How To Calculate Surfboard Volume - Green Iguana Surf Camp

How To Calculate Surfboard Volume

Gone are the days when surfboard shapers only scribbled down the dimensions onto the foam. In the modern age of surfboard design, volume has become an essential ingredient that every surfer wants to know.

Why? Because volume is the best tool we have to measure the buoyancy of a surfboard.

Full-outline, alt-crafts like twin fishes and mid-lengths are what every average surfer secretly wants to be riding nowadays. For this reason, standard length, width, and thickness dimensions simply don’t give us enough insight into how a board is going to surf, we need volume. 

How To Calculate Surfboard Volume

In this article, yes, you will learn how to calculate a surfboard’s volume. But, as we said, most modern surfboards come with volume anyways. This means calculating surfboard volume isn’t necessary for 99% of surfers today.

What is essential is knowing where your weight and surfing level fit within the scale of surfboard volume. So that’s exactly what we’re going to tell you.

What Is Surfboard Volume

Measured in liters, the volume of a surfboard is its best indication of how it will float in the water. Think of volume as the space that a surfboard occupies. For instance, take your bath and fill it with water.

Then dunk your surfboard under the water. The amount of displaced water would be the equivalent, in liters, to your surfboard’s volume. 

Why Is It Important?

Volume is an essential element of understanding how a particular surfboard will ride. If a surfer tries to surf a surfboard that doesn’t have enough volume for themselves, it shows. They will struggle to paddle, catch waves, and, once up and riding, they will struggle to do turns.

On the flip side, a surfboard with too much volume won’t allow a surfer to turn in the radical way they had mapped out in their head.

This is especially apparent in shortboards where one liter either side of a surfer’s preferred volume can play a huge factor in how they are able to surf a certain surfboard.

We would argue that, for a surfer, there is nothing worse in life than buying a brand new surfboard. Only to go and realize that after its very first wave the board isn’t right, and volume is to blame.

To make sure you don’t fall victim to this costly, time-consuming, hair-losing error, we have featured some guidelines on surfboard volume so that beginners to experts can find their flow. 

Examples Of How Surfboard Volume Works

Before we duck dive headfirst into the calculator, we thought an example would help the novice surfers amongst us understand how volume works. Take two surfers of similar intermediate surfing ability who are both 5’10” tall.

One of them weighs 165 pounds and the other weighs 190 pounds.

In this instance, the 165-pound person should be surfing a surfboard that is at least three liters lighter than the heavier surfer. 

If, though, the heavier 190-pound surfer is an expert with a good level of fitness while the 165-pound surfer is still an intermediate with an average level of fitness.

In this instance, the expert would be choosing a shortboard surfboard that is even less than the intermediate but a good few liters. 

What we’re trying to explain is that weight alone doesn’t dictate what volume a surfer needs. Surfing ability can play just as important a factor, and the below guide will help you to understand this further. 

Surfboard Volume Guide

The easiest way to understand whether a surfboard is right for you is to go off this guide. A beginner surfer should be looking at buying a surfboard that is 100% of their body weight (in kilograms).

This means that a beginner surfer who weighs 80kg will benefit from an 80L surfboard. 

For experienced surfers, this dramatically drops to 35 – 40% of their body weight. So at 80kg, an experienced surfer should be riding a 28L – 32L surfboard. Intermediate surfers should look at something in-between these two measurements at 60 – 65%.

So an intermediate surfer who weighs 80kg could ride a surfboard of 48 – 52L quite convincingly. 

Pro Surfer Spec And Surfboard Dimensions

Just to give you an idea of what the World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers ride, we’ve featured a selection of the world champions and CT veterans below.

Starting with their height, weight, surfboard dimensions, and rounding out with their preferred shortboard volume, this will give you an idea of the pinnacle so you can adjust your volume aspirations accordingly. 

  • Kelly Slater             5’ 9”            160 lbs        5’ 10” x 18 3/8” x 2 ¼”      25.8L
  • Jordy Smith             6’ 3”            194 lbs        6’1” x 19” x 2 ½”               31.6L
  • Mick Fanning          5’ 10”          160 lbs        5’10” x 18 ¾” x 2 ¼’          26.7L
  • Tyler Wright           5’ 7”            149 lbs        5’ 8 ½” x 18.63” x 2 ¼”     25.75L
  • Gabriel Medina       5’ 11”          169 lbs        5’11” x 19” x 2 7/16”         28.7L

Other Factors Worth Considering

Other Factors Worth Considering

Although a surfer’s weight and skill level are key players when it comes to making an informed choice on volume, there are two other factors at play. 

