Malibu Popoyo’s Surfboard Guide: Everything you need to know about shape and design

To non-surfers or first-time surfers, the differences between two surfboards may seem inconsequential. Other than by length, beginner surfers may not even be able to tell certain boards apart. Board design, however, plays a vital role in the quality of our surf sessions. At our Popoyo surf resort, guests can choose from our expansive selection of boards featured on AwayCo. Being on the wrong board can ruin a session and shatter your confidence in your surfing when the reality maybe you just need a little more foam underneath you. Similarly, advanced surfers may be surprised by the potential hiding in new and alternative designs. The secret to more speed, executing maneuvers that once seemed to be out of your league, and catching more waves in a session may lie in finding the perfect shape for your surfing. But what components of board design does the average surfer need to be familiar with? What shapes should everyone try before settling on their daily driver? And what boards are best for progressing? Find out below!

Design Components 

To understand the variable differences between two distinct board shapes, one must first understand the different components of board design. At our Popoyo surf resort, guests can try boards with a variety of designs and shapes to find the perfect match.



Midlength board

Length is the most obvious component of board design. Differences in length are easily recognized by anyone with a functioning pair of eyes. By definition, it is the measurement (in feet and inches) of the board from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Length is used to classify board types, such as longboards vs. shortboards. As a general rule (of course, there are exceptions) the longer the board, the easier it is to ride. Additionally, longer boards will have more float, and therefore more paddle power, which translates to an increased ability to catch smaller waves.


Width is exactly what it sounds like. It is the measurement (in inches) of the board horizontally, taken from the widest point of the board. Width varies greatly between different shapes, but it can be safely assumed that a wider board will have more float and paddle power than a narrower board. Width is often added to shortboards intended for small wave use. These boards are known as grovelers.



The thickness of a surfboard is measured from the thickest point of the rail (sides of the board) and is measured in inches. Like Width, the thickness of a board is often added to boards to give them more float and paddle power.


Volume (measured in liters) is the amount of foam contained within a surfboard. Until recently, volume was a seemingly unimportant component of board design that was simply the product of the combination of the length, width, and thickness. Today, shapers and surfers are unlocking the potential of variable volume. More volume, like width and length, will give you more paddle power, float, and get you into smaller waves. There is more to volume than just the number. The way a shaper distributes volume throughout a board will significantly alter the board’s ride. For example, evenly distributed volume in a high-performance shortboard will result in a balanced board meant to be surfed in performance waves. But a volume forward shortboard, a surfboard with volume at the nose and under the chest, will have more paddle power and float and be ridden with emphasis on the front foot. These two boards could have an identical volume but produce drastically different rides. Our AwayCo quiver at our Popoyo surf resort boasts a variety of grovelers and high-volume boards for intermediate surfers and small wave days.


Rocker may sound like one of the more abstract design components, but the concept is quite simple. Rocker is the vertical curvature of a board from nose to tail. Boards with a lot of rocker do well in more vertical waves. They can take steep drops and maneuver with ease. Boards with flatter rocker tend to be faster across the wave’s face and require less work to achieve speed. Flat rockers and steep drops don’t always mix, additionally, it is harder to maneuver a board with a flat rocker. Generally, more advanced surfers ride boards with more rocker.

Pintail Board


Concave is an often-overlooked detail on the bottom of the board that can truly affect its performance. Boards can have a few different styles of concave. Many bottom decks feature multiple concaves, such as a single concave through the nose, transitioning to a double concave, and even maybe a V concave through the tail. To discover a board’s concave, rub your hands along the bottom of the deck.

Tail Design

Tail design is a noticeable feature that affects the way a board catches waves and turns. The most common tails are round, squash, swallowtail, and pintail. Of course, there are more and even variations of what is listed. Generally, wide tails like a swallowtail, helps a board catch more waves. The tail design also affects a board’s maneuverability. A pintail comes to a narrow point and allows for hold on large waves. A squash tail is square-shaped, the break in the rail line allows the board to release at the end of turns, adding maneuverability. A round tail is the sweet spot between the two. Our selection of high-performance shortboards at our Popoyo surf resort features each tail type.


While many surfers believe that a standard high-performance shortboard is the only acceptable surf vessel, they are incorrect. Surfing a wide variety of shapes will improve your surfing and give you more days on the water because you’ll be able to surf in practically any condition. Board size and shape, however, are a good measure of progression. Beginner surfers must spend ample time with each and every shape before moving down in board size. Guests at our Popoyo surf resort will have the opportunity to try nearly every shape under the sun with our expansive AwayCo quiver. They can switch boards during a swell, or just try something new each day.



Longboard style surfboard


A longboard is any surfboard that is above 8’6” in length. Longboards are by far the best board for beginner surfers because the large amount of surface area makes the board stable on the wave’s face. Additionally, longboards are perfect for small waves. While longboards may be viewed as “beginner boards” experienced longboarders are the most graceful surfers in the water. Riding a longboard well is almost a dance. Each movement on the board is calculated with a measure of style and grace not found in any other aspect of surfing.

Fun Size

Fun size boards are any usually round shapes from 6’6” to 8’0″. The outlines look similar to longboards, but these mid-lengths have slightly more maneuverability without sacrificing wave catching ability.


One board that comes close to a longboard in terms of the rider’s style is the fish. A fish is a wide outline twin fin, swallow tail with plenty of volume. They’re often seen as small wave boards, but when ridden in large surf, they excel. The flat rocker and wide outlines allow the boards to fly down the line with unparalleled speed.



A shortboard is any high-performance surfboard under 6’6”. Shortboards often boast narrow outlines and plenty of rocker to increase maneuverability in critical sections of the wave. At our Popoyo surf resort, our AwayCo quiver features shortboards from the world’s leading shapers.

Step Up

A step up is the board you use when things get a bit crazy. If the surf is overhead to double overhead, a standard shortboard just won’t do. Step-ups have a few more inches on them than a normal shortboard and tend to have added volume. The added length and volume increases paddle speed, so surfers can paddle into larger waves.


A big wave gun is what you ride if you’re a true Hellman (or women). If you’re paddling out to surf 20-foot faces, then you’ll be riding a big wave gun.

At our Popoyo surf resort, Malibu Popoyo, our dedicated and knowledgeable surf instructors will help you select the perfect board for your abilities and the conditions. We’ll see you in the water!



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