In amongst the dimensions on your custom board, the number of liters might be the most important.
Surfboard making has become increasingly technical, with new products coming out daily, manufactured using fresh technology, as well as hordes of Chinese pop-outs that are filtering through all aspects of retail, aimed at mass market. If you go back to basics, however, there is still the golden thread of good board dimensions that exists: height, width and thickness. In recent years, however, volume has entered the fray and is often the first question that surfers ask of each other of their current boards.
1. What is volume?
Volume is the amount of space your board occupies. Imagine holding your board in a bath, and then pushing it under the water.
The amount of water that this would displace would be the volume of the board. This is measured in liters. Due to the nature of surfboard shapes and curves, it is quite a challenge to work out exact volume and displacement by hand, but with the shaping machines, it is a simple formula that spits out the volume of a machined board.
2. How does it affect your surfing?
Volume helps you to catch waves. It helps you to paddle easier and it helps you to get going when the waves are small, or flat. Volume most definitely affects that way you surf, with too much of it negatively affecting the amount of board / rail that you can engage with the wave while surfing. Too little are you’re underwater.
3. Is there any way to cheat volume?
Not really. The bulk of the volume can be hidden somewhat towards the middle of the board, and rails can be kept 50/50 or less, providing enough of a variable for a surfer to be able to engage. Some technologies could also affect the volume of a board, with an epoxy board definitely providing more volume than a similarly shaped PU surfboard. The challenge comes in finding the correct ratio of volume to keep a board still highly tuned for effective ripping.
4. What is wrong with too much volume?
Many surfers get onto a board with way more volume than normal and are so stoked with the fact that they can now catch so many more waves seemingly effortlessly, that they decide that they want more volume, and more. There is only so much volume that you can absorb in relation to your weight and the waves that you prefer to surf before the board starts downplaying and underperforming. Once you have too much volume it’s still going to be good for catching waves and riding down the line, but not very effective for sinking rails.
5. Can rocker eclipse volume?
Rocker can never eclipse volume, but it could play a major part in why your board is handling well or otherwise. If you put your board down on its back and notice that there is too much rocker, your board is going to have no speed and be very dead in the water. You’re going to have to keep it moving rail-to-rail to get some drive out of a too-rockered board, but Slater made it work once upon a time.
If your board is flat all the way through, this is also not going to work as your board won’t fit into the curve of a wave if such a curve forms. Unless the waves you surf are totally flat with no curve, a flat board won’t work at all.
The answer lies somewhere in between, and the perfect boards that you sometimes feel underfoot are a combination of the correct volume as well as the correct rocker. If your shaper or machine can get those two elements worked out, the rest is a cinch.