Of course, the last thing that surfers want to deal with is a sinking surfboard, but does that even happen? If so, what are the factors that determine a surfboard’s buoyancy?
Tag along as we explain everything about how a surfboard performs and the problems it’ll probably face.
Why Do Surfboards Float?
Answering questions about surfboard sinking requires a prior understanding of why it floats in the first place.
And a huge part of it has to do with the board’s density. As long as the surfboard is less dense than the water it’s in, the board will remain afloat. Generally speaking, modern surfboards are less dense than older versions made from denser materials, such as wood.
On the other hand, when the surfboard material has a higher density than water, it enables gravity to pull the surfboard down, making it sink.
Usually, surfboards made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam cores are more buoyant than polyurethane (PU) boards because they have more air in the foam itself.
Can Surfboards Get Waterlogged?
If surfboards are lightweight, then they’re not supposed to encounter any problems. However, problems do happen, such as getting waterlogged, which mostly results from cracks, dents, scrapes, a shallow hole, or any other form of damage.
Once a problem arises, you should act as soon as possible. The longer you wait before you repair the surfboard when it needs it, the shorter its lifespan becomes.
So, leaving your surfboard out in a warm, dry place for a while until it dries out is a good idea. Then, proceed with fixing it. Check out this article for a more in-depth guide on how to fix a waterlogged surfboard yourself.
And now, let’s get into the reasons for a waterlogged surfboard and factors that may affect the buoyancy of a surfboard.
Problems arising from cracks and dents can happen to the best of us in or out of the water. They may occur while you’re transporting your surfboard from one spot to another or surfing too close to rocks and reefs. These issues let the water seep into the surfboard and weigh it down, making your whole surfing experience much more difficult.
Another issue that your surfboard is bound to encounter at some point is pressure dings. As the name suggests, these dents happen because of the pressure of your feet, knees, hands, and fingers, which is why pressure dings are inevitable, even with the most durable fibreglass surfboards. If you need more information about pressure dings, click here.
Board size and surfer’s weight
Many beginners are tempted to surf on smaller boards because they believe that they’ll float better or are more beginner-friendly, while bigger boards are the opposite.
However, if you use a smaller board than you should, there is less surface area to work with, and hence it will be harder to ride for a beginner.
The most significant factor to consider here isn’t the mere dimensions; it’s the surfboard volume, which is the length of the board multiplied by the width and the thickness. It’s what gives you a realistic idea about whether the board is big enough for you or not. You’ll often find boards with almost the same dimensions but very different volumes.
The surfboard volume is measured in cubic litres, and it ranges from 25 to 100 cubic litres. These volumes are designed by computer software, so brands already tell you the overall volume of the board, which makes it easy to decide.
The second half of the floatation factor is the surfer’s weight. A heavier surfer should prioritise more volume to stay afloat and vice versa. Two surfers with the same weight who ride two boards with very different volumes will experience two very different situations.
According to the volume-to-weight ratio, you should divide your weight by the surfboard’s volume to get a number or percentage. A ratio of 1 or 100% is ideal for beginners. As you become more experienced, the percentage can become around 35% to 40%, and so on.
For a full breakdown on choosing the correct surfboard size for your height and weight, click here.
Position and technique
Surfer’s weight isn’t the only way that could affect the surfer’s match with a surfboard. Sometimes, the way surfers place their stance and apply techniques can either help the board ride smoothly or sink. So identifying rookie mistakes can change the game.
For example, shortboards need you to balance yourself evenly on the board. Otherwise, you won’t be able to ride the wave, and the board will sink, as well. Also, improper upper body movement and techniques will make you miss the waves and get too much water over the board’s nose.
As it turns out, regardless of the type of board you have, the surfboard’s volume, your body weight, or any other factors, time will lead your board to be waterlogged.
Each board has a certain number of seasons or years that it can handle before replacing it becomes necessary. So, the more you surf with it, the more challenging conditions it’ll encounter and the more water it’ll soak up.
Of course, buying a board with premium construction will delay waterlogging from happening, but nothing can fully prevent it. So, bear that in mind when you judge your board a little bit too hard.
Are Surfboards Supposed to Sink?
Surfboards aren’t supposed to sink. They typically float on water without a surfer on board. The level of floatation changes according to the material within the surfboard. All boards utilise fibreglass cloth. However, they come in different core materials, mainly polyurethane or polystyrene.
The PU surfboard, also known as fibreglass surfboards, is the older, more traditional choice for surfing on the market, as it dates back to the 1950s. It first appeared as a lighter alternative to the wood surfboard design that was much easier for surfboard shapers to make.
Your PU foam board employs polyester resin, which helps it remain as lightweight as possible without falling prey to water infiltration.
Also, it has a better flex in bigger waves with more power and feels natural and more predictable. Even better, the fibreglass board boasts excellent shock-absorbing properties, making riding the waves smoother.
However, they’re less durable, meaning that they get damaged or waterlogged easier.
Epoxy boards are more recent, coming to the surfing scene in the early 2000s. The epoxy board is named after its resin, not the core material, which is expanded polystyrene or EPS.
EPS foam boards are much more lightweight than their fibreglass counterparts, making them perfect for surfers of lower skill levels who want to enjoy small waves.
In addition, they boast higher buoyancy because the foam has more air inside, so it’s harder for them to get waterlogged. Furthermore, they’re considerably more robust than fibreglass boards and don’t damage as much.
The only downside to the epoxy board is its expensive price range when compared to PU ones.
Both of these board types are designed to be buoyant. That being said, the difference is that one board type is more prone to sinking, which is the fibreglass board, as it has more weight from the get-go.
As you can see, your surfboard can become less buoyant for multiple factors. For example, if it has cracks, large pressure dings, high density, or less volume than it should for your body weight, it’s more likely not to stay afloat.
So, if there’s something to fix in your board, don’t delay to the point that it’s unusable. If you’re still shopping for a new one, keep its material, volume, and your body weight in mind.
And don’t forget to have fun surfing!