How to Choose the Right Surfboard
The factors that effect your board choice
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, an intermediate, or even an advanced surfer - learning how to choose the
that is right for your abilities and the surf conditions is critical to your success and
enjoyment of surfing.
The intermediate to expert surfer is generally going to have a good idea about which board they want to take out in
certain wave types, but this knowledge takes time and not everyone knows what equipment they need.
There isn’t any one surfboard that is completely perfect for one person in every kind of wave and conditions. You’re
going to have to build a quiver of boards of various shapes, styles and sizes if you’re going to be surfing on a regular
You’ll find that no matter what level of surfing you are at, you’re going to want to start building that dream quiver.
Even Beginner Surfers
after a few months will want to refine and
update their board dimensions to avoid surfing the wrong
Mick and his faithful DHD - MF DNA.
Things to consider when choosing a board
There are a number of factors that will need consideration when you’re choosing the right surfboard on any given
- Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced surfer?
- Even when you reach higher levels of surfing, fitness levels are going to
play a role in what kind of board you’re going to surf depending on the conditions.
Height and weight
- This will help to determine how much volume you would need for a
particular style of board.
- What type of waves are you going to be surfing? Hollow and fast - soft, slow
These are all essential factors to consider and can directly impact your surfing performance.
There's no end to surfboard sizes and shapes. From left to right:
Gary McNeill Concepts Mini Pip, Panda Surfboards Astro Zombie,
Chilli Surfboards Black Vulture, Sharp Eye Surfboards HT2, Eye
Symmetry Surfboards The Lucid Eye, DHD Black Diamond,
Haydenshapes Plunder, and Pyzel Surfboards Padillac .
No. 1: What's your Skill Level?
As mentioned above, a surfer who's just starting out may only need one good beginner surfboard to get them to a level where they start to
The new surfer will want a board that has plenty of volume and stability. This surfboard will be something around
the 7-8 foot mark and about 22-23 inches wide and 3 inches thick for most people.
A board around this size will provide plenty of volume to ensure they can paddle into waves. A soft-top surfboard is a good option for beginners as they
provide lots of float and stability while being safer in the lineup.
The added width and thickness combined with the general outline on these boards (wider, rounder nose, and wider
tail) provide plenty of stability when trying to stand up on the wave.
After you get the fundamentals sorted, you can start to look into polyester and epoxy surfboards and begin to refine
your preferred surfboard shape to suit your abilities and your favoured wave types. As time goes on, you'll
obviously seek more progression and performance out of your shape.
To learn more about the different materials, check out our article on "Surfboard Construction Types". Once you've identified your
preferred material, you then need to address the question, "What Size
Surfboard Should I Buy?" based on your increased skill level.
Last but not least, learn about other surfboard intricacies, such as different surfboard outlines or the surfboard bottom contours, and how they affect varying
aspects of surfing performance. Put all of these puzzle pieces together to create the final image of your ideal
surfboard by using this knowledge of equipment.
No. 2: What's your Fitness Level?
Your fitness level will also play a key factor in determining what board will give you the best surfing experience.
As you gain stamina and strength, your paddling will become stronger. Stronger paddles mean that you can opt for a
thinner, less buoyant surfboard with more performance. You won't tire out as quickly when paddling into the
lineup/waves, and you'll reap the rewards of more performance.
On the other hand, if you feel your endurance levels lack, you might seek out a higher-volume surfboard. This added
buoyancy will make paddling a lot easier, helping you exert less energy. This will, however, lower the overall
performance of the surfboard. The key is to find balance in your skill, fitness level, and board performance
For example, while someone may be better at surfing today than they were ten years earlier, they may also have lost
some of their stamina.
This surfer may decide that they want a board that's a little thicker and slightly wider, ensuring they have enough
paddle power to avoid missing waves while increasing the longevity of their surf sessions, but one that is still a
A good compromise may be to find a slightly thicker hybrid surfboard with 60/40 rails. This means you can continue
to paddle into both weaker and critical waves with the board still offering a solid amount of on-rail performance.
Progressive surfing with easy paddling- that's the middle ground needed.
In this case, you can see how fitness levels impact your ability to paddle into waves. For this reason, choosing the
right board can ensure your wave count doesn't go down on account of your surfing fitness. It would help if you learned about the
characteristics of surfboards (such as surfboard tails, rails, and noses) to
identify what aspects will make paddling easier while still maintaining your ideal level of board performance.
Age can also factor into this. Imagine two surfers on the same wave. A 25-year-old at an advanced level with the
same height and weight as a 45-year-old at an advanced level may have a completely different surfboard.
Most likely, the younger surfer will have more endurance than the older surfer. While they might both be strong
paddlers, the older surfer is likely to tire quicker than the younger surfer.
With a little more volume in his board, the older surfer could stretch out his session to the same length as the
younger surfer as he won't need to spend the same amount of energy to paddle into waves.
If you want to work on your surfing fitness, we've composed "Boardcave's Guide to Surfing
Fitness" to help you along the journey to better health, increased endurance, and a higher level of surfing.
Chilli Surfboards team
rider Jay Davies is a solid surfer who can throw airs like he's as light as a feather.
