I will never forget purchasing my first new surfboard. I was 19 years old (I did not start surfing till I went to college in Florida) and I bought the board while home in NJ for the summer. To this day I could not tell you the dimensions of the board. I remember the brand and the color (a dazzling orange that all my buddies in Florida made fun of), and I remember it looked really cool! I mean, it looked like a great board. So what the heck does that mean? Well, it means that I liked the way the board looked on the rack so I bought it. I was completely ignorant of what type of board I needed, the shape, dimensions, etc. I basically looked at the board, thought it looked awesome and bought it. I have since learned about these things and also learned that what makes the board work goes beyond the typical three dimensions that all boards list.
Take my BoneYard Fly model (pictured above). I ordered this board as my everyday board, hoping that it would work in everything from waist high to overhead waves. But as a bigger guy, I needed some extra volume in the board while still keeping it nice and loose. The Fly was the perfect model for me and the shape provided me all the elements that I was hoping for. If you look at the usual three dimension--height, width and thickness--the board appears suited for my larger frame. The board is 6'5" x 20.5" x 2 3/4". But the beauty of this board goes beyond those numbers. Let's talk about one of these elements, rails.
One element that people do not consider enough is the rails. In order to get a little more volume, the Fly carries the thickness through most of the board, especially up front. So instead of only having the width listed on the board existing in the middle, it carries a lot of this to the nose and the tail. The result is more volume to help me get into the wave sooner--and remember, if you can't catch a wave, you can't surf the wave. If you want a more performance-oriented board, then look for something that thins as you move to the nose and the tail. But remember, this type of rail cuts down on the volume of the board which makes it more difficult to paddle and less stable as you take-off and head down the line. These are two factors that anyone starting out needs to seriously consider.
So when buying a board you need to consider what the rail will do for you and your surfing. You also have to be aware of what YOU need in a board. Not every surfer needs the same type of board. Ultimately, this means being honest about your ability and using that objective assessment to buy the best fitting board for you. The right board can make all the difference in how much fun you have in the water. Buying a board because it looks good on the rack or because it will look good as you walk down the beach is a mistake I see far too often. Buy the board that will help you catch more waves and improve your surfing. This means paying attention to the big three numbers (height, width, thickness) but also grab those rails and make sure they fit your style and ability as well. And remember, surf for fun!
-Eric, "The Professor"
Check out Eric's Blog directly: http://matadorsurfboards.blogspot.com