Everyone needs a daily driver first!
This winter i got a good amount orders and questions about what board to order for winter and issues with current daily drivers. I have had some people who don't like their daily driver but want to order a step up since winter is here already but don't have a daily driver that works for them. My thoughts on this are simple (you may or may not agree, and it might not be what you want to here, but here it is) FIND A DAILY DRIVER THAT YOU LOVE FIRST. Its the most important tool in your bag for multiple reasons. Everyone needs a daily driver in their quiver when talking short boards. Even in the winter months your daily driver is the board you pull out of your bag 80% of the days of the year. If its smaller and you want to surf that day a step up is just going to be annoying in my opinion. Once you have a daily driver that you love, you can base your "next step" boards and your true "step-ups" off of that board for the bigger days. If you don't have a perfect daily driver yet, you likely don't need a step up anyway. If your good with this logic, move on, if your still curious continue reading.
Finding the perfect daily driver
When I calculate a daily driver for some one its based off of 4 things: Height, weight, ability and how often you surf. If your of average height and weight and you surf a lot your daily driver can be at or below your height. If your average height and a stronger, heavier build, at or maybe even above your height will work better for you. If your heavier and your a great surfer at or below with more volume maybe but thats when things get complicated. For the purpose of this we are talking average surfers. For most at or below your height works great. The shorter you go the wider you go, the longer you go the narrower. For GOOD surfers go shorter and narrower. Take someone 5-11 and 165 pounds who surfs regularly and can throw down some turns. I usually start as follows.
1. Height: 5-11 so we are looking for a board that is around 5-9 to 5-11, possibly a 6-0.
2. Weight and ability: I use percentages of weight in kilograms to calculate your volume based on weight like most shapers do. and that works like this. 1. convert your weight to kilograms. (google 165 pounds to kg ha!) 74.84 kgs. 2. find your percentage. good surfers use 34%, intermediate surfers use 35-36%, beginner surfers use 37ish and above. so 74.84kg x .35 = 26.2 liters. This is your volume calculation. Some may want a tad more and some may want less. One thing is for sure, you need to be able to handle the board at speed and not slide out so don't go too floaty. And if you can't willfully generate your own speed, don't go to shy on volume.
3. How often does this person surf. Here i will sometimes factor in where they surf and wave quality as well. But typically the more often they surf the shorter and narrower, and the less often they surf the longer or wider the board.
So we have a 5-11 165 pound surfer who needs a 5-9 to a 6-0 with around 26+ liters of volume.
Daily drivers fitting this criteria are: a 5-9 x 19 x 2 1/4 new standard at 26 liters. these are performance driven shorter wider boards. 5-10 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4 ham and cheese at 25.7 liters for a good surfer, or a 5-11 x 18 7/8 x 2 1/4 ham and cheese at 26.2 liters. this is a flatter skatier board with some flip in the tail that works in anything. and they paddle like a champ. In my opinion the ham is the best all around daily driver. (I am 5-11 and 150 pounds and i ride mine 5-9 x 18 1/2 x 2 1/8 and i am an AVERAGE AT BEST surfer. Some would say i suck. but i love that board so much. so fun and so fast) moving on…. 5-10 x 18 3/4 x 2 3/16 manwich. (the manwich is just a ham with extra sauce) performance board with a lot of tail rocker for the better surfer. it has a narrower nose than a ham and narrower tail with no hip. 5-11 x 18 7/8 x 2 1/4 manwich. a 5-10 x 18 1/2 x 2 3/16 dirty harry model which is a good waves board with a lot of continuos rocker and a narrow nose and tail. a 5-11 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4 dirt harry. 6-0 x 18 1/2 x 2 1/4 Dirty Harry for good waves. all of these boards work good in anything from 2-4foot even 6 foot if your a better than average good surfer. These boards will carry you through 80% of your days surfing. These are also boards that you will be able to work on rail. It is important to have a board you can bury the rail on to generate speed as a serious surfer. Also you need a board that fits into the wave you are trying to surf. Longer waves try a longer board, hollower rounder waves try a shorter wider board or a board with more rocker. These decisions are up to you and I to determine whats right.
Again start here and you can make tweaks to these dims once you get to your feet and really start playing with the boards in different waves. This is a good starting point and foundation to advance your surfing. One thing i would advise is that just because its winter doesn't mean you need a step up right now, especially if you don't have a daily that works for you. Find that magic dimension first and then you can engineer your step ups around that! And you will be much more comfortable with that step up as nothing changes except for length. Follow me….
How I calculate step ups are based off of that magic dimension you found for your daily driver. Using the same example as the 5-11 dude we used before. Lets say he surfs good waves quite a bit now and he is on a 5-11 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4 dirty harry model, or he likes a 5-10 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4ham and cheese model. this is his favorite short board he rides every day after he took my advice. He comes to me and says dude, it was so gnarly the other day i think i need a step up. Then we take his daily driver and we add length and thats it.
1. "next step" 6-1 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4 dirty harry. this will be a board he can ride when its a little bigger and he knows he's gonna get some sick ones but needs a longer board.
2. "step-up" 6-2 - 6-3 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4 dirty harry step up model. this board will have the length and float he needs for those bigger days and the width is still something he can handle at speed and not having to worry about burying the rail.
3. "man shit" 6-6 - 6-8 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4 this board will paddle great, keep him out of danger and clock big barrels. maybe not so much in hawaii but for our central california beach breaks that can have long arduous wind wave paddles, and good barrels this will make him very comfortable and keep him near the dimensions he found with his daily driver.
So there you have it. Find that daily driver that works really well for you and the rest is natural. But don't substitute your daily for a step up. When its 2 feet and all your friends are out and all you have is a step up in your truck or your other daily that you never really liked, your gonna be bummed trying snaps and revos. The daily driver is the key to success in your personal surfing so make sure you have one.