Surfboard Selection For Dummies

Buying a new board can be one of the most exciting moments in a surfer’s life. It can also be a little overwhelming if you don’t know what you are looking for. With all of those shapes, and sizes, where does one start? Surfboards are created for different reasons. Everything including your experience level, desired experience, the types of waves you are surfing, your fitness level, and your body weight and surfing style will all play a part in deciding which board to rent or buy. After reading this article, you will be so educated on surfboards, you will be able to order the perfect custom board, or walk into a surf shop and know exactly what you need.

Types of boards- Generally speaking, there are four different types of surfboards for four very different surfing experiences.

  • Longboard– A longboard is anywhere from 8-12 feet long. Longboards are perfect for beginner surfers and experienced surfers. Longboards are great for having fun on small waves, and they can provide smooth, stable rides on big open-faced waves as well. They usually have rounded noses perfect for hanging ten.
  • Shortboard– Short boards are under 7 feet long. They are great for the experienced surfer who wants to master maneuvering on medium sized to big waves. They usually have pointed noses perfect for fast turns and responsive riding.
  • Fun shape– Fun shape boards are anywhere from 6-8 feet in length with lots of volume. They can have almost any kind of tail mixed with any kind of nose, and they are perfect for those trying to size down from a longboard to a shortboard. These boards are versatile, and they are aptly named for being fun in all kinds of surf conditions.
  • Gun– The Hawaiian gun has one job to do: charge big surf. Guns are anywhere between 6.5-10 feet in length, and they are generally long and thin with pointed noses. These high performance boards are made for dropping in on big waves at pipeline.

Length– The length of your board can make a world of difference. The longer the board, the more paddling power and stability. The shorter the board, the more maneuverability. You know that your board is too short if waves generally roll under you or are hard to catch, you quickly lose your balance when you stand up, or if your board sinks when you stand on it. You know that your board is too long if you find it too challenging to turn.
Width– The width of your surfboard, meaning the distance between the rails, generally affects riding style and turning radius. Adding width to a shorter board allows for more stability while keeping access to those quicker turns.
Thickness– Board thickness means more foam. More foam means that your board will float more easily. Adding thickness to your board is useful if you find that your board sinks when you sit on it, however it can make it more difficult to duck dive.
Nose– The 12 inches closest to the front of your board.

      • Pointed- A pointed nose is great for performance. It is easy to turn and easy to duck dive.
      • Rounded- A rounded nose creates more stability and glide. It is also necessary for nose riding.
      • Rounded Point- A rounded point is a hybrid between the pointed nose and the rounded nose. It makes your board versatile for all types of surf.

    Tail– The 12 inches closest to the back of your board.

  • Square– The square tail is the oldest and most common tail design. It looks like a straight line at the tail of your board from rail to rail. This style allows for a lot of versatility in performance.
  • Pin– Pin tails allow for maximum traction and control. This is the perfect tail design for big waves. This type of tail resembles a rounded point.
  • Swallow or fish– This style is created by a split in the tail creating two points toward the back of your board. This type of tail is perfect for creating more hold and stability on smaller waves, and more speed in soft or mushy waves.
  • Diamond and Squash– These two tails are very similar. They are both softer variations of the square tail, adding a little more ease to turns. These are the most common tails on shortboards.
  • Asymmetrical– Asymmetrical boards are new and pretty rare to see. These boards are for the most indecisive of surfers (or ones that know exactly what they need). They actually have one style of tail on one side, and another style on the other side. So if you need more stability while going left, and more turning power when going right, you can get an asymmetrical tail with a swallow tail on the left and a pin tail on the right. These are pretty crazy looking boards.

Rails– Rails are those rounded edges on the sides of your surfboard. The straighter the rails, the more speed you will get. The more rounded the rails, the more easily you can turn.
Rocker– The rocker is the amount of curve from the nose to the tail of your board. More concave rockers are good for steeper drops and tighter turns, but can slow the board down if headed in a straight line.
Foil– This term refers to the distribution of thickness along your board from nose to tail

  • Nose– A thicker nose creates more stability and a thinner nose creates more responsiveness and easier duck dives.
  • Center– A thick center creates buoyancy. The heavier you are, the more buoyant your board should be.
  • Tail– A thicker tail creates more paddling power. A thinner tail creates more hold and control.

Deck– The deck of your board is the flat surface where you actually stand.

    • Domed– A domed deck has more volume in the center. This is better for maneuvers.
    • Flat– A flat deck has increased flex and strength.
    • Step– A step deck has thinner rails and is best for landing aerials.
    • Soft top– The deck of the board is made of foam. It is a great type of deck for beginner surfers, eliminating as much risk of damage to the board and injury to the surfer as possible.

Fins– Fins are the rudders or engines that actually move your board forward. Generally speaking, the fewer fins you have, the more easily you can turn your board, and the more fins you have, the more stable and responsive your board will be. Boards can have anywhere from one single fin to five fins. Most fins can pop in and out with a fin key and a screw, and others are fiber glassed into the board.

Other than the boards and the fins, you only have a few more optional things to worry about. You should buy a leash that is about the same length as your board. You can buy a stomp pad for extra traction at the back of your short board. You will also want to wax that thing down so you don’t slip! Make sure you buy the right wax for the temperature of water that you plan to surf.With all of this information, along with some experience in the water, you are more equipped than anybody to chose the perfect surfboard considering all of the details from nose to tail. Go at it with confidence and have fun!