Surfboard design is a simple combination of variables. These variables may seem overwhelming to some. They are anything but, once you identify and become familiar with them. Generally, these variables include the template, rocker, foil (thickness flow), bottom contours, rails, fins and their placement, and the "glassing" of the board. Some of these variables are more significant than others, but the single, most significant, and often overlooked variable is the synthesis of all the variables. All the design elements must work with each other to achieve optimum results.
Without motors, paddles, sails, or any other external source of energy, speed and power - the essential components of high performance surfing - are achieved with the board's design, the surfer's board management, and the waves. The one element that makes surfing a reality is the wave. Without waves, there is no surfing.
Surfers, shapers, and designers recognized from the outset of the sport that boards developed more speed and power in bigger and or better waves. Such waves through size and or quality provide the resource to the design equation that makes boards fast and responsive and allows them to accelerate and turn on demand.
It took decades to recognize that even the smallest waves had "critical" sections or areas within that also generate speed and power. Over those many years the primary design goal of a surfboard was rarely to fit easily into these "critical" areas where they could tap into the greatest potential energy available in a wave. The surfboard was a high volume, maximum surface area, relatively flat planning device. They were so bulky and awkward they fit into the tight contours of the critical sections with great difficulty. Generally, these boards, even with the advent of polyurethane foam cores and resin/fiberlass skins, shortboards, and tri fins (Thank you, Simon) were unable to access the greatest energy source of most waves.
It's often necessary to look beyond as well as push the limits of the fundamental variables of surfboard design to achieve quantum leaps in performance surfing. Further work within the variables is essential for fine tuning these quantum steps. Thus intuitive ideas and deductive reasoning contribute to surfboard design.
Shorter boards with reduced surface area and increased rocker find themselves forced comfortably into the critical sections of waves. In these critical sections, where water moves at it's greatest speed and power up the face of the wave, bottom contours and rails pour energy into boards. The more powerful the wave and the better the board fits into the waves power, the greater the potential for a surfer to generate speed and power into his surfing. This realization and the fine tuning of the design variables of contemporary surfboards are responsible for the current high level of performance surfing.
Unfortunately, the low volume, minimum surface area, more rockered surfboard presented surfers, shapers, and designers a new problem to overcome. These "glass slippers" sped out of the critical sections of waves and quickly and often bled off their speed and power. Subtle increases in surface area and thickness and moderation and evolution of rocker and bottom contours yields a surfboard that still taps into the energy of the critical sections of a wave and maintains the speed and power through the less critical sections of a wave.
Surfers who chose to ride boards with templates and rockers that fit easily into the critical sections of waves, and have sufficient surface area and volume, achieve the fastest and most powerful surfing you will see.
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