By Shawn Tracht
So you’ve got all your dimensions dialed in and enough money saved up to get a new board, but there’s one thing you can’t decided on, which tail design you want. My advice would be both of two things, read up, and ride up! If you’re going to read up, start here. However, if you really want to learn about what a board does, ride as many boards as you can! Friends’ boards, demo boards at shops, old beater boards you find in the trash can, boards laying around that look unloved at a shaper’s shop, or whatever! For now though, here’s a quick guide to choosing your next tail, which is a synopsis of a sit-down conversation I had with Nick Cooper of Coop Deville Surfboards, Jeff Hull of Resist Surfboards , and Paul Finley of Sojourner Surfboards.
A pin tail is the epitome of big wave surfing. The basic idea of a pin is to give a board ultimate stiffness and control. The pin tail is not about helping you create drive. Rather, it’s purpose is to maintain stability on huge waves.
Rounded-pins hold their line very well in steep sections. This makes this type of tail a usual go-to for surfers who seek the barrel, or very punchy waves. The closer to a narrow pin tail you get, the stiffer the board is. The wider the round tail, the more surface area in the tail you have to drive off of to create your own speed.
The squash tail is a classic staple of tail designs on a modern shortboard. This tail on a shortboard is also synonymous with “the ripper shortboard.” The squash, which is a squarish tail, with a slight curve around the corners, is a tail that surfs extremely well in knee to slightly overhead surf. It utilizes it’s surface area to plane across flat sections of waves, and then uses the corners of the tail to pivot hard off of to attack the lip. The squash tail is very versatile in many types of waves, and though having a quiver of shortboards with every single tail sitting in your garage would be the dream, if you had to choose one tail to surf most of the year, this tail will get the job done in California.
The idea of the diamond tail is that a very wide tail adds foam to where your back foot pushes off of, adding great pop. Now, wide tails can give a squirrely feeling, but by adding a diamond tip to pivot off off, the board regains an unbelievable amount of control, enabling it to pivot in small to medium waves like a squash tail. The reason diamonds are “so hot right now” is because the diamond adds enhanced drive compared to other tails without loosing maneuverability. The diamond is really helping average surfers become really good surfers quick.
Like the diamond tail, when swallow tails have width, it gives them more surface area to plane off of, as well as helps keep the rail line straight on either side. Straight rails help a board maintain constant speed. As for the swallow, what you have is really two pin tails, one on each side. So as you surf this board from one rail to another, you have a strict pivot point drive off of. Another function of the swallow tail is that by cutting out a block of the tail, the board can push through turns with less resistance than if the tail was square and full of foam. These tails are often great on wider boards, like fish, where you want drive and stiffness instead of a slidy feeling.
Asymmetrical tail and rail designs are extremely functional despite the eye twisting, confused looks you surely will get. When you have a board like a fish that generates a lot of speed quickly and combine it with a board like a rounded pin for those flowing and arching turns, you have something really fun and unique. A more drawn out strait rail on your toe side enables for fast acceleration due to the rail line engaged for pumping. The bumped out rounded and shorted rail/ tail combo on the heel side enables more unhindered directional changes for your frontside snaps and backside bottom turns.