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Surfboard Outlines

Why surfboard shape outlines are important

In past articles, we have talked a lot about surfboard design and how different attributes affect the performance of your board. We’ve already seen how your surfboard tail, nose and rails can affect your performance. What we haven’t spoken about yet, is the outline of your surfboard as a whole.

The outline of your board (like many other factors) directly impacts how your board is going to perform. By outline, what we are talking about is the overall shape of your surfboard and how it interacts with the different noses and tails.

lost surfboards outline performing
Nate Yeomans showing just how well a Lost Surfboards outline performs. Photo: @lostsurfboards.

There are 3 main surfboard outlines, with many combinations and variations in between, that we will discuss to keep things simple. A predominantly parallel outline, a curved outline and a hybrid style outline.

All three can be found in the different styles of boards available, from high performance shortboards, to stubbies, mid lengths and longboards.

1. Parallel Outlines

The predominately parallel outline, which can be found in longboards, shortboards and everything in-between, features a straighter elongated template running the length of the board.

This is not really a literal term, as there is some curve in most boards, but is just used as a reference to a longer, straighter rail.

A board like the Surf and Destroy by Vampirate Surfboards is a good example of an extreme parallel outline. In this example, the nose is almost chopped, so the parallel rail line extends almost all the way up to the tip.

surf and destroy parallel outline
You can see how the outline is almost parallel with the stringer for a large portion of the 'curve' on this Surf and Destroy model.

A parallel outline gives your board a little more speed down the line, and as a result, your turns will have to be more drawn out. This design works well on nose riding logs, fishes and Simmons style of boards as it promotes a nice trim and more speed as there is more surface area under the board.

More performance orientated longboards will have sections of the rail that feature strong parallel lines, usually around the wide point, but taper into a more curvy nose and tail. This allows the surfer to stand in the middle of the board when trimming down the line, but step back on the tail and wrap a harder turn.

The curves in the nose will help when re-entering from a turn off the top of the wave or when dropping in late, helping to keep the nose from diving and can carry speed through the curve of the wave.

An extreme parallel outline can hurt a shortboards performance as the generally need to be able to turn tighter in the pocket of a wave. When you find a shortboard with parallel lines, it is generally after the mid section of the board, running towards the tail. Combining this with a curves in the nose can find a happy medium between being able to get turns in while still being able to get up an a plane and generate down the line speed when surfing off the back foot.
parallel vs curved surfboard outlines

2. Curved Outlines

Curved outlines are just what they sound like. A continuous curve from tip to tail. They are common on shortboards, some step-ups, hybrids, etc. where the goal is to make a tighter turning radius a little easier. This is especially handy on longer performance shortboards like a step up or semi gun, whose length alone would otherwise cause the board to be a little stiff.

You will also commonly find a curved outline on shorter flatter rocker shortboards or hybrids, where the flat rocker gives you all the speed you need, and the curved outline can help you turn tight in a small pocket.

The SUPERquadrofinia by Superbrand is a good example of a board with a curved outline. The wide point is pushed forward a bit and it has lower rocker. Both elements help you get into waves early and carry speed down the line. The continuous curve in the outline will keep you wrapping tight turns in a small radius, perfect for surfing in the pocket.

The Bullet by DMS Surfboards is another example of a curved outline but also gives you a board that will handle a little more size. A lower rocker to keep your speed up, but a nice curved outline to wrap hard turns either on the face or in the pocket.
quadrofinia curved outline
The Quadrofinia model combines a curved outline with a lower rocker, and wider forward volume to get you into waves earlier.

3. Hybrid Outline

The hybrid outline is essentially when a board features both the attributes of a parallel and curved outline throughout the template. This style of outline can be found in all types of boards, and usually feature strong parallel lines near the wide point, blending into elongated curves through the nose, tail or both.

The Skeleton Key by DHD is a good example here. It may be hard to notice, but you can see a continuous curve running down from the nose until the wide point. At the wide point, the rails become a little straighter, or parallel, running down to a slight “hip” just in front of the fins which allows the tail to be pulled in. This results into a super versatile shortboard that can handle everything.

The curve in the nose will help guide you through turns, the parallel rails from the wide point down will provide you plenty of speed down the line, and the hip pulling in the tail allow you to jam in tight turns on the spot.

skeleton key hybrid curve outline
The Skeleton Key is known for it's versatility with a lot of this attributed to it's interesting outline. Check out the change in the outline between the nose to the hip and through the tail.


We’ve said it before in other articles but we have to say it again…as with everything surfboard related, there is no right or wrong. There is not one way or one design that is the end all and be all.

There are so many elements in play that affect a boards performance. It is the blending of these elements to get the desired effects you are looking for in a board that is the trick.

Surfboard shapers have to think about how each of these elements work on their own in order to combine them with others to get the results they are looking for. As stated above, a curvier outline combine with flat rocker to get a board that is fast yet turns well. And in that particular case, those are only two of the many other elements that will be in that particular board. Different concave configurations, the overall width of the board, the general nose and tail shape, the thickness and foam distribution, surfboard volume and many more all contribute.

That’s what makes surfboards and surfboard design so profound. There are endless possibilities and refinements happening everyday.

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26/08/2015 4:48 pm