Yes, taller surfers have a higher centre of gravity, giving them less stability compared to shorter surfers. Taller surfers will generally need larger waves to carry their extra body weight and will need to compress more to fit inside tight barrels, all adding to the difficulty of surfing.
That’s the short answer but there are a number of reasons why taller surfers may experience a steeper learning curve.
Let’s take a closer look at why it’s harder to learn and advance as a tall surfer and finish with some steps to help you.
Why is it harder surfing if you’re tall?
The taller you are the further your centre of mass is from the ground or water. This means your centre of gravity is higher as well so it’s essentially easier for you to topple over than a shorter surfer.
Being further above the water and your surfboard also gives you further to fall when you bail leading to an increased chance of injury.
Normally taller people tend to weigh more just because they have more body mass. This means you’ll need to find larger waves to surf effectively.
If you’re learning to surf as a taller person you’ll notice that you may struggle to stand on waves that your shorter counterparts do.
When you first start to learn to surf you’ll predominantly be catching and surfing white water. The power contained within a wave dissipates after it breaks and continues to do so thereafter.
As a tall beginner surfer, you’ll need to catch slightly larger waves to give you the push and stability you need to stand up on your first wave and ride it successfully.
Intermediate to advanced surfers
As your surfing progresses you’ll be met with new challenges as a tall surfer.
When it comes to surfing small lacklustre waves often referred to as ‘grovelling’, you’ll find yourself struggling compared to other smaller surfers.
When you surf a spot that offers up barrels and tubes you’ll need to find an open tube to fit your large frame inside. As a tall surfer, you’ll find yourself compressing your body in barrels that others can stand tall in.
The taller you are the longer your legs are. When you pop up on your surfboard you need to bring your knees up and place your feet at shoulder-width apart with your preferred foot leading forward.
The longer your legs are the harder this motion of movement becomes which can make that initial learning barrier a bit harder.
As a taller, slimmer surfer myself it can be a struggle to find the right wetsuit fit.
Standing at 6’1 but very slim an MT or Medium Tall surfing wetsuit is a great fit lengthwise but can leave a lot of space under my arms and around my waist and hips.
Longer legs can mean more stress on your knees while surfing, particularly when you advance to more dynamic moves in surfing.
Torn ACLs and meniscus tears in surfing are commonplace, particularly amongst taller surfers, the lever-action of your knee is more stressed purely due to the extra size of the limb.
What are some benefits of being a taller surfer?
When you’re learning to surf you’ll need to catch bigger waves than smaller people learning to surf.
A taller stature will help you to walk out deeper into the ocean giving you access to the larger waves you’ll need for float, buoyancy and stability.
The added weight is also beneficial when moving through waves either while walking or duck diving.
As a taller surfer, the lever action provided by your knee and any added weight can really help with a deep duck dive in larger surf.
You’ll also get the added benefit of being able to have an extended field of view. Either wading out in the shallows or straining to see over incoming sets while out the back, your height will be a genuine help.
Longer arms will give you a considerable boost in paddle power helping you reach the lineup quicker, catch more waves and stand up earlier.
You’re weight and height directly affect how much water you can displace, a tall advanced surfer will be able to throw buckets of spray on a well-executed frontside carve.
Tips for taller surfers
Developing a stable, grounded stance on your board is key to advancing as a taller surfer. Try to work on your foot positioning on the board, and experiment with moving your front and back foot forward to see what gives you more stability without limiting your range of motion.
Stay loose and flexible with stretching and training outside of surfing. Added injury risk as a taller surfer means prevention is key, Yoga, Pilates and Climbing are all great ways to keep your body in tip-top shape during and after flat spells.
Don’t be afraid of a longer surfboard. Your higher centre of gravity allows you to apply more pressure to your surfboard during turns, you’ll find it easier to manoeuvre and control longer surfboards which can make catching and riding waves easier.
Is it better to be tall or short for surfing?
As a general rule, being a shorter surfer is better for surfing due to having a lower centre of gravity and lighter weight. Taller surfers will need larger waves to progress their surfing meaning a harder learning curve.
How tall is the average pro surfer?
Based on the current WCT the average height of a WSL World Tour surfer is 5’11. This height fluctuates each year based on new qualifying surfers from QS (Qualifying Series) and any wildcards.
Who are the tallest pro surfers?
Currently, the tallest surfers on the WSL World Tour are in order of height 6’3 Jordy Smith (SA), 6’3 Owen Wright (AUS), 6’2 John John Florence (HAW) and 6’2 Ezekiel Lau (HAW).