Understanding the parts of a surfboard
Gone are the days when surfboards were carved from solid trees, this goes back 240 years now. We have come a long way in innovation, understanding, and design.
Boards are still carved by highly trained, skilled shapers. Although machined surfboards are more accurate, and precise. The average surfer typically would prefer a hand shaped board.
The love and passion, the tens of thousands of hours board shapers have, their understanding cannot be replicated by a machine. Modern-day shaper may still take into account information learned from computer-generated modeling.
There are a lot of parts to a surfboard, and not only that. There are many types of surfboards. Having everything perfectly align, and shaped to perfection is vital to your board conforming to the rules of the waves.
No wave is the same, no surfboard is perfect for every wave. Each part of a board has its own unique benefit, or advantage.
The point of this article is to better understand the construction of your board. Why it is the way it is, this will not only help you pick the right surfboard, or even design your own. But better your surfing experience.
There are 12 main parts to each surfboard. These parts control the flow of water, volume, design, and maneuverability. The shaper will decide who they’re building for, the surf conditions and other factors before starting.
The standard parts of a board are:
- Leash Plug
- Fin plugs
The anatomy of a surfboard requires everything working together. You’re going to spend hundreds of hours on your board. You’ll want to buy a board that has everything perfectly aligned.
The surfboards nose is the very tip of your board. Typically a pointed nose, or rounded depending on your board's shape. This is where your rocker points to assists in direction.
The stringer is the reflection point, running from nose to tail down the center of your board. This is where your boards parallel aspect changes course.
This offers shapers a reference point, typically made from wood, or carbon fiber.
The rocker is one of the most important design features to a board. It’s the vertical curvature from the boards tail, right through to the nose. Used as either a heavy or relaxed format. Heavy being steeply curved and relaxed being only a slight curve.
A surfboard rocker can also be divided into two states. Continuous - where the rocker is one continuous curve from tail to nose. Staged - a distinct flat section in the middle of your board.
The nose rocker or flip is the curved section between them from the tip and the middle, or the flattest portion of your board. The tail rocker or otherwise known as the kick is the space between the tail and the middle flattest portion.
- An increased nose rocker helps keep your board from parling. Typically found on larger boards.
- An increased tail rocker adds maneuverability and lift. This is great for speed and provides more tail sensitivity.
- Relaxed rockers provide better handling on flatter, smaller waves.
- Heavy Rockers increase the boards form drag. This gives lift and giving you a smaller turning radius, and plan speed.
Surfboards are made up of multiple different contours on the bottom, top, and side. The bottom is known as a concave. The concave on most modern surfboards begin about twelve inches or roughly 300mm.
The purpose of a concave is to direct the water, typically directing them through to the fins. This can drastically impact drive, and stability which will impact maneuverability.
The leash, or otherwise known as a leg rope was invented to prevent unnecessary swimming, safety, and convenience. It’s never ideal coming off your board and collecting it from the beach.
It’s even worse having your board leave your side and smack someone in the face.
Choosing the right surfboard leash is important as well. Knowing the length, and thickness as well as the various parts of a surfboard leash.
This is the part that connects to the back of your board, into the leash plug.
The leash plug came along with the Leash, Found at the back end of the board, the simple pre fiberglass addon is very basic. It allows for connecting and disconnecting your leash.
Leash plugs are put in via the board shaper and come in pretty much any colour. Your choice when choosing a board is normally limited, and most boards come with a black or a white plug.
The only real thing to look out for here is the positioning. Make sure it’s either centered or to one side where the back of your foot would sit.
If you have ever ridden a board without fins, you would know how important they’re. The fins control speed, thrust, turns, and so much more.
Not only getting the correct fin set, whether it be single, twin fins, thrusters, quads or even five fin setup. This is called your configuration. Alongside your configuration. You have your type, size, and shape.
We have an in-depth guide here on single fins, thrusters duals and more.
The most common setup would be thruster, 3 fins. 1 fin central, and 2 fins on the outer rails. A 5 fin box system is my personal preference. Giving you the ability to use single, twin, thruster, quad of 5 by just changing around your fins.
