Surfboard Volume Debunked:
What it is. What it isn’t. How To Get it Right?
The most commonly asked questions here are about Surfboard Volume and there is a lot of misunderstanding about this concept. This article aims to dispel some myths about what is surfboard volume and surfboard sizing while also suggesting a guide to help you nail your surfboard volume ‘sweet spot’.
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This is Surfboard Volume Debunked: What it is. What it isn’t. How To Get it Right?
All the best,
Hey, this is Ben. Today for Comparesurfboards.com, we are going to talk about surfboard volume, what is surfboard volume, what it isn’t, and how to get it right. This idea of doing something just on surfboard volume debunked came from two things:
Questions surrounding surfboard volume and sizing are the most commonly asked questions we get, not only here at our product review site, CompareSurfboards.com but also on our Compare Surfboards YouTube show.
Almost everybody who asks us a question about boards wants to know how to find the right surfboard volume and correct surfboard sizing. How do they get their surfboard sizing right. That’s part one.
Part two is actually something I feel partially responsible for and not necessarily in a good way. Hence, the title, Surfboard Volume Debunked.
I’m a big proponent of surfboard volume as a concept. I started surfing before surfboard volume was a big thing, and I found it was a great point of reference, a good starting point to start to figure out the right size boards for me to ride.
But I saw this shaper’s roundtable where you had some of the masters of foam and resin of the world. One of my favorites, Matt Biolos, was there. Darren Hanley, Eric Arakawa, Britt Merrick, and Rusty Preisendorfer. I mean, collectively, they had about 200 years of shaping experience in that room and it was a really, really interesting video.
In that video, they talked about how surfboard volume, as a concept, has gotten out of control. At least, that’s the message I got from the video was that surfboard volume as it pertains to designing a surfboard is misunderstood.
Surfboard Volume is not everything and it can’t work in isolation.
It needs to be factored in with other design factors, overall, when a surfboard shaper designs a board. All of the design aspects of that board have to work together in unison, so partially that’s why I thought it would be useful to talk about volume.
Surfboard Volume Debunked: What is Surfboard Volume?
So, what is surfboard volume and why surfboard volume debunked? It is, quite literally, the amount of space that that board occupies. If you were to put it into the water, and sink it underneath the water, the amount of water that that board displaces, that would be the surfboard volume.
To surfers, what that means, volume basically translates into a couple of different things, but the most important ones are the influence on your ability to catch waves easily. Where you are not struggling to paddle onto waves, no matter how big or small the conditions are.
It also has a great deal to do with the amount of speed that you’re going to be able to generate down the line. Speed, to me, is an incredibly important attribute of surfing.
If you look at the top tier good surfers of the world, their ability to manage and control speed, I think, is what really set them apart from everybody else, even very good, experienced surfers all the way down to novices.
Too little volume can mean that it’s hard to catch waves, it’s hard to paddle onto waves, and it’s also hard to generate speed.
On the other side, if you have a board that’s too big for you, one that has too much volume, it might feel quite boaty or bulky. It might be difficult to push through turns, to sink that rail when you’re trying to push through a turn. Depending on your ability level, those factors might matter more or less. Hopefully, this answers the question: what is surfboard volume and how it can translate your experience in the water as far as surfers are concerned.
What Surfboard Volume Isn’t
It isn’t everything. It’s not the be-all end-all. You don’t have to get down to the decimal point of your exact surfboard volume on every board you ever get.
To me, surfboard volume is a good starting point. It’s a good reference point to be able to say, look, I know that roughly in this range, that this board’s probably going to work for me. If I’m looking at the standard set of dimensions, or I’m ordering a custom, I know roughly for this style of board and for the waves that that board is intended, this is probably where that volume should be. But it’s not everything.
The rocker of the board, the curvature of the board, also factors into how easy it is to paddle onto a wave or just paddle the board in general, and how quickly that board will go.
More rocker equals more friction. Less rocker equals less friction, so that also influences the paddling ability and the speed of a board.
Foil, or the distribution of foam, the foam displacement throughout the board, is also hugely important. Surfboard foil is something that the shapers like the ones we talked about before, they have mastered the art of foil. And it is an art form.
Knowing where to put the foam through the nose, the rails, through the center of the board, if it’s a dome deck or whatever, the thickness and the width of the tail:
Foil is incredibly important and a board that may have less volume but has a really well-placed foil will actually feel better in the water. You’ll be able to paddle onto waves, you’ll be able to get a lot of speed, and you probably won’t need as large of a board as you might otherwise think you need, if the foil is right.
