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How surfboard volume is changing the industry.

Lately, you will notice more and more shapers and surfers using volume metrics and surfboard volume calculators to really dial in their equipment.

Since computer-aided design (CAD) programs have started to be used by more and more surfboard shapers, everyone has begun to realise that volume is one of the most crucial elements when dialing in the perfect board for a surfer’s age, ability and the type of waves they will be surfing.

Pro-surfers can feel the difference in as little as 0.5 Litre change in their equipment.  At this level of surfing, even half a litre can really impact surfing performance especially on step-up boards.

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A beginner may not even understand or take into consideration the volume of a surfboard, but when they are struggling just to paddle into waves while their friends are riding all the way to the beach, they will quickly find out how important the right equipment can be.

The wrong equipment can make or break someone’s decision to stick with surfing and shows how important it is even for beginners to get the right starter surfboard size.

So, how do you determine the right volume  for you?

Mick and Darren checking out their DHD Surfboards handy-work.

Mick and Darren checking out the DHD Surfboards handy-work.

Knowing Your Surfboard Volume

There are many factors that come into play when determining the right volume for your surfboards. Age, ability, frequency and the type of waves you generally surf all play important roles in finding the right surfboard volume.

The external measurements of a board are great to know, but it’s the distribution of the foam throughout the outline that will impact the volume and the performance of your surfboard.

Knowing your volume will help to determine the right equipment for you no matter the level of surfing you are at.

Fortunately these days there are many surfboard volume calculators and volume charts that have been developed to help you determine what volume is best for you.

Lots of these volume calculators however, can be pretty general and only really take your weight into consideration.

What happens if there are other factors involved?

Advanced calculators can take your age, fitness level, surfing ability, type of waves and style of board you prefer all into consideration.

When you think about it it’s pretty obvious. If you have two people, both 5’10 and 180 LBS but one of them is 25 and the other is 60, they probably shouldn’t be surfing the same board. Any surfboard volume calculator should then take this information into consideration.

Finding the Volume of a Surfboard and the Use of CAD programs

In days gone past, volume was considered, but rarely ever measured. You used to just feel the rails and throw the board under your arm to get an idea of how she was going to float.

Lots of people still swear by this and for the most part, it’s still a good system.  If you have some surfing experience, you will always be able to use the feel test to know to some degree how that board will perform for you.

The use of CAD programs have allowed shapers to easily find and refine a surfboard’s volume without going through the painstaking and sometimes inaccurate method of using a displacement tank to do so.

This makes it easier to dial in ones equipment for optimal performance. As noted above, an advanced surfer can feel the difference in as little as 0.5 litre change in volume.

So, now that we can calculate and refine the volume of a surfboard with relative ease, we have to consider how the volume relates to the surface area, outline and distribution of foam through a board.

Dan MacDonald of DMS Surfboards showing his skills.

Dan MacDonald of DMS Surfboards showing his skills.

Volume and the Shape of a Board

Your surfboard may look bigger, but that doesn’t mean it floats better. A 6’2 short-board could very well have less volume than a 5’4 small wave machine.

Take a look at two boards with similar dimensions.

Let’s say both are 5’8 x 20″ wide (at widest point) and 2.5″ thick (at thickest point). The first board (no. 1) has a pulled in tail, while the second board (no. 2) has a wider tail.

Board number one has a refined, pulled in nose, while the second board’s nose is more round. Board number two is going to have significantly more volume than board number one because of its outline.

Board Comparison: Lost Surfboards Mini Driver on the left and The RV on the right.

Board Comparison: Lost Surfboards Mini Driver on the left and The RV on the right.

This does not mean that one board is better for you than the other.

Board number one is likely to give you a bit more performance in your short-board that will go well in steep, hollow waves.

Board number two is probably more of a grovel board for softer waves with less push.

Finding your right volume will include a combination of board dimensions and the volume combined with the surface area while taking into account your age, ability, fitness and types of waves you surf.

But don’t just stick with one volume for all your boards either.

In good, quality waves, too much volume will hurt your performance.

Yes, you’ll find paddling into the waves easy, but setting your rail and then transitioning from rail to rail will be difficult. n

Similarly, in less powerful and softer waves, if your board doesn’t have enough volume, your wave count is going to go down.

Bogging your rails and sinking into the wave could even ruin your session.

You really need to find a happy balance between your type of equipment you use and the waves you surf.

Construction and Materials
The boys from the left: DMS Actor, Haydenshapes Hypto Krypto, SUPER Fling, Gary McNeill Six Bliss, DHD Jack Freestone DX1.

The boys from the left: DMS Actor, Haydenshapes Hypto Krypto, SUPER Fling, Gary McNeill Six Bliss, DHD Jack Freestone DX1.

RELATED: Need a new surfboard bag?

There is a lot of speculation that construction of a surfboard can change the volume.  People claim the EPS and Epoxy boards “float” more on the water and you feel more on top of the wave compared to a standard Polyurethane and Polyester.

While the verdict still seems to be out on the subject, both styles of boards remain popular for different reasons. My epoxy boards are definitely lighter compared to my poly boards, but does that actually mean they float more?

Do you think the CAD program or the displacement tank really knows the difference between the two constructions?

The thing to remember is that while the volumes are going to be the same (or damn close) between the two constructions, your performance will be different. Remember, this has nothing to do with the volume of your board, but rather, the weight of the board.

You’ll find that paddling around the line-up and the ability to paddle into waves will be very similar if not the same between the two constructions. However, using the weight of a poly board can help you get down the line while the lightness of the epoxy board is great for whipping it around through turns and airs.

This is where the performance difference lies.

Also, when the conditions are not so great, you may find the extra weight of the poly board will help plow through choppy water instead of bouncing around the wave on something lighter.

The Verdict

Don’t waste your time surfing all the wrong equipment!

Using an advanced volume calculator will take into consideration many of the variables needed to determine what type of equipment you should be looking for, helping to set you in the right direction.

The tools are out there to dial in your ideal board or boards – everyone should have a quiver!

Combine this with some common sense, experience, as well as your shapers knowledge to help determine construction, etc and you will be well on your way to building the quiver of your dreams.

With thanks to Adam Fischer from for putting together this article. Head over to their site to check out their Board Engine calculator and work out what board is perfect for you.

RELATED: How to surf like a pro


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  • Dominick

    What’s the best board for me? I’m 5’8, 188lbs I’m an amateur surfer. I surf 7-10 days a year on the east coast during vacation.. The waves are between 2-6 feet…

  • billy

    9’0 longboard, 22″ wide.

  • Eudes

    stay dry and drink mojito on the beach while staring at girls ass.
    no, I’m joking, you need at least a 40L, your goal is to catch waves, not surfing them like Dane reynolds, and, if it’s crowded, you must learn before going the rule of ocean (current, sharks, pollution, etc….) and how stupid/clever are the other people in the water are acting,, and how le locals are ruling the spot.
    The idea is that your presence don’t make any trouble, for you and other, the ocean does have no owner, but in fact, the wrong people with the wrong equipment and bad mentality ruin the joy of surfing.

  • Mits

    It’s impossible to understand how a board rides from a few measurements, let alone one. Volume floats, yes, but a high volume board with tons of rocker won’t get you many waves. Surfave area helps you plane early, and keep speed on flat spots, but where this area is placed will have an effect to how the board rides. Bottom shape is at least as important. What about rail shape and thickness. Sharp edge or soft?

    A combination of all of the above define the character of a board. But if I had to choose one, I’d choose rocker.

  • Keith Browning

    Find yourself an experienced local shaper who surfs where you do and work with them.