When examining a surfboard, you’ll often find the dimensions written at the bottom of the board, along with the brand name. While a quick visual assessment can provide a general idea of the board’s characteristics, having precise measurements is crucial for truly understanding its size. In this article, we will walk you through the process of interpreting surfboard dimensions.

How to read the dims

What it means and what it does not say

imperial to metric

All surfboards express their measurements in feet and inches. If you’re more accustomed to metric units, don’t worry—converting these measurements is not as complicated as it may initially seem. Let’s break it down:

  • Feet to Centimeters: One foot is equivalent to 30.48 centimeters.
  • Inches to Centimeters: One inch is equivalent to 2.54 centimeters.

To further clarify, remember that there are 12 inches in one foot. For example, if a board is labeled as 5’11”, adding one inch brings it to 6′. Additionally, when the inch measurement includes a fraction, such as 20 ½ inches, it means you have 20 inches plus an additional half inch.

What’s Always written

Now, let’s explore the different dimensions typically provided for surfboards:

  • Length: The length of the surfboard refers to the distance between the nose and the tail. For instance, a board measuring 5’9″ would mean it is five feet and nine inches long.
  • Width: The width is measured at the widest part of the board and is expressed in inches, such as 20 ¼”.
  • Thickness: The thickness is also measured at the widest part of the board and is expressed in inches such as 2 ½”.

Although the main focus of this article is to help you understand how to read surfboard dimensions, it’s important to mention a general rule of thumb regarding board size. In most cases, a larger board with a longer length, wider width, and thicker thickness tends to be easier to surf and enables you to ride less-than-ideal waves at the cost of maneuverability. This holds true until the board becomes excessively oversized for your skill level, at which point the benefits diminish and become disadvantages. Finding the right balance is crucial, as there is a fine line between a board that performs well for you and one that hinders your surfing abilities.

What can also be written

Additionally, more information may also be provided on the board, including:

  • Volume: The volume of a surfboard is expressed in liters. This measurement is becoming increasingly common and helps surfers compare the buoyancy of different boards.
  • Nose and Tail Width: Some boards provide two more width dimensions, one at the nose and one at the tail usually taken at 12″ from each tip of the board.
  • Shaper Signature: The signature of the surfboard shaper, the person who crafted the board, can often be found on the bottom. This adds a personal touch and gives credit to the individual behind the board’s creation.
  • Shaped for: Occasionally, the name of the person the board was shaped for is also included. This further personalizes the board and indicates that it was custom-made for a specific individual.

What’s missing

While this article focuses on dimensions, it’s worth noting that there are additional factors that influence a surfboard’s performance, even though they are not explicitly written on the board. These factors include:

  • Rail Type: The type of rail, whether it’s soft, heavy, soft edge, or hard edge…
  • Rocker: The rocker refers to the curvature of the board from nose to tail and can be heavy or relaxed…
  • Bottom Contour or Concave: The bottom contour, whether it’s flat, vee, single, or dual…
  • Tail and Nose Shape: The shape of the tail and nose, such as square, squash, round, or pin tail…
  • Deck Contours: The contours on the deck, whether they are domed, concave, or flat…

These non-exhaustive factors, along with a multitude of others, demonstrate that analyzing a surfboard goes beyond what is explicitly written on it. While the written dimensions provide a useful baseline for comparison, they do not encompass every aspect of a board’s performance. In fact, two boards with the same written dimensions can serve two different purposes and perform differently in the water.

2 surfboards, same dimensions different shapes and use
Two surfboards with identical dimensions (width and length) showcasing very distinct shapes

That’s why to gain a thorough and comprehensive understanding of a surfboard, it is crucial to both physically handle it, allowing you to feel and see its shape and characteristics, and carefully consider the written description provided. Keep in mind that each surfboard shape is distinctive, and the possibilities for variation are endless. The search for the perfect board is an ongoing and never-ending journey for countless surfers, fueled by the unwavering desire to discover the ultimate combination of dimensions, shape, and performance that perfectly aligns with their individual preferences, surfing style, and waves.

Did we miss something? Would you add anything? or do you have any questions that we could answer?

Do not hesitate and leave us a comment down there.

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