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The surfboard’s outline is also referred to as the "planeshape" and is determined by the dimensions of the board’s length, nose width (12 inches from Nose), widest point, width and tail width (12 inches from Tail).
Wider noses are generally used on shortboards for smaller waves and surfboards that are designed to be shorter and flatter in rocker such as Mals. The extra nose width increases the volume/buoyancy and in turn makes paddling easier. The increased surface area on the wave face helps carry the board through the flatter and slower sections of weak waves. When performing wide open turns on larger more powerful waves the increased rail area can help dig into the wave face and allows you to really drive hard through the turn. The wider nose outline can however have tendency to catch on the face of steeper wave faces especially when barrel riding or taking late takeoffs.
Narrow noses typically used on performance shortboards reduce the board’s volume and also have an increased nose rocker to overcome pearling and to create lift when riding the wave face. The narrower nose fits better into critical sections of the wave during late takeoffs and barrel riding. These features do however make the board harder to paddle onto waves especially when in small, fat or weak surf.
A wider board increases the volume and surface area of the board and in turn increases buoyancy and ease of paddling. In general where the outline is “curvier” and has a wider radius the board will turn on a shorter arc and where the curve is straighter the board will turn on a wider arc and the stiffer the board will feel (like a gun). Placing the wide point off centre back towards the tail brings the apex of the boards outline closer to the surfer’s feet and this shortens the turning radius of the board, but compromises drive. Suited to performance surfing where sharp turns are required for top to bottom surfing.
Moving the wide point forward as seen in the “old school” style boards accommodates the technique of surfing with your weight on your front foot and allows for the longer more drawn out turns of the classic style of surfing seen in years gone by but is still impressive to watch today.
For the typical all rounder surfboard shaped for every day surfing in a variety of conditions, the midpoint is placed relatively centre and gives a balance between drive and responsiveness.
Wider tails are generally used on boards shaped for smaller or weak waves as they provide a larger plaining area, lift and the buoyancy needed to keep the board afloat when moving at slower speeds. This added buoyancy in the tail also enables the board to take off earlier. As the wave approaches from behind the upward force of the water lifts the back of the board and helps propel it forward and this in turn increases the surfers acceleration to match the speed of the wave and hence stand up earlier.
Narrow tails are generally found on boards shaped for larger, more powerful surf and performance surfing where release is desirable. At higher speeds the narrower tail sinks into the wave face and gives the surfer more control. When performing an “off the lip” manoeuvre where the tail is pushed out the back of the wave lip and the fins are released the narrower tail is optimal.
Flyers are a way of reducing the tail width of a wide board without having to shape a lot of curve into the rear third of the boards outline. This means the outline ahead of the Flyer is straighter with less curve and yet the tail width is reduced to allow it to bite into the face of the wave for added control
Generally the Flyer is placed in line with the trailing edge of the front fins, so water will not release from under the board until after it has passed the fins first. Combined with the straighter rail line through the middle of the board the board becomes fast with plenty of drive but is less responsive.
This is the amount of curve a surfboard has from nose to the tail. It is a very important aspect of a surfboard and affects the turning capabilities of the board and the ability of the board to generate and maintain speed.
NOSE OR ENTRY ROCKER
Low: Easy paddling and best for generating and maintaining speed in small or weak conditions.
Medium: A good balance between paddling speed and performance, it works well in most conditions.
High: Extra rocker in the nose works best in steeper hollow waves as it helps prevent catching the front edge. Suits high performance surfing and larger surf.
TAIL OR EXIT ROCKER
Low: Gives good drive and maintains speed in small weak conditions.
Medium: Gives a nice balance between drive, speed and release. Works well in most conditions and suits most surfers.
High: Reduces drive, but increases release out of the rear and turning for high performance surfing and big wave conditions.
This is the thickness in the tail, midsection and nose of the board. Typically a high performance board will be thin in the tail, midsection and nose which will make the board less buoyant, lighter and easier to maneuver. For the guys who want a bit more buoyancy and volume, the tail, midsection and nose are thicker, which will make the board easier to paddle. An increase in the tail thickness adds volume and buoyancy which when paddling for a wave allows the wave energy to lift the back of the board easier and propel the board forward down the wave face so the board can match the wave speed quickly and allow the surfer to get to their feet earlier.
The profile of a surfboards rail is the outside curve from the Deck to Bottom of the board and is shown in a disected view as if the boards been cut in half. The shape of the rail profiles change from nose to tail and each performs a different purpose. They affect volume, buoyancy and how the board interacts with the moving water around them.
The harder edge created by the low rails profile allows water to be released from under the board quickly and with minimal drag. This makes the board plane faster and increases speed. They also bite into the wave face easier for better maneuverability and remain stable at faster speeds. Generally suited to large, steep and hollow wave conditions. They reduce the surfboards volume and buoyancy and on short performance boards The hard edge is increased towards the back third of the board for added response, control and speed.
