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Surfing 101

Surfboard Tail Shapes

How the tail of your surfboard affects the ride

What is the difference between basic surfboard tail shapes?  Surfboard tail design has gotten a bit more complex as surfboard designs have multiplied. The type of tail influences hold, release, and speed on the surface of the wave.

Diamond tail surfboard

A good rule of thumb is to think of a more angular tail as creating more angular, square turns. A rounder tail will create more elliptical, smoother turns. As surfboard shaper Rusty Preisendorfer said: “You start splitting hairs when you’re talking about a rounded squash versus a squash, but I like to tell people that basically an angular tail creates a more angular turn.” Another good rule of thumb to use is that the more tail volume you have, the more speed you’ll generate but the less control you’ll have. It’s a tradeoff between the two. Narrower tails with less volume provide more control but you sacrifice speed.

There are two basic tail designs: the round tail and the square tail. All other designs are variations on these two themes. Generally, a round tail will hold the wave better but sacrifice turning ability and speed. Gun type surfboards designed for big waves have a long pointy, round tail designed to hold on the face of the wave, effectively digging into the water to maintain stability and direction. A rounder pulled in (shorter) tail will not dig into the wave due to its increased surface area at the corners, and will allow for greater maneuverability and speed, but less hold.

Surfboard tail shapes need to work together with the shape of the board and the individual aspects of each surfer for the best result. When thinking about what tail would be best for a certain board you have to think about the general outline, types of waves you’ll be surfing, what you want out of the board, etc. For instance, if you’re a smaller person or a beginner surfer who is just starting out, you won’t want a pintail, but a squash tail may be just the thing.

Tail Shape Description
Square Tail Straight tail outline with added surface area at the corners, generating more lift and facilitating sharp turns.
Rounded Tail Curvy tail outline with no corners, allowing water to release from under the tail sooner, enabling smooth turns.

Surfboard Tail Shapes and Designs

Pintails

Pintails are designed to provide maximum control and surface hold when surfing bigger waves. They have minimal surface area and come to a point at the end with little curvature. This decreased surface area decreases the lift on the tail and allows the point to dig into the face of the wave, causing the board to “track” or maintain direction. Pintails are used almost exclusively on big wave gun surfboards, where control is the most important element. Pintails are not so maneuverable, but when you’re speeding down the face of a 20′ Waimea bomb it is more important that the board go straight and not suddenly start snaking all over the place.

Rounded Pin or Roundpin Tail

This surfboard tail design is a more versatile version of the pintail with a bit more width and curve. It is the halfway point between round tails and pintails, ideal for medium sized surf, anywhere from shoulder to almost double overhead. Softer curve coming to either a point or a rounded point. This tail design provides a moderate reduction in surface area to maintain control, however it is not as extreme as the pintail. Roundpin tails have less release and create smoother, more drawn out turns. This tail can be found on a variety of boards from shortboards and hybrids to longboards. Rounded pins are a great choices for hollow waves and steeper waves.

Round Tail or Thumb Tail

This is a smoother continuation of the board’s contour and rail, coming to a rounded end. The increased surface area helps give the board a bit more lift in the rear and allows for a looser, more turnable board. These are popular on shortboards where maneuverability is key. A round tail will provide more release off the top of a wave than a squash or swallow tail, however it makes square turns off the bottom or mid face a bit more difficult without a corner to work with, such as exists on a squash or swallow tail. Round tails help direct the water around the end of the board and provide more stability in hollow, fast surf.

Squash Tail

Very responsive, the squash surfboard tail design provides all the surface and planing area of a round tail, contributing to speed and lift and helping to maintain speed in slower spots and to generate speed in smaller waves. The rounded corners provide a bit more bite and control than the round tail, and the square end allows the board to have a quick release. The corners allow for more pivotal, abrupt turns off the bottom or on the face vs a round tail, but will provide less release off the top. This tail design relies on the tri-fin setup to maintain control. The squash is the most popular tail for a shortboard, and is probably the most common tail shape for shortboards. Squash tails excel in everyday conditions.

