Jim Banks On: Why Increasing Board Width Is Not Always A Good Idea

26 Oct 2016 2 Share

Jim Banks

Surf Legend

COASTALWATCH | JIM BANKS

Words by Jim Banks

I often get customers asking for a wider board so that they can get more paddle power. This can be a good idea at times, but unless you are intending to change the actual design of the board, making a board wider to increase paddle power is generally not a good idea.

Why? Because the width of a board is a major influence on how a board feels under your feet, how it positions itself on the wave, and how it responds in maneuvers. Yes, it will give you improved paddle power but it’s also going to substantially affect the functioning of the board and so unless your intention is to make changes to the design and performance of the board, then just increasing the width to improve paddle power is not such a good idea.

SEE ALSO: Jim Banks On, The Perfect Indo Quiver

In general, the overall width of a board affects the stability of a board.  A wider board is more stable and less sensitive and under your feet while a narrower board is the opposite. It doesn’t take much. Just an 1/8” difference in width can make a substantial difference in how a board will respond and feel. 

Ten or twenty years ago boards were much narrower than current boards. It was to keep them sensitive and responsive. But since then, advances in design to bottom rockers and contours, outlines, rails, fins etc. have allowed surfboard builders to develop boards that are wider and generally more stable but still have a sensitive response and the ability to get into (and out of) tight positions on a wave. We’ve learned and developed designs to get the best of both worlds. 

Another thing that a wider board will do is generate more speed and drive, and carry across dead spots better, which is generally another very desirable trait in a board, but if the board is too wide it can generate too much lift and drive causing the board to skip or spin out and have too much resistance to direction changes.

SEE ALSO: Jim Banks On, The One Dollar Surfboard

In the end, it’s all about balance and if a board is too wide it will substantially impede performance.  I recall looking at footage of Dane Reynolds a little while ago and I could see that the board he was riding in the particular clip was too wide and restricting him. Dane is an incredible surfer and was doing a pretty good job overcoming the board’s limitations, but it was very obvious that the width of the board was limiting Dane. If Dane was struggling with it, what chance do the rest of us have?

These days with current designs trends moving surfboard widths out, and with what we’ve learned the last few years, many shapers will quietly nod their heads when a customer asks for more width, because we know that the more recent designs are working better with a little extra width. Care still needs to be taken a we need to be sure that the extra width is going to improve the design, Otherwise increasing the width just to get more paddle power is not a good idea.

*WIN A CUSTOM JIM BANKS BOARD HERE!

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Jim Banks is a Cronulla boy at heart. He was red-hot grommet and a huge star-in-the-making in the 1970s and 80s, grabbing the world's attention by beating Mark Richards in his prime. Known as insane tuberider he was totally fearless. After competing as a pro in a couple of comps, he famously ditched it all to become the ultimate tube warrior.

Banks moved to Indonesia and became the explorer of perfect reef breaks and has dedicated his life to the search as well as building amazing, world renowned boards. Jim Banks still lives in Indo. He is soulful, easy going and  still is an unbelievable tube rider; three qualities that allow him to make incredibly well designed and built boards. 

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