There has really never has been a better time to buy a surfboard. Over the past decade or so, shapers and designers have acknowledged that we are not all surfing at the performance levels of Ms. Gilmore or Mr. Slater and most surfers are not getting any younger. So boards have come to reflect this and cater for a far wider range of abilities but, still incorporating the latest improvements in design and materials. RideWithLocal is here with words from Tim Jones of Surf School Sri Lanka and Surf School Lanzarote to try to help you figure it all out.download2

So, what design features actually make up a surfboard? What should we be looking for when choosing a new board? Let’s look at some absolute basics of what a surfboard consists of so you can start to understand what board is right for you.

This is the overall curve that runs down the board. The “banana likeness”of the board as it were and it’s vital that it’s right for you.  If it looks like Aladdin’s shoes or to the other extreme, your Mum’s ironing board then avoid it like the plague! We generally use a 3 stage rocker these days. Either curve/lift in the nose, flatter in the middle or curve/lift in the tail. That’s basically all you need to know, for what is the the board’s most important feature, the rocker.

This is the general outline of the board or what we call the plan shape. Generally outlines have all got “fuller” of late meaning there is a bit more width in the board’s midpoint, nose and tail. That’s good for you creating wave catching ability and an easier turning capability.

Hurray for volume! Finally, after years of surfers and board builders avoiding the basic science of volume they are recognizing its importance. Volume is how many cubic liters can fit into each board.  You can use volume calculators like these here found on the Fire Wire or the Rusty site. Be honest please when it asks you your ability level. Of course you will be.

As we all know there’s nothing nicer than a well shaped bottom! (bottom of the board, honestly). The best place to find out about bottoms is on design sites to see how they work. If it’s Vee bottoms you like or concave bottoms or a combination of the both, you will have to find your that balance that suits you best. There are some great bottom shapes these days that will keep you and the board lively.


People think the fins keep you in the wave. They don’t. They just add directional control. It’s the rails, the bits on the side of your board, that do the real work. If you’re getting a good quality board, the rails should be solid, but cheap and cheerful. Sometimes boards can leave you with non-functional rails which leads to a non-functioning board. You can see the difference of a tucked rail and a down rail below.


The unsung hero is the deck of the board. The top of the board that we jump on and lie on. It’s our prime contact with board. Keep it flattish and avoid a “dome deck”. If it’s below 7’6” in length, get a deck grip on it.

Fins just ain’t what they used to be. It’s a minefield of tech specs that are often of little importance to most surfers. Ride what the designer put in the board unless it’s a cheap plastic set. In that case do upgrade (if the boards worth it!). A new set of fins is nice if they’re the right ones but, don’t change a good set till you know the board is for you. It’s time in the water that will really improve your surfing not switching your fins.
Keep Notes
Enjoy this video to understand how to measure a board. Keep the dimensions written down in your phone or on a piece of paper because when figuring out your board you need to know where we have been, not just where we are going.  Write down volumes if possible too.

So, keep it simple when choosing your board. Hire before buy if you can. Borrow your mate’s boards and just try, try, try as many boards as possible! Longboard, mid-range, egg and short board, try them all if you want. But, only buy when you know they work for you and catching just one wave doesn’t count as a test ride!

Buy a tape measure but don’t become a board geek please. Do try to avoid thinking the strange and radical will offer sudden changes to your ability. Then, when you’re good and ready, one day you can make your own! (From sustainable resources, of course:)

Stay tuned to another installment of Understanding Board Shapes with Tim Jones coming soon. Until then enjoy this video with Tim below giving you plenty of valuable info on surfboard design and make sure you log into next time you need a local surf instructor.

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