We have talked about basic concepts (length, volume, width, thickness), outline, distribution, rocker ,rail & construction in (HOW TO CHOOSE PART 1). Now ,after having all the concepts clear, the big question is:
What board should I get?
If you are a beginner, just go with what you surf instructor tells you. If you just want to rent a board to goof around in the white water, pick a softboard you can carry, but that is considerably bigger than you.When you lie down on it, your whole body should be out of the water. Foam is your friend.
If you have surfed a few times, the same rule applies. Pick a softboard that you feel comfortable carrying around… and stick with it until you can a) perform a proper take off and b) turn the board using adequate technique. Do not rush into a hardboard just because it is cool. At this level a softboard still allows you to surf to the maximum of your ability, and it is safer for you and those around you.
So, now that you can paddle efficiently, catch unbroken waves on your own and control your board when standing on it, it is time to transition into a hardboard with a shape that enables you to have fun, but also to progress. This is often the phase where picking the right surfboards is the hardest: it is a big transition and you have no previous experience to rely on.
Your biggest help at this stage is volume. My advice at this stage is to multiply your weight by 0.40 to 0.42. This will give you an idea of how many liters you should be riding.
(Note: there are several volume calculators online, which you can use to find out more about what kind of board you should get. But please remember that their terminology is often different from the one used in surf schools. An intermediate in surf school lingo is often an intermediate within the beginner category — someone who is starting to move his or her board in a controlled way. Reversely, an intermediate surfer in normal terminology is someone who can already perform bottom turns, simple top turns and S shape turns, both frontside and backside — and even this is disputable: for some people an intermediate surfer can already perform decent cutbacks, simple roundhouses, snaps and even get barreled.)
Once you have a literage range, you should think about what kind of waves you surf. If you surf steeper, more powerful waves — Carcavelos, for instance — you should get a board with a more performance-oriented outline and rocker, but that still allows you to catch all the waves you want. If you tend to surf slower and fatter waves — like Caparica — you should get a board that gives you more speed and helps you to keep moving when the waves have less push (i.e. lower rocker and wider outline). Regardless of these variables, an EPS foam with epoxy resin construction is usually the best for this level. They are light, easier to maneuver, last longer and therefore have a better resail price.
From this point onward, things get much more complicated. Now that you can use the wave’s face to generate speed and do simple turns, the balance between control and speed depends on several aspects of your stance and style. Two different surfers — of the same level — can benefit from completely different boards.
The most important thing at this stage is to have an accurate assessment of your surfing level. You know that turn you did that felt great? It was just a weird spasmic movement of the arms; the board barely moved… Sorry, but in my experience, this is the hard truth. The only way to know what you are really doing on a surfboard is to watch yourself on camera. It hurts like hell.
The second thing you should do is to use these images to understand the way you surf. Do you squat low with parallel knees? Then you are backfoot oriented. Do you tilt your back-knee inwards? If so, you are more front-foot oriented. Just this will make a huge difference in how a board works for you. If you are more backfooted, you need a board with less rocker in the tail, whereas a front footed surfer needs that rocker in order to turn. Do you have a narrower or a wider stance? (i.e. how wide apart are your feet?) This will influence where the wide-point is on your board, and also how long the board will be. Do you have strong legs, or a pair of toothpicks? This will influence how wide your board should be. Are you often paddling for waves you cannot catch? Do you have speed as soon as you stand up, or does it take a while to get it going? When you want to turn, do you get stuck, or do you skip out?
You should study all these things. And then…
Talk to a shaper! They are professionals, who can tell you what suits your level and type of surfing. It is best if you can show them videos of yourself surfing. This will help them to see what you are doing, instead of just listening to what you think you can do on your best day…
From then onwards, have fun and mix things up. Try different boards and understand what works best for you. I find that working with a shaper tells you a lot about your surfing. Even when you ride boards from other shapers, which give you different feelings, you can later understand them with his help. In the long run this gives you a better understanding of what works best for you.
We will soon have a video of a shaping workshop we did with Lacrau Surfboards, stay tunned on Surf Cascais Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA_xu1o1w3lNmyV_QlYflVg