Finding that perfect board sometimes seems like an on going battle. In my 20 years of surfing I can only remember owning a handful of these “Magic Sticks”. While the memories of riding them might remain forever in my mind, the boards are long and gone.
The average life of a polyester fiberglass board is about 6 months to a year if ridden regularly. You can double that for epoxy and resin blends . For a lifetime surfer these cost quickly add up and if you are like I am, there is nothing worse than paying full price for a board only to find out it preforms nothing like you had hoped it to.
There are many things that one must take into consideration when buying a new board. Perhaps the main being accepting what your level of surfing is and understanding not everyone can surf 5 ’10 x 18 1/2 x 2 1/4 boards like the pros. You must also realize the form of the waves varies from location to location so find a size and shape that works best for you and your local break.
Longboards, shortboards, or funboards, you should know by now what works. It’s different for everyone. It is the board you feel the most comfortable on paddling, riding, turning and duck diving. So lets say you’ve determined for certain that your range is from 5 10 to 6 0 and you like thrusters (3 fins) it is now time to move onto other crucial elements in choosing the ideal Board, the tail.
It is easy to forget one of the most important factors in surfboards. This being the tail’s shape,width, and thickness . They play a crucial role in a board’s performance and it will differ from wave to wave. Here is a list of the most commonly used tails in surfing:
Squash Tail = Most common tail, offers a stable ride but enables the surfboard to remain loose. Squash tails are better suited for bigger, good form, and stronger waves. Not really ideal for Playa Guiones but more suitable for surrounding faster breaks such as Marbella and Avenellas.
Thumbtail= The design results in more stability without the hard edges. Great tail for rail to rail surfing and big turns, while also preforming excellent in the “pocket” (tube). Make the tail wider in slower, mushier waves such as Playa GUiones and its a perfect all around tail for any level of waves. I have had my best sessions in Guiones with wide thumb tails.
Rounded Pin= Similar to the thumbtail and perhaps one of my favorites in big surf. A little more pinched towards the tail the rounded pin is great for medium to overhead hollow surf. Excellent choice for Ostional and Marbella or any wave that is fast with shape.
Swallow Tail = combines the rail drive of the square tail (similar to squash) with the sensitivity of the pin tail. Most commonly used on “Fish” surfboards. Offers better paddling power and increased drive in smaller waves. A perfect choice for Playa Guiones in both thrusters and quads. Increase the tails width and thickness on twin fins to have the perfect board for dry season’s offshore small days.
Bat Tail= performs like the swallow. The two outer pivot points along with the center point provide great stability. Another great choice for Playa Guiones. Add another wing to the rail to get even more performance. Today’s hybrid boards seem to be getting smaller, with fuller noses, and using this tail combined with the thumb tail.
Now that you have chosen the tail you need to think about it’s thickness and width, especially near the fin area. This area will determine how tight/loose and the float/sink of the board when doing top turns, roundhouses, or any progressive maneuver. Too thick catches waves easy and cruises fast but has a slow response to top turns while too thin sacrifices speed but more allows a surfer to be more explosive. Make sure to examine the tail carefully when choosing. Somewhere in between thick and thin seems to work well, but too much of either can determine this board’s fate as being a “Magic Stick.”
Add two fins, three fins, four fins, or five fins to suit your surfing needs. Everyone is different and surfing has no rules when it comes to riding other than respecting others and sharing. You should never force yourself into surfing a board you do not like and for beginners too much time on the wrong boards, namely toothpicks, slows down progression. When in doubt go to a professional shaper , tell them what kind of wave you are surfing, your height, weight, and level and let them suggest their recommendations. Most experienced shapers can decide what you’re wanting while combining what you need. In the end finding that magic board narrows down to one word “Luck”. Even with computer shapes and designs the glassing is never consistent. It’s an on going search for lifetime surfers but worth every second of the journey.