We’ve all had that board that was “the one”. A board that was a magic shred stick that felt like an extension of our bodies from the moment we paddled into a wave. Sure, some boards do just feel like they’ve been shaped by the gods, but some basic knowledge of surfboard construction and design can help you find that “magic” board time and time again. This week we’re focusing on different rail shapes and how these affect your ride.
Let’s start with the basics. Rails are where the deck and the bottom of your board meet and there are two basic types of rails: hard or soft. All rails are widest through the middle of a board and taper toward the nose and the tail for improved performance. Whatever the design, the rail of your board is what interacts with the wave at the most sensitive part, as water enters, flows along and exits the board’s rocker and outline. There are two main types of rails we are going to look at: soft and hard.
Soft rails are smooth with rounded edges and smooth transitions between the deck and the bottom of your board. These rails hold lots of volume, add stability, and are perfect for most types of waves, large and small. Longboards, small wave boards and even large wave boards usually have this rail shape. Overall, boards with these rails are easy paddlers, are fairly easy to maintain speed, and are forgiving during cut backs. Long, drawn out lines play well with this rail shape, making this shape a perfect choice for most surfers.
Hard rails are just how they sound, they have a harder, more distinctive edge, especially toward the tail. This allows for water to release from the rails faster, increasing speed. A board with this type of rail will hold better in larger, more hollow waves, handling your increased speed with ease. If the tail of your board is tapered and hard, the rail is easier to sink into the water, allowing your board to be quick into turns. Turning with hard rails can be tight and fast, with a very responsive feel.
As with soft rails, there are some drawbacks. Boards with hard rails will be less forgiving in some instances, like when coming out of cutbacks. If the hard rail is brought up too far toward the center of the board, some “digging” can occur if the turn is not executed properly. Hard rails are still great when paddling into and catching waves, but can be more difficult when handling a heavy take off if you are not a skilled surfer. As a general rule, hard-railed surfboards will take more skill to ride than a soft-railed surfboard.
The basic rule to keep in mind when looking at rail shape in your next board is that a softer rail will be more forgiving, while a hard rail will be faster.The most important thing to keep in mind when considering rail design is your personal skill level and style and the type of wave that you will be riding.
For those looking for a board with softer, more forgiving rails, we recommend Channel Island’s Average Joe. This shape’s full rails hold high volume in a shorter outline, allowing you to increase your wave count and make it through flat sections on mushy days. As far as shapes with higher performance hard rails, we recommend Channel Island’s OG Flyer. The OG Flyer features a slight down rail, making for a wider performance board that can be ridden shorter than your average shortboard.
As always, our experienced staff is available for questions using our online chat feature, or stop by the shop with any questions that you may have when buying your next board.
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