Keeping true to one of our messages of empowerment here in the Bunker we have decided to cobble together a continuation of spreading knowledge about the most integral parts of surfing. In this exciting installment we will pass on an insight to surfboard design, to be specific we would like to explain basic tail and nose shapes and what they mean to us when surfing.
In our experience the huge majority of even accomplished and pro surfers do not have a comprehensive understanding of how their surfboard works. Through a series of articles which will be drip fed to you we will spread awareness so that you might be more informed about a board's performance through it's attributes and why you might not be getting the best out of it. Knowledge is power.
Aesthetics are important to us as a whole and some of us surfers hold subconscious prejudices about what we want a surfboard to look like. In some cases these prejudices are founded in fact and that’s cool (I harbour unfounded prejudices and I like to think I am informed),and part of what we are doing is making sure you are informed and have the facts to hand.
Without further ado we will kick off with a simple one:
For the sake of simplifying the task we will just look at two opposite ends of the spectrum, pointed noses and rounded noses. There are many different shapes inbetween which will either be more pointed or more rounded and I will leave you to work out where your nose fits into the scale. As with everything with surfboard design there are ‘trade-offs’ no board is perfect. What you gain in one area you will lose in another, it all about finding the best surfboard for you.
Rounded Nose: A rounded nose will give you more buoyancy and lift, makes it easier to stand forward on the board. You can take this to the extreme of nose-riding. A rounded nose will also increase paddling speed.
When turning your surfboard utilizing a ‘full rail’ turn the rounded nose tends to catch in the water causing ‘form drag’ which will have a serious effect on decreasing your speed.
Also on turning a rounded nose board you will experience something called a greater ‘swing mass’ which means as there is more weight or mass in the nose which results in you having to be further back on the board to turn, it also creates a much stiffer turning characteristic.
Pointed Nose: A pointed nose will give you less bouyancy and lift, reduced paddling speed and will mean that bogging at lower speeds is more likely.
It is easier to hold on a ‘full rail’ turn meaning it will not catch so easily when the rail is buried in a turn. You will also find the board is more manoeuvrable and responsive as there is less ‘swing mass’ as discussed above.
Note on rounded noses: In strong off-shore winds you will also find that the possibility of being ‘held up’ or held off a wave by the air being blown up the face of the wave.
As I have already stated above I will cover the basic tail shapes and how they effect a surfboards performance and in turn effect the way you surf the board. As there are so many different tail shapes in modern surfboard design it is up to you to work out how your tail fits into this information. My aim is to spread understanding and not confusion.
Pin Tail: Pin tails will provide you with less buoyancy and lift but more hold, and a smooth rail to rail transition and a larger turning arc making to board less 'loose'.
Pin tails provide hold via less buoyancy which submerges more rail and more fin, they have all the classic benefits and drawbacks of a board with reduced buoyancy including their tendency to bog easier at low speeds. Pin tails enjoy a more easy roll from rail to rail because of the narrow cross section not encouraging so much resistance to the 'rolling torque'.
To sum up: Less buoyancy, lift and speed, more hold, better rail to rail and a larger turning arc characteristic.
Square Tail: Square tails are the opposite end of the spectrum to the pin tail. More buoyancy, lift and speed. A smaller turning arc is characteristic, with a looser feel and a more laboured rail to rail transition.
Increased speed and more responsive quick turns are the most obvious advantage of a square tail, coupled with less rail bogging due to increased lift and the rail sitting higher in the water.
To sum up: More buoyancy lift and therefore speed, less hold, looser and laboured rail to rail transition.
Round Tail: Enter the compromise, the round tail remains true to the wider outline and area of the square tail but offers some of the benefits of the pin tail. Its a trade off and the round tail is the middle of the road, it offers a compromise between the extremes. Other compromises are the rounded pin, the squash and the rounded square.
To sum up: Some of the float and plane-ability of the square tail, some of the hold of the pin tail and a compromise of rail to rail transition.
In Conclusion: There are many many different design factors that contribute to how a surfboard will respond when surfing it so this is a complicated and difficult concept to get your head around. Indeed we have been trying to understand the big picture and have been ultimately failing for a long time. We at the Bunker have found that to understand a surfboard as a whole and how it will perform you have to have the basic building blocks, the information above being one of them.
There are many undefined variables that will change the characteristics of your surfboard's performance that are not solely down to the one feature alone but rather down to a sum of the different features. For example a surfboard's rails, while having different properties depending on type (soft, hard, boxy etc) will have more variables when combined with different bottom contours. In short there are many possibilities but don't be daunted. Stay with us and we will explain them all in upcoming articles and you will be able to put the pieces together like a jigsaw.
If you would like me to go in-depth and explain how swallow, diamond, winged and other less common tails work then shoot us a comment or mail. Happy to oblige.
Next up on surfboard design will be rocker, rail and bottom curves. You are welcome, this has been a public surfers' announcement. Knowledge is Power.