5 tips to find that magic surfboard
Surfing the perfect surfboard gives that magical feeling when everything comes together. You easily catch waves, the board goes wherever you want it to go and all your manoeuvres seem powerful and smooth. Your confidence gets a boost as well as the smile on your face.
Here are 5 tips to help you find that magic surfboard.
1. Start with length
If you are learning to surf and you want to buy your first surfboard go for length. Ideally your board should be between 7 and 9 feet depending on your weight. The main reason why you should go for length is because it increases your paddle speed.
Firstly, increasing length increases foam volume and therefore buoyancy. Buoyancy keeps the surfboard out of the water so you will push less water when you paddle.
Secondly, when you paddle for a wave your board acts as a “displacement hull”, it will displace or push water. (When you are up and surfing your board starts to plane and acts as a “planing hull”). The maximum speed of a displacement hull depends on its length. The longer your board, the faster you can paddle and that is exactly what you need when you are learning to surf.
In order to take off on a wave your paddle speed must match the speed of the incoming wave. With a longer board you need less help from gravity to reach that speed. If you can paddle fast you will be up sooner when the wave is not that steep yet. It gives you time to make small corrections, find your balance and angle your board to the shoulder of the wave before the wave becomes too critical.
Your paddle speed will help you as well to go faster to the correct take off position. As a beginning surfer your judgement of where that exactly is, is not well developed yet.
Limited paddle speed is one of the reasons why for instance a 6’0 Fish is not a good board for a beginning surfer. Also in general, the main reason for choosing the wrong board is choosing one that is too small.
2. Don’t stick to the wrong surfboard
If you already have a surfboard but it does not really perform the way you want (you don’t catch enough waves, it does not give you stability, you can not turn it) then don’t stick to it forever. Don’t think that if you surf it long enough, you will get used to it and it will become a good board for you. You lose easily a couple of years in your learning process and win a couple of years of frustration. It is much easier to change a board then to gain surf experience or change your surfing style.
For instance, if you are a back foot surfer and you surf on a board with a lot of tail rocker, you might struggle. Back foot surfers tend to need the push back from the tail and therefore need flatter tail rocker. Changing the board is much easier than trying to become a front foot surfer.
3. Analyse your old surfboard
If you want a new board, take your old one with you to the shaper or the surfboard shop. Let a specialist analyse your board. Try to explain what you feel when surfing this board and what you want differently. Be as specific as possible. If you have photos or videos surfing your old board, even better.
All this feedback gives the specialist a starting point to work from and it is more likely that your new surfboard is close to what you are looking for.
It is important to track numbers of your old boards. Not just volume, length, width and thickness, but lots of them. Ask for your numbers from your shaper or learn to measure boards. Building a base of reference helps you understand what your needs and solutions might look like.
Surfboard dimensions are so much more than just volume, length, width at the widest point and thickness at the thickest point.
4. Understand the basics of surfboard design
Try to understand how surfboard design relates to its performance. Knowing the basic principles will help you to understand why a surfboard behaves the way it does. A lot of information spread about surfboards comes from well-meant but subjective and very individual feelings from surfers. Ask 5 surfers what “drive” means and there is a chance you get 5 different answers. Understanding the influence of different bottom contours, rail shapes, etc. allows you to filter a lot of the mist. Unravel the mystique around a surfboard. Everything has a reason.
For instance, when you spin out in top turns, simply replacing fins with more rake might solve the problem.
In future blog posts we will try to share this basic knowledge. An interesting book with good and simple explanations about how surfboards work is “The Surfboard Book” by Sean McCagh. Knowledge is king and if you put in the effort, the reward is yours.
5. Try before you buy!
Only by experimenting you will truly understand surfboard behaviour. If you actually felt what a V bottom in the tail did, you will remember it forever. Sometimes prejudice hinders you in having the correct board for the right conditions. Try boards from friends, try demos and find out what works. The proof is always in the water.
Surf in the same session with different boards and try to found out what has changed in your surfing. Let somebody film you and you will see better what actually happens (it can be very different of what you think happens). Same goes for the fins, try different ones. Fins have a bigger influence on surfing than generally assumed. It can make or break a board.
Finding that perfect surfboard is not an easy process. The path to the magic one is often one of several iterations. Trying a board before you buy one, can shorten this process drastically.
Written by: Rik
Rik has been a surf coach for over 10 years. Because of his engineering background he always had great interest in how the design of a surfboard influences its performance. In order to guide surfers to a surfboard that feels perfect he founded Magic Board Center in Lagos.
Magic Board Center offers quality surfboards to test, rent or buy. The ‘Try before you buy’ concept let you quickly understand which surfboard works best for you. If you travel and don’t want the hassle of surfboard transport you can rent more than 75 different boards covering all surf conditions.