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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, advanced surfers ride boards with more rocker, while beginners and intermediates stick with “flatter” surfboards.

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.

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 also help advanced surfers execute maneuvers in critical parts of the wave (near the pocket), where the wave has a strong curve.

Less Rocker / “Flat” Surfboards

The Good:

The big size of these boards provide plenty of planning surface and floatation. This, plus a low to medium rocker, helps you glide on the surface of the water. Longboards can provide clean, smooth rides even in average to poor surf conditions. These boards help you paddle with loads of speed, making easy for you to catch more waves. Their length, width and thickness provide loads of stability, which is great to learn basic techniques.

The Bad:

Overall loss of manoeuvrability & performance. It is much harder to turn a surfboard that has a very low rocker. Surfing a flat surfboard 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!

More Rocker / “Banana Shaped”

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

A rocker slows you down. The curvature of the board creates drag under water, which slows you down when you paddle. Because so little surface area “glides” on the water, you paddle slower and catch waves later, when they are steeper. 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
NoseRocker
The Good:

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.

The Bad:

It slows you down: harder to catch waves, harder to maintain your speed while surfing.

Tail Rocker

Tail Rocker Desktop
Tail Rocker
The Good:

Tail rocker gives you more manoeuvrability. It makes it easier to turn quickly as you get more pivot potential. It also helps preventing 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.

The Bad:

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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Surfing is more fun the
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