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Randy Bogardus riding his own handmade ocean surfboard SUP

Choosing the Correct Board for the Surf Zone

Choosing the correct board for the surf zone or prone paddle surfing can be a daunting task for new surfers. In fact, with the huge range of choices, it can be a daunting task for any surfer. The range of conditions that we typically surf can be quite varied and it’s difficult to find one board that is perfect for all conditions. The starting point when picking a new board is to consider the “typical” conditions you will be surfing and your level of experience riding waves.

3 Things to Consider when Selecting a Surfboard

  • Body weight
  • “Typical” conditions of the surf
  • Level of experience
  • Frequency of surf sessions

Randy Bogardus riding his own handmade ocean surfboard SUP

New SUP surfers will find that learning the sport is easiest with a board that is big enough to float and paddle well but yet small enough to be fun when riding waves. If the board is too small it will be difficult to stand on in the conditions where surfing occurs and if the board is too big it will be difficult to turn. The right size for a given paddler is a function of a paddler’s weight, experience and the type of conditions you intend to surf.

Test by Renting

If you are a seasoned flatwater paddler who wants to try your hand at riding waves you may be able to start with a board that would be too small for a paddler with little paddling experience. But in order to really know what the best board will be for a given individual I would suggest renting gear initially. Renting a board will give you a good chance to see first-hand how different sized boards work in the surf zone. This point is especially true if you are going to build your own hollow wood board for surfing. If you are going to build your own board you will want to build a board that you will ride for many years so it’s a good idea do some initial surf sessions on a board appropriate for beginners and then build a board that will be fun to ride as you become a more experienced surfer.

If you are eager to learn and spend a concentrated amount of time in the water in the early stages of learning to surf, your progression will be quicker and you will want to move to a smaller board sooner than if you only surf occasionally.

Building an “All Around” Board

If you intend to build a hollow wood board and it will be your only SUP and you want to use if for casual cruising and touring as well as surfing, you will want to build a board that is often called an “all around” board. Generally speaking, boards of this type and description have some design elements for both flatwater paddling and surfing. “All around” boards have an outline shape much like a surfboard. Unfortunately, most boards of this type are compromises, which means that they neither surf well nor paddle flatwater well. That being said, this may still be the best board for you if your intended use is a mix of activities and you only want to own or build one board.

The compromises that need to be made when choosing a board are many and varied. The best way to determine the best board for a specific paddler is to try out a wide variety of shapes before you settle on one to build or buy. Paddlers can also get good information about appropriate board size and shape by talking to others involved in the sport to determine how they started and progressed.