We're always looking for our next magic board, but let's face it, experimenting isn't cheap. To increase the odds of picking up a stick that you'll actually love, we reached out to several board manufacturers for their advice on finding the unique combination elements that will suit your surfing.
Find the right foam and stringer
"The species of wood in a stringer and the layup of the stringer will change the strength and stiffness of your board. There are many options available to shapers to get their desired characteristics to suit the shape and construction.
"The foam type, density, and flexural properties will affect both the feeling under your feet, as well as the compressional strength and how well it supports the load of your laminate. If your foam is soft, it will compress easily and not support the laminate from buckling. Foam that is more rigid will hold up against compressions and support the load of the laminate, but if it is too rigid or dense it will feel hard and dead under your feet, which is the easiest way to tell. Choosing the right foam to work with the construction of your laminate will result in a board that is durable, and feels great when you ride it."—Hayden Cox, Hayden Shapes
Notice the difference in tail design
"The average surfer probably doesn't have the experience base to understand surfboards—they just want a board that looks cool or different, or that they think will work well. But what they don’t understand is how the tail can affect the board’s performance. In the end, it's all relative to the experience level of the surfer. A pro may have several boards in their quiver with the same shape, but all with different tail designs, i.e. round tail, squash tail, diamond tail, with each one designed for slightly different conditions. Less experienced surfers may not feel these subtle differences, but will feel the more exaggerated differences and tend to accept the shape of certain models as they are offered up.
Example: "A short, wide board with a very square tail will ride much differently than the same one with a rounded squash. The average surfer will accept what is offered up in the store as a particular model. A more experienced surfer will say, 'Please make me one, but let's reduce the tail area a little and add some curve to the outline through the fin area.' Hoping it will ride a little better and have smoother transitions through turns without giving up too much of the tail area their looking for."—Rusty Preisendorfer, Rusty Surfboards
Know the advantages of a longer and thicker board
"We make 14-year-old Kanoa Igarashi a bigger-than-average board for his size each time he goes through a growth spurt. I asked that he ride a longer and slightly thicker board at least once or twice a week to continue developing his rail and power surfing. It's so easy to get caught up in riding a board that's shorter and technically suited for the most high-performance surfing that you see kids forgetting to use their rail. We wanted to make sure this never happens to Kanoa or the other kids on our team. Having him ride bigger boards just keeps him focused on developing all aspects of his surfing and doesn't let him forget the importance of power surfing in a well-rounded repertoire. A prime example is 18-year-old Conner Coffin. Throughout his youth, Conner came into the factory and borrowed Dane Reynolds' old boards, which at the time were a good half a foot too big as well as too thick for him. He would just ride them on good days at Rincon, and today you can really see the benefits of this in his style."—Travis Lee, Channel Islands Team Manager
Understand surfboard volume
"Until the CAD programs (Surfboard design software) became well established, it was next to impossible to measure volume on boards. Now that most all CAD programs tell us the numerical volume, we can track it. In fact, the programs have had it as a tool at our disposal for well over a decade, but I didn't start tracking it until 4 to 5 years ago. Since 2010, we have strived to write the volume as one of our dimensions on every board we make. Once a surfer has a board with the volume written on it, then he can start to learn how much he feels he needs. It almost needs to be universally written on all boards, by all makers, just like width or thickness. However, the tricky thing is now that we have opened the door for this, it causes issues and some confusion. A customer will often request a model for their standard dimensions, as well as the amount of volume they want. The two will often clash, and you must now customize the file.
Example: "Someone orders a 6'0" x 18.50" x 2.25" Driver model, then tosses out the 25.5 liters of volume. I have to open the master file and change the dimensions to what he requests: 26.50 liters…what do I do? The only way to do it without changing the three major dimensions (length, width, and thickness) is to adjust the foil and rail shape. Then I would need to taper the deck and rails and/or possibly narrow the nose-to-tail foil and/or outline—just to shave off a full liter of volume. It's a big can of worms."—Matt Biolos, …Lost Surfboards
Know the appropriate dimensions for a certain model
"A common mistake surfers will make is that they'll order a small-wave board or a smaller, shorter, and wider board and expect it to work in all conditions. Surfboards are a lot like golf clubs. Each board has a place in your quiver, and if you utilize a three or four board quiver then you can effectively surf any type of condition.
By understanding the purpose and the sizing of a board, you're going to end up with a much better result. If you buy a board and it's not the right sizing for your ability, or for your weight, you end up not utilizing all the elements of the board and what it's intended to do.
Example: "You'll have a guy that has been riding a 6'2" x 18 ¾" x 2 3/8" high-performance shortboard with a narrow nose and a narrow tail, hoping it will last him 10 years. He goes into a shop and says, 'I want to try one of those White Diamonds (Roberts' shorter and wider model).' He then goes to the rack and picks up a 6'2" and says, "Man this thing feels really big! How come it's so big?" The reason is, because he should have been looking for a 5'8" or a 5'9", due to his size and what he's accustomed to riding."—Robert Weiner, Roberts Surfboards
Find your next magic board in the 2012 Surfboard Buyer’s Guide.