AskDefine | Define surfboard

Dictionary Definition

surfboard n : a narrow buoyant board for riding surf

User Contributed Dictionary



surf + board



  1. A shaped waterproof plank, usually made of wood or foam and reinforced plastic, used to surf on waves.

See also


a shaped waterproof plank used to surf on waves


  1. To use a surfboard; to surf.

Usage notes

  • Not preferred by surfers, who would say "surf".
  • Might be used to distinguish from body-surfing, riding waves without equipment.

Extensive Definition

Surfboards are elongated, platforms used in the sport of surfing. They are relatively light, but strong enough to support an individual standing on them while riding a breaking wave. Like the sport itself, they were invented in Hawaii, where they were known as Papa he‘e nalu in the Hawaiian language, and usually made of wood from local trees, such as koa, and were often over 15 feet in length and extremely heavy The major advances over the years were the addition of one or more fins on the bottom rear of the board to improve directional stability and a change of materials and shapes.
Modern surfboards are made of polyurethane or polystyrene foam covered with layers of fiberglass cloth and polyester or epoxy resin.The end result is a light and strong surfboard that is buoyant and maneuverable. Since 1995 a new breed of shapers including Paul Jensen, Tom Wegener, Roy Stewart (surfer) (Power Surfboards), and Peter McMahon (Empress Surfboards) have re-invented hollow wooden surfboards. A few specialty surfboards are made out of hollow carbon fiber or aluminum for added lightness. Most modern surfboards can be divided into two main categories: longboards and shortboards. Longboards as the name suggests are longer (often eight or more feet), and are also thicker and wider with a more rounded nose than a shortboard. Shortboards are shorter (5–7ft), thinner, and have a more pointed nose. They are not as wide as longboards and are typically more maneuverable. Other variants include guns, longboard guns, olos, fun-boards, fish, eggs, bonzers, quads, tow-boards, and hydrofoils. In order to discuss board design, it is helpful to have basic knowledge of the vocabulary used to reference each part of the board.


  • Nose — The front tip of the board. This can be pointed or rounded.
  • Tail — The back end of the board. The shape of the tail affects how a board responds. Tail shapes vary from square, pin, squash, swallow, diamond, and so on—each one in turn having its own family of smaller variants.
  • Deck — The surface of the board that the surfer stands on. Surfwax is applied to this surface.
  • Bottom — The surface of the board that rests on the water.
  • Rail — The edges of the board. A rounded rail is called "soft", while a more squared off rail is called "hard", and rails that are in between are considered 50/50.
  • Fins — Fins create stick and drive on the wave face. Also known as "skegs." They keep the board from sliding sideways on the wave uncontrollably. There are countless fin designs. One of the most common fin arrangements is named the thruster, whose invention is commonly credited to Simon Anderson of Australia. It consists of three equal sized fins, one at the tail of the board and two slightly further towards the nose. However, as Surfer magazine documents, "Over a decade before Simon Anderson introduced his revolutionary Thruster in 1980, Duncan and Malcolm Campbell had already produced a functional triangulated-fin system." That system, a shortboard called the Bonzer Board, is documented to have been frequently used and erroneously claimed credit for by others. The bonzer's two ventral fins are angled inward slightly, and convey exceptional speed and agility. However Bonzer style boards have unequal sized fins and feel much different then a traditional thruster. The Campbell brothers subsequently improved upon that design by turning out a faster, five fin setup. Circa 2005, boards with 4 fins (quads) were being experimented with again, after a brief appearance of quads in the eighties, - these have a pair of closely mounted fins on each side - and in 2007 acceptance was gaining. Tunnel fins are being experimented with in New Zealand, and are proving to be exceptionally fast without losing maneuverability.
  • Stringer — A thin piece of wood running from nose to tail that increases the strength of the board. Boards have different amount of stringers and some have no stringers.
  • Leash Cup — An indentation in the deck of the board close to the tail that contains a small bar that a leash can be tied around.
  • Leash — A stretchy cord running from the leash cup to the surfer's ankle. This keeps a surfer from losing his board when he falls off. It is not meant to be a life saving device.
  • Rocker — This refers to how much curve the bottom of the board has from nose to tail. Increasing the rocker improves maneuverability, but this is at the cost of speed—a steeper curve creates drag.
  • Concave — Modern surfboards often contain multiple contours on the bottom of the board called Concave. These concaves have different uses and vary among different types of surfboards. Most concaves on the modern shortboard begin about twelve inches back from the nose of the board on the bottom and then carry out through the middle to the tail of the surfboard. The purpose of concave is to direct water through the fins of the surfboard. Surfboard shapers can experiment with concaves to create different drive and response characteristics on each individual surfboard.


