Remember going to buy your first new surfboard? Or really, the feeling of going to get any new surfboard, whether it is your first or not? It is a fantastic feeling--knowing that you are getting a new board and hopefully the board that you really want. There are few things in life that can rival it. But back to the idea of buying your first board or maybe even your first couple of boards. There are some different feelings involved in that event as well; yes, it is exhilarating knowing that you are getting a new board, but if your experience was anything like mine, it was also filled with ignorance about what you were getting.
I will never forget purchasing my first new surfboard. I was 19 years old (I did not start surfing till I went to college in Florida) and I bought the board while home in NJ for the summer. To this day I could not tell you the dimensions of the board. I remember the brand and the color (a dazzling orange that all my buddies in Florida made fun of), and I remember it looked really cool! I mean, it looked like a great board. So what the heck does that mean? Well, it means that I liked the way the board looked on the rack so I bought it. I was completely ignorant of what type of board I needed, the shape, dimensions, etc. I basically looked at the board, thought it looked awesome and bought it. I have since learned about these things and also learned that what makes the board work goes beyond the typical three dimensions that all boards list.
One element that people do not consider enough is the rails. In order to get a little more volume, the Fly carries the thickness through most of the board, especially up front. So instead of only having the width listed on the board existing in the middle, it carries a lot of this to the nose and the tail. The result is more volume to help me get into the wave sooner--and remember, if you can't catch a wave, you can't surf the wave. If you want a more performance-oriented board, then look for something that thins as you move to the nose and the tail. But remember, this type of rail cuts down on the volume of the board which makes it more difficult to paddle and less stable as you take-off and head down the line. These are two factors that anyone starting out needs to seriously consider.
So when buying a board you need to consider what the rail will do for you and your surfing. You also have to be aware of what YOU need in a board. Not every surfer needs the same type of board. Ultimately, this means being honest about your ability and using that objective assessment to buy the best fitting board for you. The right board can make all the difference in how much fun you have in the water. Buying a board because it looks good on the rack or because it will look good as you walk down the beach is a mistake I see far too often. Buy the board that will help you catch more waves and improve your surfing. This means paying attention to the big three numbers (height, width, thickness) but also grab those rails and make sure they fit your style and ability as well. And remember, surf for fun!