So much has changed since the dawn of surfboards. From the huge planks of boards that ancients in Hawaii used to ride on to the modern lighter surfboards made from lighter materials – they all allow you to feel the adrenaline as you ride the waves and see the ocean’s in-depth beauty.
Surfboard transformation answered to the different needs of the surfers based on their body physique, abilities, and water conditions. Picking the wrong shape of the board could result in poor surfing experience. Anyone who has been riding for more than a couple of years has a solid idea of the kind of board to get in a particular situation.
There is not a one-size-fits-all surfboard. It always depends on how you plan to use them, your body physique, and water conditions. Therefore, expanding your surfboard rack with a variety of boards in different shapes and sizes.
The vast types, shapes, and sizes of boards in the market can make your search for the surfboard to fill your rack a bit daunting. But, here’s us putting together everything you need to know about surfboard shapes.
Table of Contents
The Difference Between Surfboard Shapes
Surfboard Tails Rails and Noses
A surfboard’s overall shape, including nose and tail, essentially establishes how your board carries out.
There’s the general category where each board from it has similarly shaped noses and general outlines. Exceptions are customized boards where riders can literally pick the specifics they want for their board.
As we go along, we’ll have a better understanding of the different shapes of surfboards, as well as the riders who may most likely be surfing them.
Surfboards have various elements that have an effect on their performance. Understanding each one of them will help you choose the right shape of surfboard for your skill level and the conditions you intend to ride it with.
The nose’s shape is a key element in how the surfboard paddles and catches waves. The broader and rounder the nose is, the more buoyant it is, hence the higher the front of the surfboard will be in the water as you paddle. All because of the increased surface area in the front.
The extra surface area functions really well on small wave grovelers, longboards, and mid-length surfboards. It gets you the help you need with stability as you get into smaller and softer waves.
On the contrary, the pointier, narrower nose is more commonly found on higher-performance boards. While it can’t help as much when paddling into waves- it aids with performance surfing. The pointier nose gets you more curve in the overall rail line.
Narrow noses also help in fitting you into the pocket of hollower waves and stop you from pearling. Its less volume also lets for an easier duck diving.
Round nose for more float and paddle power
Round pin nose for paddle power with performance
Pointier nose for performance but less power paddle
Rails play a huge part in how your surfboard rides. They span from the tip of the tail of your board and requires a lot of attention from your shaper as the board is being shaped.
Rails have many descriptive terms, but basically, they are soft or hard rails. They can also be either full or tapered. This means you may have a “full soft rail,” “tapered soft rail,” “full hard rail,” or “tapered hard rail.”
In general, soft rails work better in smaller surf conditions and on longboards, mid-range boards, and blended into fish, and some small wave grovelers.
Hard rails are usually found on higher-performance boards and have a more defined edge at a particular point around the curve of the rail towards the underside of the board. This design aid in biting into the wave face while giving you more hold in critical surfing.
The tail rounds the end of your surfboard. Like nose and rails, its exact size, shape, and volume are essentially endless. Here are the basic tail shapes shapers follow in most tails.
- Pintail – are aimed for extreme traction and maneuverability while riding a wave. They may be challenging to maneuver and are not ideal for small waves. These are normally found in big wave boards since tracking and control at high speeds are more important than maneuverability.
- Round Pin – These are similar in shape but broader than the pintail. It’s larger surface area results in more lift that lets the board be looser, faster, and more controllable. They are ideal for polishing your style, doing smooth turns and drawn out carves.
- Squash tail – The most common tail among shortboards. Its edgier shape allows the fast release and makes the board alert for sharper and looser turns. The broader surface allows the board to plane and maintains speed. This makes it very versatile in a wide range of conditions and wave sizes.
- Swallowtail – This upside-down V-shape allows for the most constricted turning arc. It swivels really easily and changes directions quickly. Ideal for smaller, clean waves.
- Square tail – A broader tail with a width that gives the board stability. The sharp corners crack into the wave, letting the surfer make sharper pivotal turns.
These features are interconnected when it comes to surfboard shaping and designing. While every surfboard model has a different blend of these factors and that combinations may be tried out, the balance and interaction between each element should be considered for a surfboard’s utmost performance.
