Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD): the surfboards of the future will be shaped using high-tech software

How does a surfboard perform when submitted to a pressure distribution analysis?

Riccardo Rossi is an Italian scientist. He works with high-end automobile manufacturers to help them improve car aerodynamics. But Rossi is also a passionate surfer, so he thought he could have a say in surfboard performance.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) allows us to have a better and deeper understanding of what's going on on the surfboard. With CFD, you get a comprehensive picture of the flow field, including variables like pressure, velocity, and turbulence.

Rossi has been working with CFD software to study and minimize turbulence and drag in motorsports, but his experience can also make better surfboards. In 2016, he founded RED Fluid Dynamics, a company specialized in CFD consulting.

Are you a fan of loose tails? You could perhaps get a board with a hard tail. Do you need a surfboard that is more engaged with the face of the wave? Find soft rail model.

CFD allows surfboard manufacturers to fine-tune their practices and designs. The software can be used to explore and understand all critical areas of the surfboard.

Riccardo Rossi: the Italian surfer-scientist is a CFD expert | Photo: Rossi

For example, for rocker comparisons, i.e., the bottom curve that goes from tail to nose, Rossi tested two Firewire models by Slater Designs - the Sci-Fi and the Omni.

"I was a little bit surprised, coming from experiences with cars and motorbikes where you make a change, and it's a big change. So you would expect that the drag and lift forces would change a lot."

"But with boards, changes can be really subtle, so in this case, we put half an inch less in the tail rocker, and the dynamic lift changed by 50 percent." notes Riccardo Rossi.

The CFD expert then added a third board - Tomo's Vader - for speed performance comparisons. The results show that turbulence has a direct consequence: the Sci-Fi has less drag, lower friction, and more drive than the Omni because of its tail channels.

However, boards will behave differently depending on their planing speeds. A wider board like the Vader will perform better at low speed than the Omni; at high speed, it's precisely the other way around.

"It really comes down to having a better knowledge of what are the performances for different conditions. We're not looking at finding the best surfboard in the world. We just need to pick up the best board for your skills, and for the conditions," concludes Riccardo Rossi.

If you want to know more about the surfboard variables, read our article on surfboard design and performance.

Competitive surfing can be divided into five different eras. From crowning the first world champion in 1964 until now, there have been several tours, spanning from 1964 to present day.

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