Mid Rails are a popular all round shape that provides a good balance of both sensitivity for turning and volume for buoyancy. The disadvantages associated with the Full and Low rails are not so evident and overall the end result can be a fast all round performance board for a wider range of conditions.
Full rails give the board greater volume and buoyancy, and are common on short small wave boards and Mals. The added buoyancy is an advantage when moving slower on smaller waves and the fuller outline is less inclined to bog down or catch an edge in messy wave conditions. The full rail does however create more drag as the water does not disperse away from under the board as quickly and they can be harder turn in larger surf.
50 / 50 Rails
These rails have an even curve from Deck to Bottom and the apex of the curve is centred between the two (50% on top / 50% on bottom). There is no hard edge on the bottom side to disperse water away from the board as it travels along the wave to create less drag and hence the board is slower. They do however bring more stability and volume to the boards design and are often used on Mals.
The shape and contours of the bottom of a surfboard effects the way the water flows from nose to tail along the underside of the board and this in turn effects the boards speed, lift, stability and maneuverability. There are many bottom contours and shapes.
The bottom concave(s) purpose is to contain the water flow as it flows along the bottom of the surfboard, through the centre and out through the tail while prevent it from releasing out from the rails. As the water flows from the nose towards the tail the water is compressed and this increased water pressure is what causes lift, less drag and more speed. This effect also gives the surfboard more acceleration responsiveness to turning. Concaves are not well suited to messy or choppy conditions.There are several different types and combinations of concaves.
The single concave generally starts 12 inches from the nose and steadily gets deeper through the centre of the board and then reduces to flat or a vee behind the trailing edge of the centre fin (tail). The concave channels water under your feet to give lift and speed. It also makes the rocker along the stringer flatter than the rocker along the rails. The deeper the concave, the flatter the stringer rocker which in smooth conditions can help increase down the line speed.
The double concaves are shaped into the single concave in the back half of the board. When lengthened further towards the front foot they add control at high speeds and give more drive. When shortened back towards the rear foot it increases lift and maneuverability but less control at higher speeds.
Single to Double Concave
Single to double concave is the most common shape for performance shortboards. It’s a single concave under the front foot and a double concave shaped within it under the back foot. The single concave through the middle of the board channels water under your feet to give lift and speed, while the double concaves through to the fins and tail increase your speed and maneuverability.
Similar to concaves, channel bottoms direct water flow from the middle of the board to the tail and help the board generate more drive and speed. Unlike the single concave however they don’t reduce the stringer rocker significantly. They are a fun alternative to the single to double concaves and add character to your quiver.
The Vee bottom is a convex planning surface shaped into the back half of the board and out through the tail. They provide easy turning and rail to rail transitions. As the vee makes the rails higher than the stringer, water is allowed to escape from under the rails making them not so efficient in smaller surf, but provide greater control in larger surf as they are more responsive to turning.
The belly is also know as the displacement hull bottom and like the Vee bottom has a convex planning surface shaped into the back half of the board towards the tail. This type if bottom splits the water down each side of the board and gives a smoother ride in choppy conditions and in bigger surf allows for easier rail to rail turns. Drive is greatly reduced with the shape as the water can easily release from under the rails and this slows the board down. Commonly used on Mals or larger boards rather than short performance boards.
The square tail design extends the rail further towards the tail end of the board and provides the most drive and lift. As the corners round off more and more from Square to Rounded Square to Squash, the lift reduces but the release increases. The sharper the corners the sharper the turns. The Rounded Square and Squash Tails are a popular choice as they give the board good drive, maneuverability and a balance of lift and more fluid turns.
Round Tails start to reduce the amount of rail edge in the water and allows water to disperse away from the board evenly. The reduced surface area on the water allows the tail area to be pushed into the wave face easier at high speeds for control and this can be seen most prominently in the Pin Tail on large wave boards and to a lesser extent the Rounded Pin. The Round or Thumb Tail has a wider and smooth flowing outline that tends to promote smoother and more drawn out turns but still provides good drive and speed similar to the Squash tail.
SWALLOW AND FISH TAILS
The Fish style deep Swallow Tail is found mostly on old school style Retro Fish boards. The more performance based Fish tail, the Swallow Tail has a reduced vee cut out and the 2 points resemble pin tails. These points give the board more hold and traction through big turns as they bite into the wave face. This tail design allows the rail to extend completely to the back of the board and increases the surface area on the wave to add lift, drive and speed similar to the Square Tail. As with Fish tails there can be a slight stalling effect as one point disengages the wave before the other bites in but this is pretty well eliminated with the reduced area between the points. Generally used on small to medium wave boards but can also be used on larger waves for extra hold through big turns.