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The Outline of the Surfboard


The outline of a surfboard is the distribution and configuration of the surface area of the surfboard. This layout is referred to as the plan shape or the template of the surfboard.

Outlines are often referenced by the configuration of specific elements of the surfboard: the tail - roundpin, roundtail, pintail, squash tail, thumb tail, swallow tail and the relative width of the surfboard, narrow board, wide board, narrow nose with wide tail, full nose with tear drop tail.

These descriptions state the obvious identifying features of a surfboard's plan shape or template, descriptions that are useful for discussion and the design of the surfboard's outline. These features are design variables that surfers, shapers, and designers use to create, modify, and tune - dial up or down - specific performance features in a surfboard.

Outlines may also be referenced by the overall distribution and configuration of the surface area of the surfboard. Considering the surfboard's outline from this perspective has significant impact on the design process and the performance of the surfboard.

This perspective focuses on the fundamental and essential effect of the overall view of the outline on the design goals of the surfboard. Specific elements of the outline, nose and tail configurtions and width throughout, are incorporated into the design to further develop and tune the surfboard's outline. The logic is to begin with a fudamental design goal, basic, relevent, and essential, then tune that fundamental design with specific elements.

Distinct overall outline configurations include dominantly "parallel" outlines, dominantly "continuous curve" outlines, and "hybrid" outlines, where parallel and continuous curves are integrated to mix and match their effects on the performance of the surfboard. These overall outline descriptions, like the specific elements of the outline, are important design variables used to create, modify, and tune the performance of the surfboard.

Surfers, shapers, and designers may prefer either of these approches or perspectives to initiate outline design. Arguably, though, initiating the outline's design with relevant choices about performance based on the overall distribution and configuration of surface area then tuning the outline with specific elements ultimately yields a superior surfboard.

Overall Distribution and Configuration of Surface Area

Parallel outlines feature elongated nearly straight curves in the plan shape or template of the surfboard. They are common to all classes of surfboards and are most functional when modified and matched with areas of continuous curve strategically integrated into the outline.

A parallel shortboard, semi gun, tow board, mid length, or longboard outline will have strong nearly straight curves in the template running "parallel" to the center line of the surfboard. These parallel lines dominate most of the length of the surfboard. They extend surface area further into the nose and tail of the surfboard. They can be very effective in creating a longer drawn out turn from a shortboard, small semi gun, or tow board when required by surfing conditions. Adjustments to other design variables are required to keep the most extreme of the parallel outlined boards from being to stiff or not quick in a tight situation.

Extreme parallel outlines can be problematic for shortboards. as they may lack the necessary curves required by a shortboard to turn and release in tight and critical as well as flat and soft sections of waves. Strategically placed parallel lines through the widepoint, near the surfer's front foot towards the fins, just forward of the surfer's rear foot, matched with continuous curves near the rail fins provides the required release and tight radius a shortboard needs to profit from the speed and power provided by those parallel lines. Dominantly parallel outlines may be used in semi guns and mid lengths where the length of the surfboard matched with the elongated straight curves yields a long powerful turning radius. The extra length of these surfboards remains an asset when, as with shortboards, the parallel areas of the template are matched with areas of continuous curve. See "hybrid outlines."

Parallel outlines are very common to longboard templates. Classics, nose riders, and "pigs" have "parallel" lines dominating the nose and widepoint of their outlines. Their dominant parallel lines promote down the line trim and nose riding performing these tasks best when well positioned in the most critical parts of waves. These surfboards are designed for their outstanding trim and nose riding, not to be mistaken with a design priority of turning or carving a tight powerful radius.

Contemporary and performance longboards have strong parallel lines in the widepoint and midsection of their outlines carrying to a lesser degree into the nose and tail than they do in "old school" longboards. The shorter parallel lines matched with smooth sweeping curves into the nose and tail of the "new school" longboards creates an outline that has a unique combination of trim, nose riding, and turning potential.


  Illustrations of three parallel outlines, applied to shortboards, semiguns, and mid lengths. Note the strong, parallel, nearly straight, curves carrying from the widepoint towards the nose and tail in each of the designs.  


  Illustrations of two parrallel outlines, applied to a "pig" and a "classic" longboard. Note the dominant parallel curves in the nose and widepoint of the "pig" with the smooth curves in the tail, and the even more dominant parrallel curves throughout the "classic."  

