Every aspect of your board impacts how it surfs, from the control provided by the fin to the stability offered by the board’s length and thickness. One of the biggest things impacting performance is the board’s rails. Understanding how these work and what you need to look for can make it easier to choose your next high-performance board.
What are Surfboard Rails?
In simple terms, the rails of a surfboard are just the edges. They span the full length of your board, from the nose to the tail, and cover both sides. Unlike surfboard fins, which can come in dozens of shapes and sizes, rail types are relatively straightforward and can be separated into a few different categories.
Hard Rails vs Soft Rails
Rails dictate how easy it is to glide through the water and ride those waves.
A “hard” rail is one with an edge while a “soft” rail is rounded off. If the rails are hard, it will be easier for them to cut through the water and attack the bottom of the wave. If they are soft, they will provide more resistance and buoyancy, making it easier for the board to float and remain stable on the water.
Many surfboards provide a blend of hard and soft rails to allow for great speed and buoyancy. They typically have soft rails through the middle of the board and the nose before blending into hard rails through the tail.
The foil of a surfboard refers to its thickness and how the material is distributed along the rail. The foil generally varies from a 50/50, which means the wide point is halfway down the board, to an 80/20, where the wide point is 80% down.
A higher wide point, as commonly seen in high-performance boards, means that more of the board is underwater and is more common among expert surfers.
Getting the Right Rail
If you’re a beginner surfer, you don’t need to worry about the exact specifications of your board. Just look for something that is long, affordable, and provides a lot of volume and stability, as that will help with paddling and will allow you to tackle small to medium waves without issue.
If you have a little more experience under your belt, speak with your shaper or retailer to find the perfect rail based on your preferred surfing style and the type of waves that you’re hoping to ride.