So foil and rocker are also very, very important to a surfboard’s overall design. Importantly, surfboard volume does not work in isolation. All of the design factors of the board have to work together to achieve the goal of that board.
Again, when you’re talking about the Matt Biolos’ of the world, the Eric Arakawas, Rusty Preisendorfer, guys that have been shaping for decades, they know how much volume should sit within a certain plan shape, but that volume is really an end result of all of the other attributes of that board.
So going and suggesting that you want a custom that’s going to drastically change some of those designs in order to get to a specific volume is not going to do you any favors. It’s not going to make your shaper happy. A lot of shapers that I’ve talked to have this problem where somebody says, look, I’m riding 6’0 right now and I want a 6’4 of the same style of board but I want to have it exactly the same volume as my 6-0. It’s probably not going to work.
Surfboard volume isn’t everything. It’s part of a greater whole but also things like rocker and foil are incredibly important to how well a board will paddle and how much speed you’ll be able to generate.
How to Get Surfboard Volume Right?
We’ve talked about what surfboard volume is and what it isn’t. How do we get it right?
You can go online and you can Google surfboard sizing or surfboard volume. We’ve actually got a post that’s very popular on our site that talks about surfboard sizing and has a handy surfboard sizing chart but I think a couple things are important.
Number one, surfboard volume is quite subjective. I am 105 kilos and often people hear the volume of the boards I ride and they think it’s enormous, but more people actually say that I ride boards that are slightly too small for me given me my size and weight, given I’m a 105 kilogram person.
So surfboard volume is quite subjective, and if you really want to know your volume, you’re going to have to arrive at it through trial and error. Again, you can look at a surfboard sizing guide online or a volume calculator to get a rough idea of where you’ll sit, but really, it’s a lot of trial and error.
I have come up with this concept of a ‘volume sweet spot’. I look at different boards that are intended to achieve different purposes and those boards might have different volumes. I ride boards anywhere from the mid-30s, 35L, 36L is about as low as I’ll go before I know that I’m going to really start to struggle to catch waves, all the way up to 45, even 50 liters. That’s my volume sweet spot.
Importantly, BEFORE you start thinking about surfboard volume and surfboard sizing you must first decide what type or style of board to ride based on the waves you are going ride with that board most of the time.
For example, for a tiny wave groveler, something I’m surfing in the knee high range, I prefer to have a lot more volume because I want to catch as many waves as possible and get as much speed as possible when the waves don’t offer much push. So I might ride boards that are 42, 43 even 45 liters.
When you get to the other end of the scale, when you’re riding boards that are for really big waves, you’re again going to go up in volume, because the bigger a wave is, the faster it’s generally moving and you need more surfboard volume to get onto bigger, faster-moving waves.
For average, smaller wave boards, I could be sitting anywhere from 39 to 42 liters. For average, all-rounder style boards, I’m probably in, on average, 38 to 40 liters.
For the good wave / high performance shortboards I take to Indo or places like that where the waves provide a lot of the energy and a lot of the push I can ride boards that are smaller – even 35, 36 liters. Importantly, I find good, quality waves are easier to dial in, too, so you don’t have to nail the takeoff every time. If a wave is breaking in the same place and doing roughly the same thing at takeoff, you can learn where the waves are going and you can get in based on that.
That’s my volume sweet spot for different styles of boards that are intended for different wave types. Roughly:
42-45L’s for tiny wave grovelers
39-42L’s for small wave, summer lovin boards (small wave hybrids, modern performance fishes, etc)
38-40L’s for my all rounders
35-38L’s for my good wave / high performance shortboards
Back up to 50L’s for my 7’4 gun!
That’s what I’ve arrived at after lots of trial and error and riding lots of different boards. But I think, again, it is subjective. People would say that I should be riding boards that are in the mid to high 40s at a minimum, given my weight, but that’s the sweet spot that works for me.
Now, some surfers, like Craig, who’s on this show, he rides a very specific volume: 28.5 liters on the dot for practically every board he orders. He knows what he wants. Anything over that, it feels big to him. It doesn’t feel right.
People say he should be riding more foam but Craig is an advanced surfer and he is able to generate speed in just about any size wave so that works for him. But he’s a very good surfer. Most of us won’t necessarily be able to stick to one surfboard volume across board types.
Again, I encourage you to look more broadly at what types of boards you’re looking to ride in what types of conditions. That’s my volume sweet spot. This is surfboard volume debunked.
I hope this has been helpful talking about surfboard volume debunked, surfboard sizing, and understanding a little bit more about what surfboard volume is, what it isn’t, and how to possibly arrive at your volume sweet spot so that you are riding the right boards for the right conditions every time.