There is an endless number of boards out there and it can be super hard for us surfer girls to find the right companion in the water. Too often we end up with a high-performance, thin and narrow board from our boyfriend (or any other male surfer) – just after we caught our first wave in the white wash. Trust me, this is NOT the fastest way to learn – and here I am speaking out of experience 😉 Here is some advice for you to help you determine the perfect features of your „magic board.“ You will find the basic parts of the board and their various characteristics explained in detail.
The Nose of your board
The front tip of the board. Depending on how wide the nose is, the board will paddle faster (wide nose) or dip more easily into fast-breaking, hollow waves (pointy nose). A longboard, for example, will have a very wide nose to allow you to catch mellow, slower waves. Advanced longboarders will also use the wide nose for standing on („noseride“). In contrast, a shortboard, designed for high performance and steeper waves, will have a pointy nose that allows you to dip onto the nearly vertical face of a fast-breaking, hollow wave and do sharp, radical turns.
The very end of the board affects the performance immediately, as you steer the board mostly with your back foot. A pin tail will help you to get deep into the barrel, for example. Depending on the skills of the surfer and the quality of the waves, there are several types to choose from. Some examples are the fish, pin, squash, diamond, square and swallow tail.
The outer edges of the board. They vary in roundness and thickness. Depending on the use of the board they are designed to either facilitate catching a lot of waves, tube riding, radical turns and more.
The invention of fins revolutionized surfing. Riding for example a traditional wooden Alaia board without any fins is a science in itself. It is a slippery slide for any newbie. In short, fins enable you to ‚grip‘ onto the wave and slice turns into its face, rather than just going straight. There are plenty of different fins in various materials and sizes. Shortboards can have a thruster- (3 fins) or quad-fin (4 fins) setup. Longboards usually have a single, very long fin. There are plenty more variations for you to choose.
The flat (or curved) top of the board. Usually, you rub wax on it to make sure that your feet won’t slip right off the originally smooth surface when you take-off.
The bottom of the surfboard will affect immediately how you glide on the wave face. Your board can have a convex (‚round‘) or concave (‚hollow‘) bottom. The latter is more common. The number of concaves varies on each board, allowing the water to pass under the board and to generate speed. There is plenty of experimenting and revolutionizing going on in the shaping industry, as you can probably tell. Just take a look at the crazy boards that Kelly Slater and Co. keep inventing, testing and sometimes shelving after the first few rides 😀
The way in which a surfboard is curved from nose to tail. You will recognize it by looking at the profile of the board. The degree of rocker helps the surfer to land safely on the wave and make tighter turns. The more rocker/ curvature your board has the harder it gets to paddle (as you have less foam that lies plane on the water, carrying your weight).
The thickness of your board varies depending on your weight and wave preferences. Very generally speaking, a fat board will paddle fast, but move more sluggishly up and down the face. A thin board will turn if you just move your little toe, but at the same time you may feel as if you’re paddling through wet concrete.
Surfer Girl Tip: Try out as many shapes and sizes of boards as you can get your hands on! Some will take awhile to get used to, but you will learn a lot – about your preferences, abilities and needs, as well as board shapes. I helps a lot to buy a few different second hand boards, try them a few times – and if they don’t feel good under your feet, sell them again. Only by testing different boards, you will find out what is best for you.
The overall volume of your board is measured in litres. It depends on the width, thickness and length of the board. Like the thickness, the volume determines how buoyant your board will be. However, two boards with the exact same volume can show huge differences in their maneuvrability.
Remember: What counts is the overall shape of your board in relation to your skill level, weight, size, wave and performance preferences. Buy a board that FEELS GOOD to YOU – not a board that looks good, or a board from a famous brand. Surfing is all about HAVING FUN! 🙂
The length of the board basically determines how much of your body will drag in the water or float on top. Of course a longer board will have more plane surface touching the wave, thus lifting your board out of the water, making it easier to paddle and retain speed on the wave. For sharper turns, you will require a shorter board, however.
The wider your board, the less flexibility you have in turns. However, a wide (and thick/ voluminous) board is more buoyant, thus it will allow you to paddle as smoothly as if you were on a longboard.
When your surfboard blank is delivered to the shaper, he will give it an overall layout by taking off dispensable amounts of foam in the desired places. This overall layout, or thickness, from the nose to the tail of your board, is called the foil. The aim is to achieve a balanced, plan shape across the board.