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Surfboard Buying Guide (Shortboard) - Which Specifications Are Right For Me?

This is a comprehensive buying guide for anyone looking to purchase a new short, fibreglass surfboard (i.e. shortboard). This guide includes a surfboard volume calculator and other useful tips about surfboard length, width, thickness and tail shape. Whether you’re buying a factory-made, generic board or a silky, custom-made one, it’s important to know which specifications and measurements are right for you.


PLEASE READ BEFORE WE BEGIN: In order to determine which specifications are right for you, you’ll need to know the following:

  • The size of waves you normally ride.
    • Small (2-3ft).
    • Medium (4-5ft).
    • Large (6ft+).
  • Your height and weight.
  • Your preference for performance or stability when surfing.
    • Performance = high maneuverability/responsiveness.
    • Stability = easy to paddle on to waves and balance when riding.

The below specifications are tailored towards intermediate and advanced surfers who can already stand-up and ride waves with ease. If you are a beginner check-out our blog post on “The 9 Best Surfboards for Beginners” to find the right board for you.

Surfboard Length:

Surfboard Length

Board Length

Your Height

Your Weight

Small Waves

Medium Waves

Large Waves

≤ 5'9"

≤75kg

5'9

5'10"

6'1"

5'10" to 5'11"

76kg to 85kg

5'10"

5'11"

6'2"

≥ 6'0"

≥86kg

5'11

6'0"

6'3"


Contrary to popular belief, a longer board isn’t always easier to stand up on. For example, if you use a longer board for small, fast-breaking waves, you’ll find it too big and cumbersome when trying to quickly get to your feet. So knowing what size waves you’ll be catching is important when selecting the length of your surfboard.

Surfboard Width:

Surfboard Width

Board Width

Your Height

Your Weight

Performance

Stability

≤ 5'9"

≤75kg

19"

19 ½"

5'10" to 5'11"

76kg to 85kg

19 ½"

20"

≥ 6'0"

≥86kg

20"

20 ½"

Surfboard Width

Wider boards are more stable and easier to balance on, but slightly less maneuverable. Also, it is important to consider which portion of the board is carrying the width. If the widest point is towards the middle, the board will be more maneuverable (i.e. performance board).  If the widest point is in the upper half of the board, the board will be more stable and maintain more momentum over flat sections of the wave (i.e. stability board).

Surfboard Thickness:

Surfboard Thickness

Board Thickness

Your Height

Your Weight

Performance

Stability

≤ 5'9"

≤75kg

2"

2 ¼"

5'10" to 5'11"

76kg to 85kg

2 ¼"

2 ½"

≥ 6'0"

≥86kg

2 ½"

2 ¾"


The thicker a board is, the more buoyant it is. Thicker boards make it easier to paddle on to waves and cruise over flat sections, but are more difficult to duck-dive and less maneuverable.

Surfboard Volume:

Board Volume

Your Height

Your Weight

Performance

Stability

≤ 5'9"

≤75kg

27L

29L

5'10" to 5'11"

76kg to 85kg

31L

33L

≥ 6'0"

≥86kg

35L

37L


Volume affects the flotation of the surfboard. Boards with high volume float really well and are very stable. Boards with a lower volume sink into the wave a little more which allows you to dig your rail deeper into the wave and achieve better responsiveness in the steering of the board.

Surfboard Tail Shape:

Surfboard Tail Types

Square/Squash Tail:

The two (slightly rounded) corners of a square tail act as release points for the water flowing out the back of your board. This allows the board to be super responsive under your feet and is best for quick, sharp turns. The narrower the square, the more the tail will sink into the wave which will give you more hold in your bottom turns.

Round Tail:

Round tails have much less surface area than a square tail. So you get less grip and reduced sharpness in your turn, than you would with the other tail types. Round tails are suited for chilled, flowy surfing, rather than fast explosive power turns.

Swallow Tail:

Swallow tails are a small wave rider’s best friend. The “V” shape essentially creates two mini pin tails for extra grip in your turns. But best of all, the slightly wider width of a swallow tail keeps you buoyant and allows you to skip over flat sections with ease.

Pin Tail:

Pin tails are almost exclusively used for big wave surfing. These tails sink into the water and grip tight on the wave so that when you’re executing a critical bottom-turn the tail doesn’t blow out. Pin tail boards turn very slowly and are not designed for short, sharp steering.


 

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