No. 3: Your Height and Weight
Your height and weight will definitely play a key role in determining which boards are best for you to ride. Because
these are the most obvious elements, many volume calculators rely heavily on these details to find your perfect
However, often these calculators won't consider anything else.
The Boardcave Board Engine adds in those extra details such as ability, age, preference for board
types, and the waves you normally surf to give you the best results.
This aside, height and weight will always play a crucial part in choosing your perfect surfboard. These factors
should undoubtedly be used as a starting point for finding the right board.
Obviously, the bigger you are, the bigger your board will have to be. Taller surfers will require longer boards and
vice versa. A good starting place with longboards, for example, is to measure them about 1 m longer than your
If comparing the exact same longboards, a 1.5 m tall surfer would want the 2.5 m option, and a 2 m tall surfer would
want the 3 m option. However, each surfboard is unique, and there is no definitive rule always to follow, but this
helps give you an idea of how height influences board length.
Now for weight. A larger, heavy-set fella will want a big guy
surfboard with a little extra volume to help him keep afloat when paddling and catching waves. A thinner
surfer can do with less volume.
Too much volume for the skinny folks will make the board too challenging to control, and not enough volume for the
big guys will have the board sinking on em'.
Input your attributes into the Board Engine to see what the ideal board
litre range is:
Take two professional surfers in Mick Fanning and Jack Freestone. Mick weighs in around the 73kg mark and 177cm tall
while Jack is about 185cm and 86kg.
Mick Fanning surfs in the 26-27L range on boards like his 5’10 DHD DNA
while Jack prefers riding boards a little bigger like a custom 30L, 6'0 Pyzel Radius
. Both are well rounded performance shortboards that
have been designed with each surfer in mind and both boards love to be ridden in good conditions.
The DHD Surfboards MF
DNA model ridden by Mick Fanning (top) and the Pyzel Surfboards Radius (bottom) created and developed for John John
No. 4: Your Wave Type
Finally, we get to one of the more personal questions. Which wave-type do you like to surf? This is the main reason
most surfers own a quiver of boards. Wave types and conditions can be so different from beach to beach and even day
to day, and there are different types of surfboards to match.
For a brief rundown:
- Small waves require a high volume. A longboard or fun shape is best.
- Medium waves become more specific. For a mushy medium-sized wave, you might still have a blast on a longboard, a
fun shape, or a fish. For more aggressive, steeper medium-sized waves, you might want to bust out your
performance or hybrid shortboard.
- For big waves, you're going to need a step-up surfboard to handle
the large conditions, and for XL-XXL waves, these styles of boards are known as 'guns'.
If you plan on surfing a lot, you're going to need a selection of boards to help you surf your best in everyday
In Australia, you're going to have access to a huge variety of waves. Just on the Gold Coast alone, there are plenty
of beaches and sand bottom points to choose from on any given day. When there is plenty of south-easterly swell
being pushed up the coast, most people opt for the points which, on the Gold Coast, include Snapper, Kirra,
Currumbin, and Burleigh.
When there's swell, and the wind is off-shore, these waves tend to light up some of the best breaks in the world.
When it's pumping at 1 metre to 2 metres and barrelling, ideally, you're going to want a high performance shortboard or something that's going to fit
nicely in the pocket of the wave or the barrel. This kind of board - like the DHD Ducks
Nuts or Album Ledge - is going to help you make drops on steep take-offs.
Even when the waves aren't firing, these points are still plenty of fun, but you won't get the same experience
sticking with a performance shortboard. If you go with something a little more fishy - the Haydenshapes Hypto Krypto - you're going to really make the most out of those waves.
If things get really small, something with even more volume like the Panda Repeater will have you covered.
Luckily, if the points aren't firing, just around the corner from Snapper is D-Bah, which is consistently the best
beach break in the area for waves around 0.5 to 1.25 metres. Out here, you can find everything from barrels to
perfect walls and air bowls.
Surfing at Duranbah in medium-sized waves, you will want a good all-round shortboard like the DHD 3DV, the SUPERbrand Magic Mix or the Panda Goose.
This is the main reason (and also a great excuse) for getting a quiver of boards as your surfing progresses. By
having a range of boards, you'll be able to maximise your time in the water instead of sitting at home when the
conditions aren't right for your board.
Colin Moran has a quiver of Panda Surfboards depending on the wave type and conditions. It’s always
good to mix it up!
No. 5: The Recap
If you’re wanting to maximise your wave count and spend more time in the water progressing your surfing, it’s important
to look at all the factors that contribute to your surfboard selection.
Your skill, fitness and body shape are great initial factors in building your dream quiver, and when you keep in mind
what kinds of waves you want to surf, nothing will stop you from getting out there in all conditions.
All of these important factors should be taken into consideration and it really comes down to you determining what you
want to get out of your surfing.
If you’re only getting out once a week or even less around the same spot, pick a board that will suit the spot as well
as a few conditions that you’ll find there.
If you like changing it up and surfing different spots, a quiver is for you. Build your dream quiver and you will find
that no matter what wave conditions you find, you’re going to have something to ride.
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