1. Design
The first way to narrow down the universe of boards you are looking at is to define the type of performance you are seeking and match it to the right shape. Small waves? Big waves? Single travel board? By clearly, realistically, and honestly assessing what you need the board to do, you will take 75 percent of the boards off the table and narrow your focus to just a few. Design trumps everything else, so focus on this first.

2. Volume
A few years back, everyone thought volume was kooky. Now everyone knows their volume range by heart. If you don't yet have a board with its volume written on it, you can use one of the many volume calculators available online. There are a lot of variables when using these calculators, but one often missed by customers is that you'll need less volume in punchy surf where you're getting "flicked" into the wave and more volume in flat-faced, gutless surf when you have to paddle harder to plane into the wave. When you're building out a quiver, your groveler should have the most volume, your shortboard the least, followed by your step up with more again. This makes sense, as foam is your friend in tiny surf and macking surf, but when it's perfect, you don't need as much. Think of this as an upside-down bell curve. To give you a real life example, I'm 6'2″ and weigh 215 pounds and ride 41-42 liters for grovelers, 38-39 liters for shortboards, and then back up to 41-42 liters for step ups. Each surfer will have a volume range that works for them depending on the board and wave conditions. Once you match your volume to your design, this will lead to tip #3.