Surfboard Bottom Contours Explained

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Today’s surfing craze has led the industry to extreme board design innovations, such as unique surfboard bottom contours, that are scientifically proven to give surfboards the best performance in a variety of wave conditions. Surfboard shapers have taken advantage of hydrodynamic engineering principles plus modern day cutting edge technology to produce surfboards with performance qualities like never before. Thus more and more emphasis has been geared towards improvements of specific surfboard design elements that were never given as much attention in the past.

One of these is the bottom of the surfboard. It is the part of a surfboard that makes contact with the wave. There are several bottom contours or configuration in existing board designs today. Even though each of these contour designs can be applied to any type of surfboard, there are specific contours that work best on a particular type of board.

Flat Bottom

Surfboards were originally shaped with flat bottoms. As the name says, flat bottom boards are literally flat, having no contour, resulting in a very fast board. Flat bottom surfboards are typically used for small mushy waves where you need that extra speed. Flat bottoms however are not ideal for riding big waves because when the waves get bigger and faster, you will not need to worry about gaining speed but more about being able to control the surfboard at high speeds.

A Flat bottom generally works well for all types of surfboards and is specifically a choice for heavy surfers whose added weight causes drag. If you are a newbie, a flat bottom board will also be best for you as these boards are the most stable and easiest to learn on. Some surfboards are designed with Flat bottoms running the entire length of the surfboard, from nose to tail, while other boards are designed with flat areas combined with other bottom contours.

Single Concave Contour

A surfboard having a single concave contour bottom has one concave shape that is curved towards the deck of the board running all the way to the tail. This contour allows the water underneath the board to flow through a channel which consequently pushes the water from the nose to the fins and out the tail, thus, accelerating the board. Water is prevented from being released from the rails, producing lift and additional speed. The single concave contour design is dedicated to providing surfboards with additional speed, which makes it perfect for midsize, hollow, clean surf. This is why the single concave contour is a popular choice with surfers who are brave enough to surf tight in the pocket of a wave. Longboards often have this contour near the front section of the surfboard to facilitate easy nose riding.

The Double Concave Contour

Double concave contour pushes water underneath the board into two channels through the fins and out the tail end of the surfboard. However, the double concave contour generally does not begin at the nose of the surfboard. It starts with a single concave at the nose and gradually transitions into two concaves running all the way down into the tail. This is why the double concaves are usually found near the board’s tail. The single concave section of the surfboard bottom produces a good planning surface which gives the board drive, while the double concave part splits the water into two channels, making the board loose and easy to maneuver – perfect for flowing, transitions from turn to turn.

Vee Contour

As its name implies, you would easily guess what a vee surfboard bottom looks like. Well, you’re right. It has the letter “v” form which makes the stringer its lowest point in water. A vee bottom contoured board can also be combined with a single or double concave. This kind of bottom contour is best for rail-to-rail surfing as it gives the surfer additional leverage for maneuvering that makes turning fast and easy.

Today, the vee bottom contour is commonly used in the tail section of swallow-tailed boards. Guns and big wave surfboards are also popularly shaped with v bottoms, allowing the surfer to make quick changes in direction while surfing on huge, forceful waves. However, when going straight, the vee bottom does cause some drag, resulting in a loss in speed.

Channels

Surfboard bottom channels feature multiple channels running along the bottom surface of the surfboard. Sometimes, the number of channels under the board can reach up to 8 channels with several variations. Like concave bottoms, it gives additional lift and increased speed. This bottom contour facilitates quick channeling of water through the board’s tail, making the board go fast. However, many professional surfers are not fond of using this bottom contour as it lessens the maneuverability of their surfboards.


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