Surf Features » Selecting the Perfect Surfboard

Selecting the Perfect Surfboard

The factors that effect your board choice

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or expert surfer, choosing the right board for your abilities and the conditions is crucial to having a successful, fun surfing experience.

The intermediate to expert surfer is generally going to have a pretty good idea about what board they need to take out in any given wave type or conditions. The novice surfer, however, probably doesn’t have this knowledge yet and may not realize what they need.

There is no particular surfboard that is perfect for one person on all types of waves or conditions. If you are going to be surfing on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to build yourself a quiver of different boards of all shapes and sizes.

If you’re just starting out, you’re probably only going to need one good beginner surfboard. However, in no time, you’re going to advance enough to refine your surfboard choice to ensure you avoid surfing the wrong board.

Photo: Mick checking out a DHD Skeleton Key

Things to consider when choosing a board

There are a number of factors you have to consider when choosing the right surfboard for any given day.

First and foremost, your skill level as a surfer. Are you a beginner, an intermediate or an expert surfer? There’s no point surfing a high performance shortboard if you can’t stand up.

Next would be your fitness level. Even at advanced levels of surfing, if you are not particularly fit, you may need to consider a board with a little more volume to maximize your wave count and session length.

Your size – in particular your height and weight – which will help determine how much volume you would need for a particular style of board.

And last but not least, the type of waves you will be surfing. Are they going to be fast and hollow or soft, slow and crumbly? Different waves are going to need different boards.

All of these factors are going to play a role in your surfing performance. While you may already consider each of these things at one time or another make sure you revisit these ideas when selecting your next surfboard for your dream quiver.

Check out the Board Engine here!

choosing the right surfboard
There’s no end to surfboard sizes and shapes. From left to right: Vampirate Surfoards Surf & Destroy, Chemistry Surfboards Flash Point, Stamps Surfboards The Scarecrow, Panda Surfboards The Norts, Emery Surfboards Nemesis, DHD Surfboards Pocket Knife, Haydenshapes Shred Sled, Canvas Surfboards Tube Shooter and the Nation Surfboards Hot Doggin’ Loggin’.

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Skill Level

As mentioned above, a beginner may only need one good beginner surfboard to start out with until they are at a certain level of progression.

The beginner is going to want to look for something that has a lot of volume and stability. For most, the perfect starter surfboard is going to be something somewhere around 7-8 foot in length, at least 22 inches wide and around 3 inches thick. The Sano Free from Canvas Surfboards is a typical shape that comes to mind.

A soft top board is usually preferable for the beginner as they are easier on the body and provide a lot of float and stability.

A board this size will provide plenty of volume to help them paddle into waves, but is not too long as to make it difficult to make it out into the lineup in the first place. The extra width and thickness combined with the outline of these boards (wide round nose and wide tail) will provide lots of stability when trying to stand up on the wave.

Once you’re a little more comfortable in your surfing, you can look into a fiberglass board and begin to scale down in size or shape to suit your abilities and the waves.
Fitness Level

Your fitness level will also play a key factor in determining what you will want to surf. I’m a better surfer today than I was 10 years ago, however, I’m also not as fit as I used to be.

My boards have also gotten a little thicker and a touch wider than they used to be. This could just be me being more realistic about my surfing, but it certainly helps keep my wave count up.

Keeping my boards on the thicker side and tapering down to a nice rail ensures I can continue to paddle into more critical waves while still keeping my performance levels high.

For me, getting into the waves has become more of a challenge than in days gone past, yet I still want to surf higher-performance boards once I’m in a section. Because of this, it becomes very important that I pick the right board for my fitness level.

Age also plays into the fitness category. Take two surfers surfing the same wave at the same advanced level one a 25 year old and the other a 45 year old. Both surfers are the same height and weight, yet you’ll probably find that the boards they are surfing are very different.

In many cases, the younger surfer will have more endurance than the older surfer. Even though both are likely to be strong paddlers, the older surfer will tend to tire faster out there.

With a little more volume under him, the 45 year old will be able to stretch his session out for the same length as the 25 year old as he won’t have to spend as much energy paddling into the waves.
Height and Weight

Your Height and Weight definitely play a key part in determining what boards you’re going to want to ride. This is one of the first elements that we think about and its what many volume calculators rely on so heavily. The problem with the majority of volume calculators is that they don’t take anything else into consideration. Our patented Board Engine considers the other factors including ability, age, style of board and the waves you surf to give you better results.

This isn’t to say height and weight aren’t important, they definitely are! However they should be considered amongst a range of other factors. Your size is a crucial element when it comes to choosing your surfboard. For most, it’s a no-brainer that the bigger you are, the bigger your board will have to be.

This can be seen in every surfer across all levels of ability. Mick Fanning, standing at 161 lbs and is 5’10, is going to need different equipment than the larger Brett Simpson standing at 179 lbs and is 6’1. Mick could get away with something in the 26L of volume like his 5’10 2015 MF Ducks Nuts. Simpo, on the other hand, may like to go for something around 28L like the Stamps Scarecrow. Both of these boards are suited for average conditions and are well rounded boards.

dhd ducks nuts vs stamps scarecrow
The DHD Surfboards Ducks Nuts Mick Fanning Replica (above) and the Stamps Surfboards Scarecrow (below).
Wave Type

Last, but by no means the least, is the wave type you like to surf. This is the exact reason why the vast majority of surfers own a quiver of boards. Wave types and conditions are so different from place to place and day to day that having a quiver is essential if you plan on surfing a lot.

Living in Dana Point, I have access to a wide variety of waves. I can run down to Doheny and am sure to get a wave at a relatively wind protected spot. This is also a smaller wave day-to-day than other spots in the area.

85% of the time, I am going to grab a longboard like the Piñata by Canvas. When it does get bigger, it’s very rarely a hollow wave. This means I’m going to want to step down off the longboard and pull out a fish or a stubby style board like the Los Dos from Nation Surfboards or the Grave Digger by Vampirate.

Close by, Salt Creek beach is right up the road. At a wave like this, I may want to get something with a little more performance to it that’s going to help me step it up a little like the Boombastik by Chemistry Surfboards, or if I am feeling groovy something like Album Surfboards The Disc.

This is why it’s important to grow your quiver of boards as your level of surf progresses. Doing this will allow you to maximize your water time and give you a better understanding of how the wave works with your surfboard.

the cool story by nation surfboards in a barrel
The Nation Surfboards Cool Story showing off how well it goes in barrels. Photo by @ashlyd.baxter.

If you are looking to maximize your water time, it’s important to look at all the attributes that contribute to your board selection and quiver. Your skill, fitness and body shape will set you in the right direction, and when you combine that with the waves you plan on surfing, you should be well on your way to building a dream quiver that will be the envy of all your friends.

All of these factors are important to take into consideration while it’s up to you to determine what you want out of surfing. If you only have time to get out once a week or maybe even month and usually go to the same spot, pick your board accordingly and aim for one that suits the spot as well as the variety of conditions that you will find day to day.

If you like surfing different spots with varying wave types, you will not be disappointed in having a quiver of various boards. This will ensure that no matter what wave conditions you find, you’re going to have something to ride and get the most out of your surfing.