Surfboard design: focus on length, width, thickness, rocker and tail

Surfboard design is all about fluid dynamics, not color, look or style. When you're buying a surfboard you're choosing the plank that will suit you best. You're interested in getting a very good surfboard for your level of experience and/or for a determined type of wave.

The flow of water is the science behind surfboard shaping and manufacturing. When shapers design their models, they often know what they're doing.

There areseveral variables which take part in the "construction" of a good surfboard model. The type of blank that is used, the quality of the fiberglass and resins, the knowledge of the shaper are very important issues, but there's more.

Surfboard design also involves the outline. The overall design of the board has profound impact of the wave riding performance. A rounder template will force you to longer curves and more laid-back surf.

Width and length are very important issues. You have to choose between 18'' and 24 inches of width. Wider boards offer more fluctuation and are the perfect choice for very small fat waves. With narrower surfboards you can test you take-off skills in deep, hollow waves.

If you have trouble catching waves, you will probably need a longer surfboard. On the other hand, you'll find it harder to turn than if you were surfing with a shorter board.

Surfboard thickness is also relevant in wave riding performance. Normally, the thickness point is in the middle area of the surfboard but, in some cases, it can be hold through the tail and rocker.

When the thickness level is almost even, it will help balance both feet, as you change positions throughout each ride. That is to stay a well distributed surfboard thickness helps you maintain control, despite constant weight changes on the blank.

Rocker is considered the most important feature in a surfboard, by many shapers. When viewed from side, the rocker is the curve of the surfboard from tail to nose. The surfboard rocker is subdivided into nose rocker, center and tail rocker.

When it comes to analyzing surfboard rocker, there are a few logical commandments. The more rocker a surfboard has, the looser and slower it will be. Plain and flat rocker delivers faster wave performances and surfing maneuvers will be harder to pull - it works very well in small wave boards.

Surfboard bottom contours are also important in surfing. Concave and V-shaped contours have similar performances, despite opposite designs. A concave surface - or channel-type contour - will help your tail respond faster and easier to rapid turns. The Vee model helps you carve easily. A flat contour is difficult to control at high speed.

Tail designs are usually very discussed in modern surfboard shaping. Pin tail is great for big waves because there is less board in water contact and more speed is achieved.

The rounded pin tail, round tail, squash tail and rounded tail are very common because they hold the surfboard quite well in all-round surf conditions. The squash tail sits in the middle term.

Sharper edges, like the square tail, are more responsive to rad turns. Swallow tails help your paddling power and are easier to control in small waves.

Surfboard fins are part of the entire hydrodynamic performance, but are an external feature. You can learn more about the importance of fin setups (single fin, twin fin, thruster and quad).

Learn how to shape a surfboard.