Editor’s Note: The following piece first appeared on

Mick Fanning and Darren Handley talking shop. Photo:

Three-time world champ, Mick Fanning, and Darren Handley talking shop. Photo:

There’s been a big push by shapers and surfers to incorporate volume metrics and surfboard volume calculators to really dial in their surfboards. Since CAD (computer assisted design) files and programs have made their way into shaping bays, volume has become a more measurable and integral part of the design process. Volume is now seen as a primary contribution in establishing the best board for a surfer. However, other factors, such as age, ability of the rider and the type of wave they regularly surf, are necessary factors to take into consideration when shaping and choosing the right board.

Elite surfers, such as Kelly Slater, Carissa Moore, Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore, are able to feel the difference when as little as a half of a liter is changed from their normal volume. Even this tiny change can have a huge impact on performance— especially high-performance shortboards. Most beginners don’t think about the volume of a board. They watch their friends ride waves all the way to the beach while they still struggle to catch waves and maintain speed. Using beginner boards can be the difference between sticking with surfing or giving up altogether.

Knowing Your Surfboard Volume


Determining the right volume for your surfboard requires thinking about several different factors. Your age, surfing ability, frequency and the types of waves you’re surfing are all important requisites in finding the right surfboard volume. External measurements of a surfboard are a great starting point, but the distribution of the foam throughout the entire outline can also have a major impact on the performance of your surfboard.

There’s plenty of information out there, including volume calculators and volume charts, but many of these tools can be extremely general and often only take your weight into consideration. Let’s use two people, for example. One of them is 25 and the other is 60. Although they’re both 5’10 and weigh 180 pounds, they probably shouldn’t be surfing the same board. The Board Engine is an advanced calculator that goes that extra mile. This unique volume calculator takes into account your age, level of fitness, surfing ability, type of wave you regularly surf and the style of boards you prefer, making a truly customized surfboard.

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

Before a few years ago, volume was considered, but seldom measured consistently. You used to just feel the rails and throw the board under your arm to give you an idea of how she was going to work. Some people still swear by this method and it works for a lot of people. Anyone who’s been around surfing will tell you it’s still a good system. If you have some surfing experience, you will always be able to use the feel test to understand to some extent how that board will perform for you.

Using CAD systems creates a situation where shapers can easily refine a surfboard’s volume without having the hassle of using a displacement tank. This makes it easier to find the right dimensions and dial in equipment for your optimal performance. Thus, you can find and refine the volume of a surfboard easily while considering how surface area, outline and distribution of foam relates to the surfboard volume.


Canvas Surfboards head shaper Ryan Engles getting his hands dirty on a custom surfboard.

Canvas Surfboards head shaper Ryan Engle getting his hands dirty on a custom surfboard.

Volume and the Shape of a Board

Your surfboard may look bigger, but that doesn’t mean it floats better. A 6’2 shortboard could very well have less volume than a 5’4 small-wave board. Let’s take a look at two boards with similar dimensions to put this idea into context. Let’s say both are 5’8 x 20″ wide (at widest point) and 2.5″ thick (at thickest point). The first board has a pulled in tail, while the second board has a wider tail. The first board has a refined, pulled in nose, while the second nose is more round. The second board is going to have significantly more volume than the first because of it’s outline. The first board is likely to give you a bit more responsiveness in your board, which presumably will work well in steep, hollow waves. The second board is probably more of a grovel board for softer waves with less push.

In good, quality waves, too much volume may hurt your performance. Yes, you’ll find paddling into the waves easy, but setting your rail and then transitioning from rail to rail may be difficult. In these circumstances, you may find that an Emery Nemesis, Album Context, or the DHD Sweetspot will give you better results.

Conversely, in less powerful and softer waves, if your board doesn’t have enough volume, your wave count is likely to go down. Bogging your rails and sinking into the wave could easily ruin a session. These kind of waves call for a mush-machines, such as the Album Swing or the Stamps FX. You really need to find a happy balance between your type of equipment you use and the waves you surf.

Construction of Materials

The boys from the left: Haydenshapes Hypto Krypto, The Panda Norts, Chemistry's Wide J 6, Stamps Grinder X, DHD DX1.

The boys from the left: Haydenshapes Hypto Krypto, The Panda Norts, Chemistry’s Wide J 6, Stamps Grinder X, DHD DX1.

There is plenty of speculation about the construction of a surfboard and its relationship to surfboard volume. Some people claim that EPS and Epoxy boards give you more float on the water and that you feel like you’re sitting much more on top of the wave than on a standard polyurethane and polyester board.

While it still remains a contentious topic, both styles remain extremely popular for differing reasons. My epoxy boards definitely feel lighter than my poly boards, but does this actually impact on how much they float?

Do CAD programs and displacement tanks really knows the difference between two constructions?


The thing to remember is that while both constructions will have the same (or very similar) volumes, your performance is going to change. This has nothing to do with the volume of your board, but instead, the weight of the board.

You will see that while paddling around the line up and your paddling into waves is very similar between the two, your performance ON the wave is going to change. By using the weight of a poly board you can get down the line easier while using a lighter epoxy board will help you whip around turns and get some airs. This is just one way their performance differs.

When the conditions aren’t great, you can also find that the poly board’s extra weight will help get through choppier water instead of leaving you bouncing around the wave on something lighter.

The Verdict

Don’t waste your time surfing the wrong equipment. Using more advanced volume calculators like our Board Engine will save you a lot of headache. Our calculator takes into consideration several other variables needed in order to determine the type of board that best fits your needs and preferences. We recommend you use these tools and do your homework. With a bit of common sense, experience, and your shaper’s knowledge to help determine construction, you will be well on your way of building the quiver of your dreams.


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