changing board dimensions for heavy wetsuit

I was thinking about it the other day- taking off my 6/4, booties, and gloves. People where I live surf pretty normal shortboards- like 6’2x18 1/4x 2 1/8 - and thats what most people my age surfed when i lived in hawaii. But- in washington,

how come nobody beefs up the boards volume to compensate, i mean when i tell a shaper i weigh 160 thats the truth. but with a wet wetsuit, booties, hood, gloves its probably closer to 180 +.

How come nobody ever takes this into account? How much would be an appropriate increase in length/width/thickness for those twenty extra pounds?

Great question. I spend a lot of time in 5/3 and little less split between a 4/3 and a 3/2. Local upwellings and currents seem to require it.

Here’s my take.

With wetsuit on, your combined weight will increase but because the wetsuit is slightly less dense than the saltwater you actually gain a little buoyancy. If you were on a short board, this added buoyancy will generally counterbalance any increase in you combined apparent weight. If you were on a longboard, and say almost completely out of the water when paddling prior to putting on the suit, you would actually displace a little more water with the suit on, or sink a little more. Of course there are a whole bunch of scenarios in between the two cases.

However, once you get going, surfing, in my opinion, isn’t really about hydrostatic buoyancy, as in the vertical component of the force of a fluid on an object immersed (partially or completely) in that fluid at rest. There is of course a vertical component to the force on a surfboard during surfing, but it’s not in any significant way the result of displaced water in the same way that hydrostatic buoyancy is. This force is actually a function of wetted bottom surface area. Hence the added weight may, if it was significant enough, require that you increase the bottom (wetted) surface area of the surfboard to maintain the proper level of force. But there usually a lot bottom to play with for a given board -i.e. extra area to draw upon, and a few inches (of board length) will often be enough, if that. So there is usually no need to upgrade. Or people just surf a little differently, and live with it. Once again this is my opinion, and I suspect opinions will differ on this point.


I used to surf winters in ny in a 6.4.3 and think i have felt a change in weight, but never enough to change boards because of it. i mean, if anything, you take the drop an inch later or whatever, but its never been something that needed surfboard compensation. its just not that significant, and i dont think weight is either, when your around that weight and weight 20 lbs more.

I agree?

There is a change in weight, but not in buoyancy. The change is weight is small, but during surfing, could easily be compensated for by ever so slightly changing the way you surf (ride the board), a change that is likely to go unnoticed.

As for paddling around, it depends. Shortboarders are somewhat more immersed, so because of the lack in any real change in buoyancy they unlikely to notice much of a change (excluding the extra effort to move around in all that rubber.) This would not necessarily be so for longboarders, especially if you’re riding something that really floats you, because then the additional weight will actually submerge more of you and your board - until weight and hydrostatic forces balance.

I think we agree. I don’t think its significant enough to be a major issue in most temperate to sort-of-coldish climates.

But a question is a question, and I was inclined to offer my take.

By the way, I tried to get myself into a 6 mm last year. They are definitely making better suits now, but I would still rather do with a little chill - 6 mm is brutal.


If you order a custom from a shaper who knows your area then usually a little extra volume is placed in the rails, this isn’t set in stone of course. I’ve owned many boards in the 2 1/4 to 2 3/8 range and some of them had dramastically more volume than the others, in fact some of the boards that were 2 1/4 actually floated better. My point is that rail foil is huge. I’ve noticed in cold vs. warm water surfing that I feel like I surf a little more powerfully in colder climates, maybe the extra weight of the suit when changing direction displaces a little more water.

I think that more volume is needed not because of the weight, but more along the lines of how a thick wet suit restricts your paddling.

Without addressing everyone’s thoughts, I’d say I float better in my 6/5/4 than in trunks. I spent 1/2 the summer in warm water, and when I got back to Oregon, and put on my big fat seal skin, aside from feeling like a mummy, I was struck by how I had to adjust my paddle postion on my board 'cuz i was floating a higher enough to notice. But, as most say, that’s just my experience. Although, some times I pick up my soaking wet suit, and think, “I can’t believe I surf with that extra 15+pounds on…” Took me a half dozen sessions just to get to feeling normal in my seal skin again. Taylor.

Of course.

In fact I’ve actually considered developing a weight belt for surfers to reduce buoyancy, so you can still duck dive (like in summer.)



Of course.

In fact I’ve actually considered developing a weight belt for surfers to reduce buoyancy, so you can still duck dive (like in summer.)


That could be a bit dicey, especially if you get closer to neutral bouyancy with larger waves… you could get taken down and held down… it’s nice to a bit buoyant…

Straits… did you get my PM???

Straits… Most people up here beyond the potato chip mentality, DO adjust for the westuit, or improve in skill/strength. generally the older and smarter guys go a bit thicker… also take into mind WHERE you are surfing,… salinity my good man, salinity. Some breaks want a bit more volume that make it easier to handle the currents, with a thick suit on…

see you out there.

check your PM