SURFBOARDOLOGY 101 – Acquiring The Shapers Eye

Hello and welcome to basic surfboard understanding. For this, our first lesson, you’ll need a lab partner, someone you can swap boards with. Just be sure their board is one that you’ve never ridden. Alrighty, go on and take a moment to grab your buddy. Got one? Perfect. Now trade boards and pay attention, this wont take long.

Okay, ready?

Give your friend’s board a good look over. Kick the tires, if you will. You know how, right? Good! Give it your best inspection. Put it under your arm just to see what it feels like. Right. Now do that thing that shapers always do. You know, lift one end to your eyeball and peer down its length. Good, very good. Now how about the rails on that thing? They feeling full? Pinched? Cool. That’s perfect. Now take a minute to soak it all in. You done? Alrighty then. Now give your lab partner a brief rundown of its characteristics.

Be sure to explain what type of wave his board will work best in, and why. Is the board right for someone of his size and ability? How will it react on takeoff? Will it sprint out of the gates or will it take a few pumps to reach top speed. Be sure to offer your complete professional assessment.


Perfect. Phase one of our lesson is already over. See how easy that was? Phase two is even easier. To complete this segment of our lesson all you have to do is apologize to your lab partner, because after going through your obligatory inspection motions chances are you offered him a mouthful of useless, misguided information.

Fear not, we all do it.

In phase three, with the help of shaping guru Rusty Priesendorfer, we hope to add some validity to your future surfboard rants by teaching you the proper way to inspect a board. By following these steps closely you’ll begin to train your eye until hopefully, one day soon, you’ll be able to detect all the subtle refinements of a foil. You will have acquired the shaper’s eye. The following are four basic ingredients that everyone should understand about their equipment, and how to identify them.

The Balance Point

What it is: It’s the tipping point of your board, the spot where there’s basically an equal amount of weight and volume on either side of it both forward and in back.

What it does: Influences where you’ll need to stand on the board to find its sweet spot. A surfboard’s maximum volume, or balance point, should always be between your feet while riding. This point creeps forward on boards made for bigger or more powerful waves, and back on boards for smaller waves.

How to inspect: Simply hold the board in one hand like a scale and find the spot where it stays balanced in place as you hold. When the board stops moving, take a note of where your hand is, and make sure that spot is between where your feet would normally go.


What it is: The bottom curvature that runs the length of your board, from tip to tail. There are many rockers to consider, though. Center rocker is important, but rail rocker plays a crucial role too.

What it does: Has more impact on your board’s performance than any other single ingredient. A flat (or straight) rocker will paddle and surf faster, but will be much stiffer and harder to control in the pocket than a board with accelerated curves in it. It effects both speed and turning power. Rail rocker also plays vital role, as it is the curve you can turn off of.