What does volume have to do with surfing?

What is Volume?

The volume of your board is a measurement of the total amount of space that your board occupies. If your board were a perfect cube, then a simple length x width x height calculation would be all we’d need.

However, as your board is full of curves and concaves, the whole thing is a little more complicated. In the past, the only way of knowing, was to dunk your board in a bath, and see how much water was displaced and this is why the volume of a surfboard is usually measured in Cubic Litres (liquid) rather than Cubic Inches (solid).



But today, most boards designed using computer software,so it’s easy to calculate the volume of a finished board. Mosy of the leading brands display the volume of their boards both on their websites and on the surfboard itself.

An average shortboard would probably be around 25-35 Litres, while a 7’ funboard would be between 40-50L. A longboard might go from 60-100L, and an SUP could easily top 250L.


Why is Volume Important?


Volume matters because it gives us a realistic idea of how big our boards are. The standard 3 dimensions (length, width and thickness) don’t give us enough information to decide if a board will work for us or not, and you can shape 3 boards with the same dimensions, that look and surf very differently. Here are 3 Surfboards with identical dimensions, but very different volumes.



In reality, the thing that volume really tells us, is how “buoyant” the surfboard will be, and therefore how well the board will float you in the water. This matters because the higher a board floats you out of the water, the less drag your body will make when you paddle, and so the faster you’ll be able to move. The faster you can paddle, the more waves you can catch, and the less steep those waves need to be in order to catch them.

However, the volume of the board is only half the equation, the other part is the weight of the surfer, as a heavier surfer will need more volume to float him.

Volume-to-Weight or Pounds per Litre (lbs/L) are 2 figures most good surfers know. To get this number you simply divide the surfers weight by the volume of the board, the higher the resulting number is, the smaller the board relative to the surfer. Here are a few examples:

Height Weight Volume Volume/Weight Kelly Slater 5’9 (175cm) 160lbs (72kg) 24.0L 6.6 lbs/L Steph Gilmore 5’10 (178cm) 146lbs (66kg) 24.2L 6.0 lbs/L Harley Ingleby 6’2 (188cm) 188lbs (85kg) 65.3L 2.9 lbs/L Harry Knight 6’1 (185cm) 180lbs (81kg) 33.0L 5.6 lbs/L Jessie Carnes 5’6 (170cm) 130lbs (58kg) 27.1L 4.8 lbs/L Ru Hill 5’8 (173cm) 160lbs (73kg) 27.1L 5.1 lbs/L


What Do We Do with This Information?


A board that is too small will paddle slow, catch waves late, & bog down in turns.. A board that is too big is more difficult to turn.

As a bit of a guideline, 2.0lbs/L is probably the smallest board that’s practical for learning in the white water, while 3.5-4lbs/L is probably the biggest board that most people can duckdive.


Here are some suggested minimum board sizes for different abilities (remembering that the higher the number, the smaller the board).


Level 1: Whitewater, Learning to Stand & Manoeuvre: 2.0lbs/L Level 2: Paddling out, dropping straight down the face: 2.6lbs/L Level 3: Trimming Down the Line, Attempting Turns: 3.0lbs/L Level 3.5: Performing Basic Cutbacks & Lip Hits: 4.0lbs/L Level 4: Aggressive Top to Bottom Surfing: 6.0lbs/L Level 4+: Professional Level Surfer: 6.6lbs/L .


If you have to choose between a few, always take the bigger board, you won’t regret it. Like the Rob Machado always says “Foam is your friend.”

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