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Now That We Have Our Fingers Curled Firmly Around The Volume Knob. The question is: Do we turn it up or do we turn it down? How knowing the volume of your surfboard can either hold you prisoner or set you free.
It’s only in recent times that we have been able to add volume in terms of litres to our surfboard design vocabulary. What is it? And why is it changing the way we perceive our equipment? Simply put, the volume of your surfboard is the space contained within its skin. Think of it as being like the air in your car tires. Just as you can change the size and shape of a tire by inflating or deflating it, a surfboard designer can change a surfboards shape by increasing or decreasing its volume. Up until roughly ten years ago generally speaking surfboards were shaped by hand. urfboards were measured at key intervals to provide data as a way to understand how they functioned. These measurements also formed the basis for a general description that surfers could understand and relate to. The language of the day was length, width and thickness with some additional dimensions measured 12” up from the nose and tail respectively, add in the tail shape, bottom shape, number of fins, whether the rails were low medium or full and this is how surfers described and visualised their boards. Length, width and thickness were extremely important numbers when it came to choosing a new board, surfers often clung to these numbers as their gospel with only the slightest incremental changes if any, from one board to another. It’s important to note that shapers and surfers alike had no real concept of the actual volume in litres of surf- boards during this time. In terms of hand shaping surfboards nothing’s changed. With the dawning of the new millennium came new technology in the form of computer controlled shaping machines and specialised surfboard design software. A surfboard design program actually computes the surfboards volume as the designer inputs data and manipulates design components and curves on the screen. On completion of the surfboard design, decisions can then be made to adjust various parts of the surfboards shape to zero in on a desired volume. Once elusive, volume now has a tangibility that’s propelled it to the top of the list in many surfers surfboard vocabulary. It’s common place for a surfer to state that he or she rides 28litres for example (never mind the other details of shape!). Volume has given surfers the confidence and courage to cross dimensional boundaries and style genres. Why? Because once you understand the volume you like for paddling, wave catching, duck diving and wave riding, you are suddenly less reliant on all those other dimensions that once seemed so important. As a designer/shaper I have noticed that many surfers feel far more comfortable about changing things like lengths, thickness, width, tail shape and nose area, so long as they know the volume is within their comfort zone. Having control and understanding of volume is probably the biggest single reason that alternative surfboard shapes are now the driving force behind surfboard design and are so commonly seen and ridden all around the world. Volume therefore has become an incredibly potent design component in its own right and yet it is interconnected with all the other design elements. I’m talking about rocker curve, deck curve, profile foil, deck roll, rail shape, bottom contours, plan shape area etc. rather than flex, weight or material characteristics. Volume is the only design component that is three dimensional and as such will change as a designer changes the depth of a concave or the fullness of the deck rail as well as the plan shape width or profile thickness at any point.
It’s important to realise that volume and buoyancy are not the same even though volume plays a massive part in determining the buoyancy of your surfboard. Firstly the overall design of your board will determine its volume, the materials your surfboard is constructed of plus the volume will together decide on the final buoyancy. In other words it doesn’t matter if you’re riding an E.P.S, P.U foam or timber cored surfboard, the volume will be the same for any given shape. What will be different is the overall buoyancy and this is due to the characteristics of the materials used in construction. So how does volume relate to us as individuals? The short answer is individually! Take 5 surfers of the same weight and their volume requirements may differ greatly due to other factors such as age, fitness, experience and wave type ridden. On the surfboard side, take 5 boards of the same length, width and thickness and they may vary considerably in both overall shape and volume and hence suitability. There are many volume calculation charts available and out of interest I inputted my details into one - Age: 60 yrs , ability: average, weight 68 kg, fitness: average and wave type: weak (reality rather than choice). Here’s what it suggested for me: sixty surfboard options appeared on the first page, the lengths varied from 6’3” to 8’0”, the widths varied from 18.9” to 22”, the thickness from 2.4” to 3.2” and the vol- ume 46 to 51 litres. The surfboards on offer ranged greatly in their shape and design and I’m sure that if you lined up five surfers that matched my details the chances are that we could all be riding quite different options. As a surfboard designer I don’t actively use volume calculation charts; however they may help you to get an understanding of the volume concept if you are new to it or looking for some direction when changing board shapes. From using the dual technology of a C.N.C shaping machine and computer surfboard design program I have a vast library of shapes with known volumes in litres and this becomes a powerful tool when it comes to guiding surfers in and out of different surfboard shapes and sizes. My advice is to think of your volume needs as they apply to you as an individual rather than mimicking what the pros ride, what the charts suggest or what your mates say. Volume is useful under your chest and under your feet but not really as a status symbol. In my book most times it’s fair to say that with volume, more is better than less. Volume is your friend when it comes to paddle power and wave count, it also contributes to a nice clean entry into the wave and helps set up your line out of the bottom turn. Beating sections, holding speed and flow between turns and over flat spots are all benefits of volume. The trick with volume is having it designed into the right places within the surfboard shape especially if you’re utilising higher volumes for your physical size. Volume can be separated out by using carefully tuned profile and rail foils so that the rails will sink and engage with reliable hold. High fitness levels coupled with surf savvy experience requires less volume if desired for a given riders weight. A benefit of lowering volume is ease of duck diving and this can be a big consideration depending on wave location and type. For example if you are regularly surfing Piha you are much more likely to be focused on duck diving as a consideration than you are if Orewa is your local. Surfboard design always comes back to a matter of balancing out all the ingredients to get the best blend of all around surfing functionality to suit on an individual basis. Volume may be shed via a drop in thickness to aid duck diving but length may be increased to bump up the paddle power as an example. In a quiver situation some surfers may choose to stick closely to a particular volume for standardisation as they add different shape and size boards while others will change the volume more freely utilising it to dictate the shapes and therefore the function of the boards they are riding. Volume is a tool, use it! Cheers, Roger.
“Volume is useful under your chest and under your feet but not really as a status symbol.”
The many faces of volume: Volume takes on the form of its host as these three distinctly different surfboard shapes show. L to R- 5’11” x 20” x 2 7/8” Single Fin Flow, 5’9” x 21 1/8” x 2 3/4” Twin Keel Fish, 5’4” x 21” x 2 11/16” Mini Simmons. All three boards are 37.5 litres in volume.