A FULL IMMERSION IN THE LANGUAGE OF FOAM,FOIL, ROCKER, VOLUME, VEE AND SO MUCH MORE. THIS IS YOUR SURFBOARD ROSETTA STONE.

You can go your whole life knowing nothing more than a few numbers scribbled on the bottom of a board. Maybe pick it up and jiggle it under your arm, because you’ve seen people do that. But you don’t really understand why it rides the way it does. Alternatively, you can embrace your equipment. Learn about it. Talk to your shaper. Ask questions. What’s foil? How do we turn up the volume? Test different models and pay attention. Report back. Maybe we should widen the nose a bit and reduce the tail rocker. In this way you become an active participant in what you ride. You know its language and its quirks. Because when you can speak to your board, you can love your board. And when you love your board, your board is more likely to love you back.

Shapers/Interpreters
  • MATT BIOLOS

    Age: 46
    Zone: San Clemente, CA
    Years shaping: 29
    Brand: ...Lost

  • HAYDEN COX

    Age: 33
    Zone: Sydney, Australia / Venice, CA
    Years shaping: 18
    Brand: Haydenshapes

  • BRITT MERRICK

    Age: 43
    Zone: Santa Barbara, CA
    Years shaping: 25
    Brand: Channel Islands
  • TODD PROCTOR

    Age: 43
    Zone: Oxnard / Ventura, CA
    Years shaping: 25
    Brand: Proctor
  • JON PYZEL

    Age: 46
    Zone: North Shore, Oahu
    Years shaping: 20
    Brand: Pyzel
  • MARCIO ZOUVI

    Age: 48
    Zone: San Diego, CA
    Years shaping: 26

John Florence. PHOTOS: TREVOR MORAN

Outline
/ʼout ̧līn/

Marcio: “Outline is the outer curve of the board and the first thing you see on a surfboard. The outline will greatly influence nearly every other design element of the board.”
Hayden: “The basics to get right here are the length and width and wide point depending on your height, weight and types of waves you are going to surf.”
Matt: “The most easily visually recognized feature of a board’s design. Most boards are designed around an outline or rocker first. The blend between the two works together to balance each other out. Straighter outlines need a curvy rocker and vice versa. Straight means drive and horizontal speed, curve allows for turns and vertical surfing.”
Britt: “The overall design of a board is first determined by outline. Is it a fish, a step- down, a high-performance shortboard, or a gun? These are largely issues of outline. It’s the first thing you want to think about and discuss with your shaper once you decide what kind of waves you want a board for and how you want to surf those waves.”

The overall design of a board is first determined by outline.” — Britt Merrick, Channel Islands surfboards

Foil
/foil/

Jon: “The flow of thickness in a board from nose to tail, and rail to rail. Foil affects the sensitivity and flotation of a board and also the overall aesthetic.”
Britt: “Surfboards should be beautiful and foil is part of what makes them such. But the way they taper fore and aft is more than pretty; it affects the way water flows across and releases from the board. Foil can also be manipulated to add or decrease volume in strategic areas of the board that affect paddling and performance. A board with good foil feels great under your chest and feet.”
Matt: “Overly foiled boards can feel too sensitive, dig rails, feel slow or catchy... but tend to work really well at high speeds, or on steep waves. On the other hand, boards with too little foil can be difficult or impossible to control or submerge the rail. They tend to be easier to catch waves and do rudimentary surfing on. Balance is the key — as it is with everything in surfboards.”

“The flow of thickness in a board from nose to tail, and rail to rail." — Jon Pyzel, Pyze Surfboards

Rails
/rāls/

Britt: “The first thing every surfer touches on a board and that which causes him or her to feel instantly good about it or not. Nothing feels better than a nice rail in your hand. Rails are always touching the water and affect everything from volume to speed and maneuverability. They always have to feel good in your hand, but different waves and different approaches to riding call for different rails. Get your shaper’s opinion and be open to trying different or new rail shapes as they can often sharpen or free your surfing once you figure them out.”
Hayden: “There are rail shapes and rail line rockers. Rail shapes are critical to wave face connection and rail line rockers will control how the board responds when surfing on your rail.”
Jon: “A fuller, rounder rail is less catchy and sensitive, but can feel boggy and slow in good surf. A thinner rail is more sensitive, and faster in good surf, but can be catchy and slower in weaker, crappy waves.”

