Innovation in Shaping Surfboards Since 1985

"What Size Board Should I Get?" by Rusty Preisendorfer

“What size should I get?” is arguably the most important question you can ask when it comes to buying a surfboard.  It’s been a trend for people to try and surf much smaller boards than what they should actually be riding because it looks “cooler” and they think their surfing will magically get better. Sure, everyone wants to get better at surfing, but trying to appear better than you are isn’t what surfing is about. 

The boss man, Rusty Preisendorfer, gets asked that question on a daily basis and he decided it was time to expand on this topic. Here’s what he had to say. Enjoy the read. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.

Disclaimer: You might walk away from reading this wondering why you’ve been riding that 5’8 toothpick instead of an 8’0 Moby Fish.

The man, the myth, the legend... Rusty Preisendorfer

“What size board should I get? We have to keep in mind that surfing is supposed to be fun…right?! Unfortunately, surfing is an activity of limited resources. Is there swell? The tide? Wind? Crowd? How much time do I have? Work is taking up a lot of time. Family. Other things. It’s hard to get a good wave count unless you are an exceptional surfer. A very large surfer. Or just downright aggressive.

Most surfers get caught up in social media. So much false information. When I look at all the “expert” advice on YouTube, I cringe. Most of it is shapers/designers with not much experience. Occasionally a good shaper will have his/her 2 cents. Rare.

So many surfers get caught up in how their board looks under their arm. It should be more important how it feels under your feet. Most surfers are riding boards too small. It’s not uncommon for surfers to be trying to surf on boards that are way too small. Most surfers are happy to catch a few waves a session with today’s crowds. Bummer. A good session is when you get out of the water with a big smile and you can barely lift your arms.

If you don’t get to surf that often, at least once or twice a week, chances are your skill level and “surf fitness” will ask you to ride more board. Listen. If you only get in the water once or twice a month, and you go off the average size chart, you are doing yourself a disservice.

I used to say, “volume is your friend.” What I really mean is length, volume, width are your friends. When you are thinking about going shorter, smaller, try to keep your increments at 6 inches or less. I get customers that have mastered their 8-foot Wavestorms and want to ride a real shortboard. A 6’2 something or other. No.

Surfing is probably one of the most, if not the most, difficult sport/artforms to even become moderately capable at. With today’s crowds it has become incrementally more difficult. If you ride too small of a board you will lose out on some of the fundamental joy of surfing. Also, as you get older, eventually you will have to go longer, wider, and thicker.

The Mid Length movement is a good thing. Whether a surfer already knows what more board potentially rides like, or, they have their eyes opened. Especially on a well designed Mid or larger board.

I have several very good second gen surfers riding my boards at the LJ Reefs and Blacks. A few years ago, some of them tried their “Dad’s” boards. 8-foot fishes. They were pleasantly surprised and ordered boards exactly the same. Ride them in all kinds of conditions. Some have reordered a little smaller. Still, a lot more board than their HPSB (high performance short board). These bigger boards have become an important part of their quiver.

 Pictured (left) Midlength shaped for Rusty Test Pilot Tristan Sullaway. (right) A stoked customer after picking up an 8'0 Moby Fish ready to catch waves until his arms fall off.

Volume is one small factor in how your board will paddle and catch waves. Overall width really helps. Look at less aggressive rocker. Especially in the front end. This will help to catch more waves. Keep your wave count up.

I have customers ordering boards with wild amounts of volume. A high performance shortboard 6’2, 23.5 inches wide? 3.5 thick? 70 liters? A 6’6 Moby Fish 25” wide, 3.85” thick. No. That grossly distorts the design.

That is why I have so many Models/Designs. Every design is going to ride different than the next. Some Models are designed with a higher volume than others. More length. More width. Less rocker. Multiple fins.

Yes, you can customize boards. Move off stock dims. A little bit. If you try and order something that is way off, the board will not perform as it was designed for. That’s putting it subtly.

You should trust the shaper you choose. Give him/her some ideas, suggestions. Leave the decision making up to the person you have chosen to build you the right board.

And…Have more fun!!!”