how to buy your perfect board
The British board market is one of the most competitive in the world with the product of skilled homegrown shapers sitting alongside the best offerings from the world’s top shapers. However with fast paced design innovations and a huge amount of differing combinations of rocker, bottom contours, volume distribution, rail shapes and lengths come difficult choices. Just which combination suits your style?
The key lays in knowledge. Here are few pointers to help you on your way:
Online board reviews are great, if you know the person writing them (or recording them in the case of video) is a surfer and has extensive hands-on knowledge. If you can't prove this then they are marketing spiel and next to useless. The best board review on a board is one that you can trust. Find someone you know who has one and ask them, ask a reputable surf shop assistant or a shaper.
Volume measurements are a guide. A great guide but not the only means to establish what size board you should ride. You may ‘like 26 litre boards.’ but do you like the foam, rocker and volume distribution, the rails and bottom contours all of which determine the boards ability to paddle out and into waves, ride on the face, plane and turn? EPS blanks with epoxy will also feel way different than PU boards with polyester resin of the same volume. The same applies to a board that has a flat rocker and a concave compared to say a rolled vee bottom board with loads of rocker. There are many other factors that need to be considered which are equally important. Volume is just one variable to consider when buying a board.
Not long ago surfers only had two styles of boards; shortboards for everything from one to eight foot and guns for eight foot plus. That was it. Now there are boards for every condition from one foot onshore up to waves like mountains. You need to know exactly what waves you want the board for. You can get boards that excel in gutless waves and every conceivable condition above that.
Talk through all the options with your shaper or experienced surf shop salesman. Tell them what boards you like and why you like them. Tell them what boards you don’t like, and why not. Tell them the waves you want it for and be honest about your ability.
The biggest gains (i.e. getting a magic board) come through honestly assessing these factors, and then finding someone who can apply years of knowledge to get you on the right board. Not only does it take the risk out of the increasingly big investment but it increases the chance of you scoring the best board of your life.
The choice of boards online now is infinite. Without professional guidance chances are you will end up with board that doesn’t suit you. Always, whenever possible, visit your store or shaper. Stick it under your arm and feel it! Feel the balance, check out how the volume is distributed, and also the most important part – how the rails are. Talk to the experts.
If this is not possible then pick up the phone and talk to the person in the store or factory. Ask them about the board you are thinking about purchasing, ask about the rails, the volume, how it compares to what you are currently riding, etc. Eliminate as many chances of getting things wrong as possible.
Don't be the secondhand sales person.
There are more “nearly new boards” on secondhand board sites than ever these days. The reasons? Customers bought boards that didn't suit them. Knowledge is power. Reputable surf shop owners and shapers have years of knowledge and experience of thousands of boards and their owners. Use it. It works. They like nothing better than a stoked surfer coming back into the shop and telling them that their new board flies!
See this as a long term relationship.
It’s more important than ever that you build a good working relationship with your experienced surf shop owner/salesman or shaper. They build up encyclopaedias of customer knowledge. They will be able to direct you to models that will suit you and let you know which ones you probably won’t like with the net result of saving you a fortune. You and your surfing style are unique. Shapers and experienced board salesmen can help. It is that simple.