Understanding Surfboards Can Be Tricky
The smallest change in a surfboards shape can make the world of difference, so with this considered, we want to make sure we understand what to look for when choosing a board so that we can catch the most waves, and have the most fun to our ability. There are so many things that go into making a successful surfboard for you, but for this article we are just going to focus on one very important aspect, which is the rocker.
What Is The Rocker?!
The rocker is essentially how banana shaped the board will be. This is honesty the best way to explain it. It is basically the amount of curve from the nose to the tail, and it is easiest to see if you put the board flat on the ground, or if you hold it up as I am doing in the picture above.
In general, advanced short boards typically have more rocker than a beginner board. Why? We'll get there.
Just like clothing, certain types of boards will perform better in certain conditions.
The purpose of rocker in a surfboard is basically to fit/glide into steeper parts of the wave. Imagine dropping into a wave on a giant banana verses a door. Which one do you think would nose dive first? (Well, both would be terrible choices of vessels but you get the point.)
Without rocker, with a board that is flat like a table, door, ruler etc, the nose would be constantly catching every time the wave had a bit of an angle to it. A rocker allows the board to (more) effortlessly glide through the water so that you can actually have a good time whilst up and riding.
Great, So I Should Basically Always Be Riding A Banana Like Board?
Well, no, not really. Just like everything in life, there is a trade off. Let's look at both the positive and negatives of flatter boards, and boards with more rocker.
As mentioned before, flatter boards are usually made more for beginners, or bigger boards, however you can still get flat short boards, such as this twin fin pictured above. In general, these flatter boards have more surface area and wider noses (think longboard, fish etc.)
- These types of boards pick up a lot of speed when planing through the water (easier to paddle.)
- Easier to catch waves as momentum is easier to create.
- More stable, which is great for people who are getting the hang of general surf techniques.
- Loss in performance in terms of how easy it is to manoeuvre the board.
- Will not do as well in steep waves and late takes offs.
- More advanced manoeuvres will not like this type of board as usually they are taken place in steep sections of the wave where there is risk of nose diving in critical parts of the wave.
Boards with more rocker
Typically found in more performance shortboards, however even within shortboards, the rocker can vary due to the type of waves the board is intended to surf. Often "grovel" boards have less rocker, even though they may initially look like a performance shortboard.
- More manoverable, meaning the surfer can turn the board at short notice and with force, much easier.
- Much better for things like barrel riding, or riding very sucky waves.
- More work when padding around as the banana ness of the board creates a drag underneath.
- They are slower when up and riding, as the drag mentioned before still exists. More experienced surfers will know how to use different parts of the wave to harness speed, but inexperienced surfers who are not as familiar with this need all the speed they can naturally get.
- Also harder to catch waves.
So, what do I do?
The type of board you surf will depend on three things...
1. How much experience you have as a surfer, and your ability to generate your own speed.
2. The type of conditions you are surfing.
3. Personal preference.
If you are surfing in mushy, weak and scrappy waves, look for a board that has less rocker, so that you are able to catch waves easily, travel over flat sections and pick up speed where the wave provides little.
If you are surfing in steeper, cleaner, more sucky waves, you may want to choose a board with more rocker as you will be able to take later drops and do more critical manoeuvres without nosediving.
Some people just prefer surfing one type of board in all conditions, and that is totally fine too. In general, if you don't have the option to surf different boards, choosing a board that is somewhere in the middle will allow you to surf comfortably in many types of conditions.
Overall, you should be choosing a board that is appropriate for your skill level, as this is the best way to improve and have the most fun. If you choose a board that is too technical for you, just because it looks cool, this could stunt your progress and you may even end up quitting surfing all together out of frustration.
Before you purchase a board, either see if there is a demo board that you can try out, or talk to your local shaper or person at your surf shop and explain honestly to them your current levels and goals.