Disclosure: Everything that you read here about surfboard design is completely correct.

It should also be noted that everything you read here will also be wrong. 

Surfboard design is grounded in physics as much as it is derived from aesthetics.  Add nostalgia to past movements in design and the drive towards forward progression and you have a bonafide debate.  Hell; in ten years I won’t agree with what I ride now.  Further, the ability of the rider to perform is an entirely different scenario dependent on an endless number of factors.  We know that the boards we put out into the world are of sound design and construction.  We also understand that the board we build today depends on a storm growing off the Ivory Coast and how many days you skip the gym next Winter.  The fluid relationship of dependent factors that come together to give us those magical moments of joy are the same ones that have the next guy punching the surface of the water.  We understand this.  You should too.  It’s a wonderful, chaotic web that makes surfing what it is.

Now that we’ve read the fine print, let’s talk about some of the factors that we can control, board design.  Though you can debate just about any of these theories, I’ll quickly explain a few generally accepted ideas that can help you discuss your goals more fluently with your shaper.

Rocker:  Generally speaking, rocker is the curvature of a board’s profile.  If you think you have too much flip in the nose of your board you would say that you have too much nose rocker.  The same applies to the tail.  Rocker affects your ride in different ways depended on the type of wave you’re on and the what you need the board to do to be successful.  Let’s walk through two different scenarios;

A large, barreling wave.

Team Rider, Julian Smith, sent us this gem from down South.

You’ve travelled down to Avalon Pier during a classic Northeast swell.  The takeoffs are quick, steep and you are barely able to get to your feet before the barrel begins to throw itself over your head with enough power to inspire a Greek epic.  What type of nose rocker do you need?  The answer depends almost entirely on the surfer.  Most of us will need a bigger board than usual with extra nose rocker.  The bigger board allows for us to get more speed when we are catching the wave and the extra nose rocker will keep the board from diving directly into the the water when making very steep drops.  There are also some draw backs to extra nose rocker.  You tend to lose some speed with extra flip in the nose but hopefully your larger board will make up for it.  Let’s take a look at a scenario when less rocker is beneficial.

Surfer turning on a wave.

Coeltryn Kirkland showing us how its done when it’s not barreling.

It’s  a chest-high day in Sandbridge.  The waves are good but only the body boarders are getting any tube time.  The waves are breaking fast down the line and many are simply closing out.  You need speed.  Most boards designed for these types of waves will feature less nose rocker.  You won’t be making many last-second, death-defying drops that require a pushed up nose.  You will, however, require a ton of speed.  Less nose rocker makes the bottom of the board more hydrodynamic.  If you combine that with a strong concave and fins set for drive, you will be making sections that others will be looking at from behind the white water.

Stay tuned for future updates on board design as we talk about other attributes such as tail shape, foil, fins, volume, rails, and functional surface area.  No one part of board design stands alone.  Your boards rocker won’t mean a thing if the rest of the design is flawed.  While most people tend to focus on the general outline of the board when shopping for their next rip-stick, these are the things you need to be paying attention to.

Check out or custom order form and try drawing out your ideas for future boards.  The more you know, the better your next custom will work for you.

About The Author

Josh is a long-time resident ambassador of Surf and Adventure. He works with every aspect of S&A from building boards with Jake to leading bike tours to False Cape. Ask him about longboard fins to find out more than you ever wanted to know. [@jausch]

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