With the summertime doldrums upon us here on the East Coast of Florida, it’s more important now than ever to be dialed-in with your equipment and surfboard design. Having a basic knowledge of board design and its effect on your ride can make or break a session during a summertime flat spell. This week we’re focusing on an integral component of a surfboard’s overall design: tail shape.
Let’s look at the basics first. Overall, a board’s tail shape influences the hold and release that a surfer has when riding a wave. It’s key to bear in mind that a more angular tail is going to allow for more pivotal and sharper turns, while a rounder tail shape will allow for rounder or smoother turns by comparison. A wider tail shape will provide more stability, float and more speed when planing on a wave. A narrower tail shape will make it easier when transitioning from rail to rail and will also help hold speed on a wave with a steeper face.
While the world of surfboard design is being pushed to new creative reaches each and everyday, there is a huge array of designs and tail shapes on the market. Here is a guide to some of the most commonly found tail shapes.
This tail shape is usually seen on bigger wave boards, as it creates more hold when speeding down the line of the face of a larger wave and it also reduces the risk of sliding out on your tail. This allow for maximum traction and control on the wave. The shape of the pin tail reduces the surface area of the tail, making it easier to sink and dig into the water, making the board easier to track and maintain direction. This shape is best for boards meant to be ridden in larger surf.
By comparison, this tail shape is going to feel looser than a pin tail and is going to allow for smoother turns as well. This shape can also be more versatile than a pin, in that the increased width increases surface area and lift in the tail of the board. Increased surface area in the tail will help maintain speed in flat or slow spots on a wave. More lift allows for the board to turn easier, while the curve of the rounded pin makes for more round, drawn out turns. The curve of a rounded pin tail also allows water to wrap around its contour for better traction when surfing bigger, more hollow waves.
This tail shape is the most popularly seen shape in the modern shortboard, as it is extremely responsive when turning and can maintain speed in slower or fatter parts of a wave. With this shape being sharper and edgier, there is a quick release when turning, making for sharper and more responsive turns. The increased width of this shape makes for more surface area, making for more life in the tail and an easier time planing and maintaining speed. This is one of the more versatile tail shapes in that it can maintain control in steeper waves but can also perform well in softer surf.
The two points of a swallow tail shape gives the board more hold and traction on a wave. The increased width of this shape creates more surface area, making it easier to maintain speed in softer parts of the wave. This is part of what makes a swallow tail a great pick for your summertime slop board. While this shape allows for long, drawn out turns, the wider that the tail is, the more difficult it can be to transition from rail to rail.
The width in this tail shape helps add stability to a board, while increasing the ability to make pivotal turns. The sharper corners of this tail shape are able to dig into the water while turning, helping increase the ability to make sharp turns. This shape is commonly seen on longboards due to this fact.
As previously mentioned, tail shape is just one aspect of what makes a board respond and ride in the way that it does. It takes the blending of several separate design aspects to flow together and make the perfect board for each given set of conditions. Once again, the most important things to keep in mind when hunting for your next stick are the conditions that you will be surfing the board in, your skill level as a surfer and the sort of surfing that you are wanting to do.
Our experienced staff can help with any questions that you may have when buying your next board. We can be reached through our online chat feature, by phone or by simply stopping by the shop to explore our extensive board selection!
Want to learn a little more about board construction? Check out our piece on rail design here.