When you choose a surfboard, whether it’s for the first time or the hundredth time, there are a lot of factors you have to keep in mind. One of the most important is the size of the surfboard. Surfboards vary in length, anywhere from 5’ to over 9’. How do you make your selection when looking at different surfboard sizes?
Sizing Factors to Consider
Skill Level & Dimensions
Typically, the smaller the board size the more skilled the surfer. This isn’t always true but is a good rule of thumb when selecting a surfboard.
- Beginners: If you’re just starting out you want a board with a lot of stability and higher volume/dimensions. A larger size board is the best for both. You should look for boards in the 7-8’ range, with larger widths (about 2’) and thickness of about 3”. The more surface area, the easier it will be to keep your footing while you learn.
- Intermediate: As you become more comfortable surfing you can begin buying boards that are smaller in size. You won’t want to immediately jump down from an 8’ board to a 5’ board but you can start trying out some boards with less volume. If a board is too short, your technique is going to look sloppy so always go for a larger board if you’re unsure.
- Advanced: Once you’ve really got the hang of surfing you can start using shorter sizes and boards with lower volume or dimensions. You won’t want to always use a shortboard due to other factors that you need to take into consideration but you can start adding shorter and shorter boards to your arsenal.
How Often You Surf
How often you surf is also a factor in what size board you need. This is because surfers who surf only occasionally, less than once per week, are less likely to be improving at a fast pace and therefore they will need longer boards and are more selective of their surfboard sizing. Those who surf at least once a week will want to choose a smaller board, though how small will depend on other factors.
Height and Weight
You can easily find a calculator that will select a board size for you using your height and weight. You need a board that can support your size and still floats on the water when you’re using it. This is why you may see advanced surfers still using longer boards or see beginners using shorter surfboard size. A child who is surfing for the first time will only need a board that is 6’8”-7’2” but a person who is 6’ tall and over 200lbs is going to need a board well over 9’.
This, of course, isn’t to say that larger people will always need a 9’ board. As you get more advanced, you can scale back in size but you still need to make sure your board has enough volume to support you.
The size of wave you typically surf will make a difference in what size board you need and will play a big role when looking at your potential surfboard’s dimensions. People who surf often tend to have a variety of different boards for this reason. Waves vary from beach to beach, season to season, even day to day so it doesn’t always make sense to have only one board. If you are a beginner, figure out what kind of waves are at the beach you’ll most likely be at the most and that can help when you’re choosing a board size.
- Small Waves: If you are surfing in small or hallow waves, choose a longer board. This may seem backward but the reason is that longer boards are faster than shorter boards and you need to achieve a high level of speed to surf a small wave.
- Big Waves: Shorter boards are great for surfing big waves. There are many different shapes of the surfboard as well and all of them are suited to different types of waves, not just to the different size of waves, so don’t just grab any old shortboard because the waves are large.
A lot goes into choosing the size of a surfboard. Just picking a surfboard based on your height and weight may not give you the best option, just like choosing one based on your skill level isn’t going to mean you’ve got the perfect surfboard sizing. If you use one factor as a starting point (most likely your height and weight) and then narrow down your exact surfboard size based on the other factors, you’re more likely to find a size that is right for you.