils are 80/20, 50/50, and 60/40.
Usually, soft rail surfboards come equipped with 50/50 foils, while hard rail boards feature more of an 80/20 ratio that adds to their cutting nature.
Once you’ve made a choice on a foil, then the last thing to consider is what you want from the board.
Longer rails will result in better performance and greater speeds when moving in a straight line, while curved curves are better suited for burns and cuts on the fly. In most cases, you wouldn’t want to go drastically in either direction but rather find a balance that works best for you.
The last part of the board, the one that’s probably the trickiest to get right, is the tail.
Much like in the nose department, there is an infinite amount of different surfboard tails out there. Let’s dive in.
The tail is the most important part of the board when it comes to how the board moves. Naturally, the weight of it alone doesn’t mean much on its own and can only be assessed when the shape and the structure fill out the picture.
Wider tails on longboards offer superior stability and safer turns. Narrower tails, on the other hand, are perfect for locking in and cutting through the water. The shape and the angle of the tail can work wonders when put together with the right length.
Tails that are rounder offer more control of the movements and turns, while sharp cut and angular tails make for a knife effect when faced with shorter and smaller waves.
Even though the number of tail offerings is pretty daunting, you probably won’t need to look beyond the most sought-after and utilized surfboard tails on the market.
These include the pin tail, the swallow tail, the squash tail, the round tail, the square tail, and the asymmetric tail.
The alpha of surfboard tails, the squash tail features round edges are usually the default option for beginners and suffers after a balanced experience. The back of the squash tails is square-shaped, which makes slower waves a breeze to ride.
Enter the square tail. The sharp edges of the square tail make for added release when moving in a straight line.
This type of tail used to be very popular back in the day, but the surfing world has moved on from it because it’s not the best when it comes to maneuvering and delivering acrobatics.
It’s regarded as the old man’s surf.
There is one word that comes to mind when discussing round tail boards, and that’s support. Round tails are a joy to ride because they offer continuity and hold themselves in place without the need for much extra corrections or compensation.
You’ll be able to get all the lift that you need when facing a difficult wave.
Pin tails were designed from the ground up to tackle steep and giant waves. As the name suggests, pin tails waves will hold the board down more than any other tail out there. Long live the hollow surf!
Swallow tails make for an excellent choice for surfers that want to retain their speed while changing directions.
This type of tail also provides good support on steep waves, but they are not as easy to control when moving from rail to rail.
Finally, the asymmetrical tail makes sense for boards with long wail lines that aren’t identical in shape.
Why? Well, because some spots are known for delivering a constant feed of right-handed or left-handed waves.
This makes for an excellent choice if the surfer is dead set on a location and gets a board specifically tailored for a certain type of wave. Asymmetrical trails and asymmetrical surfboard sizes provide a lot more distinction between the toe and heel sides, so in essence, they have a lot of predetermined parameters.
This type isn’t a great choice as a first surfboard, but it can come in quite handy and deliver outstanding results when utilized in the right circumstances.
As you might have guessed, the length, shape, and size of the fins on a surfboard are of utmost importance. After all, they are the parts of the board that cut the deepest.
It doesn't matter if you are a beginner surfer or an experienced veteran, the wrong fin setup will make you exert unnecessary energy and overcompensate at every turn. Advanced riders will try out a couple of board choices and fin setups before landing on a board selection.
The surfboard thickness and the fin setup are what make or break a surfboard. For the most part, surfboards feature five different fin setups:
The original surfboard design comes with a lone single fin that still holds its own on longboards. The extended length of the board paired with the one fin makes for much less traction and an overall relaxed feel.
If you aren’t looking to pull crazy stunts and are generally interested in going really quick in straight lines and not overcompensating with your body all the time, then the single fin setup is the one you want.
Nevertheless, there are more facets to consider. The placement and the materials of which the fin is made can and will make a huge difference.
If the fin is played more towards the front of the board, the ride becomes looser, while setting it as far back as it can go will result in better stability and control.
Twin fins have become a staple on shorter boards that are designed to be spun until the wheels fall off.
This setup is perfect for tricks and flips because the control that the twin fin setup offers is second to none. However, they do have their shortcomings on longer boards.
The go-to setup for most surfers nowadays is the tri fin setup. Why? Well, as surfing has evolved, it has gone more and more extreme by the decade.
This means that riders were pulling more outrageous stunts in order to one up each other.
What’s the main parameter for insane stunts? While stability, of course. If the two fin setup made it a lot easier for riders to maneuver their boards, the added third fin grounded the board and made room for the next unseen flip and cut.
Most of the time, surfers will have the outer two fins facing the center of the board in order to get even better tracking.
What’s better than three fins? Four of, course. The quad fin design makes for exceptional control when paired with the shortest of boards.
The setup is basically lightning in a bottle because it allows for quicker acceleration and can cut through smaller waves like a hot knife through butter.
The five fin board setup is sort of the Swiss knife of fins. This setup allows for the best customization.
