It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, an intermediate, or even an advanced surfer - learning how to choose the right surfboard 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 basis.
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 beginners after a few goes are going to want to refine and update their board dimensions to avoid surfing the wrong board.
There are a number of factors that will need consideration when you’re choosing the right surfboard on any given day:
Skill Level - Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced surfer? Fitness Level - 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 bring out in your conditions. Height and weight - this will help determine how much volume you would need for a particular style of board. Wave Type - What type of waves are you going to be surfing? Hollow and fast - soft, slow crumbly?
These are all essential factors to consider and can directly impact your surfing performance.
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No. 1: What's your Skill Level?
As mentioned above, a surfer who's just starting out may only need one good beginner board to get them to a level where they start to progress.
The new surfer is going to want a board that has plenty of volume and stability. For most people, this surfboard will be something around the 7-8 foot mark and about 22 inches wide and 3 inches thick.
A soft top board is a good option for a beginner as they provide that float and stability.
Something this size will give them plenty of volume to make sure they can paddle into waves but not so long that it will stop them getting into the lineup in the first place.
The added width and thickness combined with the general outline on these boards (wider, rounder nose and wider tail) provides plenty of stability when trying to stand up on the wave.
After you get the fundamentals sorted, you can start to look into fiberglass boards and begin to reduce your size and refine your shape to suit your abilities and your wave types.
No. 2: What's your Fitness Level?
Your level of fitness is also going to play a key factor in determining what will give you the best surfing experience. 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 to ensure they still get the paddle power to get into good waves.
A good compromise may be to find a slightly thicker board that tapers down into a nice rail. This means you can continue to paddle into more critical waves while still maintaining your performance levels.
In this case, you can see how fitness levels can impact on your ability to get onto a wave. For this reason, choosing the right board can ensure your wave count doesn’t go down on account of your fitness.
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 is going to have more endurance than the older surfer. While they might both be strong paddlers, the older surfer is more 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 energy paddling into the waves.
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 volume.
However, often these calculators won’t take anything else into consideration.
Boardcave’s 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 of choosing your perfect surfboard. They should be used as a starting point for choosing your surfboard.
Obviously, the bigger you are, the bigger your board will have to be.
Take two professional surfers in Mick Fanning and Dion Atkinson. Mick weighs in around the 73kg mark and 177cm tall while Dion is about 188cm and 81kg.
Mick Fanning surfs in the 26-27L range on boards like his 5’10 2015 MF Ducks Nuts while Dion prefers riding boards a little bigger like the 28L, 6'0 JR Donny. Both are well rounded performance shortboards that have been designed with each surfer in mind and love good conditions.
The DHD Surfboards Ducks Nuts MF Replica model ridden by Mick Fanning (above) and the JR Surfboards The Donny (below) created and developed for Dion Atkinson.
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.
If you plan on surfing a lot, you’re gonna need a selection of boards to help you surf your best in everyday conditions.
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, Currumbin and Burleigh.
These off-shore waves tend to light up some of the best breaks in the world.
When it’s pumping at 3-6ft, ideally you’re going to want a high performance shortboard or something thats going to fit nicely in the pocket of the wave. This kind of board - like the DHD Ducks Nuts or Hammo Pro Series R3 - is going to help you make drops on steep take offs.
These points are still plenty of fun even when the waves aren’t firing 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 or the Roach by Stacey Surfboards - you’re going to really make the most out of those waves.
If things get really small, something with even more volume like the Clearwater Malibu will have you covered.
Luckily, if the points aren’t firing, just around the corner from Snapper is D-Bah, consistently the best beach break in the area for waves 2-4ft. Out here you can find everything from barrels to perfect walls and air bowls.
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 water time instead of sitting at home when the conditions aren’t right for your board.
Mitch Crews has an entire quiver of Stacey Surfboards depending on the wave type and conditions. It’s always good to mix it up!
No. 5: The Recap
If you’re wanting more time in the water and to maximise your wave count, it’s important to look at all the attributes that contribute to your surfboard selection.
Your skill, fitness, 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 which wave conditions you find, you’re going to have something to ride.
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