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Tool Summary - Surform

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Finishing & Refining

Obtaining Rail Thickness

Fin Placements

How to cut Tail Shape

Machine Shaping Theory

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Surfboard Design Theory

Surfboard Tail Shape

Tail shapes have many different purposes. More tail shapes have been added in recent years as surfing has evolved. We have listed the main features of tail shapes below. Basically an angled tail will give a sharper turn where as a rounded tail will make more elliptical turns.

Pin Tail
Pin tails are generally used on XL shortboard (mini Gun) and Gun surfboards. These are a perfect down the line tail shape for these styles of surfboards. They should track in one direction for optimum speed. They are for freight train fast waves of medium to large size.

Round Pin Tail
Round pin tails are generally used on shortboards, XL shortboards, Funboards and Longboards. These also have characteristics of a Pin tail but a lot looser but with a smoother turning ability. Pin tails are excellent for larger and more powerful waves. They have the ability to pull out of the wave when you need to. Pin tails have less surface area and allow the tail to burry into the face of the wave. This allows the surfboard to be more stable. Pintails are less maneuverable however they are made for large waves and you don’t really want to be making any sudden movements on these waves.

Squash Tail
Squash tails are generally used on shortboards, XL shortboards, Funboards and Longboards. Squash tails are the most common on shortboards. The squash tail is highly responsive and excellent for maintaining speed in slow sections of the waves. The roundness allows the surfboard to dig into the wave and give more control.

Round Square Tail
Round Square tails are generally used on shortboards, XL shortboards, Fish surfboards, Funboards and Longboards.

Square Tail
Square tails are generally used on shortboards and XL shortboards. The round square tail gives more surface area at the back of the surfboard. This allows more tail area to turn. Large square tails are excellent in small waves and also for the larger surfer.

Swallow Tail
Swallow tails are generally used on shortboards, XL shortboards and Fish. The swallow tail is excellent for maintaining control in sharp turns because of the larger planning surface.

Fish Tail
Fish tails are generally used on shortboards, XL shortboards and Fish. Fish tails are excellent for small and less powerful waves.

Surfboard Rail Shape

Rail on the surfboard is the curved rim of your board; rolled from deck to bottom and nose to tail (Rails are the edges of the surfboard where the deck meets the bottom).

The rail interacts with the wave water at its most sensitive point, as the water enters, flows along and exits the board’s rocker and outline. The shape of the rails controls the way in which the surfboard responds during planning and turning. Height of the rail determines the surfboards buoyancy and response.

Before choosing a rail height, think about how much buoyancy you require and your surfing style. In the middle of the surfboard the rails are larger with more roundness so they won’t catch or dig into the wave.

A general surfboard design rule when it comes to surfboard rails is the fuller and boxier the rails the more flotation and the harder turn the surfboard will be to turn, while thinner tapered rails will be less floaty and easier to sink into the water

Rail volume is one of the most important features of the surfboard. Hard rails will make the surfboard generally easier to turn depending on where the hard edge blends into the rest of the rail. While soft rails are for a more laid back style of riding.

Harder rail edges forward of the front fins will generally make the surfboard track more in one direction.

If you make a hard turn at the bottom of a wave and you have hard rails at the tail then the surfboard will tend to grip more to the face of the wave, without sliding.

If you want a surfboard that will make fast turns and quick wave release then you need a hard rail from the tail up to the back of the front fins.

How to choose the rail height?

The options are: Low, Mid low, Normal, Mid high and high.

Rail Height depends on the kind of waves you will be surfing and the style of surfboard e.g. shortboard, fish, funboard etc.

Generally the lower you go on rail height the less buoyant the surfboard will be and would be suited more for an advanced surfer who is selective about their wave choices. High rails are more suited toward beginner surfers however pro surfers will usually have a higher rail board for smaller sloppier conditions.

Blending the Rails of your Surfboard

Things You’ll Need:

  • Shaping stand
  • Sanding pad
  • Sanding gauze

Step 1:

  • Decide on the base type of rail you want. If you are building a long board, go with the soft rail shape and if you are building a short board, go with the hard rail shape.

Step 2:

  • Gather your materials. Before you begin to blend the rails on a surfboard, you need a sanding pad and sanding screens (the black screens used for sanding drywall).
  • Step 3:Place the surfboard on its side in the shaping stall. A shaping stall is a must for blending rails because it allows you to adequately gauge your progress, which can't be done if the board is lying flat on a table.
  • Step 4:Begin sanding. Put the sanding pad over the screen. Hold the sanding screen at a slight angle so the screen only touches either the top or bottom of the surfboard.
  • Step 5:Make long even strokes. Run your sanding screen from nose to tail in one smooth stroke to avoid hollows or bumps on the rails.


