March 5

Know These 10 Things Before You Buy Your Next Board



Your surfboard is made up of several parts. Each section or part of a surfboard has a specific purpose.

  • Length
  • Thickness / Volume
  • Rocker
  • Deck
  • Bottom
  • Tail
  • Nose
  • Rails
  • Stringer


1. Length

The measurement (generally in feet and inches) from the tip to tail of the surfboard.

Why is it important? The longer the surfboard, the more stable it will be and the easier it will be to paddle. Generally, the purpose of longer boards is to ride larger, more powerful waves. The increased volume helps for paddling onto larger waves while the length provides stability at higher speeds.

The length of the surfboard is relative to your experience as a surfer as well as what size wave you prefer riding and of course what style of surfing your prefer. For example, a beginner will often start on a 9” foot funboard, however, an experienced longboarder will likely have a similar length board of 9” foot but a totally different shape and material.

The continued length really makes all the difference with your speed and glide along the surface to gain the right momentum to catch the wave at the same speed at which it’s forming.

2. Thickness

The thickness of your surfboard determines how well the board will float on top of the water and its balance (stability). The more your body is on top of the water the easier it will be to paddle. A thinner board will have you submerged more in the water and that will change your ability to paddle and catch waves.

The board’s thickness is usually measured by the center. Generally, this where you will need the most floatation for paddling and balance, distributed between the nose and the tail. Some surfers prefer a thicker nose, others a thicker tail. This depends on their ability, style and what they are looking to achieve in their surfing.

Placement of thickness in the nose, tail and centre of the surfboard can fundamentally change how the board performs and the types of waves the board will be best suited for.

3. Volume

The amount of space a surfboard occupies, usually expressed in cubic litres (i.e., 35 cl’s). Empirically, the [length x width x thickness] will yield the volume of a surfboard. However, the key to the placement of that volume, foil, affects the overall volume of a surfboard greatly.

Why is it important? Volume is fundamentally important in a world where surfboard shapes have become more and more diverse; a 6’6 good wave shortboard surfboard may easily have less volume than a 5’8 groveler surfboard.

Knowing the right volume for you – a subjective combination of personal preference, body weight, experience, age, riding style, etc. – will ensure that you don’t buy a surfboard with too much or too little volume.

Too little means you won’t catch as many waves and will have trouble generating speed. Too much means the board will feel bulky, hard to transition and turn.

4. Rocker

The rocker is the curve in the board from nose to tail, when looking from a side angle. A rocker can be very minor or increased to be very pronounced.

The amount of rocker affects speed and maneuverability.

Less rocker means the board lays flatter on the water surface. The board will be faster but have less maneuverability.

The more rocker a board has, the slower the board will be but it will have more maneuverability. It will be able to pull tight acrs in turns.

5. Deck

The deck is the top side of the surfboard and is where the surfer stands to surf and lays to paddle. Bottom

6. Bottom

When you’re riding across a wave on a surfboard, water passes beneath the bottom of the board. The water’s hitting the bottom at a variety of angles and under various pressures, and it’s constantly changing those angles and pressures — but generally, it moves from somewhere near the front half of the board, through part or all of the bottom contour, and out somewhere near the back half, even directly off the board’s tail.

For now, we’ll cover the two most common, they are:

  1. Channels
  2. Concaves

These two different types of bottoms affect the way the water pushes out the back of the tail. This in turns changes the board’s speed, direction, and versatility.

Most shortboard bottom designs have concaves, in an attempt to modify or control the water flow to the benefit of the rider.

7. Tail

Tails vary in a whole manner of shapes from swallowtails to rounded pintails. If you have heard others, surfers, using jargon like “My board felt really loose, tight or stiff’’ they are references the tail of the board, as this is where all your maneuverability comes from.

Different types of tails are used for bigger or smaller waves and depending on what type of surf break you will be surfing.

Here are two examples:


The surf is 6 foot and a point break – you would be looking at something with a rounded pin tail (in bigger surf you need more stability so the tail needs to be tighter and pulled in to hold the fins in the water).


The surf is two foot and a beach break – you would be looking at something with a swallow tail or squash tail (in smaller surf you have more control over the board so something that is a loser in the tail so you can really get the board working for you).

Tail shapes play an incredibly important role in how a surfboard rides, turns and what waves the board is best suited for.

There are a plethora of tail shape variations but the most recognizable shapes are a swallow tail, round tail, square tail, rounded square or squash tail and a pin tail.

8. Nose

The nose is found in the front quarter section of the surfboard. It is an extension of the board’s rocker and is slightly curved up. This curve is commonly referred to as the nose life.

The shape of the nose help with your speed. A full area nose (like a longboard/ minimal) allows you o get at the front of the board and trim along the wave. There is more surface area in the water so the board will plane along the water surface a bit easier than a thinner, narrower, pulled in board.

When you’re jumping onto a shortboard the nose is noticeably different. The more pulled in the nose the more it will lift out of the water.

Take a look at some of the reasons for the different shapes in the nose.

  • Minimals and learner boards have a fuller nose this is assists the board with more glide on top of the water to paddle onto waves easier and to trim across the wave
  • The shortboard nose is more pointy this is to assist with speed and getting you into steeper waves

9. Rails

Rails are the edges of the surfboard and run from the tail to the nose of the board. There are various types of rails from slow curving, soft to very square. The shape of the rail will determine how the board cuts through the water and this will, in turn, affect the way the board turns.

Let’s take a look at the two most common types:


Soft rails are great for smaller waves as they allow the board to turn easily, without catching any edges – often referred to as bogging the rail.


Hard rails are great for larger, steeper faces as they allow the board to grip or hold onto the waves face.

10. Stringer

The stringer is a strip of strengthening material (typically wood) that runs the whole length of a foam surfboard. It’s already present in the surfboard blank before it is shaped. Epoxy, soft, and carbon fiber surfboards will not often have stringers.Most surfboards bottoms are flat but you may encounter a few different types of bottoms as your progress onto more advanced boards.

If you feel this has helped in any way or have any questions please leave a comment below.

About the author 

Lauren Ringer

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