It's super easy to buy a board. It's a click online or a surf shop walk-in. But how do you choose the right board to rapidly progress your surfing?
Buying a surfboard is as easy as a click from the huge selection online, above, or a walk-in to a surf shop, below. Is that the right way though, to choose the board to progress your surfing?
How To Choose a Surfboard
How do you choose a surfboard?
Do you see one you like the look of, the shape or maybe colour and design, and get that?
Like a mate's board and get a similar one?
Or do you look at the high performance surfing of a Pro, find the model they're on and choose that?
Pros Ride Custom Surfboards
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Pros don't choose their boards online or in shops.
They go to a board maker, a Shaper, and talk through their board order. In this way their boards are custom made. Their high level of performance is dependent on custom made boards.
Pros order their boards from Shapers, often getting into the shaping bay and talking through the features they're after. The Shaper produces the boards matched to the Pro's physical and surfing characteristics. Pro success depends on custom surfboards. You can talk to a Shaper too, if not in the shaping bay then via email, Chat or call
Pro boards closely match the Pro's physical characteristics like their weight and height. The boards are designed to match their specific surf breaks or waves they intend to surf, like big or small surf, reef or beach breaks, full or sucky conditions.
Their boards also match their style of surfing, for example different Pros have their own models for carvier or looser surfing.
Why You're Not Progressing
So if you're wondering why your surfing isn't progressing there's a good chance it's because you're choosing your boards the wrong way.
You're getting boards online or from a shop based on what they look like.
They may look good. They may look high performance, even look like the same model a Pro is riding.
However you're not following the approach the Pro's use.
The board you get is a generic copy made for someone else to surf somewhere else.
You're not getting a board made for you, the custom board you need to progress your surfing.
A key aspect of which you may not be aware is that surfboards are made according to fine tolerance dimensions. Minor changes to a surfboard's dimensions can change performance radically.
When making surfboards Shapers use measurements in terms of 1/16", one sixteenth of an inch, this is around 1.5mm. Think about how small an amount that is.
Two 1/16th is a 1/8", one eighth on an inch. So when you see a board thickness like 2 3/8" those three eighths of an inch are specifically part of the Shaper's design. Adding or taking away an eighth alters the board's design and performance.
Shapers design boards for specific performance and to match a surfer's characteristics - using these fine tolerance dimensions.
Volume is only one aspect of a surfboard. In the image above check the number of dimensions that can be entered in the design. Rocker, the measurements indicating the bottom curve of your board from the nose to tail, is by far the most important dimension, and it doesn't even appear in online or shop descriptions of boards
Volume is the dimension of your board that seems to get all the attention.
While float is an important part of what volume indicates, the rocker measurement of a board is much more important than volume and it's not even mentioned in the published board measurements.
In terms of volume, 1.5 liters difference over a 30 liter volume board may sound like a lot but it's only 5% of the total volume which is negligible.
Changing a rocker and the curve of the bottom of your board by 5% throughout will make a big difference between a board that flows, and one that pushes water and doesn't work.
Here's three of the main types of performance shortboards. On the left a small wave charger. Middle, your board for charging everyday waves. On the right, your board for powering when the waves get bigger. A Shaper can add a consistency of design across your boards making it easy to switch between boards and surf at your peak performance in all wave conditions
Another thing to be aware is that there are four main types of shortboards. For high performance there's: small wave boards, daily wave size boards and big wave size boards. These are designed to give you the optimal performance across different wave conditions.
Then there's specialty boards.
These are boards designed for certain conditions, for example a Fish for smaller waves or a Retro board for old school style surfing. Specialty boards have many types too that we won't cover here.
If you want to progress your surfing you should be aware that high performance boards tend to surf in a certain way in terms of your foot placement, your body movement and how you drive the board.
Specialty boards come in all different shapes and sizes. A common model is a Fish, above. Specialty boards typically aren't ridden in the same way or with the same style as your high performance board. With the Fish above, the blue on the bottom indicates a belly, a convex curve commonly found on mals, never on performance shortboards and so the way it rides and the way you ride it is different. Spending too much time on a specialty board will wreck your high performance surfing
Specialty boards tend to surf differently. Spending too much time on a specialty board can wreck your high performance surfing.
If you want to mix it up and surf something different then a specialty board can be shaped to match your characteristics and so optimise your fun too.
If you want high performance though, as measured by the WSL surfing criteria, aim for a high performance board.
Examples - Buyer Beware
A surfer related to me how they went to a shop and tested the latest high performance model from a leading brand. It went well.
When they went to buy the board that size model wasn't available so they went for the next model up in size with a bit more volume. Their feedback was that the different volume board of the same model, that likely also had different rocker, was a dog, it surfed poorly and they had to get rid of it.
So, when you see a Pro on a board, those exact dimensions work for that Pro for that board. Dimensions don't scale well, you can't just stretch, shrink or squish them any way you want.
A board can be changed, however the changes have to be managed by a Shaper as part of the overall design for you.
Another surfer saw a great looking specialty board on sale. They got it and while the price was good, the board didn't work. They couldn't get waves and the more they tried to make it work the worse their surfing became.
They lost a couple of months of the season's best surfing and then were stuck not knowing what board to get to progress their surfing as what looked good hadn't delivered.
The Best Way to Choose a Surfboard
There is a best way to choose a board.
Do what the Pros do.
Go to a Shaper, a board designer, and ask them to design a board for you.
If you can't physically go to the Shaper, make contact via email or with Chat or a call. SURFit's Shaper is available via email, Facebook and Instagram Chat.
There are many benefits in this approach.
First, a Shaper will talk to you and find out about you, your surfing experience, your surfing style and what you want to achieve. Using all this information they design a board to match.
Shapers have a treasury of designs and they can take a proven design and make the changes to suit you, exactly what you want or what they recommend will work best.
You can show the Shaper what you've been riding, the actual board or images, of your latest or even your last few boards, and their dimensions. With this information a Shaper can deliver a design for you to help you progress fast, transitioning you more easily to high performance.
The Shaper has a wealth of experience and can not only match designs to your skill, but also advise on the best construction options. For example there's latest tech constructions that are hyped but they don't work in all conditions. They can also recommend fins to match you and your board.
The other huge advantage of working with a Shaper is that they're there for you for your first board and our next.
For example, with your SURFit Shaper all your designs are stored digitally. In this way you can talk in detail about the strengths and weaknesses of your previous design to make an even better one.
Also, with your digitally stored design, when you want to surf with high performance across a wider range of conditions, small and bigger waves, at SURFit we can quickly and accurately enhance your design for those conditions with 1/16" accuracy. This gives you a quiver of boards with consistent characteristics that you can easily swap between, keeping your performance consistently high no matter what waves you surf.
It Gets Deeper
We're only touching the surface as far as all the detail involved in selecting your surfboard.
If you'd like, check all these other SURFit articles that go into depth on various aspects of choosing your right high performance board.
Your Surfing Now and the Future
A Shaper is there for you now, to give you great surfing today. They're also there for your tomorrow. Whether your physical characteristics change, if you get bigger or smaller, or need to amp up or layback your surfing style.
Working with a Shaper gives you the best board choice now and for your surfing future. Do what the Pros do and choose a Shaper for your next board.