Surfboard Volume according to your Surfing Level
Extra volume almost never hurts beginner & intermediate surfers
Without generalizing, it is safe to say that there is a lot more beginner-intermediate surfers that ride boards that do not have enough volume for their experience level, than surfers that ride boards with too much volume. For the first few years of your surfing progression, extra volume practically only has benefits: you catch more waves, paddle faster, surf faster, enjoy more stability and make it through sections to surf waves for longer amounts of time.
Learning on a bigger board forces you to have proper technique when you want to turn your surfboard. Because it is bigger, you really need to think about how you use your upper body and how you transfer your weight around. These are basics that will be useful for the rest of your surfing progression, even when you start riding shortboards.
Small, low volume surfboards are progression’s worst enemy
Smaller surfboards can fool beginner and intermediate surfers, making them feel like they are “easier to turn on”. Small surfboards are easier to trim on. Because they are so small, you can indeed easily switch from rail to rail with your surfboard just by shifting weight to your toes and heels.
There is a world of difference between trimming (going from rail to rail) and carving (doing stylish and often accentuated turns on the face of the wave). It can take 2 minutes to learn how to trim, but it could take more than a few years to learn how to carve with decent technique. To carve, you need speed, experience, timing, proper positioning on the wave, proper upper body movement, etc. These are all things beginners and intermediates need to practise on a bigger surfboard that helps them generate speed with control. Riding a surfboard that doesn’t have enough volume for you can slow your progression down probably more than any other factor.
Surfboard Volume according to Surfing Conditions:
Small and weak waves: More Volume
Generally, you want to ride bigger surfboards when the waves are small and weak. The extra foam will give you more speed, compensating for the lack of power and speed generating potential of the waves.
Good, powerful and steep waves: Less Volume
When the surfing conditions are good and clean with decent size, experienced surfers often surf smaller surfboards. Less volume translates into tight turns, increased manoeuvrability and it helps to perform advanced tricks like vertical snaps, airs, etc.
Very big waves: More Volume
When waves get big, experienced surfers often use a “step-up board” or a “gun”. These boards usually have more volume and length than their typical shortboard. The extra volume will help them paddle into bigger waves. The bigger the waves are, the faster they move forward, so at a certain point surfers need that extra paddle power. The extra volume also increases stability and hold, because small shortboards can feel a bit too loose on big waves.
How to know what Volume I need?
As we have seen in this article, to find the appropriate volume for your specific needs, you should analyze 3 important factors:
- Your surfing level
- Your weight
- The typical surf conditions you surf in
It is often hard for beginners and intermediates to get a realistic idea of their surfing skills, hence why it is ideal to have a surf coach that has seen you surfing before to help you find a board. Surf coaches, friends, surf shop employees, or anyone giving you advice on “the proper surfboard for you” should know or ask questions about your weight, the average conditions you plan to surf in, and your skill level. If not, look somewhere else!
Extra tool, for Shortboards Only
One of the best tools to help you find a proper Shortboard volume is the Volume Calculator.
Take note, this is just another tool to find an approximation of the volume you need. If you surf in thick wetsuits, crowded surf spots or weak waves, you might want to add a bit of volume. If you surf good, warm water waves and get consistent conditions, you could go for a smaller board.
Volume is probably the most important element to consider when choosing a surfboard. It’s the factor that can most affect the number of waves you catch, and how much fun you have in the water. But it isn’t everything. Understanding how the rocker and the surfboard's dimensions affect your surfing will also help you find better surfboards for your surf level, and have a positive impact on your progression.