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  Rails Overview

Rails are the primary interface between surfboards and waves. The volume and configuration of rails facilitate control, maneuverablity, power, and speed. In the same manner as the other primary variables of surfboard design, rail designs will vary according to the design goals of every surfer and the various wave they ride. Rail design is a function of the physical features and technique (board management skills) of the surfer, the various waves they ride, and the other design variables and features incorporated in any surfboard.

Rail volume is significant as it must allow the surfer to penetrate or place the rail in the face of the wave when initiating turns and support the dynamic displacement of the surfer through the turns and maneuvers they perform.

Rail configuration is significant as it accomodates the other variables included in the design of any surfboard. Fuller - boxier rails are generally applied to shorter lower volume boards. Thinner - crowned, domed, tapered rails are generally applied to higher volume boards.

Basic Rail Configurations

Boxy rails A full - round rail. Boxy rails will vary in volume with the overall thickness of a surfboard. The top of a boxy rail will flow out of a relatively flat or very moderately crowned deck. This rail configuration is generally applied to shorter lower volume boards.

  Crowned or domed rails A low - tapered rail. Crowned or domed rails blend well with a moderately crowned deck. This rail configuration is generally applied to step up shortboards, semi guns, and guns - basically higher volume boards - to facilitate control of greater overall volume found in these designs.  

  Most modern surfboards - shortboards, semi guns, guns, mid length, and longboards feature some variation of these fundamental rail concepts. The bottom half of all rails configurations will generally be tucked under and softer in the nose, entry and wide point and become harder and less tucked under as they progress to the fins and tail of the board. The lower profile and changing configuration of the bottom half of the boxy and crowned rail distinguises itself from the 50 / 50 rails common to the displacement hulls that preceeded the extremely speedy and maneuverable modern surfboard.

Shapers and surfers will use their knowledge and experience to design appropriete rails for a wide variety of surfboard designs and additional variations within the context of those designs.

Rails for Specific Surfboard Designs

Shortboard Rails are round an neutral in the nose, entry, and widepoint. The rail foil or profile mimics the foil or profile of the body of the board. The bottom of the rail develops a firmer and firmer corner with the "tuck" decreasing as it transitions from the widepoint to the fins. The rails have a very hard - crisp edge from the leading edge of the rail fins through the tail. Thinner boards have a fuller profile on the deck side and thinner boards a moderately lower profile. The volume of the rail is thin enough to provide control and full enough to support the surfer on rail during turns and maneuvers. Generally, the rail volume and configuration of a step up board should be the same as the rail volume of a shortboard.

SemiGun Rails have moderately a crowned - tapered configuration. They are round and neutral in the nose, entry, and widepoint and develop a firm corner as they transition from the widepoint to the tail. The hard edge in the tail is watered down a little compareed to the edge in the tail of a shortboard for greater control in thick water at high speed. Rail profiles are generally lower than those of the shortboard for control in thick water at high speeds. The greater thickness a surfer choses the lower the rail profile. Conversely, the less thickness a surfer choses the fuller the rail profile. This offers control in the higher volume boards and conversely stability in lower volume boards.

Gun Rails are round, neutral, and forgiving in the entry. They transition from this neutral entry rail into a steep, crowned, angular profile in the wide point that tucks softly into the bottom of the board. The rail profile remains the same from the wide point through the tail, but the volume and thickness of the rail reduces with the flow of the profile of the board. Although crowned and tapered the rails of a gun must have sifnificant volume to accomodate the speed and power involved in big waves. The rail must support the forces of the surfer and the wave to control and maintain speed while the board is on rail. From the wide point to the tail the bottom of the rail profile transitions from the soft tucked profile to a hard edge with no radius. At the fin the rail has no tuck and an extremely hard edge.

Egg and Mid Length Rails are borrowed from the modern shortboard. They may feature a boxy or crowned rail - thin, round, and neutral through the nose, entry, and widepoint allowing them to penetrate the face of a wave as the board rolls onto the rail. The round, neutral rails in the entry also provide easy transition from rail to rail in critical - tight areas of a wave. From the wide point to the tail the rail profile remains the same on the deck, but begins to shorten the radius and develop an edge on the bottom side of the rail. At the rail fins the rail has no tuck and an extremely hard edge. Through this transition the rail provides leverage and release so the board can accelerate off the rail and out of the turn. The substantial volume of Eggs and Mid Length designs requires the rail profile to be a bit lower or more crowned for control.

Modern Longboard Rails mimic shortboard and mid length rails. The length, width, and ultimately high volume of the modern longboard, combined with the size, technique of the surfer, and deck design determine the volume and configuration of the rail.

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