  • Always alternate sides frequently. After you do two or three passes on one rail, move to the other side and do the same, to make sure you shape both sides evenly.
  • Never apply a lot of pressure to the sanding screen when blending the rails on a surfboard. This shapes the rail unevenly and leaves bumps.

Surfboard Design & Shapes


The shortboard (also known as the thruster) is the most popular type of surfboard design, it’s used to perform quick maneuvers on waves. They are light and are easy to negotiate through the impact zone, as all areas of the board are narrowed down. The size of these shortboards is generally from around 5’8” to 6’10”.


Fish surfboards are great for surfing small waves as these boards are usually shorter but wider and thicker. They generally have a swallow tail design and a 2, 3 or 4 fin setup. They move quickly over flat sections of the wave while you are surfing and are easy to manoeuvre. Fish ride really smooth, look great and are a must-have for any surfer who spends a lot of time in the water over summer!

Retro fish - the old school twin fin with large side fins and deep swallow tail. These cruise over the flattest section and are loads of fun.

Quad fish - the four fin setup, sometimes with a fifth fin plug to turn them into a thruster. The fastest of all the fish!

Tri-fin fish – or the standard fish. Every surfer should have one as their all round board, the three fin set-up is stable in all conditions.

General guide for choosing a fish surfboard – intermediate to advanced surfers normally ride a fish that is up to 4-inches shorter than their normal surfboard.

Mini MalMini

Mal surfboards are perfect for the person who likes the feel of a longboard but wants more maneuverability. Easier to carry and manage out in the water but with all the surfing ease of a longboard. Great for kids and smaller adults looking for a great beginners board or the experienced longboarder needing something more maneuverable.


The longboard or malibu surfboard is a modern replica of what the sport was started on. Paddle into what ever you want and hang ten all the way to the beach. Among the most popular boards in the water and for good reason, easy to start on and always fun.



Bottom contours are the shape of the bottom of the surfboard and influence how water travels under the surfboard. Some common surfboard bottom contours are:

  • Flat Bottom
  • Concave Bottom
  • Double Concave Bottom
  • Vee Bottom
  • Channel Bottom

Flat Surfboard Bottom Design
Flat surfboard bottom design is a fast bottom shape but one that can be difficult to control in larger/faster waves. Flat bottom is good for small, mushy waves, where you need lots of speed.

Concave Surfboard Bottom Design
Concave surfboard bottom design helps to prevent water being released under the rails giving the surfboard lift and speed. It is often used in the front section of Longboards to aid noseriding. On short surfboards a concave bottom will need increased rocker to allow the rider to retain good manoeuvrability.

Double Concave Surfboard Bottom Design
The double concave is seen on the majority of modern mainstream surfboards and is most likely the bottom contour your board has if you bought it straight off the rack at a surf shop. Generally the board will have a single concave from the nose which will gradually fade into a double concave towards the tail. The single concave provides a good planing surface, giving the board drive. The double concave splits the water into two channels through the fins and creates a much looser ride—great for those flowing maneuvers.

Vee Surfboard Bottom Design
Vee surfboard bottom gives a flat planing surface on each side of the surfboard that makes the surfboard fast through turns and easy to change direction. Vee surfboard bottom is not as fast when going in a straight line.

Surfboard Bottom Channels Design
Channel bottom design can have up to 8 channels running along the bottom of a surfboard and there are a number of variations. Their basic purpose is similar to a concave bottom i.e. To direct the water from nose to tail giving increased lift and speed. If they are deep, long and have hard edges they may do this too well and make the surfboard prone to tracking.

Everything you need to know about Dimensions

Surfboard dimensions are commonly measured in feet and inches. Your board dimensions will change depending on the type of board and shape of its rails, tail and nose.

The length is measured from the nose to the tail. Choosing the length of the surfboard is dependent on your size (weight, height), board type and waves conditions you wish to use the board for. Longer surfboards will paddle easier, glide better and make it easier to get around sections. However they are less manoeuvrable than short surfboards. Beginners normally need a surfboard around 12″-18″ longer than they are tall.

