Foam is a (Big) man’s best friend
Are you a big dude that wants to get into surfing? Looks like fun, right? Well do yourself a favor and get plenty of foam between you and the surface of the ocean. There is no shame in adding a little flotation here and there to make our surfing experience a little more enjoyable. I’m 6’5”, 215lbs, so I get it. Leave the potato chip boards for the Lilliputians (I should probably leave the actual potato chips alone as well). What you need is a board that will make your surf session fun. In other words, catching and riding plenty of waves. Make sure you start with dimensions to match you size and skill level.
Most surfers will tell you to start out with a longboard. That’s pretty good advice. You certainly get more foam, and they are usually easier to paddle, but what if you want to surf on a shortboard? I started out with a 9’6” longboard and had a great time. However, I soon wanted to get on something that would react a little quicker on the waves. Sort of like going from a big SUV to a sporty little car. I tried dropping down from the longboard all the way to 6’10” shortboard. At first it was way too squirrely for me. Honestly, I didn’t know how to ride a shortboard. Everything is different. Paddling, distributing your weight, popping up and riding. You have to understand how the board wants to be surfed and how the wave wants you to surf on that particular board. That’s harmony. I decided to take baby steps by dropping down to an 8’6” longboard, then down to a 7’6” egg shape and then finally back on the 6’10”. Now I felt comfortable.
Of course, not only is the size of the board going to affect your surfing but also the shape. Consider the shape of the nose, tail and rails as well as the rocker. Rocker is the amount of curve on the bottom of the board from nose to tail and can be divided into nose rocker, mid rocker and tail rocker. Bottom line is that a flatter board will probably paddle easier, but may not fit the shape of the wave. In other words you might find yourself paddling like a champ and then burying your nose as soon as you catch the wave. Some trade off is beneficial.
Fins are also a huge part of the equation. Surfers are having fun on single fins and five fin bonzers as well as anything in between. Three fin “thrusters” dominate the surfing landscape, but four fin “quads” are also very popular. A great way to experiment is by riding a five fin convertible (five fin slots). That way you can ride it as a thruster, twin fin, quad or even a single fin. Fin size and material is another area of personal taste, but the common thinking is that a larger stiffer fin is going to suit a larger surfer. Again, experiment with various shapes, sizes, materials and flex patterns to match your size and skill level along with the type of waves you will be facing.
Other things to consider are weight and materials used in manufacturing the board. Polyurethane is still very popular but lately we’ve seen a lot of lighter floatier epoxy boards. Ultimately it will probably come down to your own personal preferences once you get a little experience on different types of boards. A lot of bigger guys are trying epoxy boards for the strength and flotation. Look for more choices than ever before as manufacturers experiment with new (and sometimes greener) materials.
The great news for us big guys (and girls), is that many of the well known surfboard companies have decided to help us get our surf on. Channel Islands Big Willy and Infinity’s Big Tex are just a couple examples of famous shapers expanding sizes to help the big folks rip. Kelly Slater is 5’9” and 160 lbs. Stay away from his board dimensions for now. Look at famous surfer/shaper Ben Aipa’s Big Boy Stinger. Ben’s a big guy himself so he understands the potential frustration. Most popular shapes can big configured into larger dimensions, so let the professionals advise you before your next purchase.
My favorite board right now is my 7’4” x 22” x 3” Lost Shark. It’s a poly urethane board with a 5 fin convertible set up. I mainly ride it as a thruster. This board paddles well, turns like a champ and has plenty of foam under my feet. I don’t believe in one board quivers, but if I did, this would be it. I decided to ask the man himself, Lost Surfboards Founder Matt “Mayhem” Biolos, why I love this board so much.
“Well, first off you’re able to paddle and compete for waves in the crowded lineups of Southern California. Then, after catching a wave, it has the stability and maneuverability,” explained Matt, “at 6’5” 215 you’re probably in good shape. That’s not heavy at all for the height. I think those dimensions for your skill level are very conservative, and that extra length is giving you a lot of confidence in the line up by letting you catch and ride waves consistently. The design of that board is allowing you to improve your performance rather than just cruising on a mini tank.”