Swallow Tail

The swallow tail is related to the squash tail in that it provides more surface area from rail to rail, allowing for planing speed and lift. It’s also known sometimes as a fish tail, especially if the board is a fish and the swallow V is very deep. The rail line of the board curves down to two points as in a squash, but the area between those points is decreased by a vee cutout resulting in two soft points. The decreased area between the corners and more pronounced points give the board more “bite” and control in critical maneuvers, as well as when going into and out of turns. The two points on the swallow tail act sort of like dual miniature round point tails, but without the pronounced “tracking” that a pin or rounded pin provides.

The swallow tail is generally good for small waves, but it also is good for surfers who want a board that’s going to stick during deep carves. Basically, a swallow sacrifices some speed for more control vs a squash tail. Fish type surfboards tend to have a pronounced swallowtail, compensating for the wider, straighter outline which is more difficult to maneuver, and to harness the high speeds a fish board can generate.

Bat Tail

(sometimes called a star tail) This is rare surfboard tail design. It’s a version of the swallow tail and essentially performs the same way. The shape of the tail helps keep the tail wider so the rails can run straighter down the length of the board. The bat tail is essentially just a cosmetic difference, as it is extremely difficult to perceive any difference between the Bat, Diamond and Swallow. Some say that the center point of the bat tail adds a bit more stability.

Diamond Tail

The diamond tail is a lesser used tail design now that the squash tail has become more popular. The original intent of the diamond tail was to soften up the square tail but keep some of its speed.

Square Tail

The square tail is like the squash, but has even more speed generation and the pointed corners create more square turns with less release and more bite. There is also the rounded square tail shape that offers a bit more release. The square tail can be seen on a lot of Dane Reynold’s board collaborations with Al Merrick like the Dumpster Diver model, which is promoted for use in smaller junkier waves. Square tails are also often seen on classic longboards.

Hayley Gordon

Hayley Gordon has been surfing for over 20 years. Riding both shortboards and longboards, she's traveled the world to surf but mainly sticks to her two home locations of San Diego and Long Island.

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Anthony Ardern
12 years ago

Great article thanks mate.

Anthony Ardern
12 years ago

Im still confused about which tail I want on my next short board. I currently have a Diamond however I’ve always enjoyed surfing the swallow tail.

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[…] must now be considered too, depending on what you want to achieve from your surfing. Pointed out in this article are the differences in tail shapes and designs. Do you want control, or do you want to execute […]

shadow
shadow
12 years ago

thx i used it for a school project thx helped alot i like the bat tail reminds me of batman
cn sum 1 recommend a good beginner board but not a soft foam one i find that they are slippery

torsten
torsten
13 years ago

who wrote this? need thsi for an study!

Hayley Gordon
Hayley Gordon
13 years ago

There’s a bit of blur between the divisions of tail designs. You could have a wider rounded squash, or a rounded squash that could possibly look like a rounded pin. Usually a squash tail is a bit wider with a flatter area like in the pics above. Do you have a picture of your board?

Joe Hillier
Joe Hillier
7 years ago
Reply to  Hayley Gordon

Thanks Hayley. I have a student who wants to reference you for a project. Are you the author of this article?

dideldido
dideldido
13 years ago

I am confused with the names. What is the difference between a Roundpin Tail and a rounded Squashtail? I think I have a rounded Squashtail on my 6.3 shortboard, but actually it looks also very similar to the rounded Pintail on this site? Are these names synonyms for the same Taildesign?

scooter
scooter
13 years ago

Really informative. i always thought it was the other way around. i thought pintails were looser and square were more stable.

surferdude
13 years ago

This is a great website i recomend it 4 begginners who knows nothing about surfboards such as me

jahwillprovide
jahwillprovide
13 years ago

waveboard???
hahaha

Hans
Hans
13 years ago

Great waveboard intro site. Thanks!

bob the builder
bob the builder
14 years ago

siick brah, helped alot

pierre yaldo
pierre yaldo
14 years ago

is there a thumb tail? i got a secondhand xanadu shortboard from a friend and the tail looks like a thumb and he said it was a thumb, its like a skinny round tail but not too pointy like a round pin

Humberto
Humberto
14 years ago

Amazing help, thanks guys.

Anna Ehrgott
Anna Ehrgott
15 years ago

thanks, this helped a lot today. i bought a new ci surfboard. went in knowing exactly what i wanted, and walked out with it.

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