Shortboards are the lean, mean, shredding machines. They are your go-to surfboards for that fast, aggressive, and high-performance style of surfing. Shorties can be pushed the hardest and will enable you to surf the swiftest and most precarious of waves.
Due to their smaller size and performance-focused design, shortboards are best for intermediate to advanced surfers. Shortboard is not a good choice for learning how to surf or for riding small and mushy waves.
Consider the shortboard’s design when buying such. You should be realistic and truthful with yourself as you analyze when, how often, and in what kind of surfing conditions you will be riding this shortboard.
The nose affects the paddling, entry into the wave, and maneuverability. They can be wide or narrow and flat or curved. The wider and the flatter the nose, the better paddling and chances of catching waves.
With less drag, such design allows the shortboard to slide through flat sections of the wave. On the contrary, narrower noses with more rocker handle late drops better and may less likely to dig into the water.
The rocker is the curvature of the surfboard’s profile. It follows the same principle as the nose. The flatter the rocker, the better it is for flatter waves. The rocker maintains speed down the line. The more dramatic it is, the tighter turns it allows.
The rails affect tube riding, speed and turning. The two types of rails are hard rails – which are more defined and smaller and soft rails – more rounded and forgiving. The hard ones have more hold and are mostly found on high-performance shortboards.
Nose’s opposite is the tail. There are several types of tails and each of them has an effect on the performance of a shortboard.
Shortboard fins, as with other surfboards are stabilizing devices that keep the board from sliding sideways. These are sized according to the rider’s weight.
The surfboard’s buoyancy relies on its volume which is usually measured in liters. This is the result of how much water the shortboard can displace when underwater. Always consider your body weight, skill, fitness level, and riding style when determining the right volume for your shortboard.
Lesser volume is ideal for steep and hollow waves, but it may make it difficult to catch waves and generate speed. Here’s a quick reference for shortboard dimensions and thickness.
|Surfer Weight (lbs.)||Surfboard Length||Surfboard Width||Surfboard Thickness|
|100 – 140||6′0″-6′4″||18½″-19″||2¼″-23⁄8″|
|140 – 160||6′2″-6′6″||18¾″-19¼″||23⁄8″-2½″|
|160 – 180||6′4″-6′8″||19″-19¾″||2½″-25⁄8″|
|180 – 200||6′8″-7′2″||19½″-20½″||25⁄8″-27⁄8″|
Shortboard’s typical highlights are:
- Sizes that range from 5’ to 7’
- Ideal for taller riders
- Pointed nose for control and carving turns
- Square/squash/swallow/round tail
- Not for beginners
- Ideal for waist-high and overhead waves
Some of the most popular shortboards in the market today are:
- Quiver Killer by Lost
- Flyer by the Channel Islands
- Blak Box II by JS Industries
Fish surfboards are strange-looking boards and you might find it difficult to understand. But, behind its uncommon look comes a massive volume, huge tail and rounded nose that brought a huge contribution in the revolution in surfing.
Fish first came about in 1970 as shapers were letting their imaginations run wild. The shortboard revolution forced riders to reconsider what was possible on waves. This brought new surfboard shapes that became a major catalyst in surfing history.
Small waves, mush, ankle biters, slow waters are what fish surfboards are for. What a shortboard has difficulties with, fish can easily get the speed with.
Fishes have significantly more volume than shortboards. Therefore, they are fast and easy to paddle. This is because of the high volume that associates with buoyancy. Buoyancy makes the board cruise in water, making it easier to paddle.
The curve of the fish surfboard also has just a little rocker that adds to its easy paddling too. Fish can do more than just going fast in mushy waves. They also hold the possibility of completing surf tricks, but not as much as the tricks shortboards promise to do.
Fish surfboards are for days when the waves aren’t perfect. They are for transitioning surfers from beginners to intermediate since they have the power of a longboard while allowing you to incorporate a wider range of movements.
