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Surfboard Dimensions : Length, Width, Thickness & Foil

How your surfboard’s dimensions affect your surfing.

Length

Length Surfboard

Long Surfboards

Length helps you paddle faster and catch more waves. Your surfboard will hold a longer waterline, which helps with stability. Longer boards are great for when the waves are bigger, as the extra surface area will help the board feel less shaky at high speed.

Short Surfboards

Shorter boards are easier to change direction quickly because they create less water resistance when going from side to side. They are more manoeuvrable, especially in small waves.

Width

Width Surfboard

Wide Surfboards

Wide surfboards provide more floatation and surface area. This translates into easier paddling, extra glide and great stability. Wide surfboards are perfect for beginners, as the extra foam from rail to rail helps their balance. Beginners commonly don’t have their feet perfectly positioned on the width of the surfboard when they pop up. Wider boards are more forgiving.

Narrow Surfboards

Surfboards that have a narrow width are very easy to go from rail to rail with. They provide a quick response. Experienced surfers might choose surfboards with less width to help them make tight turns and advanced maneuvers in steeper parts of the wave.

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Thickness

Surfboard Thickness

Thick Surfboards

Thick surfboards are great for beginners and intermediates. These surfboards will paddle faster, making it easy to catch waves. Surfers will find they don’t sink as much in the water when they are stuck in flatter parts of a wave. More thickness helps surfers of all levels ride softer waves. Thick boards are forgiving for the less experienced when they ride too far from the pocket (curled part of the wave), as they can keep some of their speed.

Thin Surfboards

Thickness can hurt the performance of more advanced surfers, limiting the manoeuvrability of their board. The thinner a board is, the easier it is to “dig” the rails in the water since it won’t float as much. Being able to lean on the rails is essential for solid bottom turns and advanced carving.

How to Surf Franco Rivas Dig Rail
Head Surf Coach Franco Rivas buries his left rail on a backside bottom turn. Doing the same drastic turn on a very thick surfboard would be much harder.

Foil (or thickness distribution)

Foil Surfboard

It’s not just about the overall thickness. A very important thing to observe is how the foam is distributed on the surfboard. When you look at the surfboard from its profile, can you observe extra foam located near the nose, in the middle, or closer to the tail? Having extra thickness at different spots on the surfboard will strongly affect how it responds in the water.

Nose thickness

Thick Nose

More volume towards the nose will provide easier paddling into waves. It helps novice surfers with extra stability and provides more speed when surfing small waves.

Thin Nose

A small and thin nose means you don’t have much weight to move around when you want to turn. You will benefit from more performance and manoeuvrability, and duck dives will be easier.

Middle thickness

Thick Middle

More foam in the middle of your surfboard will have you surfing faster down the line. Thickness helps to ride soft waves and catch waves easily. Heavier surfers usually add volume towards the middle to get more floatation. Thicker surfboards usually don’t break in half as easily as thinner boards.

Thin Middle‍

A thin middle helps advanced surfers go from edge to edge quickly and easily. Less volume means more manoeuvrability and control, especially when doing advanced turns.

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Tail thickness

Thick Tail

Wide, thick tails provide stability and float. This is best for novice surfers as it makes it easier to catch waves and stand up on them without feeling too shaky. Volume at the end of a surfboard provides speed because the tail floats more and planes on the water as you move forward.

Thin Tail

Thinner tails help advanced surfers get more control and “hold” onto waves, especially in steeper parts of a wave. Experienced surfers will surf thinner and narrower tails to “bite” in big waves and to stay in control even at high speeds. Less volume at the tail also makes rolling from rail to rail easier.

*The tail shape can be balanced out with different fin setups and tail shapes.

In short, generally for different surfing conditions, this means:

  • Small and weak waves: More width and thickness
  • Good, powerful and steep waves: Less width and thickness
  • Very big waves: Ride a “gun” shaped surfboard, more length & more volume become important
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