The right surfboard needs to match both your abilities and the surf conditions. Unfortunately, the perfect board for all conditions does not exist. As the swell changes everyday and your surf level evolves with experience, you will need to build a quiver: a set of different boards (various sizes, shapes and styles) used accordingly to the type of waves and style you want to perform. Of course this comes a long with your goal and comfortzone. You love to have fun in small waves with a longboard? Then no need to force yourself to go smaller.
What are the main guidelines to choose the right surfboard from?
You will need to consider 3 factors:
Skill Level - Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced surfer?
Knowledge - Do you master the fundamentals behind board design, sizing, shape?
Wave Type - What type of waves are you going to be surfing?
Your surf level is the first criteria to figure out which board will suit you.
I am a beginner surfer -
Beginners, who never surfed before, will feel more comfortable on high volume boards that provide stability. Balance is key to stand up on a board for the first time. Therefore, a soft top would be a good option as its major characteristic is floatability.
I am an intermediate surfer -
After having the fundamentals sorted, you can start looking into fiberglass boards. They provide less stability as compared to soft top boards but they will prepare you for shorter boards and bring the first manœuvre sensations.
I am an advanced surfer -
The more you will progress, the more you will be seeking for high-end performance boards, harder to control but allowing to realize more critical manœuvres. There is a wide range of advanced shortboards and, at this level, surfers tend to have a quiver composed of different performance boards.
Surfboards are available in hundred of different shapes, sizes, styles (longboards, shortboards, hybrids, fish, retros, quads, thruster, twins and single fins) - which can be very confusing when you don’t exactly know what you are looking for.
Learning and understanding how the dimensions and volume can impact your surfing is crucial to choose the right surfboard.
Length will be dictated both by the design of the board and your body height and surf level.
Width depends mainly on your weight and the surfing style you are after. Obviously, the heavier you are the more volume you will need.
Thickness has an impact on the board’s volume. The thicker the board is, the more buoyancy it will have. This criteria is specifically relevant when you are looking for more balance and floatability.
Volume is the result of the combination of the three dimensions cited above. It is the measurement of how much flotation the board has.
If you know about the dimensions of a board and want to calculate its volume you can use this formula:
(Length in cm x 58%) x (Height in cm) x (Width in cm) = Volume
If you don’t have a board yet and wish to calculate your ideal volume you can use this formula:
(Ability & Weight) x (Age factor) x (Fitness level) = Volume
Ability & Weight
Use the following chart to find your coefficient:
2. Age Factor
Multiply your above answer by the below factor based on your age:
3. Fitness Level
Use the below table and multiply your above result by the factor that seems the most reasonable to you. Try to be honest with yourself!
As you know, the swell is different everyday, impacting on the waves type. You can use reports and forecasts ( for Lombok www.surf-forecast.com) to determine your local conditions but nothing is as accurate as checking yourself if you live close enough to the spot. Unfortunately, you will not be able to find a single board model that will suit every wave.
Fat mellow waves
Longboards are a great option for those kind of waves. They are very stable, buoyant, and allow to generate speed in thicker slower paced waves. A board with the size 7’0 or bigger is your way to go and to enjoy the session! Also you can try different styles, a thruster fin setup or a single fin. Both offer a different surf experience.
Sharp, fast and powerful waves
When it comes to stronger waves shortboards are suitable to handle the take-off drops. Indeed, they are designed to be manoeuvrable, and allow surfers to stick to the pocket of the wave. Surfboards between 5’6 and 7’0, depending on the size of the wave, your surf level and fitness condition, are a good choice.
Massive thickset waves
When it comes to big waves riding, the gun is a must. Their pointed long design allow to catch massive waves of 12ft plus. Usually their length reach 7ft or more to ensure balance and speed after the take off.
Considering all this information you should now have a clearer idea of what kind of board would suit you best. Do not hesitate to ask more experienced surfers’ for help! Renting different types of boards is also a smart option to confirm an intuition on a board. It is not always important to go smaller and smaller with your board, surfing is about having fun. And if you prefer small waves, then better stay with a longboard and slide through the day.