Recently, a question was posed on a surfboard forum I follow about the difference between boards for men and women. "Are there any structural differences when constructing a women's board?" For example, do you make it longer, wider, thicker because a woman is 'not as powerful'? Well I have been thinking about this for a couple of days and decided I needed to write it out. I believe there are not many differences between 'women's and men's' boards. Here's my explanation.
Disclaimer : I know there are not very many good female surfers out there. How do I know? Well I surf everyday at a different spots in Southern California. There may be one or two women at a spot (most of the time, I'm the only girl). I have observed other women at all kinds of breaks, from easy hardly breaking waves to six foot barrels and I believe I am a legitimate source to answer this question. It may or may not be like this where you surf.
First, I must declare that there are three types of female surfers:
1. Professionals 2. Good surfers 3. Beginners
Pro's obviously have practiced and surfed all their life, that's why they are sponsored.
Good surfers are those who can surf all types and sizes of waves, are confident, and can handle a pack of guys on a peak.
Beginners are those who have difficulty catching waves, paddling, duck diving, and can't handle the changing conditions.
So now that I have broken down the ‘levels’, we can discuss boards. When constructing a board for a good surfer, she can ride pretty much anything. Personally, I like a little more volume in the chest area because it helps with my paddling (This way, I can keep up with the boys). I have a variety of boards all under 6 feet because I found that this is the right size for me. My go-to board is 5’8” x 20.25” x 2 1/3”.
Now when talking about beginners and what type of board they should ride, I would recommend starting with an egg shape around 6’6” x 20.5” x 2 1/2”. Low rocker and more thickness for easy paddling and a shorter length for manageability. You know a beginner isn’t going to be pulling into barrels or riding waves over 3 feet. Eventually they probably will and that’s when a different board would work better. Adding width just makes it more difficult to paddle due to smaller shoulder structures and length just makes me think of pearling and the inability to duck dive. So, a short board seems ideal.
Now, to graduate from a beginner to a good surfer takes days and days of paddling and riding waves confidently. For guys it may come easier because they are ‘stronger’ but even so, men have to paddle too in order to keep up their physique. On bigger days, say 4-8 foot waves, the paddle out sometimes takes 10 minutes and I have to duck dive 30 waves (Or more). By having boards that have a little more volume allows me to paddle faster. This gives me confidence that I can manage my board and surf bigger waves.
I hope this gives a clear understanding of how women’s surfing and surfboards should be treated.