Fitness

How physically fit a surfer is will play a huge role in their ability to paddle into waves and surf them with authority.

Even an experienced surfer who, for whatever reason, hasn’t been surfing as much as they would like to should add a few liters until they build their surf fitness up again.

Take a beginner surfer who is already an accomplished swimmer with good balance and a high level of aerobic fitness. A person like this would most likely not need the full 100% volume of their body weight when starting out.

Only you know where you stand on the fitness scale, but a recommendation learned from experience is, to be honest with yourself. Don’t choose a surfboard based on where you want your fitness to be. Buy one that is a direct representation of your fitness and skill level today.

Age

Just as being honest with your fitness is key to surfing success, so is age. It’s no secret that with age comes a slowing down of reflexes and fast-twitch muscles. Jumping to your feet on a surfboard is very much a fast-twitch movement, and every aging surfer will tell you that once the years stack up, their ability to pop up is never quite as sprightly.

To enjoy your time spent surfing long into your later years, it pays in waves caught to increase your surfboard volume as you age. It only has to be little by little, but being in tune with your surfing comes with the wisdom that you ain’t no spring chicken anymore.

Like a fine wine, age gracefully in time by increasing your surfboard volume. You will find more voluminous surfboards will help you to charter the waves, currents, and physical ability required to master and keep mastering the fine art of surfing. 

How To Calculate Surfboard Volume

As we pointed out, 99% of surfboards built today have volume scribbled down next to their  dimensions. This is so that every surfer who is lucky enough to own/ ride a particular surfboard will know exactly where it stands in terms of float-ability. 

If you have recently picked up an old dust-covered surfboard from your local swap meet and you’re dying to know its volume, the step-by-step guide below will help. However, as you will find out, it’s near impossible to figure out a surfboard’s volume precisely without a serious amount of time and tools.

So think of this as a rough guide to give you a good idea, at best. 

  • Convert your surfboards dimensions to centimeters
  • Multiply the length, width, and thickness together in the pre-converted centimeters
  • Multiply this total by the volume percentage out of 100 that your surfboard consumes in a cube
  • The resulting number will be your surfboard’s (estimated) volume in liters

Points To Consider

  • If your surfboard has a fuller outline (fish, mid-length) then its volume percentage will be around 58 – 65%
  • If your surfboard is a shortboard this will be around 44 – 58%
  • If you want to get a more accurate estimate draw your surfboard inside a rectangular box to size. You then need to work the ratio of surfboard to empty space within the box. The surfboard ratio would be the exact percentage to use to work out its volume
  • Draw this by hand or on the computer for a more accurate result

An Example Of This Would Be

Take a surfboard that is 6ft tall, 20” wide, and 2 ⅓” thick. Converted into centimeters these dimensions work out to be: 182.88 x 50.8 x 9.92 = 92.159

You would then multiply 92.159 by 0.54 (54%) for a total volume of 50 liters.

What does this tell you? This tells you that this particular surfboard is a great intermediate surfboard with a fuller outline that would suit a surfer who can already paddle into waves and pop-ups, but is looking to progress through turns. 

Conclusion

So there you have it. You now know the ins, outs, and rounds of surfboard volume. At this point, it’s what you do with this knowledge that is important. Although, we must be honest here, as a disclaimer, yes, volume calculators are a good guide to go off.

However, there’s no amount of calculating that can replace paddling out into the surf on different surfboards to fully understand volume’s importance. 

Maybe that means renting a surfboard for a day. Maybe that means pleading with your friend who has the garage full of surfboards to let you try one (or three of them). However, you get your hands on them, testing surfboards in the surf is the number one way to know where you stand on the volume front.

As we said, and we’ll say it again, being honest with yourself is always the best policy when it comes to surfboard volume. Because, after all, what they say is true – the surfer having the best time is the one having the most fun, and catching waves is fun.

When your chance comes for the wave of the day, don’t want to blow it because your surfboard is too small. Be honest with volume and have fun racing down the face instead. 

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