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Surfboard 101: Tail Shapes

Fish Tails

This week I’m starting a new series designed to help you get an overview over the jungle of surfboard shapes and maybe help you get an idea of what you want your first or next board to look like. Lesson number one: the tail.

The tail is the most important part of your surfboard. It’s the part that, if you don’t happen to be called John John Florence anyway, is always in contact with the water. All of your movements and all of the energy you put into them translate through it and thus interact with the energy of the wave. It’ what connects you and your surfing with the forces of nature.

Tails01

Pintail

This is a super narrow and pointy kind fo tail. It gives the board a very large degree of stability and high speed, which in turn makes it hard for it to turn. Pintails are mostly used in big wave surfing, when the most important thing is to make the drop and then get out of there as quickly as possible.

Round-Pin

The rounded pintail is a bit wider than the regular pintail, which gives it a bit more maneuverability while still providing a lot of stability. This kind of tail was especially popular in the single-fin (article to come!) days and is best suited for medium to large waves.

Round- or Thumbtail

Roundtails are as the name suggests completely rounded off with no edge to them at all. They again offer a little less stability than the former ones and in turn provide extreme maneuverability. The direct, uninterrupted line from the rail to the tail in all three of these shapes provide them with the amount of grip necessary to ride steep walls. Boards with this kind of tail allow for perfect positioning and big turns in medium to large tubey waves.

Tails02

Squashtail

The squashtail is neither particularly round nor squared. It offers a good combination of stability and maneuverability, while providing more control than the roundtail. This is probably the reason why it’s the most commonly used one. It can be used in all kinds of waves and conditions and offers a good grip in the wave.

Squaretail

Squaretails are, again as the name suggests, squared off. They are considered the forerunner of the squashtail and not very common today. The sharp corners provide good maneuverability as long as the waves aren’t too steep. Squaretails are best used in small to medium size waves.

Diamondtail

The diamondtail was introduced as an alternative to the squaretail, which offers a bit more stability, while still providing good maneuverability. Due to the success of the squashtail diamondtails are no very common anymore today.

Tails03

Swallowtail

The swallowtail offers the perfect combination out of stability and maneuverability. The two points are like two miniature roundpins and thus provide stability, while the overall width of the tail makes the board very maneuverable. Swallowtails are often used in small and voluminous fish type boards, that generally perform best in smaller waves.

Battail

This is a more modern variation of the swallowtail, which essentially performs in the same way. Some argue that it offers a bit more stability than a swallowtail. Battails are not very common.

Wings

Wings are essentially not a tail shape,  but a rail shape. The “bump” just in front of the fins drastically reduces the grip in the tail, making the board less stable and much more maneuverable.

That’s it with the tail shapes. Below you can see a good example of the maneuverability and grip a roundtail offers in steep, tubey waves. What kinds of tails did the boards you have surfed have? Which ones would you like to try?

Article and imagery largey based on blog entry by Luigier Crest on our Spanish blog.

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