What does surfboard volume mean?
No, I’m not going to waste either your time going into some overly complicated explanation about what volume is. I am sure you read all about it back in, like, 2013 on The Inertia or in Surfer or something like that. It’s height X weight X width, it’s in liters, and it’s pretty complicated to figure out in a surfboard. Right, moving on.
Taking it a step further, what does surfboard volume mean with regards to actually shaping surfboards? Well, not much really. It is a number that’s useful for the comparison of finished surfboards. To a surfboard shaper, volume will usually, at most, be a small number in the bottom screen of some CAD program that changes when you start clicking things. That’s about it.
The more important thing to consider here is what volume definitely should not be. For any shaper, new or experienced, volume should not be a goal. Going into any shape with the intention of coming away with some particular end number in your head should not (necessarily) be your main objective.
No matter what way you look at volume, it is actually not a design element of the board. Yes, you read this correct and would do well to forever commit it to memory;
Volume is not a design element of a surfboard.
Volume is merely the result of an equation. It is what you get when you add up all of the different components of a surfboard as a whole. I’m talking length, width, thickness, foil, concave, and even the weight of the glass job; i.e. the actual design elements that require much thought and planning when shaping a surfboard.
So now that we’ve gone over what volume isn’t, it’s necessary to come back to a point I made earlier. Widespread use of volume measurement is relatively new in the surfboard building industry, but this doesn’t mean that it is just some sort of fad. It is a useful metric. It is actually an incredibly useful number to consider when comparing (and I deliberately reiterate the term) finished surfboards. The bottom line is that when it comes to a hydrodynamic vessel such as a surfboard, every little tiny detail that touches the water will affect the way a board rides. Some of them are micro features (think those tiny inevitable glassing defects, or a machine cut board that is slightly more sanded than an identically cut board) and others are major features (think, well just about anything you can actually see on a surfboard).
The point being, even at the elite level of surfboard building, variation is inevitable.
So what does volume mean to you as a surfboard shaper? It should serve as a constant reminder that each element of your shape adds up, in one way or another, to every other element. Each pass of the planer you take or ounce of resin you pour onto a board should be done with every other step, previous or future, kept in mind on some level. No, volume should not be your end goal. Volume should just float somewhere in the back corner of your mind like some mystical reminder from some ridiculous shaman that everything has a purpose. Besides, if you’re really dying to know the true volume of your finished board, I’m sure you’ve got a displacement tank sitting around somewhere just dying to be filled up, right?