Some of the fish’s typical highlights are:
- Sizes ranging from 4’8” to 6’2”
- 2 to 6” shorter than shortboards
- A wide, pointed nose
- Swallowtails that channel water to generate speed
- Width and thickness provide a solid wave-catching ability
- Perfect transition board for stepping down from a funboard/shortboard
- Ideal in a knee to head high waves
Some of the most popular fish surfboards are:
- 5’8 Hybrid Soft Top Fish by Gold Coast Surfboards
- Ben Gravy by Wave Bandit
- Lancer by Thurso Surf
Hybrid surfboards are a combination of the high-performance shortboard and extra width and tail of a fish. They are extra width, thickness, length, and roundness combined, if not a little of each.
They are the surfboard to ride when you want that little extra something to help in less than ideal situations while maintaining the style of a shortboard. Its extra thickness helps in catching waves while extra width helps with stability.
For surfers with a little bit more girth, hybrids give possible options other than riding longboards.
Since there are a lot of variations of boards that are classified as a hybrid, they are left with no general description of how they ride. Shortboard/fish hybrid may take the vertical riding of the shortboard while giving the extra glide. But, taking away a bit of drop-in security. With so many variations of hybrid surfboards, you may try different ones to get a good feel of things.
Some of the hybrid’s typical highlights are:
- Sizes that range anywhere from 5’6” to 8’+
- Longer boards that have pointed nose for tight turns
- Shorter boards that have a wider nose for effortless wave catching
- Greater width and thickness that provides stability and buoyancy
- Ideal transition board for surfers who want to move faster
- Can be the best board for a grom
- Can be used in any waves from knee to head high
Some of the most popular hybrid surfboards are:
- The Razzo by South Bay Board Co.,
- The Mahi by South Bay Board Co.,
- Catch Surf by Beater
Funboards are called as such because that’s what most riders feel they are – fun! These surfboards range from 6’ to 8’ and normally have a rounder body with a tad more width. That’s where the common features end as funboards can have almost any tail, rail, or fin design.
A great transition in adding some variety to the way you normally surf; they perform well in almost any condition. From the smallest and mushiest to head high waves. The extra width it showcases makes them more stable and tolerant, which is important for beginners. Expect a diverse riding experience with a funboard.
While they are not short enough to control like a high-performance shortboard, they can have a decent amount of pivotal and rail turning ability. Their extra size allows you to catch waves earlier while allowing you to walk around the deck a little, or sneak in a nose ride.
Funboards are perfect if you don’t want to be dragging around all the foam of a 10’ log but still likes to keep your wave count up, especially in the dry season.
Here’s a guide you can refer to for funboard sizes.
|Surfer Weight (lbs.)||Length|
|99 – 138||7’2”- 7’4”||7’0”- 7’2”|
|138 – 158||7’4”- 7’6”||7’2”- 7’4”|
|158 – 178||7’6”- 7’8”||7’6″|
|178 – 198||7’8”||7’7″|
|198 +||7’8” +||7’8″|
Some of the funboard’s typical highlights are:
- Sizes that range from 6’6” to 7’6”, as well as anything that is 20” or wider
- May have a wide range of noses and tail shapes
- The overall outline allows easy paddling and surfing versatility
- Ideal transitional board from longboard
- Perfect for surfing anything from knee to chest high waves
Some of the most popular funboard surfboards are:
- Dura-Tec by Bic Sport
Mini longboards of mini-mal (short for Malibu) is the name used to describe a certain type of traditional Californian type longboard. They have all the same characteristics as the longboard but are scaled down to approximately 7’0” to 8’10” range.
They are worthy enough to be in your quiver as they bridge the space between a longboard and a shortboard. Mini longboards paddle great and are very versatile. Depending on your level of experience, antics like walking the board, playing around with cheater fives, and nose rides can be a lot easier than on a typical longboard.
Some of the mini-longboard’s typical highlights are:
- Sizes that range from 8’ to 9’
- Round nose with squash or square tail
- Wide through the entire board at 22” for stability
- Approximately 2.5” to 3” thick for easy paddling
- Ideal for transitioning from beginner to intermediate longboarding
- Perfect for ankle biters to chest high waves surfing
Some of the most popular mini-longboards surfboards are:
- Casper 6’8” by South Bay Board Co.,
- Ben Gravy Pro EZ Rider by Wave Bandit
- 8’ Surfboard by Wavestorm
Longboards designs come with variations of fin setups with tails that vary from square to round to even a rounded pin. They can be anywhere from 8’ up to 12’, although most riders would max out at 10’. Longboards are what you will ride if you want to surf every day.
