Surfers come in many shapes and sizes. There's lithe, like Toledo who is perfectly framed for punting tail above lip. Or, there's the stockier, more built Michel Bourez, aka the Spartan, for manhandling the likes of Teahupoo et al. There's everything in between too, of course, and the great thing about taking to the water is no matter what size you are, there's likely something around for you to cruise on. It's just that, if you're pushing into the heavier, or taller side of surfing, there isn't too much info around about what will work for you.
So when an email dropped into MSW HQ's inbox about equipment and tips built for the bigger guys, we thought – hell, why not. After all, the majority of us aren't pros, never will be.
Forecast: UK + Ireland.
Scott Davis from the UK's North Devon has been surfing for around three decades, and knows his strengths – which is, getting the right equipment under your feet when you're scaling up from the 90 - 100 plus kgs mark and beyond. If you're attempting to shred on a 5'8”, 70s toothpick, that just ain't going to cut it.
Anyway, Scott's launched a fresh YouTube channel about his experiences with surfing for the bigger boys, (“As a bigger surfer, I felt the surf industry side-lined me,” he says) so we tapped him up to pick his brain.
First up, why was this a topic you wanted to pick up?
I really struggled to find surfing gear that is well suited to my size. As a conservative estimate; 60,000 people over 95kg are surfing every year, just in the UK. There are hardly any products in the market to cater for these people.
The industry is built around pro surfers, who; if you look at the tour, are generally quite small. We know big guys can rip – look at Jordy, or Wade, or Occy for example.
So why are us bigger people not better represented on tour? I think that we are ignored within the industry, and as a result don’t find surfing as accessible. It's kind of a vicious cycle.
Look at some fins, fin sizes go up in roughly 20kg increments. The largest fins are sized for 85kg plus. So if you're 105kg plus there are no fins available for your weight category.
There are products out there for bigger people and it looks like the industry is slowly coming around to the fact that they are ignoring a substantial market. But information on these products is limited.
So, after years of frustration I started the Big Guy Boards channel and forum, as a place where a bigger surfer can go for advice and info, on the unique challenges that they can face.
So, let’s talk equipment, what are you surfing?
I ride a 6'6” stock Pyzel Ghost – 40.5litres. A 6'4” custom Lost Uber XL which is 43.5 litres. A 6'10” custom Lost Round Up – 43.5. And I also have a 5'10” custom Cre8tion Hot Pepper Jelly - at 40ish litres coming soon.
Spot guide: Cornwall + Devon.
A lot of stock dims in there and litres isn't necessarily everything to go by. But do you find stock boards from global shapers cater for the larger surfer?
No. There are a few examples of manufacturers that have boards in their range that suit a more husky surfer, but generally we are disproportionately represented.
This goes for beginners right up to advanced surfers. Part of the reason behind this may be the unique challenges that a shaper faces when producing a board for a larger person. Its not just as simple as blowing up stock dims to achieve a higher volume. By doing this, you often end up loosing the boards original characteristics.
I'm just starting to see a slight change within the industry over the last year or so
I'm just starting to see a slight change within the industry over the last year or so. Matt Biolos at Lost is at the forefront , he recently added two dedicated 'big guy' shortboards to his range. Some of the other big shapers are now starting to follow suit, perhaps based on the success that Lost have had.
What advice can you give the larger surfers looking for a new board?
Use a volume guide as a starting point. Have in mind what kind of board you want. Your board needs to be suited to your ability and the conditions that you will use it in. As a big person you'll then have two options.
First, go to a shaper. In my experience it is important to find someone that has shaped for bigger people in the past. I have been to shapers that don't have experience making high volume shortboards and generally it doesn't work. Or, secondly, get a stock board. I would recommend looking for a board that is specifically designed for sizeable people.
There are exceptions to this, but as I've mentioned, blowing up a stock board to high volume can have a negative effect.
Do you think a lot of people let their ego get in the way when choosing a new whip?
I've fallen into this trap in the past. You think; 'I don't want to look like a clown carrying a 7'0” shortboard to the beach', so you end up on equipment that is way too small.
The truth is that foam is your friend. No one is going to make judgments based on what type of board you're on - or if they do, they are not worth listening to. Just let your surfing do the talking and remember that the best surfer is the one having the most fun.
Is there a problem with ego in surfing? Because the sooner you’re honest with yourself, the more likely it is you’re going to have fun, right?
It's not the only reason that people end up on boards that are too small, but as a bigger person you definitely need to accept the fact that you'll be on different equipment to the majority of people in the sea.
You just won't enjoy yourself if you're on something too small. To be honest, most of the people that surf near me are really interested on the equipment that I'm on, as they don't usually see it. I often have people coming up to me in the car park asking me about my boards.
Why do you think that is?
I'm not sure why the ego thing happens and I don't see it that much really. There are other factors to consider, when looking at the equipment that bigger surfers are on.
I think that the industry is partly to blame. Until very recently, I would be looking for a shortboard and all I could find was wafer thin pencil boards that are only available up to around 35 litres.
Until very recently, I would be looking for a shortboard and all I could find was wafer thin pencil boards that are only available up to around 35 litres
I wouldn't want to compromise with a blown up hybrid and I'd been down the custom route with varying levels of success. I was thinking that i'd have to ride one of these pencil boards if i really want to push my surfing. I think that a lot of bigger surfers are in a similar position.
In the UK, nine times out of 10, the surf isn’t going to be AAA. So there’s an element of having a board that not only caters for weight but the types of wave you surf as well. Do you think local shapers have it right?
This is a very interesting question. People with more generous proportions find it more difficult to ride small, weak waves, which is what we get a lot of the time in the UK.
Having the right equipment is really important for these kind of waves - especially for a bigger person. Ive been looking for a decent grovel board for years.
Most of the boards that I have tried were from the big global manufacturers, who don't have to contend with the kind of junk we deal with in the UK.
These boards just didn't work for me. I started to see that the best boards to grovel on in the UK are definitely from UK based shapers. Louie at Cre8tion, for me sets the standard for performance grovel boards. GulfStream also does an excellent mini Simmons adaptation if that's more your thing. I've also had an amazing fish from Diplock. These guys designed their boards for the UK in the UK, which is why they go so well here.
[Ed's note: There are many hyper talented local shapers out there, our advice would be go and speak to your nearest mower of foam as soon as possible, they'll get you on exactly what you need]
Above, Reef McIntosh dominates out at Pipe
How long have you been surfing?
I was body surfing Hossegor shorebreak with my Dad when I was old enough to walk, and on a body board soon after that. I have been stand up surfing now for nearly 30-years. It's my life.
Out of your quiver, what's your go to?
I'm always changing up my quiver, which is another reason that i started the channel. At the moment the Uber XL is a great daily driver.
I also recently got a Pyzel Ghost, which has a surprisingly big range. I'm just waiting to get it out on one of our rare good days. I've owned a Cre8tion Hot Pepper Jelly in the past, so i know that will also get a lot of use when it pick it up.
Head over to Scott's channel HERE.
Cover shot, little slice of the UK's Cornwall by Mike Newman.