Surfboard width is the size of the surfboard across the surfboard, perpendicular to the stringer. The widest point of the surfboard is measured from rail to rail. Generally the wider the surfboard the more stable the board, while a board with smaller width maintains better speed and performance. Wider surfboards float better, are more stable and ideal for beginners and for surfing junk waves. 20″ – 22″ is a good width for beginners surfboards. Experienced surfers will often ride surfboards around 17″ – 19″ wide and in large waves most surfers benefit from the increase in control that narrower surfboards will give.

Surfboard thickness is measured from the top deck to the bottom. The thickness again has a bearing on the board’s performance. Surfboard thickness and the distribution of thickness along the surfboard will determine how well a surfboard floats and, to some degree how well it paddles. Most surfboards are thickest in the centre with the thickness tapered to produce a thinner nose and tail. Beginners will benefit from having plenty of thickness throughout the board. The thicker boards are stronger and because there is more foam under the surfer and the boards are more stable. Experienced surfers will tend to go for the thinner boards as they are lighter and offer better performance.

The volume of the board controls its buoyancy. Simply put, the volume of water that the surfboard can displace is equal to the weight the surfboard can support. For example a board that has a volume of approximately 28Litres can support 28Kg of surfer when paddling. This is why Longboard riders have an advantage when paddling onto waves, more volume of the Longboard means the surfer is higher out of the water when paddling. The human body is generally neutrally buoyant and therefore if you have the board in the example above (Volume: 28litres) and you way 60kg just over half your body weight will be under water.

If you are just starting out we not recommend you have less than half of your body under the waters surface to be able to paddle onto waves easily. Exceptions are always made depending on your fitness level, paddling strength and ability. It’s all about paddling onto waves, if you have the skills to paddle with less body mass out of the water then you could be an exception to the rule in order to obtain a lighter, thinner, more maneuverable board. It is crucial to decide what type of surfboard you want before making these decisions and ensure they are in accordance with your height, weight and ability.

On Mini-Mals and Longboards volume is not normally an issue due to the buoyancy you get from these larger boards. It is also important to remember that the more buoyancy one has in their surfboard the harder it is to duck dive under a wave. It is nice to have an easy to paddle surfboard but you have to get it out the back somehow. It then depends on what you get used to. If you have the skills then you could ride a Balsa (thin piece of wood in the shape of a surfboard.

Fin Setups


Surfboards may have any number of fins, usually 1 or 3, and there are valid design points (and fans) for the different combinations and designs. Without a fin a surfboard would slide sideways and be almost uncontrollable. A fin creates resistance to the water allowing the surfboard to be turned and to travel across the face of the wave without sideslipping.

Single Fin
Single Fin are mainly used on beginners surfboards where control and not performance is the main criteria. Single fins are also used on modern longboards and on some big wave guns. The deeper the fin and the larger its area the more control the rider has. However if the fin is too big it will cause drag and may eventually make the surfboard harder to turn. An optimum size would be 6″ – 10″ deep with a 6″ – 8″ base. Upright fins allow the surfboard to be pivoted around them in a turn whilst raked fins provide better control at higher speeds. Single fins are generally 6″ – 8″ from the tail of the surfboard (to the rear of the base) and are foiled to present excess drag.

Twin (2 Fins)
Twin fins are usually used on retro style surfboards. Twin fins tend to make the surfboard very loose but difficult to control in certain situations, especially in large waves.

Thruster (3 Fins)
Thrusteris used in the vast majority of surfboards. Thruster design has been found to perform best for most people, on most surfboard designs, in most surf conditions. The 3 Fin set up gives good manoeuvrability, holds in well and makes the surfboard feel very stable. Generally the fins are about 4″ deep with a 3″ – 4″ base. The forward fins have their bases angled towards the nose of the surfboard and their tips further apart than their bases. These features enhance the speed and manoeuvrability of the surfboard and prevent the surfboard tracking. The rear fin is foiled normally but the front fins have flat inside faces to improve drive whilst turning.

Quad (4 Fins)
Quad fins are excellent on Fish surfboards and have the characteristics of thruster and twin fins being that they are relatively stable and also easy to maneuver. Perfect for performing circus stunts, great for the trickster.

5 Fins
With a 5 fin setup most people do not have all 5 fins at once fitted in their surfboards at one time. Suited for the surfer who can not make up his/her mind what style of surfboard they would like. Many surfboards have this option due to not being able to decide on the surfboard style and wave conditions. Yet to be convinced of its merits.