As the name suggests, the plugs where the fins are located. These need to be precision and put in the right place to allow correct water flow.
You will typically find 3 different types of fin boxes, a single longboard fin box which uses a longer base. FCS fin box which uses dual tabs these come in FCS I which is two of the same tabs, or the newer improved FCS II. You also have futures fin boxes which use a single tab.
Fin plugs are pre-fibreglass, so installed before the fiberglass is put on. This gives added strength and support.
Surfboard tails drastically impact your board's response. Tail shapes varty from pin tails, to square, squash and swallow. Each tail has its own advantages and disadvantages. These range from speed, control, and maneuverability.
There are many tail finishes such as:
- Rounded Square
- Rounded Pin
- Swallow tail
- Rounded Diamond
- Curved Swallow ( Fish )
- Swallow with Wings
The rails are the edge or your board, the curved radius around the board which divides top, and bottom. Surfboard rails come in either soft or hard. The difference being more round for soft, and more squared for hard.
The volume within the rails drastically impacts your overall balance. A sharper, narrow rail offers less volume, where something more round offers more.
As the name would suggest, this is the bottom of any surfboard. The surface in which connects with the water, the underside of your desk.
The bottom of your board is important due to the fact it controls the waters flow and channels it correctly. Boards come with a concave, and sometimes with a convex.
Shapers may also put in channels. These carve and control water a little more, this may be required if you’re looking for greater speed.
Your board's outline is the overall shape, the radius around your board or known as the “template”. This is the very first and most important part of your board and defines the type of board.
Although we haven’t counted the traction pad as a board part, it’s still important to mention. A traction pad is used in replacement of wax. It’s not a part that’s required, more desired. Offering greater support and grip on the back foot.
Traction pads are positioned at the tail of your surfboards deck.
There are 10 “standard” board shapes that shapers typically deal with. These range from longboards, down to your tow-in boards. Each board then has its own unique character and designed based around big waves, small waves, and riding style.
The 7 standard surfboard shapes are:
- SUP - Stand-up Paddle
- Malibu / Funboard
There are many in between as well, I could keep going, but the others tend to be modeled around one of the listed.
SUP - Stand-up Paddle
SUP strands for Stand-up Paddleboard, a more modern way of surfing in either flat water or waves. Popular world-wide for its ease of use, great exercise, and ride-anywhere characteristics.
Most Stand Up paddle boards are made from glass-reinforced plastic construction. Using a combination of polyester/epoxy and foam.
Alongside longboards, SUPs are the longest type of surfboard and range from 2.7meters to 3.6. The main difference between a SUP and a longboard is the paddle required for a SUP, and the padded deck.
Longboards, as the name suggests, are longer than a traditional surfboard. Longboards come with a single central fin. Modern longboards can also come with external fins which are referred to as “bites”.
Longboards can range from 9-12ft or 2.7 - 37m. Classic longboards also came in longer lengths, however, shorter more manageable has been more popular.
Guns were designed for big waves, ranging between 7-12 feet or 2.1 - 3.7m. They’re designed with a thinner profile, Guns offer the shape of a shortboard, but in the length of a longboard. Designed for control whilst giving the stability on larger waves.
A gun will come in a single fin, Quad or a thruster setup.
Malibu / Funboard
The malibu got its name from Malibu, California, it’s known as a quick, narrow longboard. The malibu is loved internationally as the “sports” version of the traditional longboard. Giving greater Maneuverability and performance.
Best suited for the beginner or intermediate riders, the egg gets its name from the shape of its nose, and tail. An egg offers large volume as well as soft rounded rails giving you great stability.
The perfect fit when looking for something which has elements of a high-performance board, and a fish. The Hybrid surfboard uses a wider outline, used in small/medium sized waves the hybrid is quickly becoming a popular board.
Any board which falls between 6-7 feet could technically be called a shortboard, using a pointed nose and a rounded or squarish tail. Popular for surfers looking for quick, maneuverable boards.
A shortboard is great for an experienced rider in powerful waves or going for tricks.