Understanding The Rocker: Does choosing your curve meanpicking between turning and speed?


Pretend a surfboard’s an ironing board. Simply pull up the tip and add curve in the nose and the tail, and you have the shaping term known as “rocker.” Rocker affects three main aspects of a surfboard’s performance—riding speed, paddling speed, and turning. The flatter a board, the easier it is to get into waves, and the faster it’ll go. Add more curve in a rocker, and it conforms to the curvature of a wave better—improving turning ability.

According to shaper Timmy Patterson, rocker is probably one of the most important parts of a board because it makes it easier to catch waves—a plus for any surfer. “(Under) your chest should be the flattest part of your board—where you’re paddling,” says Timmy. “Because when you get up and put your foot down, that’s right where your (front) foot is. It means you’re already on a wave. A little tail rocker off the tail and you’re turning.”

You can feel it sometimes when you’re paddling into a wave—a feeling you get when you’re confident you have the momentum and can stand up. You glide into them instead of taking two extra paddles when it’s too late.

Technically, the curve (or entry rocker) begins right where your chest stops. So the entry (nose of the board) rocker is usually about eighteen to 24 inches back from the tip on the average board. Besides the benefits for paddling, flatter rockers can provide a better glide for speed.

With more curve, speed can be negatively affected, but turning easier instead. “You just got to be on all the time,” adds Patterson. “You’ve got to be a really good surfer to understand the way they (boards with more rocker) work. They fit in waves better, but they don’t have the same kind of glide.” —Checkwood

(Illustration Descriptions)

Fish—Flatter rocker on both ends for added speed in paddling and small waves. The small tail rocker also provides the ability to get through flat spots on mushy waves.

Everyday Performance Board—Low-entry rocker for speed and paddling combined with increased tail rocker for maneuverability.

Gun—More rocker is needed on both sides because it has to fit the steepness or curve of larger wave faces.