“There are rail shapes and rail line rockers. Rail shapes are critical to wave face connection and rail line rockers will control how the board responds when surfing on your rail." — Hayden Cox, Haydenshapes

Tail Design
/tāl/ /dəʼzīn/

Matt: “The outline in the last 12 inches of the surfboard. Breaking it down to simple terms, we are playing with surface area and outline curves to create performance characteristics. More area gives lift, and usually speed in smaller surf. Less area allows control in larger surf, and at higher speeds.”
Britt: “The shape of the tail (squash, swallow, round-pin, etc.) is a part of the outline that is determined by both wave type and personal preference. Bigger waves with more push and force want less tail area to control and release speed, i.e., a pin or round-pin, with an overall narrower tail. In smaller waves you need to create speed by (in part) increasing surface area, so you want a wider tail, which often lends itself to a squash or swallow depending on the rest of the outline, release off the tail- block and aesthetic. Your shaper may have a certain design that works best with a certain tail shape; if so, go with that. If not, have fun experimenting with them.”

“The outline in the last 12 inches of the surfboard." — Matt Biolos, ...Lost Surfboards

Fins
/fins/

Marcio: “Fins are the propeller. They will reply back to the forces applied on the board and have a huge effect on the overall feel of the board.”
Britt: “The fin companies have been doing a good job as of late in helping us understand fins from the perspective of shape, flex, foil and materials. Even with all that information, you just don’t know until you start riding a few different ones and feeling the nuances for yourself. That is so fun. Take two or three sets down to the beach and switch them every few waves; you will really learn a lot about how they go and what you need and like.”
Matt: “Surface area, baby! There are myriad subtly different templates, which all pretty much work, wbut if you have to choose, figure out what surface area feels best for you, then narrow it down to fins in that zone, and go from there. Fins that stand more vertical tend to turn sharper and quicker. Fins that sweep back have more drive and hold longer arcs, and react better under lead feet.”
Hayden: “The Ride Number from Futures is a great way to understand the feeling of a fin. 1=Stiff and 9=Flex. As for template, taking direction from what a shaper suggests for that board model is a great start, or going on what you currently ride and like is also a good starting point. Riding more fins will help you understand the differences.”
Jon: “Fins have a huge effect on how a board works. Different fins can turn a piece of crap into a magic carpet with the turn of a few screws.”

Ryan Callinan, Australia. PHOTOS: TROY SIMPSON

Volume
/ʼvälyəm,ʼ/

Hayden: “The overall amount of foam that is contained in the shape, which will in turn, along with the weight of the board, control the buoyancy of the board.”
Marcio: “Finding the correct volume according to the surfer’s weight and ability is crucial when making a surfboard.”
Matt: “Tracking and measuring volume makes it a lot easier for surfers to compare boards from different designers, even though the standard measurements may say the same thing. It also makes it a lot easier to change board shapes radically and still retain a similar overall amount of foam in the boards. It’s been revolutionary in the minute-detailed world of designing and shaping competition boards — and made every weekend warrior a surfboard expert.”
Britt: “Volume can be manipulated and affected lots of ways and is not determinate of much other than being a general indicator of board mass. Feel free to not have to dictate volumes to your shaper. Let your shaper help determine the volume as a function of a board’s dimensions and overall purpose. What is most important about volume is the way it’s distributed in a board, not so much the specific liters.”

“Tracking and measuring volume makes it a lot easier for surfers to compare boards from different designers, even though the standard measurements may say the same thing.” — Matt Biolos, ...Lost Surfboards

