Beyond the basics of general board shape, each of those shapes have certain characteristics that makes those boards behave in the specific way that they do. To help you understand what is making your board behave like it does we have compiled a surface level overview of the most common board shape specifics.
The width of your surfboard is a little subjective. It depends greatly on the style of surfboard you’re going to get. Get a longboard and it will probably be in the 23” range, get a shortboard and it could be in the 19” range.
A couple of things to consider-
Although this seems like a simple topic, you need to make sure that the board is not too wide for you. The rider should be able to paddle comfortably along the rails without being obstructed. If it’s too wide, the surfer won’t get enough pull out of their stroke and won’t gain much ground. To add, if it is too wide, getting your board to the water is go- ing to be a hassle, and you are more likely to drop it if you lose control.
The other side of this coin is getting a board that’s too narrow. This is typically a performance preference, meaning the more performance shape of surfboard you have, the narrower it could be. Too narrow and the stability of your board will be greatly affected.
Almost all boards are between 2” and 4” thick. Most the time, unless you are a unique body type (heavy or really light), the thickness is going to be predetermined by the shaper and dictated by the style. Unless you’ve been surfing for many years, and know what the right fit is for you, don’t change the thickness.
Nose shapes are pretty straight forward. Typically the wider and rounder the nose the easier it is to paddle into waves and get your board to plane (like a longboard). The more pointed your nose is the more maneuverable your surfboard will be (like a short- board). There are variations in nose shape but as a general guide, this is how they work.
There are lots of different tail shapes in use today. However, there are 3 shapes that have stood the test of time, and are the most common.
A squash or square tail is probably the most common and universal tail shape available. It will provide you with good stability while still maintaining a high level of maneuverability. It is the tail found on our longboards and both of our shortboard templates making them versatile boards to handle down the face of almost any wave.
Rounded pin tails sit deeper in water and are designed for a little more control and hold. This is best used for pocket surfing when having the most rail contact is crucial.
The fish or swallow tail, is sort of a combo tail as it will combine the hold of a pin tail with some of the maneuverability features of the squash. You will find these tails on a fair number of hybrid boards when you are trying to combine elements of different types. It will also help smooth out your ride when the waves get rough.
The design of the tail provides planing speed and lift down the line while also allowing rail to rail transitions to be made with ease. This tail is great for small waves and surfers looking for hold during wide and deep carves.
Fin setups, like tail shapes, have evolved over the years. Some you rarely see anymore unless you are intentionally trying to make your board ride like an old school model. Below are your most common modern-day fin setups.
The thruster fin setup, used on most surfboards under 8ft, uses a rear and two side fins. Thruster fins will provide great drive, hold, and maneuverability. If you don’t know what to get... get a thruster.
One of the biggest transitions amongst the pros is the move from the traditional thruster to quad fin. This is due to the responsive feel and incredible drive down the line on smaller waves. If you’re looking for a loose, drivey board, then give a quad setup a shot.
With a long center fin and two little “side bite” fins the 2+1 is the standard these days for most modern longboards. The long center fin gives you good control while the side fins provide a little better hold and stability during rail to rail maneuvering.
A single fin can be a challenge the first few times out but the feel is unparalleled in the longboard world. Long wide carves and style that brings the surfer and wave together in a way no other set up can match. Old school surfboards will forever be known for the classic glide and superb rail to rail response of the single fin setup.
Concaves are to surfboards what hull design is to boats. It controls how the water flows under the board. Think about it this way, if you have a boat with a really flat hull design, that boat will bounce around on the waves instead of cutting through them. Similarly, the way the bottom side of your surfboard is designed will effect how your board will paddle, glide, plane, accelerate, cut through chop, move rail to rail, etc.
There are a whole variety of concaves, and even more concave combinations, but below are the most commonly use concaves on modern surfboards.
As you may have guessed from the name, this design features just the one concave running down the middle of the surfboard from the nose towards the tail. The single concave is best suited for big clean waves. The single concave will enable tighter turns on the waves. The single concave is best suited to the surfer who isn’t carrying any extra pounds.
A Vee-Type can work really well with the retro fish, funboard or longboard designs. The extra width of the fish tail gives you heaps more speed on the smaller waves. Placing a V-type on the bottom allows the surfer to turn the board from rail to rail smoother. This makes the surfboard much looser. A win-win situation, speed and loose turns on small waves.
The nose concave is used when walking to the front of your board is what you’re after. It is a spooned out concave on just the nose that provides extra lift so that your weight out front is stabilized.
Combo concaves are more and more common. Single to Double is the most used combination. This combo will provide good glide and stability while the double concave at the tail forces the water off the tail and on to the fins increasing maneuverability. For a concave with the most universal feature set go with the single to double.
Be very care of surfboards that have a flat bottom or no reference to what type of concave it has. It you were to get a board with a flat bottom, the way the water flows underneath the board is very unpredictable and causes great instability, lousy hold, and a sloppy feel. Buyers beware if you don’t know what it has.