Surfboard dimensions are commonly measured in feet and inches. Your board dimensions will change depending on the type of board and shape of its rails, tail and nose.
The length is measured from the nose to the tail. Choosing the length of the surfboard is dependent on your size (weight, height), board type and waves conditions you wish to use the board for. Longer surfboards will paddle easier, glide better and make it easier to get around sections. However they are less manoeuvrable than short surfboards. Beginners normally need a surfboard around 12″-18″ longer than they are tall.
Surfboard width is the size of the surfboard across the surfboard, perpendicular to the stringer. The widest point of the surfboard is measured from rail to rail. Generally the wider the surfboard the more stable the board, while a board with smaller width maintains better speed and performance. Wider surfboards float better, are more stable and ideal for beginners and for surfing junk waves. 20″ – 22″ is a good width for beginners surfboards. Experienced surfers will often ride surfboards around 17″ – 19″ wide and in large waves most surfers benefit from the increase in control that narrower surfboards will give.
Surfboard thickness is measured from the top deck to the bottom. The thickness again has a bearing on the board’s performance. Surfboard thickness and the distribution of thickness along the surfboard will determine how well a surfboard floats and, to some degree how well it paddles. Most surfboards are thickest in the centre with the thickness tapered to produce a thinner nose and tail. Beginners will benefit from having plenty of thickness throughout the board. The thicker boards are stronger and because there is more foam under the surfer and the boards are more stable. Experienced surfers will tend to go for the thinner boards as they are lighter and offer better performance.
The volume of the board controls its buoyancy. Simply put, the volume of water that the surfboard can displace is equal to the weight the surfboard can support. For example a board that has a volume of approximately 28Litres can support 28Kg of surfer when paddling. This is why Longboard riders have an advantage when paddling onto waves, more volume of the Longboard means the surfer is higher out of the water when paddling. The human body is generally neutrally buoyant and therefore if you have the board in the example above (Volume: 28litres) and you way 60kg just over half your body weight will be under water.
If you are just starting out we not recommend you have less than half of your body under the waters surface to be able to paddle onto waves easily. Exceptions are always made depending on your fitness level, paddling strength and ability. It’s all about paddling onto waves, if you have the skills to paddle with less body mass out of the water then you could be an exception to the rule in order to obtain a lighter, thinner, more maneuverable board. It is crucial to decide what type of surfboard you want before making these decisions and ensure they are in accordance with your height, weight and ability.
On Mini-Mals and Longboards volume is not normally an issue due to the buoyancy you get from these larger boards. It is also important to remember that the more buoyancy one has in their surfboard the harder it is to duck dive under a wave. It is nice to have an easy to paddle surfboard but you have to get it out the back somehow. It then depends on what you get used to. If you have the skills then you could ride a Balsa (thin piece of wood in the shape of a surfboard.