Rocker
/ʼräkər/

Jon: “The bottom curve running from nose to tail, and the main curves we build from. The difference between stringer line rocker and rail line rocker is what creates concaves and vee (bottom contours) that really change the performance of a design. The most basic breakdown is this: flatter (less rocker) is faster but harder to turn, while lots of rocker is easier to turn but slower.”
Matt: “Together with outline, rocker tends to be the most defining and important design quality of a surfboard. Like outline, the more curve, the easier a board turns. The straighter the rocker, the faster a board can trim and glide. There are many design tricks to getting speed from curvy rockers and precise turning from a flat rocker board, the most notable being concave and vees.”
Todd: “Part of finding the right rocker is matching it to the surfer, their style and ability. The other part is matching the rocker with the type of waves the board is meant for.”
Britt: “Rocker is the heart of a surfboard and the most challenging aspect of design. The bend of the bottom of a board from nose to tail is the single most important component that creates hydrodynamics and determines how a board works. This is the part of the board I spend most of my mental energy on... I dream about rockers. Other than an obvious change in outline, nothing makes or breaks a board like rocker. Everything else on a board can be perfect, but if the rocker isn’t correct it’s a no-go. The way rocker can rise and fall across the length of the board is limitless. In general, less rocker means more speed, and more rocker means more maneuverability, but that is a gross oversimplification. Talk to your shaper about your desires for more or less rocker, and the curve in entry and exit rockers, but the way it all flows together is an art he or she will interpret.”

“Together with outline, rocker tends to be the most defining and important design quality of a surfboard.” — Matt Biolos, ...Lost Surfboards

Concave
/känʼkāv/

Hayden: “The bottom curvature of the board (best viewed through a slice of the cross section), which will control the water flow along the bottom of the board. Generally you can use concaves to control lift or roll.”
Matt: “A single concave is when the perimeter, or rail edge, sits lower in the water than the center line (stringer). It is easily measured, laterally (from edge to edge) with a straight edge across. The difference between the centerline of the board and the outer perimeter, or edge, of the rails is the amount of single concave. Concave is mainly used to allow the water to blend freely through the rocker of the board. Concave is the primary reason we are able to build modern performance boards with so much overall rocker. It provides lift and stability. Concave is essentially what allows a surfboard to ‘plane’ up on top of the water.”
Todd: “The deepest part of the concave is where the water is spinning the fastest through the board. To get the board to accelerate you need to be pushing over that part of the board. Heavy concave through the fins caters to back-footed surfers. Deep concave through the middle of the board caters to the front- footed guys. Bigger guys tend to be more front-footed, smaller guys tend to surf more off the back foot.”

“The deepest part of the concave is where the water is spinning the fastest through the board. To get the board to accelerate you need to be pushing over that part of the board." — Todd Proctor, Proctor Surfboards

“Flex is how the combination of materials will respond to your surfing.." — Hayden Cox, Haydenshapes

Flex
/fleks/

Jon: “The hardest aspect of a surfboard to measure. A stiffer board (one with an ultra-strong glass job or reinforced with carbon) can feel stiff to surf, but perhaps have more drive and speed. A more flexible board can feel easier to control, but probably not as fast overall. A board’s flex will change as it ages and loses some spring.”
Hayden: “Flex is how the combination of materials will respond to your surfing. Different materials and designs will alter how a board is flexing, which can really control how fast the board will react, along with the speed that it will generate for you.”
Matt: “In general, flex is primarily measured from tip to tail, but torsional (twisting) flex really is almost as important. More flex equals more forgiveness. Less flex (i.e., rigidness) equals more speed and projection. Too soft and flexy is slow and lifeless. Too hard and rigid makes for an unforgiving and stiff ride. Because of the tip-to-tail foil, most boards tend to naturally have an engineered flex that makes sense. Thicker in the center, under the weight of the surfer, is stiffer, with a more forgiving/flexy nose and tail. Don’t even get me started on torsional flex. We haven’t even touched the iceberg on this one.”
Britt: “Flex is a huge factor in how a board feels and functions but can be difficult to harness and get consistent. Many pro surfers prefer certain blanks and glass types because of their inherent flex characteristics. I often manipulate flex in the shaping room with deck contour; a flat-decked board (rail to rail) will flex differently than one with more tapered rails. Most of the boards I have been making for Dane [Reynolds] the last year have had very flat decks, which allows him to ride the board about 1/8th of an inch thinner and so flexes differently. Generally, I like a more resilient flex as it feels more ‘lively’ on the water, but this has to be controlled as the wave conditions change. Flex is an area of board design where we can still do a lot more to understand, manipulate and best utilize it.”