Surfer on Fish Turning

Want your surfboard to go? Volume’s not the only consideration. Photo: Jeremy Bishop

The Inertia

You’ve probably heard about how important volume is for surfboards and how it’s the gold standard for figuring out what board you should be riding. Most of the major brands and shapers even have their own volume calculator to help you figure out the best board for you. But when you’re looking for your next board, remember that volume isn’t the only variable to consider. It might not even be the most important consideration. 

Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, volume isn’t everything when it comes to getting that next magic board. Many of the calculators will tell you that you should be riding different volumes even if you input the exact same information. Volume can involve even more guesswork than other dimensions like length or thickness when triangulating how this dimension affects the way your board will ride. Ultimately, if you want to figure out what your next board should look like, pay attention to the overall shape and outline, including length and thickness. Not just just volume. 

Before the widespread use of CNC machines in the shaping bay, we weren’t able to get extremely precise with volume. Even now, with a number written down, you might believe that volume is highly scientific, but the impact of volume on a board’s performance is still more of an educated guess than hard science. There are already many inconsistencies in board dimensions. You don’t need to put your complete trust in a number that depends on the finishing shaper having the steadiest hands known to man. So don’t skip out on a board just because it doesn’t match your perfect volume number.

Beyond that, if you want to ride a tried and true template at a different volume than its standard, you’re not going to do yourself a favor by forcing your ideal volume onto it without changing your other dimensions. The volume has to come from somewhere. That means you’re left with either comically sized rails or foam hidden in weird places. Prioritizing volume first is a false start in reverse engineering your ideal surfboard. Trying to match your ideal volume without considering the other dimensions will leave you more likely to mess with the design principles of the board rather than build your magic stick. 

If you ride anything other than shortboards, you already know that aiming for a specific volume is overrated. For any longboard or mid-length, volume ranks among the least of your concerns. The lines, rails, and rocker determine how your board will ride. That’s true across the board. 

So for your next board, try to figure out the general shape and size first. Then, if it seems good, don’t be afraid to experiment – even if the volume seems a little off.


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