Understand The Surfboard’s Rocker

What is the surfboard’s “rocker” and how does it affect my surfing?

The “rocker” is the curve (the “banana shape”) of a surfboard, from its nose to its tail. It is easier to observe if a rocker is weak or strong when looking at a surfboard from its profile. Generally, beginners and low-intermediates stick with “flatter” surfboards, while lots of advanced surfers like to ride boards with a good amount of rocker in steeper, bigger waves.

Over the years at Barefoot Surf Travel, we have noticed that beginners and intermediates commonly overlook the importance of the surfboard’s rocker. The rocker might be subtler than the surfboard’s length or width for example, but it is equally if not more important (sometimes even referred to as the most crucial factor, but this is debatable). A surfboard’s rocker has a huge effect on how the board reacts on the water: how fast it glides, how easy it turns, etc.

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Why do surfboards have rockers?

The logic behind having more rocker is to have a surfboard with enough curve to “fit” in steeper parts of a wave’s face. Without any rocker, it would be very hard to drop into waves without having your nose-diving in the wave. Rockers provide surfers with extra manoeuvrability that helps them execute maneuvers in critical parts of the wave (near the pocket), where the wave has a strong curve.

Less Rocker / “Flat” Surfboards

illustration Nose Dive Rocker Surfboard
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Pros
  • Less rocker will help you maintain speed, as you create less drag when going straight.
  • It will also help you paddle faster & catch more waves.
  • Helps surfers enjoy smaller, weaker waves.
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Cons
  • Overall loss of manoeuvrability & performance. It is much harder to turn a surfboard that has a very low rocker.
  • Increases your chances of nose diving at the take off and limits your ability to “hit the lip” without getting ejected by the wave’s shape and power!

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More Rocker / “Banana Shape”

illustration Drag Rocker Slowing you down
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Pros
  • More rocker equals more manoeuvrability. You will get a surfboard that is quick to respond and easier to change direction quickly by making tight turns.
  • Advanced surfers need more rocker when waves are powerful and steep, to surf the curl of the wave.
  • Rockers make late take offs on hollow waves possible.
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Cons
  • A rocker slows you down. The curvature of the board creates drag underwater, which slows you down when you paddle.
  • When you surf and go straight, your rocker will also slow you down. Experienced surfers mostly ride from rail to rail (edge to edge) so that their rocker doesn’t slow them down too much. They surf in the “pocket”, where the wave has more steepness and power. This requires experience and proper technique!

‍Nose Rocker

Nose Rocker
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Pros
  • More rocker towards the nose helps you prevent nose dives.
  • It is also easier to “hit” (or “snap”) the lip of the wave in more critical parts.
  • In bumpy conditions, it helps to prevent the front part of the board to dig into a bump.
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Cons
  • It slows you down.
  • Harder to catch waves, harder to maintain your speed while surfing.
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Tail Rocker

Tail Rocker Desktop
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Pros
  • Tail rocker gives you more manoeuvrability. It makes it easier to turn quickly as you get more pivot potential.
  • It also helps to prevent nose dives because riding a very flat tail can push you down too hard when the wave lifts you, forcing the nose to go down.
Illustration Surfboard Pin Tail Cons
  • It slows you down.
  • Harder to catch waves, harder to maintain your speed while surfing.

In short, generally for different surfing conditions this means:

  • Small, mushy and weak waves: Choose surfboards with less rocker
  • Good, powerful and steep waves: Choose surfboards with more rocker
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