Gavin Spowart, legendary surfboard shaper from Durban, offers some solid advice on choosing a surfboard.
What different styles of surfboards out there and what's your take on them?
There are a bunch of different styles of boards out there. You need to figure out what you want from the board. The fish style has become popular for very light wind conditions and riding strapless - not too sure about the mini-mal thing though. I still feel that the traditional modern performance surfboard is the way to go here. In saying all the above just about anything works to a degree.
I'm in the market for a surfboard to improve my wave riding. What size should it be? Does my height and weight play a role in choosing a board?
This does really depend on your weight and height as well as the size of kite that you have. The average sizes that are popular at the moment are between 5ft8 and 6ft. I have noticed a definite move towards bigger boards lately. So basically in a nut shell the bigger and heavier you are the bigger your board would be. Although some guys still prefer to have a small board and ride a bigger kite, for me this is not really the way to go. You get way more drive and flow out of a board that is suited for your weight and by this I mean for example if you are 5ft10 and 80kgs I would suggest you ride a board that is between 5ft8 x 18 1/4 x 2 1/4 and 5ft10 x 18 1/4 x 2 1/4.
What sort of Board construction should I look at? What's out there in terms of board construction and how does it affect price, performance and durability?
This is a very debatable one, plenty of options to go for in the market, but yes price is a factor here. If price is not the issue then go for an epoxy vacuumed composite lay-up.
Something with a warranty helps as well. As far as the core is concerned I prefer the feel of the original surfboard polyurethane core as it just feels more like a surfboard as opposed to the EPS core used in many production boards.
I have made a few EPS core boards and feel that they bounce around a bit much. Definitely get something that has been tested and will stand up to some vigorous riding.
What sort of Fin setup should I go for - Thruster, Quad or 5-fin setup? How does the fin setup affect the ride?
There are a few options, I will try and explain them here :
1. Firstly the traditional thrusters or tri fin set up: this fin set up will be most suited for down the line carving conditions, allowing the rider to apply maximum pressure through the turns.
2. The quad or 4 fin set up this setup would suit most conditions but is especially suited for those choppy small onshore conditions. I find the 4 fin works really well when riding on my backhand.
3. The convert or 5 fin set up: Allowing for 3 different configurations, this is the ultimate all rounder. As explained above this allows you to ride in 3 fin or 4 fin mode. When you're really powered and need maximum traction you can also use it in 5 fin mode.
How much of a factor is fin size?
The fin is a very important factor on a surfboard, probably the most important. Size does matter here and the bigger the fin, the more grip and the harder you can push the tail.
What's your take on footstraps - straps or strapless?
I believe both have a place, always have inserts in the board allowing for both disciplines. There are definitely days when one or the other will be more suited. Some days it’s just impossible to ride strapless, strong winds and big consistent waves are not conducive to strapless riding.
Gavin Spowart is the owner of Cyclone Kiteboarding and imports Slingshot kites for South Africa. More info on his website at http://www.cyclonekiteboarding.com