This big log work wonders since its massive size provides a stability that is ideal for a lot of beginners. Paddling it however might take some work to keep going, but once it moves, it will swiftly cruise. On big surf, longboards might not be able to duck dive easily so be careful in paddling through them. In many cases, it will cause you to turn over and turtle.
Longboards will remind you that in surfing, sometimes you just have to take it slow. Its size takes a hell lot of effort to swing the board around when turning. But what they come short of in maneuverability, they more than make up for in gliding.
The longboard’s planning surface is huge and when combined with a medium rocker, you will have a stick that can float over the surface of the water, slicing through chops and giving you one of the cleanest rides you will never forget.
Every surfer needs one longboard in their quiver. They are there for your small days and when you get to know them better and understand what they can do, you just might take them out more often.
Here’s a guide you can refer to for longboard sizes.
|Surfer Weight (lbs.)||Length|
|99 – 138||9’2”- 9’4”||9’0”- 9’2”|
|138 – 158||9’4”- 9’6”||9’0”- 9’2”|
|158 – 178||9’6”- 9’8”||9’4”- 9’6”|
|178 – 198||9’8”- 10’||9’4”-9’6”|
|198 +||10′ +||9’8”- 10’|
Some of the longboard’s typical highlights are:
- Sizes ranging from 9’ to 11’
- Buoyancy due to its volume (width, thickness, and length)
- Round nose and squash/square tail and/or rounded pintail
- Width through entire board 23+” provides stability
- Approximately 2.5” to 3.5” thick also adds to its buoyancy, allowing for easy paddling
- Can be ridden by everyone
- Perfect for riding ankle to chest high waves
Some of the most popular longboards surfboards are:
- Verve 8’ by South Bay Board Co.,
- Wavestorm Classic 8’
- Gravy Rider 8’ by Wave Bandit
SUP (Stand-Up Paddle) Boards
SUPs (Stand-Up Paddle) boards have been gaining fame in the recent years, giving us the motivation to head to the waters even on its flattest conditions. Stand up paddle boarding’s development created a very interesting time in shaping since a lot of reputable shapers are focusing their attention on this design.
The amount of time that SUPs have had in the limelight has made it progress far beyond the 1960s when the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their boards and paddle out to take pictures of tourists learning to surf. It is no surprise that this sport dates back to the early days of Polynesia.
Stand-up paddleboard shapes are transforming and becoming more diverged. Its length is a result of the board’s other features such as width, thickness, and purpose. Consequently, these boards vary in length from 8’ fish shapes to 14’ cruisers built for speed.
SUPs are usually 26” wide and 4” thick. Its parallel outline helps the surfer keep a straight line as he paddles, while an outline that has more curve creates a yawning effect. This causes it more challenging to hold a straight line in the paddle gig, although a seasoned SUP rider may use it to his advantage.
Some of Stand-Up Paddle board’s typical highlights are:
- Sizes range from 8’ to 12’
- Offers a deal of workout
- May be used in various bodies of water
- Steady and unchanging that you can stand on it the entire time
- Driven by standing up with one paddle
- For everyone
- Perfect for riding flat to waist high waves
Some of the most popular Stand Up Paddleboard surfboards are:
- ISLE Versa Epoxy Standup Paddle Board
- PEAK Escape Soft Top Aqua Stand Up Paddle Board
- iROCKER Cruiser Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
Guns are for waves that not everyone would want to ride. They are designed for big waves -such that most surfers would never brave to surf. Guns are usually longer, extending from 6’6” to 10’. Big waves cause small boards to wobble and that’s what gun surfboards are capable of handling.
Gun surfboards come with extra thickness. Its narrow nose and tail allow the rails the full contact needed with the wave.