Before you place all your fins in the open spots, please take note that no one surfs with all of the fins attached to the board because it will just make a mess and probably considerably slow you down.
The open spots are there for customization. This way surfers are able to mix and match setups before they arrive to their dream preferences.
The best part? Well, depending on the weather and the surf, you are able to switch up your setup at any time.
Surfboards come in as many shapes as you can think of. Every single aspect and part of the board is critical when it comes to performance.
There is an endless number of combinations and permutations, but some shapes have struck a core fan base for a reason.
This is the shape most people think of when they’re asked to draw a surfboard. Longboards are well suited for beginners because they’re very stable and make for a great paddle.
So how long are longboards exactly?
Well, it all depends if they are made for kids or adults. That being said, the length of the longboard is not what makes it a longboard; it’s the rounded nose and the square tail.
The round front end provides extra stability and overcomes small waves with ease, while the square tail allows for easy, low-resistance turns.
Even though shortboards have graced the market for over fifty years now, they’re still treated as the new and innovative surfboards on the block.
The shorter the surface, the less resistance and traction it will come across. Nevertheless, this will come at a price on the stability end.
Featuring pointy narrow noses and various tail combos, shortboards make for maximum control. The minimal amount of board lift, as well as buoyancy, might be ideal for maneuvers, but they do make it a lot more challenging to catch and board a wave.
A square tail goes well with shortboards because it compensates for the loss of stability and grounds the board. However, adrenaline surfers will want to go for the round tail ends and take on unprecedented turns and flips.
Stand-Up Paddle Boards
Stand-up paddle exploded on the surf scene with the turn of the millennium and brought a whole different side of surfing out in the mainstream.
As you probably guessed, these are the most stable boards on the market because they are designed for both feet to be facing forward. Much like longboards, they come equipped with big round noses and square tails.
Fish boards feature shallow tails and are best suited for riders that know what they are doing.
Although, they are not ideal for every scenario. If quick turns on medium-sized waves is your forte, then the fish board is probably the one that you should get.
It’s been no secret that, in modern times, the sizes of the surfboards that have graced the market are getting smaller and smaller by the year.
Nowadays, surfers usually like to go as short as possible without sacrificing performance. But how short is too short?
Short surfboards are not a new thing; they have been around for decades. It’s the technology around their size that has allowed for short boards to retain their performance even when cutting back on a few inches.
Once Kelly Slater rode the Pipe wave on a 5’10 more than a decade ago, the 7-foot giants took a big hit on sales across the globe.
Oftentimes, shorter comes in tow with wider, or thicker, or both. A whole slew of new and experimental board shapes and sizes has exploded on the market, making deciding on the right surfboard all but impossible.
Once you find a board that you’re comfortable in terms of volume and have familiarised yourself with the nose, tail, and rails, you might want to take a look at the overall outline.
The overall shape makes a big difference in how the different parts of it come together.
Most surfers will be familiar with three main outlines; ones that feature a parallel outline, more of a curved outline, and a hybrid between the two.
All of these are widely available and can be found at various surf outlets. Now that you know the types, let’s put them under the microscope.
Parallel outline boards are all over the place. Longboards have them, and shortboards have them.
The term parallel is not used in a literal sense here because if you take the time to imagine a completely parallel board it will look more like a plank than a board so, the term parallel is applied to boards that do not feature exaggerated curves.
So, usually, long and straight rail boards fill this category.
Parallel outlines are great for surfers that enjoy going downhill. Because the board is more inclined with the surface of the wave it can pick up more speed.
The parallel rails make it easier for the rider to retain their balance when standing in the middle of the board. The more they move to the back, the harder their turns will be.
Remember, the higher you keep the nose, the more speed you’re bound to get.
Curved outline boards feature long curves that spread out throughout their full length. Usually, they can be found on shorter boards, as well as some hybrid boards.
Flat rocker boards that feature curved outlines are excellent for picking up speed in short-distance runs.
Some of the most notable offerings when it comes to curved outline boards is the SUPER quadrophenia, which features full-on curved outlines with a low rocker that pushes the board down, making it one of the most popular choices.
The Polyphonic is another great choice for surfers that are looking to throw a bit of weight around and go for a larger board in general.
Same as the SUPER quadrophenia, the Polyphonic features a low-rise rocker that pushes the board further down the wave.
The hybrid boards are for those that like certain features of both. However, if they don’t feel like committing to either, curved outlines make sense.
The hybrid type of board is pretty utilitarian and can be curved in a plethora of shapes. Usually, hybrid surfboards feature curves up the nose.
The rails stand in parallel in order to provide surfers with the best acceleration on straight line dives.
Finally, we can get to the thick of it. Well, as long as your feet fit on it, it’s still a surfable board, so who’s to say what’s too short? Acclaimed riders Jamie O'Brien and Julian Wilson have adopted the 58-inch surfboard as their default board of choice and have pushed it far and beyond its perceived limits.