  Continuous curve outlines feature smooth, geometric - nearly elliptical, constant curves in the plan shape or template. They are common to longer shortboards, semi guns, and mid lengths where one of the fundamental design goals is an easier tighter turning radius turn from a surfboard whose extra length would otherwise result in the surfboard's performance being relatively "stiff." Another common use of a continuous curve outline is matching it with a flatter more relaxed rocker profile in an average shortboards and hybrids. When a flatter rocker profile is essential to the design goals of the surfboard or the preference of the surfer. The curved outline matched with flatter rocker yields a surfboard that maintains acceleration and drive out of the turns and can still carve a very tight radius turn.  


  Illustrations of three continuous curve outlines, applied to shortboards, semiguns, and mid lengths. Note the smooth, continuous curves throughout.  

  "Hybrid" outlines feature combinations of strong parallel lines and smooth continuous curves in the distribution and configuration of the surface area of the surfboard. They are common to all classes of surfboards. (Shortboards, semi guns, big wave guns, tow boards, mid lengths, funboards, and longboards.) Typically, these outlines have parallel lines in the widepoint of the surfboard carrying forward towards the nose and aft towards the hips and tail. An elongated continuous curve carries the plan shape or template into the nose and a shorter curve or "hip" carries the outline into the fins and tail. This curve or "hip" may continue through the tail or straighten into the tail depending on the prefered performance goal of the surfer, shaper, designer. Matching various types of curves in the surfboard's outline arguably yields a very versatile and functional outline. This is the expected result of using the most functional and relevent curves as an appropriate response to the performance requirements and the other design variables - rocker, bottom contours, foil, rails, and fins - of a surfboard. The performance requirements of the surfboard are a product of the skill of the surfer, the range of conditions it will be used in, and the intent of the surfboard's design.  

  Outlines Referenced by Tails

All these specific tail configurations may be applied to parallel, continuous curve, and "hybrid" outlines. Surfers, shapers, and designers should chose the most appropriate combinations to render the outline relevent to the design goals and intended use of the surfboard.

Round Tails

Tail template with the most surface area of the "round" and "pin" family. A full, elliptical curve flowing without interuption from the wide point to the tail of the surfboard. Not ending in a point ! Common to small wave boards where the design and performance preference is to maintain significant surface area without the "corner" typical to squash and swallow tails. A round tail will release easier off the top of a wave than a squash or swallow, but will not be as easy to "square off" a turn in mid face or off the bottom of a wave.

Round Pin Tails / RPTs

The most versatile tail template in the "round" and "pin" family. An elliptical curve flowing without interuption from the wide point to the tail of the surfboard with moderate reduction in surface area near the tail. This outline may or may not end in a soft point at the stringer. The smooth continuous curves and the reduced surface area allow this tail template to maintain more control than the round tail when performing critical maneuvers. The round pin template is common to a wide variety of shortboards, semi guns, hybrids, and longboards.


The most dramatic and the rarest member of the round and pin "family" of outlines. The pin tail features the same elliptical continuous curves of the other tail templates in this family with the curve notably reduced. This minimizes the surface area in the tail of the surfboard's outline. A great tail design where control is the primary design consideration, used almost exclusively by surfers, shapers, and designers for large semi guns and big wave guns.


  Squash Tails

The most common tail template for shortboards, mid lengths, and longboards. The squash tail combines maximum surface area providing lift and generating speed with a soft squared corner for control. The curves leading into the corner may be continuous or parallel. A continuous curve leading into the corner will have some of the smooth feel associated with the round tail and the round pin tail. A parallel curve leading into the corner will provide some extra drive and acceleration off a surfers front foot out of turns.

Thumb Tails

Thumbtails borrow features of squash tails and round pin tails and morph them into a very functional tail design. They maintain the surface area of the squash and incorporate the smooth transitions of a round pin through maneuvers. The surface area provides lift and speed at the low end or in marginal conditions and mainatain enough of a corner for a powerful feeling off the bottom. The soft thumb like corners are very forgiving and transition rail to rail with ease.

Swallow Tails

The swallow tail shares it's fundamentals with the squash tail. The layout of the swallow tail maximizes surface area, from rail to rail or side to side, in short and mid range shortboards then reduces the surface area between the corners with a cut out area that provides a great deal of control into and out of turns. Swallow tails are also common to step up shortboards and semi guns with narrower tails. The narrow tail with the cutaway between the corners provides maximum control in critical performance situations. The width between the corners and the depth of the cut out can be manipulated to increase or decrease surface area thus balancing the effects of lift and control.


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