- Forward Motion
- When the board traverses on the face of the wave, the fin traps the upward force of the wave. The weight of the surfer in front of this force provides the forward motion. Surfboards with hard rails in the tail area also gain some lift because of the hard edge’s gripping action. When traversing, the speed increases because you are no longer moving just towards the beach, but somewhat parallel to it. The tighter the line that is drawn to the face of the wave, the faster you go. The speed of the board will increase as the surfer moves forward on the board, until his weight overcomes the volume of board beneath his feet. The place of maximum speed, which is about 1/3 from the nose, is sometimes referred to as the [full] trim spot. Conversely, the closer one places his weight to the fin area, the lift action will begin reducing, stalling the board.
- A surfboard turns because the surfer initially tips the board on one rail. The amount of curve in the part of the outline that is in the water creates drag, forcing the board to begin to change direction. More weight is usually applied to the rear foot as the surfer twists his body. The upper torso remains in the direction of the turn, and in the uncoiling of the legs from this twisting motion, the board is forced to follow. During all of this, the fin offers a pivot point while it grips the wave’s surface.
- Nose Riding
- Nose riding is affected by several design characteristics. An excellent surfer can feel at home on a 15 1/2" nose, but extra nose width of 18” or more helps stability. Several other factors play at least as much in importance. One is weight; and a heavier board is better. Board length is also very important. Longer boards simply nose ride better, mostly because of their longer rail line. A straighter or more parallel outline will give more tracking, as will 50/50 rails. Some tail lift in the rocker is also important. Water flowing up over this tail will give downward pressure at the tail, adding some nose lift. Super long, wide, heavy surfboards don’t turn very easily, but these are features that enhance the nose ride. Additionally, some form of hollow curvature in the bottom front area will capture water, offering lift.
- Paddling, Floatation And Buoyancy
Paddling: Some long time surfers suffer from back and neck problems due to that constant arching of the back that prone paddling requires. Knee paddling, also has its drawbacks. You put both arms in the water when you take a stroke. Therefore, you must rely on the board's coasting ability to keep up the momentum before the next stroke. Thus, any board that floats less than a full nose and tail out of the water will not be effective at knee paddling. However, a board of these proportions will restrict the turning characteristics because of its volume.
Because egg shaped, or 50/50 rails usually have a rounder bottom which creates more surface area, boards with these rails usually paddle better. The side bite fins on 2+1 set ups are towed in and cause drag. If paddling is an issue, consider not buying a 2+1 setup.
Catching waves easily seems to be one of the more frequent design requests. A narrow nose will be more efficient and especially in offshore winds. With the exception of very deep and long concaves with defined edges, I don’t believe most types of nose concaves will have a major effect on dropping in. Too much bend at the point of water entry will push water. Typically, the bigger the board, the easier it catches waves. A wider tail will capture more of the wave's energy than a narrow one. A 15" square tail (always measure tails and noses 12" from the ends) will certainly capture more wave energy than an 11" pintail. However if the tail is too wide, it will be difficult to tip on a rail to turn.
If you want to emphasize paddling, or you have medical problems, tell your sales person. Any qualified long board shop deals with these questions on almost a daily basis. If you are dealing with a shop that has a too cool salesman for longboard flotation problems, find yourself some place else to spend your money. For the most part, those jerks were all fired in the late '80's.
The size charts we provide on the Surfboard page are here to suggest what we feel will get the optimum performance for a board's length. This means a total package: turn, nose ride, cut back, wave connect, drive, and wave catching. For example, if you go smaller, the paddling and tip time will not deliver the board's potential. If you go longer you will lose some of the turning characteristics. Nothing is etched in stone, and you may make your own choices.
Flotation: The shorter the board is, the less swing weight will be in front of you; so it turns easier. However a shorter length typically reduces volume and more volume will float better. You will always give up something in order to get more floatation.
Buoyancy: Two vessels will have the same buoyancy if they are the same exact shape and weight. For example, if you were to place two identical Tupperware bowls in water and fill one with 6 oz. of lead and the other with 6 oz. of feathers they would displace the same amount of water. If you add 6 oz. more material to one of the bowls, the water line would then change. The water surrounding the bowls doesn’t care what’s inside the bowls. With two objects of exactly the same shape, it is their difference in weight that will determine the flotation. Simply put, a lighter board will float better.