Choosing a board: carbon vs wood

4/22/20232 min read

Marketing and reality

According to the bulk of marketing messages, carbon boards are the best in almost any way. The reality, however, is that simply going for "the most expensive materials" without considering your homespot conditions, riding style and ability level, can quickly make you regret a board. On the other hand, when chosen with insight, a board can be a ton of fun and give endless benefits. This short review aims to help anyone figure out what board materials will best fit their needs in their situation.

Carbon vs wood

Making the right board choice really depends on how and where you plan to use it. Carbon, the stiffest material, is the most reactive to rider imput and also the most sensitive to water surface bumps. The ride is thereby very fine-tuned and racy, but the sensitivity can be overkill in some conditions. Carbon virtually doesn't absorb shock but instead sends it into your knees. It's no wonder brands have been adding flex to carbon boards these days to improve this aspect. Then there is the "lightness" argument. Frankly, these small weight gains are noticed more when carrying the board under your arm than while riding. What matters most on the water is board shape and flex, all the rest comes after. Wooden boards basically offer the same ride than carbon, only a bit less nervous and more comfortable. While it is also true wood is more durable, anyone can keep a carbon board in shape with proper care. Only when put under extreme pressure might a carbon board snap where wood bends and stays intact. So then, what factors play the crucial role in choosing the right materials?

Choosing factors

If your homespot conditions are very choppy, a wooden board will best absorb the discomfort and allow you to focus on your ride and jumps. Carbon is a blast on flat water, but overly sensitive in harder conditions. When it comes to riding style, wood will better absorb impact on landings and tricks, while carbon has a more explosive feel but less room for error. To progress and benefit from a board, it also has to be on par with your ability level. While a too high performance board will likely slow down a novice's progression rate, professionals don't all ride carbon boards either. In fact, many kiters use wooden boards because they provide excellent performance while being a bit more forgiving, especially on the long-term. In other words, choosing between materials represents only a very relative and subjective difference in performance, but really rests more upon a preference in feel. Wood will never hold you back, nor will carbon make you better just by itself. In the end, your skills come from practice and get better faster by using the right tool for the right conditions.

Take your time choosing and have fun on the water!

Ian C.