Surfboard rail design is a critical component to the overall surfboard design and will greatly affect the way you surf.
How does the rail affect the way you surf?
Since the rail is one of the primary interfaces with the wave(water),the way the water flows around the rail and how the wave interacts with the rail will determine if you are able to do a hard cutback or a long drawn out turn or if it will hold in steep waves or work well in slow mushy waves etc…
In simplest terms there are two types of rails, soft and hard.
- A soft rail will be rounded through out its shape,nose to tail of a surfboard.
- A hard rail will have an edge through out the length of the board.
Each of these rail configurations (soft, hard) is then affected by the volume of the rail – if its tapered or full, and the height of the rail-where the apex of the rail is (50/50 60/40, 70/30 80/20 etc..)
Generalities about a Surfboard Rail
- The lower you go on rail height and lower the volume the less buoyant the surfboard will be..
- The lower and harder a rail is, the faster it will be.But wont be as maneuverable.
- A hard rail provides better traction but will catch an edge easier then a soft rail.
- Thinner, tapered rails are good for quick turns, they sink easily, but are not able to carry speed coming out of a turn.
- Fuller rails are harder to sink, which can translate into more drive coming out of turns.
- High rails with lots of volume are more stable and will catch waves easier which is suited toward beginner surfers however even experienced surfers will use higher railed surfboards for mushy,slow conditions.
- The softer and rounder the rail, the slower and more neutral-handling it’ll be.
- You will Generally find soft rails on longboards and small wave boards.
- Hard rails will be on on high performance boards (short and long)
There are certainly alot more characteristics that each style of rail will embody, this is just to give you some ideas and functionality of different types of rails.
Now take these generalities and mash em together because Surfboards Nowadays Will Have A Number of Different Rail Characteristics Throughout Its Shape.
Shortboards,longboards,hybrids, Semi guns and Guns will all have varying degrees of soft,hard,volume,height.
This is where you will run into terms like:
- Down Rail-Where the rails apex is near the bottom, a hard rail
- Tucked under -a variation of the down rail
This is what Dave Parmenter has to say about the rail of the modern Shortboard:
Most surfboard rails in use today represent some variation of the down rail (hard rail). This type of rail best suits the modern surfboard, as the soft, round part of the rail grants holding power in turns. The drag and suction of the water wrapping around the rails keep the board from spinning out easily. The tucked-under bottom edge (tucked refers to the rail which is a combination of the soft and hard rail) enables the board to plane faster when driving down the line, as the water flow off of the bottom has a harder time bending over and around the firm edge; it releases straight off at that point, thereby reducing drag.
Maybe you want to take your surfing and do something completely different then what the modern surfboard promotes and facilitates. Great go for it….its boring to see everyone do the same turns on the same type of a board.
Unfortunately surfers tend to be for the most part monkey see monkey do…..remember the early 90’s wafer thin boards? Don’t fall for the marketing trends and gimmicks of the surf mags.
Break away from the mold, break away from the homogenized individualism and really surf how you feel.