Your personal riding style is usually the determining factor in what board will work best for you. There are two main styles of inland surf boards: skim or surf. Do you like to hang ten or pop shoves; do you like to spin and re-enter the wave; do you like to start on your belly like you’ve just dropped in? It’s not about your level, but rather your individual riding style. There’s no need to classify yourself as one or the other, so you can switch between both styles freely depending on the wave you build that day; the styles are different but equally fun, so change it up!
Identifying a skim-style board from a surf-style board is pretty straightforward: surf-style boards tend to be bigger than skims, running 5’2″ or longer. They have multiple, deep (2.5″ or more) fins that provide increased traction and stability. The fins give better tracking in washed out waves, but make the board a little less reactive to aggressive cuts. As a more pronounced directional style of board, surf-styles have more buoyancy and a larger tail. This allows you to use more of the wave and recover from beyond the pocket at the back of the wave. Surf-style riders tend to like the steep, tall, powerful wave that comes out of a stern weighted boat.
At the other end of the spectrum, skim-style riders usually want a bow-weighted boat with a longer, less steep wave at the front and a trick-saving pocket at the back. Skim boards usually have a single, much shallower fin and sometimes have a twin fin set up for both tip and tail. With more of a skate style, they are easier to spin, shove or flip. The boards’ flat rocker makes them react faster. These boards have less of a tendency to ‘pearl’ (nose-diving the board) than a surf-style, however they can be more skittish or less stable.
As a general rule, skim-style boards are compression molded and built like wakeboards, making them slightly heavier but more durable with a thinner profile. Surf-style boards are composite, with a foam core and fiberglass construction. They are lighter but thicker, more buoyant but also more susceptible to dings. However, there are a number of hybrid boards on the market now, fusing skim and surf by using carbon graphite to lighten skim-style boards or applying more durable exterior shells to surf-style boards.
The tail shape of the board can really affect the feel of your ride. There are two main tail shapes: rounded or squashed. In terms of performance, the squashed tail’s increased surface area will catch a boat’s wave better for more push and recovery. A rounded, or narrower tail allows for easier turning and better traction. The hybrid swallow tail’s dual points mesh the traction of a rounded tail with some of the push of a squashed tail. Any time there is contour added to the shape of the tail, it helps to add traction like a fin would.
Can’t decide between styles? Not to worry. Many hybrids today have interchangeable fins and combined constructions to help you customize your ride. Removing or changing the placement of your fins can give a surf-style board a skim-style feel, while adding fins to your skim board can give you surf-style stability. I enjoy bouncing between different styles to change it up depending on my mood or the wave that day. Really, everyone needs to have 2 or 3 boards in their tickle trunk. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions on the right board for you.
Trick Tip: when it comes to beginners, bigger is better
Choose a larger board with greater surface area if you’re teaching your friends or just starting out yourself. It will be way easier to catch the wave and get the surfing sensation with the increased stability and flotation of a bigger board.