So please, by all means, go as short as you’d like with your board and take full advantage of those quick cuts.
An important aspect to consider in conjunction with the length are the surfboard pins. If they are rounded, they add a whole nother dimension to the surfing experience.
By taking this route, riders are able to maintain balance easily, even in hollow surfs.
Like anything else, there are all-rounders or versatile boards that cover a lot of ground in terms of types of waves that they’re good for, and there are also boards that lean towards a certain type of wave.
That being said, the definition of short is different across the board. For someone that stands at 7 feet, 6’ 2’’ is probably a very short board.
Because not everyone was immediately sold to the concept of super short boards, the market gave way to a new breed of boards, known as hybrid boards. This way, surfers could have the best of both worlds.
What Size Surfboard Is the Best?
It all comes down to performance and outlines. Long and giant boards just aren’t as sexy. Smaller surfboards, for the most part, are easier to maneuver, store, and carry.
So why saddle yourself with a boat keel when you can make do without a rocker.
The short size and width also make for a point forward board that makes paddling a lot easier and more manageable than what it used to be.
Have you ever tried backing a car from a garage without a servo automatic steering wheel? Same thing.
Believe it or not, when the surfboard first came along, there were no precise measures of how one should look. Literally no one knew what the volume of their board was, and for the most part, no one was scared.
This all changed when surfers were given the option to pick and choose. With the advent of computers and the exponential rise of technology came Computer Assisted Design, or CAD. This way, manufacturers could preview their products before signing a machine to route them out.
For the first time, surfers could have anything and everything they wanted in a board down to the last coat of lacquer.
That being said, beginner surfers don’t really know what they are after, so instead of calling in and ordering measurements, it's usually the manufacturer's job to label the products in regard to surfer age, surfer weight, height, etc.
Professional suffers are extremely meticulous about the volume that their board takes because even the slightest of imperfections can lead to a loss of performance.
Of course, there is no such thing as the perfect surfboard, but most professional surfers are chasing perfection on their own terms.
Finding the Right Volume
Most beginners and even intermediate surfers believe that the measurements of a board are enough to get what they are looking for; however, that’s not the case.
The foam and how it’s distributed throughout is just as important.
Because novice surfers stick to smaller waves and favorable surf conditions, the new board measurements shouldn't be too crazy in any direction.
Yes, trying out different boards will narrow things down, but the fact of the matter is that no one can try every product out there, so instead, surfers should turn to surfboard volume calculators and then take to trying out boards on the beach.
The Best Beginner Board
Is there such a thing as the best surfboard? Beginner surfers should keep in mind that there is no such thing as the perfect board. Different body types and different surfing conditions warrant different tools for the task at hand.
The equipment that a beginner chooses makes the verdict if they will pursue surfing for the rest of their lives or stop and take up something else.
But how do you know what you need if you have no prior knowledge or experience in surfing and surfboards? Well, the key is to always be vigilant and take note of things as they come your way. Does the board feel balanced, or are you constantly using your muscles to compensate? Is the movement too relaxed or difficult to maneuver?
Try out as many surfboards as humanly possible. Don’t discard a board because it might seem too big or too small for you. In time you will find a base that suits you well and then experiment on it in order to fine-tune it to perfection.
Construction and Materials
There are riders that only use boards made of certain materials and construction types because they believe that they add to the board’s ability to perform. But does the construction of a board really change its volume?
There are two main camps when it comes to differently constructed boards; the EPS and Epoxy surfboards, which have more of a floaty feeling when a rider is on top of a wave, and the polyurethane and polyester or PU, which have a sturdier feel.
Same board, same dimensions, same volume, different construction lead to different results? Apparently so. This is not to say that one is better than the other, but the weight of the board will fall differently at different points and angles of the wave.
Do you prefer a little more weight on tough weather days, or would you rather have the lightest construction for the given dimensions? Maths for days.
There is one rule that reigns supreme above all others. If it feels right, go with it; if something about your board feels wrong or difficult, then it’s the wrong one. Things can get as complicated or simple as you want them to.
A Few Words Before You Go…
As you’re probably well aware by now, there is no one set board size that will pertain to every customer out there.
If we’ve learned anything from the surf community by now, it’s that this will keep changing and evolving. What we can say for sure is that board size is not a one-and-done affair.
Different surfers will have different preferences, but it’s always great to expand on your horizons and, every once in a while, go for a board that will bring out something new in the way that you approach the surf.
Folks that shape boards have to take a whole world of knowledge into account in order to arrive at a multi-functional board that will work well at different sizes.
Now, you’re equipped with a good deal of board size knowledge as well. After this article, maybe the stock offerings of surfboards just won’t cut it for you anymore.
Maybe it’s time for your first custom-designed board. Just imagine what a more skilled surfer can do with the right surfboard. Every surfer has a go-to board. That allows for more speed at less compensation.
The perfect board is the board that fits you.