Some gun surfboards are designed according to the specific wave it will ride, like Mavericks or Wiamea. Such boards are made specifically for the wave’s unique characteristics. Shapers have religiously studied these shapes since big wave surfers need all the help they can get to escape big waves. Any miscalculation may leave the rider with very heavy consequences.
Gun surfboards are designed to make an easy drop because it will be the only thing you will have in mind as you ride big waves. Drop-ins on big waves are that when the surfboard is almost completely vertical while the surfer races down the face of the wave.
After the drop-in, the next main focus is to be able to navigate and handle the chop.
Some of Gun Surfboard’s typical highlights are:
- Size ranges from 6’6” to 10’
- Extra thick
- Rounded pintails for digging deep into large waves
- Useless on normal-sized waves
- Not for beginners
Some of the most popular Gun surfboards are:
- Golden Gun by Haydenshapes
- Double Up by Lost
- MG by the Channel Islands
Egg surfboard is a mix between a longboard and a shortboard. As the name suggests, they are rounded with an egg-shaped nose, short and are almost stubby size. While they are not as round as an egg, its ovular shape contributes to its distinct look.
The broad surface area is a result of its shape and length. This makes the egg easier for beginners to stand up on the board. Its thickness and width provide the surfer the ability to paddle and stay afloat effortlessly. Its extra buoyancy lets for an easier balance and is perfect for riding smaller waves.
Egg surfboards have soft and rounded rails that tend to be more forgiving. Making it the best surfboard for beginners to learn the ropes. Its lengths are on the medium end of the length scale that ranges from 6’ to 8’5”. It is the perfect transition board of a longboarder looking for more maneuverability.
Some of Egg Surfboard’s typical highlights are:
- Size ranges from 6’ to 8’5”
- Best suited for beginners
- Perfect transition board from longboard since they have the same stability
- Longboard stability with shortboard performance
- Great for riding smaller, less powerful waves
Some of the most popular Egg surfboards are:
- Dura-Tec Egg by Bic Sport
- EZ Rider Egg by Wave Bandit
- Huevo Egg by Gold Coast Surfboards
As the sport of big-wave riding has evolved, so has its equipment rapidly progressing to improve riding performance. Usually, big wave surfers us large surfboards that allow them to paddle into dominant and fast-moving waves. Once the rider is in the waves, the extra volume the board has prevents high-performance maneuvers.
Thus, the birth of tow-in surfboards. They are the new favored surfing weapon for big wave surfing. They changed the norms of big wave surfing superiority with its ability to handle high speeds and choppy conditions with great power.
Tow-in surfboard’s length depends on the rider’s weight and surf break. These are unusually thin for a foam board that hovers around the 2” mark. It has a wider tail and nose and keeps the rails more parallel for stability.
These boards are made for speed, therefore, shapers tried to eliminate as much drag as possible. The fins, for instance, are smaller and run completely vertical. Shapers have also experimented on creating different concaves to produce more lift while still reducing drag on the wave’s face.
While most prefer a quad fin setup for more speed and hold, some are starting to appreciate the responsiveness a thruster setup offers.
Some of Tow-in Surfboard’s typical highlights are:
- Size ranges from 5’5” to 6’2” (depending on the rider’s body physique)
- Wider tail and nose, parallel rails for stability
- Weighs between 10 to 20 pounds for maintaining speed in critical sections of the waves
- Not for any waves but big waves
Some of the most popular Tow-In surfboards are shaped by:
- Gerry Lopez
- Jeff Clark
- Bill “Stretch” Liedel
In general, every feature of these shapes is consistent and related to each surfboard design. The difference only comes in as every surfboard model blends factors to make combinations that can work for certain applications.
The balance and interaction of each feature determine how the surfboard performs. Also, the body built and the level of experience of the rider should not be ignored.
With the numerous tried and tested designs of surfboards, it won’t hurt to experiment with other blends to bring out that new development and keep surfing fun.
Torsten Bird is a talented and adventurous waterman from Western Australia, passionate about surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, hydrofoiling, skimboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding. Torsten has spent countless hours mastering his skills and his dream is to one day represent Australia as an Olympic athlete. Follow Torsten’s adventures on Instagram.