When you decide to learn to surf it can be confusing
trying to find the right board that will best suit you. You may end up
getting the wrong board that may be too advanced for your ability. My
advice is that you buy a second-hand board or a Bic style pop out, as
this board is going to get abused & battered. Bics are very tough
boards, don't need as much repair and maintenance and hold their
resale value better. Also, borrow your mates boards, trying a variety
of different shapes and sizes will give you an idea of what you like
and are looking for in a board.
The basic surfboard for starting out to learn with is a
board that is 1 foot or so taller than your height, this will help
increase the chances of catching the waves by being easier to paddle.
Thickness/volume is also important here, the thicker the board the
easier it is to paddle, as it gives you increased buoyancy. The
surfboard should be wider than 20 inches and the wider it is the more
stable it will be. The rounded nose is best suited to this design &
gives even more surface area for stability and balance. Trying to find
a board with all these features can be hard when looking for your
first board, another factor is price, which is why i suggest you
consider a second hand board for starters.. If you admit you're a
beginner and get yourself on a bigger board, you will be surfing
Below is a quick guide to help you to get to know your
surfboard a little better. I have broken it down into the six main
design variables, I hope this helps in understanding why a surfboards
curvy statistics do make a difference.
The outline or plan shape, is the curve of a board from
nose to tail looking at it front on It is vital to a boards handling
because it governs the distribution of the boards wetted area & how
the board enters the face of a wave & releases water off the back
There are three main types of plan shapes:
1 wide point forward (wide nose / narrow, long tail)
common in the 70?s.
2 the wider tail / narrower nose of the 80?s & 90,s
suited better for thrusters & back foot surfers.
3, something in-between. Then there is the tail shape,
swallows release slightly quicker than squares & pin tails, but the
pins flow better through turns. In small waves the rounded square &
swallow are preferred because they generate more speed of their own,
while pins & rounded pins are more suited to larger waves & waves with
more power. To say there is any one tail that works better than the
other would be irrelevant, because certain plan shapes suit different
Rocker or bottom curve is the combination of entry
curve & tail lift. The correct distribution & amount of curve is
determined by a series of compromises, less or low rocker is less
manoeuvrable but inherently faster. More rocker is more manoeuvrable
but inherently slower. Flatter rocker boards suit surfers who are
either beginners, who need the extra stability, or the more competent
mature surfers who flow with the wave using positioning & drive to
extract maximum speed from the wave. More manoeuvrable fuller curve
boards suit the quick rail-to-rail style of the light footed surfer,
enabling him/her to be all over the wave with airs, floaters etc, but
still allowing full speed rail carves. A combination of the two is
probably the most common in use today. A lower entry curve for front
foot drive & speed on take off, combined with a bit of tail flip,
which allows in the pocket manoeuvres & easy landings from floaters &
airs. In bigger waves it all changes. The aim here is to use a rocker
that sheds speed, allowing greater control, so the rocker to length
ratio is increased.
A surfboards power, acceleration, drive & speed largely
depend on whatís going on in the bottom design. There are hundreds of
different bottom combinations, but generally speaking, four types are
standard throughout the industry, flat, forward/ reverse vee,
concaves, & channels.
Flat bottoms are pretty much the most basic & stable
bottom type. They feel very neutral & donít create any lift, rarely
used much these days when other designs provide better rail to rail
transitions, drive etc.
Forward or reverse vee is suited more to powerful waves
& they go rail to rail better, especially at speed, a variation on
this is to put a double concave through the tail, resulting in more
lively positive feel.
Single concaves are very popular as they keep the curvy
rail rocker for looseness, yet they allow a faster, flatter stringer
Triple concaves, a single in the front & a double
through the fins, create a bit more lift through the tail & add a
little more squirt out of turns. Channels have a lot of drive,
acceleration & lift, suitable for down the line hollow waves.
Obviously there are other variables to consider, like the rocker,
outline & rails, the bottom design on its own wont make that board a
The rail shape of a board is as important to a surfer's
ability to work the face as the bottom & rocker is to a boards speed &
drive. It more relates to the weight & ability of the surfer &
conditions on the beach. A rail's shape is a description of the feel &
thickness compared to the board at the centre. The shape of the deck
also heavily influences rails, a rolled deck will deliver a lower rail
& a flat deck will result in a boxy rail. Most boards rails are soft &
tapered towards the nose for forgiveness & to make initiating turns
easier, rounded through the middle as not to bog or catch, & becoming
harder & more square off the tail, providing maximum water release.
Fuller boxier rails suit smaller gutless waves, they provide more
float, speed & will reduce the bogging in flat sections. Boards for
larger & hollow waves favour the rolled deck with lower rail
combination, the rails will penetrate & hold better, bogging is not a
problem due to the waves extra power.
Surfers often ignore fins as the reason why an average
board is I suppose average.
Fin shape, size, & positioning have an amazing affect
on performance. With the thruster being the mainstream design, here is
how these variables affect performance & handling of a board.
Fin size: the larger the fin, the more drivey & harder
to turn the board will be, while smaller fins loosen up a board & make
it feel more skatey. Small fins often lead to a fair bit of drift or
slide, helpful in some manoeuvres, but in bigger waves this is not
such a good scenario.
Fin shape is divided into three main variables, base
length, rake angle & height. A greater base, length, base angle equals
lots of drive & holding power. For huge waves this is a great
characteristic, for the semi gun though the average fin suits best,
allowing greater looseness &turning ability.
Fin positioning is very technical, the basics are: The
further you put the fins forward on a board, especially the rear one,
the looser the result. If you move the front fins closer to the rail
you also get more bite & more drive in heavy manoeuvres. If you
cluster the fins, i.e. move all closer together, this also loosens the
board. With the development of removable fins, FCS to mention just
one, it is now possible to change the performance & feel of any board
instantly. Generally fin design is as complex as surfboard design its
self & a lot will depend on the style of the surfer.
The thickness distribution from nose to tail of a board
is called foil & its importance to board design shouldn't be
understated. While its often overlooked, foil, the distribution of the
boards buoyancy & weight from end to end, is integral to performance
because it impacts heavily on the boards feeling of balance. In terms
of thickness flow, the typical short board tends to be thin in the
nose with maximum thickness under the chest & gradually tapering to
the tail. This gives good paddling power & float in slow sections.
With fish style boards the thickness is spread throughout, which gives
max floatation & glide in small weak waves. As you move into the
semi-guns & big wave guns the foil stays similar, but is thinner
towards the tail & the thickest part moves relatively forward.
One great truth about surfboard design remains, &
that's what comes around goes around & what worked in the past will
always work again.