I discovered that Matt is 6’1” 205 lbs, so I asked him what boards he likes to ride,
“I think the Rock-Up is an amazing board for solid waves. It’s so user friendly in 4-8 foot surf. I personally love my Plank for knee to waist high mush. My Plank is 5’10” to 6’0” x 22” x 2.75”. For all around waves I really like the Blunt.”
Finally Matt gave me some good advice for all surfers,
“Be realistic about your skills and your size. Some skinny kid will tell you that your board’s a boat, but if you do the math using rider’s lbs vs. volume of the board you will discover that it’s often the same or maybe the bigger rider has a lower weight to volume ratio. Lost Surfboards is now putting the cubic liters (volume) on every board we make.”
Matt knows his stuff (and I think he suggested I take the training wheels off and experiment with some shorter boards). Bottom line; get the volume right. Potato chips? I’ll probably keep eating them, but I won’t be riding them.
Check out Lost Surfboards website with the new cubic liter measurements at www.lostenterprises.com
Dave, good advice. Around here, it used to be all micro shortboards, but these days it seems most surfers are a bit more educated and happier to go with a bigger or thicker board. Plus, there’s heaps of in-between options like fishes & eggs to play with. As long as you’re getting waves, who cares what size your board is. If you can’t find the right board, you can always just make your own.
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Been surfing a 9’6″ Pearson arrow classic w a wingnut fin.been surfing over20 years ,5’10” 220 56 years old.looking for a new board very happy w this one need more speed at times anda quicker release out of turns. Surf long beach n.y. So mushy waves to clean head high r what I surf. Help w some info would be great! Thanks
DC, Great Sesh at oak today. THanks for the advice on trimming my foam down a little bit, THe Rusty Moby Fish was a sweet board but too much training wheels, my custom eko 7’2 by 21 by 2 and 13/15ths is my favorite board ever!
Edit..typo…I’m 6’2 tall if I was 6’6 I’d grab a 6’10 at a minimum.
I’m 6’6 100kg or 220lbs, luckily mostly muscle 🙂 and just ordered a 6’6 x 21.25 x 2.75 lost shark. Matt’s no lightweight and knows how to shape boards with volume that still perform and allow you to have fun.
Nothing worse than some skinny assed shaper or your mates telling you you need a potato chip when they have no idea what its like to be a tall heavy surfer.
What a 5’8 165lb pro rides is not what a big guy should try to emulate.
I love my foam…
Love me some foam. At 5’10 and a little over 200 now, my 7’6″ with almost 3 inches of foam is a luxury.
It’s out of the water awaiting repair, and I’ve been using a buddies 6’10. I don’t remember the thickness, (but it’s not). When I have a decent sized wave, it’s like riding a skateboard.
I am looking to drop these lbs and riding something in that size or 6’6 as my main board.
But first things first… crunches 🙂
Very interesting reading. I’m in a similar chapter with Joey. Time away from the surf and had to start it all over again. Here in Portugal I’ve just finished my first winter in years with a 9’ and a 9’2’’. I’m already thinking about next winter and the board that you mention as magic seems very interesting for my local spot.
Keep posting and Keep surfin. Greeting from Carcavelos, Portugal
Nice article. I need to get on some foam here soon! I’m short and squatty, but could still take advantage of some foam.
Dave, We Love your article’s, Always informational. You know we love FOAM. Look forward to seeing you in the lineup.
It’s funny, I took a few years off from surfing and when I went back my 6’10” wasn’t quite rt for me….or the 20 lbs. I put on. I bought a retro quad fish from Boneyard Surfboards. Wow! what a great experience. I’ve been getting rides like none ever than before, super stoked to be surfing again. I’m 5’8″ 230lbs my Boneyard is 7’/ 23″/3″. I’m working on my keg and tring for at least a 1 pack by summer hahaha. Taking a nice trip to Costa Rica this April to surf. Hope to lose 20lbs by then, probally only 10 but I’m tring. Thanks for listening guys.
Joe Lewis Surfing Long Beach Island NJ.