SIZING UP WOMEN’S SURFCRAFT
Shaper Matt Biolos breaks down women’s high-performance shortboards
If you’re a woman (or a lightweight man) who rides high-performance shortboards, scouring the racks of surf shops for a suitable stick can be a real pain. Depending on your height and weight, you may find yourself too big to ride grom-sized boards and far too small to ride the standard dims sold in stores. Since I unfortunately fall in that awkward size range, I called Matt Biolos, who works with Coco Ho, Tyler Wright, Malia Manuel, Alessa Quizon and 3x-World-Champion Carissa Moore, to talk about how he shapes boards for female rippers.
So why is it so difficult for some women to find high-performance boards off the racks?
I think the problem with some girls finding boards in stores is similar to the problem groms have. Surf shops make a low profit margin off of surfboards, so they stock their inventory with the most popular sizes, like 5’10”s. A 5’10” is too big for most young women surfers in general. Even the stronger girls like Carissa Moore ride a 5’8”. But smaller girls, like Coco Ho, Malia Manuel or Alessa Quizon ride 5’5”s and 5’6”s. Shops don’t invest in that size of inventory, which makes it difficult for some women.
So if a woman is looking to get a board shaped, what design elements should she be looking for?
Design-wise, I don’t think there’s much difference between men’s and women’s high-performance boards. Honestly, Carissa and Kolohe Andino’s boards are almost interchangeable, with about a liter and a half of difference. Carissa is one of the most mechanically sound surfers on the planet, regardless of gender. But in general, there are a few general differences. The major difference is the proportion of the size and volume of the board in comparison to the bodyweight and size of the girl.
Meaning the overall dimensions are usually decreased for smaller women?
I was talking to Darren Handley about this awhile go. Sometimes as shapers, we look at women we’re working with and we want to make them a bigger board, but they really don’t need more foam. Women can ride pretty small, light boards. They’re usually not as strong as men, so they need a little board that they can whip around and turn.
What dimensions should women be ordering?
Beginning surfers should go out and be conservative and ride really wide, playful boards. Mid-tier surfers who want to rip and do turns don’t need as much width. Coco Ho and Malia Manuel ride boards that are 5’5”, 5’6”, 5’7” long and 17-7/8 inches wide. The guys who are riding 5’7”s, like Kei Kobayashi (16-year-old San Clemente ripper) or kids like that, they’re riding boards at 18 or 18 1/8 inches wide. So yeah, in general, women ride narrower boards.
Taller, stronger girls like Tyler Wright and Carissa Moore are riding boards at their height. But the shorter girls I work with are riding boards that are a couple inches taller than their height to make their surfing look a little more powerful and drawn out, and a little less like a grom. They’re surfing on bigger boards in order to draw the same lines as the powerful girls they have to compete with.
For the shorter girls riding bigger boards, how do you shape the board to make it more maneuverable?
In general, girls lean towards models that are snappy and quick turning, which usually equates to more rocker, especially in the tail. Girls have smaller feet than men, so a narrower tail block and more rocker in the board make it easier to turn and whip around with a smaller foot.
What about fins? Should women always be using small fins?
If a girl feels like her board is too stiff and drivey, I definitely think she could go smaller on the fins. In the end, though, that’s just a Band-Aid for poor technique. I’ve been pushing my team riders to use bigger fins. Coco just went from smalls to medium and Carissa and Tyler are riding larges. I’m shaping boards that have more rocker, more high-performance boards, and then getting the girls to use bigger fins so they can get drive out of those turns. You can notice the difference with Coco; the judges like her surfing more with the bigger fins.