Surfboard Anatomy: The Parts Of A Surfboard & What They Do

This surfboard anatomy guide covers the parts of a surfboard are called and what they do.

Understanding how the parts of a surfboard work, what makes a surfboard go fast, and what parts of the surfboard help it turn can help you make an educated decision on the next surfboard you buy off the rack or online. Or better yet, you can use your newfound understanding of how the different parts of a work to have a conversion with a local surfboard shaper.

In this guide, we will cover the following parts of a surfboard’s anatomy:

  • Nose
  • Tail
  • Stringer
  • Deck
  • Bottom
  • Leash plug
  • Fins
  • Outline
  • Rails

Surfboard Nose

The surfboard nose is the tip of a surfboard. There are 2 main surfboard nose types. They are:

Rounded Nose

Rounded surfboard noses are fuller and help with catching waves.

A Pointed Nose

A pointed surfboard nose is what is used on smaller shortboards for performance surfing.

Read more about surfboard noses.

Surfboard Tail

The surfboard tail is the bottom of the surfboard. The most common types of surfboard tails are:

Rounded Tails

Rounded tails are found on step ups and longboards. These tails give a surfer a more drawn out turn.

Squash Tails

Squash tail surfboards are found on shortboards designed for smaller waves and longboards. The corners of squash tails give surfers something to pivot off of when turning.

Swallow Tails

Swallow tail surfboards are used on fish shapes. Swallow tails give surfers a hold and control through turns.

Pin Tails

Pin tail surfboards are used on surfboards designed for big waves. Pin tails help keep the tail of the surfboard engaged in the wave and prevents the surfboard tail from sliding out.

Read more about surfboard tails.

Stringer

A surfboard stringer is the piece of wood that runs from the nose to the tail in the middle of a surfboard. A stringer gives a surfboard strength and controlled flex.

Read more about surfboard stringers.

Deck of A Surfboard

The deck of a surfboard is the of top of the surfboard. It what a surfer stands on and lies down on to paddle. The three types of decks on a surfboard are:

Flat Deck

A flat deck is flat as the name suggests and tends to have wider rails.

Dome Deck

A dome deck gives the deck a slight dome shape and tends to have more volume in the middle of the surfboard and less volume towards the rails.

Step Deck

A step deck has a distinct step into the deck when viewing a surfboard from the rails. Surfboards with step deck have a platform on the deck and lower rails.

Bottom of A Surfboard

The bottom of a surfboard is call just that, the bottom. This is the part of the surfboard that comes into contact with the water when a surfer is paddling or when a surf is riding a wave flat.

There are a few common surfboard bottom contours. They are:

Concave Surfboard Bottom

A concave on a surfboard is any part of the bottom of the surfboard that is higher than the rail when the surfboard is lying flat. A concave bottom can give a surfer extra hold and help to get the surfboard on rail.

Read more about concave on surfboards.

Flat Surfboard Bottom

A flat surfboard bottom is flat. A flat bottom surfboard helps make a surfboard generate speed because it plains on top of the water.

Convex Surfboard Bottom

A convex surfboard bottom sits lower than the rail when the surfboard is lying flat. Convex bottoms are found longboards and helps longboard surfers turn the board.

The Rocker

The bottom of a surfboard is where you will also find the rocker, which is the curve of the surfboard that runs from nose to tail. A rocker helps a surfboard turn.

Read more about surfboard rocker.

What do the numbers on the bottom of a surfboard mean?

The numbers on the bottom of a surfboard usually contain: the length, width, thickness and volume of a surfboard.

What is the thing on the bottom of a surfboard called?

The bottom of the surfboard contains fins.

What is the rudder on a surfboard called?

Surfboards don’t have rudders. They have fins.

Leash Plug

You can find the leash plug on the tail of the deck of a surfboard. It’s a little circular cup with a bar running through it. A leash plug is used to connect a leash between a surfboard to the surfer.

Surf Fins

The following is high-level overview of surfboard fins. For more detail visit our guide about surf fins.

Surfboard Fin Size

Generally:

  • The heavier you are, the bigger fin you want to use.
  • The bigger the surf is, the bigger you want your fins.

Surfboard Fin Set Up & Configuration

Fins can be set up in the following configurations:

  • Single fins are used commonly on longboards and mid-length surfboards.
  • Twin fins are commonly used on fish surfboards.
  • Thruster or tri-fin set ups are the default performance shortboard surfboard set up.
  • Quad or four-fin set ups don’t have the center fin drag of thrusters and have more grip than twin fins. Quads are an alternative to a thruster.

Surfboard Fin Anatomy

When considering which fins to use on your surfboard you want to think about:

  • The fin base as a longer fin will give you more drive but less turning ability.
  • The fin height as a fin with more depth will give you more hold on bigger waves.
  • The overall mass of the fin which influences drive and hold.
  • The fin rake which gives you a more drawn out turn or a snappier turn.
  • The fin foil which pushes water through the tails and influences speed.
  • The fin cant and toe, both of which will either give the surfboard more drive or a greater ability to turn.

Surfboard Outline

The outline of a surfboard the overall shape of the surfboard when you are looking at the deck. The outline is one part of what makes a surfboard work in any type of surf.

Similar to surf fins, there are too many factors that go into the shape of a surfboard to give the overall outline of a surfboard too much credit when it comes to how a surfboard performs. 

A surfboard with a straight outline, like what you will find on a groveler surfboard that you surf a little smaller than your typical surfboard, will make a surfboard ride fast and tight.

A rounder outline, like what you find on a standard shortboard surfboard, will make a surfboard ride slow but loose.

A bigger surfboard will have a rounder outline which gives a surfer more performance and lowers the chance of digging a rail.

Surfboard Rails

A surfboard rail is basically the edge of a surfboard, and since it spans the length of the surfboard, it’s a very important feature. The shape of the rails determines how easily water flows over the surfboard, which in turn impacts the maneuverability and the ease with which it cuts through the water.

Types of Surfboard Rails

The main consideration when choosing a rail is whether to opt for hard rails or soft rails. Despite what the name suggests, it refers to the shape of the rails and not the material or hardness.

Read more about surfboard rails.

Summary Of The Anatomy Of A Surfboard

What makes a surfboard work is one part art and one part science. It’s easy to look at the curved outline of surfboard and think that it will turn well.

A surfboard’s outline needs to work with the rocker of the surfboard, the bottom contours of the surfboard, the surfboard rails, the overall volume of the surfboard, the nose and tail of the surfboard and the shape of rails give a surfboard its drive and overall performance. Like we said, one part art and one part science.