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Are you Surfing the Wrong Board

How Surfboard Volume is changing the industry

Lately, you will notice more and more shapers and surfers using Volume Metrics and Surfboard Volume Calculators to really dial in their equipment.

Since Computer Assisted Design (CAD) Programs have started to be used by more and more surfboard shapers, everyone has begun to realise that Volume is one of the most crucial elements when dialing in the perfect board for a surfer’s age, ability and the type of waves they will be surfing.

Elite level surfers like Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater and Steph Gilmore can feel the difference in as little as .5 Liter change in their equipment. At this level of surfing, even half a liter can really impact surfing performance especially on step up boards.

A beginner may not even understand or take into consideration the volume of a surfboard, but when they are struggling just to paddle into waves while their friends are riding all the way to the beach, they’ll will quickly find out how important the right equipment can be.

The wrong equipment can make or break someone’s decision to stick with surfing and shows how important it is even for beginners to get the right starter surfboard size.

So, how do you determine the right volume for you?

Darren Handley of DHD Surfboards and Mick Fanning checking surfboards
Mick and Darren checking out their DHD Surfboards handy-work.

Knowing Your Surfboard Volume

There are many factors that come into play when determining the right volume for your surfboards. Age, ability, frequency and the type of waves you generally surf all play important roles in finding the right surfboard volume.

The external measurements of a board are great to know, but it’s the distribution of the foam throughout the outline that will impact the volume and the performance of your surfboard.

Knowing your volume will help to determine the right equipment for you no matter the level of surfing you are at. Fortunately these days there are many surfboard volume calculators and volume charts that have been developed to help you determine what volume is best for you. Lots of these volume calculators however, can be pretty general and only really take your weight into consideration.

What happens if there are other factors involved?

Advanced calculators like the Board Engine, can take your age, fitness level, surfing ability, type of waves and style of board you prefer all into consideration.

When you think about it it’s pretty obvious. If you have two people, both 180cm and 75kg but one of them is 25 and the other is 60, they probably shouldn’t be surfing the same board. Any surfboard volume calculator should then take this information into consideration.

Finding the Volume of a Surfboard and the Use of CAD programs

In days gone past, volume was considered, but rarely ever measured. You used to just feel the rails and throw the board under your arm to get an idea of how she was going to float.

Lots of people still swear by this and for the most part, it’s still a good system. If you have some surfing experience, you will always be able to use the feel test to know to some degree how that board will perform for you.

The use of CAD programs have allowed shapers to easily find and refine a surfboard’s volume without going through the painstaking and sometimes inaccurate method of using a displacement tank to do so. This makes it easier to dial in ones equipment for optimal performance. As noted above, an advanced surfer can feel the difference in as little as .5L change in volume.

So, now that we can calculate and refine the volume of a surfboard with relative ease, we have to consider how the volume relates to the surface area, outline and distribution of foam through a board.

Dan MacDonald of DMS Surfboards hand-shaping surfboards
Dan MacDonald of DMS Surfboards showing his skills.

Volume and the Shape of a Board

Just because your surfboard looks bigger, that doesn’t mean it floats better. A 6’2 standard shortboard could very well have less volume than a 5’4 groveler.

Take two boards with similar dimensions.

Let’s say both are 5'9 x 19"1/2 wide (at widest point) and 2"3/8 thick (at thickest point). Board number 1 is a pin tail, while board number 2 has a wider tail. Likewise, board number 1 has a refined, pulled in nose, while board number 2’s nose is rounder. You’re going to find that board number 2 is going to have significantly more volume than board number 1 because of it’s shape.

lost surfboard volume comparison Mini Driver vs The RV
Board Comparison: Lost Surfboards Mini Driver on the left and The RV on the right.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that one board is better for you than the other.

Board number 1 is likely to be a performance shortboard - similar models include the Emery Steroid Step Up, Hammo Pro Series R2, or the Stacey MC - and it's going to do very well in steep, hollow waves.

Board number 2 is most likely more of a grovel board - similar to the Misfit Sinister Kid, Panda Bear Essentials, or the JR Slab Maiden - and will be a blast on a softer wave with less push.

Figuring out the right volume for you will be a combination of the dimensions of the board, and the volume combined with surface area of the board, all in relation to your age, ability, fitness level and the types of waves you generally surf.

You can’t just stick with one volume and have all your boards shaped around it. In good quality waves, too much volume will mean you sacrifice performance. Yes you will be able to paddle into the wave with ease, but it will be difficult to set your rail and transition from rail to rail.

In this case you may find you get more out of surfing something like a DHD Ducks Nuts or a Matt Penn Magic Black.

Likewise, in softer, less powerful waves, if your board has too little volume you may be sacrificing wave count. You may even find that your board bogs or sinks into the wave.

In these kind of waves you’ll find a mush machine like the Lost Puddle Jumper or the Pyzel Rat Skull could be your best option.

You have to find the happy balance for the type of equipment and waves you surf.

Construction and Materials

different surfboard construction types
The boys from the left: DMS Actor, Haydenshapes Hypto Krypto, SUPER Fling, Gary McNeill Six Bliss, DHD Jack Freestone DX1.

There is a lot of speculation that construction of a surfboard can change the volume. People claim the EPS and Epoxy boards 'float' more on the water and you feel more on top of the wave compared to a standard Polyurethane and Polyester.

While the verdict still seems to be out on the subject, both styles of boards remain popular for different reasons. My epoxy boards are definitely lighter compared to my poly boards, but does that actually mean they float more?

Do you think the CAD program or the displacement tank really knows the difference between the two constructions?

The thing to remember is that while the volumes are going to be the same (or damn close) between the two constructions, your performance will be different. Remember, this has nothing to do with the volume of your board, but rather, the weight of the board.

You’ll find that paddling around the line-up and the ability to paddle into waves will be very similar if not the same between the two constructions. However, using the weight of a poly board can help you get down the line while the lightness of the epoxy board is great for whipping it around through turns and airs. This is where the performance difference lies.

Also, when the conditions are not so great, you may find the extra weight of the poly board will help plow through choppy water instead of bouncing around the wave on something lighter.

The Verdict

Don’t waste your time surfing all the wrong equipment!

Using an advanced volume calculator like our Board Engine will take into consideration many of the variables needed to determine what type of equipment you should be looking for, helping to set you in the right direction.

The tools are out there to dial in your ideal board or boards - everyone should have a quiver!

Combine this with some common sense, experience, as well as your shapers knowledge to help determine construction, etc and you will be well on your way to building the quiver of your dreams.

Share your thoughts and experiences about surfboard volume in the comments below! To keep up to date with The Surfers Corner latest articles, make sure you follow us on the Boardcave Australia Facebook Page and on our Boardcave Instagram.

Calculate your Surfboard Volume - The Board Engine

20/04/2015 4:46 pm

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