Surfboards are usually constructed using polyurethane foam. They are made stronger with one or more small pieces of wood going down the middle of the board called a stringer. The foam is molded into the rough shape of a surfboard called a blank. (Note: Recently, the largest producer of these blanks, Clark Foam announced its closure This move drastically affected surfboard production and has become known to surfers as Blank Monday or Black Monday.) Once the blanks have been made they are given to shapers. Shapers then cut, plane, and sand the board to its specifications. Finally, the board is covered in one or more layers of fiberglass cloth and resin. It is during this stage that the fins, or boxes for removable fins are put on and the leash plug is installed. Another method of making boards is using epoxy resin and polystyrene foam, instead of polyester resin and polyurethane foam. In recent years, surfboards made out of balsa and a polystyrene core are becoming more popular. Even solid balsa surfboards are available.
Although boards are usually shaped by hand, the use of machines to shape them has become more and more popular over the years. Modern technology has made its way into surfboard production as well. Vacuum forming and modern sandwich construction techniques borrowed from other industries have become more common in the industry, many surfers have switched to riding sandwich construction epoxy boards due to their lightness and durability. Hollow wooden surfboards are constructed using any type of wood and epoxy resin and are glassed with cloth such as glass, silk, cotton, polyester, dynol or kevlar. Most surfboards weigh between 5–15 lb (2–7 kg).
Fun Board In between a short and long board:Modern hybrid boards are usually 6–8 ft 6 in (1.8–2.3 m) in length with a more rounded profile and tail shape. Surfed in smaller waves with any fin set up. They are more about having fun than high performance or tricks. They can be easier to ride for beginning surfers and generally perform well in surfing conditions where the more traditional long and short boards might not.:Radically short stubby board under in length developed from kneeboards in the 1970s by Kevin O' Leary. Other prominent Fish shapers include Skip Frye, Steve Brom, Larry Mabil, and Rich Pavel. Primarily a twin fin set up with a swallow tail shape and popular in smaller waves. Resurgence in popularity in early 2000s created by legendary surfer Tom Curren. Note, any type of board (such as shortboard or mini-longboard) can have a fish tail, and these are commonly referred to as a "fish", but they lack the other properties of a fish as listed here.:Big wave boards of length . Thin, needle-like template with single or thruster fin set up. It usually looks like a shortboard but at a longboard size. Used at such big waves spots as Waimea Bay and Mavericks.
Primarily single finned with large rounded nose and length of . Noseriders are a class of longboard which enable the rider to walk to the tip and nose ride. Also called a "Mal", which is a shortened version of Malibu, one of, if not the most popular longboard wave.:Originally reserved for royalty due to its size and weight, these wooden boards can exceed lengths of and reach weights up to .:Quads are quick down the line but lose drive through turns. The quad is making quite a comeback over the last year, showing up everywhere from Mavs guns to small wave fishes. CJ Hobgood won the 2007 Surfbout on a Quad at lowers.
surfboard in German: Surfbrett
surfboard in Hebrew: גלשן
surfboard in Portuguese: Prancha de surfe
surfboard in Thai: กระดานโต้คลื่น
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