How to choose a surfboard

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How to choose a surfboard.

There are lots of different designs of surfboards. Surfboard design affects the way the board will behave in water. Actually there are many different shapes and patterns. Even if you are not going to buy a surfboard of shape made to your order, it would be quite difficult to understand the variety of forms.

How to choose a surfboard with the exact thickness and width, which form of the tail and rails to choose, what is a rocker and what is the use of channels at the bottom of the surfboard. At first it seems very confusing. However let’s try to understand.

So, how to choose a surfboard?

Before you decide to choose a surfboard, you need to ask yourself some questions that will be considered while choosing:
1. The level of your surfing skills. Admit to yourself how well you ride. If you are not sure about your abilities or are not fit enough, it is necessary to choose a surfboard wider and thicker.
2. Your size and weight. It is clear that the larger and heavier the surfer is the thicker board would be appropriate for better buoyancy. Surfboard sizes vary and you will definitely find the right one.
3. The size of the waves and the type of spot where you are about to ride. Will it be a soft beach break or fast reef break waves.
4. And actually the riding style. There are no surfboard designs that would fit to all the waves, for all times and for every surfer!

That is why there are so many different surfboard designs and why some surfers have a number of boards that match a wide range of different waves and conditions. To understand what size surfboard is right for me is not an easy challenge.

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Here is a list of design features of the surfboards , we will discuss them more detailed: the board pattern, length, width, rails, rocker, the nose rise, the tail rise, bottom contour, thickness, design of the tail.

What is the pattern of a board (template / plan shape / outline)? It represents the whole shape of a surfboard, if to view it from above. On average long and straight forms are favorable for the rapid and large waves. The rounded shape makes the board slowly but provides a very good maneuverability.

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What is the length of a surfboard? This is the size of a surfboard from the nose to the tail. How to choose a surfboard size, which would match you? With longer surfboards it is easier to catch a wave as it slides better on the water. However, they are less maneuverable than short ones. Beginners usually require boards of 12-18 inches (450mm) which is more than their height. Experts prefer a surfboard on average 6.2 – 6.6 ft.

The width of a board is the size of a surfboard in perpendicular to the stringer. It is measured at the widest point. The broad board will float better (more buoyant) these are more stable and ideal for beginners. 20-22 inches is a good width for beginners. Experts often choose 17- 19 inches width for a better control over the board.

Where is the widest point of a surfboard? The gun ones can have it quite a long way from the center of the board. This makes the board fast and manageable, but not maneuverable. For small boards the point is further from the center in order to increase its agility. The nosewidth is measured at a distance of one foot back from the tip of the nose. The width tail is measured at a distance of one foot ahead of the end of the board. The large width of the nose and tail “full outline” is better for beginners as it does a surfboard more stable, it is easier to catch the wave and ride it. The boards which are designed for the larger and faster waves tend to have a smaller width of the nose and tail.

The rails are outer sides of a surfboard (edges). Hard edges, especially at the tail allow better sliding on the water, that also increases the speed and maneuverability. However, on large and fast waves it is preferably that the rails were soft. This gives a better “grip” of the board with water. The most common form is «tucked under edge» which provides the best qualities of both soft and hard rails. The thickness of the rails is also important. The rails of a larger volume are better for small and slow waves, as they do not drown when turning. On big waves the rails of a smaller volume allow to control the board at high speeds, in that case drowning the rails when turning is advisable.

The rocker is a lower curve of a board. Rocker is rather important detail of the design. Usually a little rocker makes the surfboard faster on small and soft waves. Bigger rocker allows greater control over the board in critical situations and is the preferred on tough waves. Changing the shape of the bottom of the board can be combined with a change of the rocker, which will affect the behavior of the board in many ways. Generally, the longer the board is, the bigger rocker it should have.


The nose lift prevents drowning the nose of a board. The more the rise is, the less chance to bury it in the water. Big rise of the nose also holds the board over the water during tough maneuvers and prevents it from burying the rails into the water. A flat nose rise often occurs with longboard, as riding on the nose of the board is an important element of surfing. It prevents the loss of the wave. The flat nose  is preferable with such maneuvers.
Nowadays the tail lift is brought to the extreme. Actually, this was done to counteract the effect of a fully concave bottom. A big rise of the tail allows purchasing more agility, especially in critical situations, but it makes the board more slowly.

The contours of the bottom of a surfboard affect the traffic of water under the board . There are several common types. Belly bottom has a convex shape. It is traditionally used in the front part of the board to prevent the board from slipping of the waves. The flat design of the under part of the surfboard is a fast form of the bottom. But it is difficult to control such board in fast waves. Flat bottom is suitable for small and soft waves, which require a good speed. The concave design of the bottom helps to prevent the release of water under the rails, helps to raise the board above the water, and thereby to increase its speed. This is often used in the front side of longboards to perform such an element as riding on the nose of the board. In short surfboards concave bottom will require an extra rocker to allow the surfer to keep a good maneuverability. The Vee bottom (the most protruding part of the board under the stringer) design gives better sliding over the water on the other side of the board, making the board quicker in turnings and makes it easier to choose the direction. A board with such design is not as fast while sliding along a straight line. The bottom of the board can also have channels. The channels design is also significance. The bottom of a board can have up to 8 channels and there is a number of options. The goal is to raise the board above the water and increase its speed. If they are deep, long, and have hard edges, that could be too much and make a surfboard tend to slip.

Board thickness and its distribution along the surfboard will determine the board buoyant board, to some extent, how well it lends itself to manipulation. Most of the boards have a conical shape being thick in the middle and going thinner towards the nose and tail. Beginners would get benefit from having a thick board.
The tail of a board . There are lots of different shapes and designs of the tail, some of which will affect the board in a very similar way. The main shapes of the tail are : squash, pintail , swallow tail designs.

Squash or the ground is the most common form of the tail for short boards. The width of such tail increases maneuverability and is suitable for small and heavy surf. Pintail design is commonly used on boards for bigger waves. It has a smaller area which allows it to slip in tough situations where a board with a broad tail can get off wave. Swallow tail has a combined design that has the features of both previous ones.
We hope that this description of the major characteristics of the design, will help you with task how to choose a surfboard for beginners and to find the most suitable one. And that is exciting, which type of board will it be – longboard, funboard or mini malibu, maybe shortboard or gun?