Generally speaking, there are some recommendations to follow for sizing a surfboard regardless of your experience level.
That said, depending on your skill level, paddle strength, and ability to read waves, you can really surf whatever you want. Experimentation, remember?
What do Surfboard Dimensions Mean?
You’ve probably noticed the little numbers – usually near the stringers on the bottom – on your surfboard before.
These numbers denote the surfboard dimensions and are generally written as: Length X Width x Thickness and Volume. With each measurement denoting:
- Length: From nose to tail.
- Width: At the Widest point of the board.
- Thickness: At the thickest part of the board.
- Volume: Overall volume of the board in liters.
While surfboard shapes, lengths, widths, and thicknesses are going to affect how a board performs, it’s usually volume that the beginner surfer should pay attention to.
How Do You Size a Surfboard?
If you’re new to surfing, sizing a surfboard is a bit different than something like skis or snowboards.
Surfboard “sizing” comes down to rider weight, experience level, and waves being ridden.
With some experience, the door is really wide open to what you’ll enjoy riding, but for beginners, surfboard volume is a good indicator of what’s going to work for them.
To put it simply: the more volume a surfboard has, the more buoyant it will be.
Boards with more buoyancy, or float, are going to paddle faster, get into slow waves easier, and be more stable once you’re up and riding.
If you’re just starting out, look for a board that’s a bit longer, wider, and thicker – a.k.a a board with more volume.
The length of the surfboard affects overall stability and paddling. Longer boards have more surface area and easier to paddle.
A surfboard’s width is measured at the widest point to the board. Like length, a wider board will have more surface area – making it easier to paddle and more stable.
Where the wide point is located on the surfboard will affect how the board turns. A wide point located towards the front of the board will create longer turns and have greater paddle power – making for a fast, smooth board.
Wide points towards the tail of the board will be more maneuverable.
Surfboard Thickness & Foil
The thickness of a surfboard is measured at its thickest point. The foil of a surfboard refers to the distribution of the thickness from nose to tail.
A thicker board is going to have more volume – typically making it easy to paddle and more stable.
How Do You Know if You’re Surfing the Wrong Board?
Choosing the right board comes down to your surfing abilities, your body, and the types of waves you are surfing.
Here are some key indicators that you’re surfing the wrong board:
- The board sinks significantly as you paddle or sit on the board making it so you can’t catch waves.
- When you do catch waves, the board bogs down and you loose all your speed.
- Paddling feels too slow.
- Waves roll past you.
If any of those things are happening, you should look for a board with some more volume. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a longer board, but sometimes adding some length and width will help you out.
You might be surfing a board that’s too big for you if:
- You’re having trouble maneuvering the board how you want to.
- You keep nose diving on steep, fast waves.
These situations may warrant a smaller, lower volume board or a board with some more rocker.
Surfboard Volume Calculators
If you want to get really specific, you can find surfboard volume calculators all over the place.
Most of the big surfboard brands and online shops have one. Here are some to check out:
- Boardcave Volume Calculator: enter your weight, height, age, fitness level, surf frequency, and skill level.
- Superbrand Volume Calculator: enter your weight, skill level, wave type, and fitness level.
- Firewire Volume Calculator: enter your weight and skill level.
You can get really deep into the weeds with this stuff if you want.
Or you can follow some general rules of thumb, surf a bunch, experiment, and see what you like.
Volume certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum, though, and you’ll want to consider the best board for the conditions and type of surfing you’re looking to do.