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San Diego Surfing Home > Surfing School > Shaping - Surfboard Rail Design

Surfing School - Shaping - Surfboard Rail Design

Before attempting to shape the rails, the shaper must have a good very idea of the final rail design wanted. Ideas vary on which rail shape is the best for different kinds of surf. Every few years another shaper comes along with a "new" design he thinks is best for the area where he surfs most of the time. These "new" designs are really old designs that have been around off and on for years, but may be used with the fashion of the day. This section is intended to be generic, and not favor one particular design over another.

Generally, sharper and lower rail line designs are used for large or steep and hollow conditions. In these waves, the rail is needed to bite more into the wave so the board can remain stable at faster speeds. Sharper rails are also needed if sweeping turns are planned that use more rail than fin.

"Brewer" rails were designed so a surfer could experience the freedom of softer rail design while still maintaining a low rail stability. These rails are used in conjunction with Brewer fins for maximizing control on larger waves. Years back, Greek Surfboards promoted a knife edge for maneuverability using a low rail design. Their boards provided maximum rail control while compensating by adding rocker and bottom design for lift and overall maneuverability.

Where small thinner beach break and reef break waves are prevalent, softer "egg" like rails are common. This design is useful in breaks like the South Bay area of Los Angeles and the majority of breaks along the East and Gulf coast. A soft rail allows the surfer to completely exploit his fin's turning radius. Since torque is equal to force times distance, non-biting rails allow turning from near the tail to be fast and effortless in smaller surf. Tricks and many higher scoring contest maneuvers are also easier to perform with soft rails.

The chief problem with soft rails in faster waves is speed. Since more actual rail contact is made with the wave face on large or quick breaking waves, soft rails will create more friction and thus more drag. More knife like edges with turned down rails work in small fast waves, but can catch on larger non-steep waves and create problems.

Shown in Figure 01 is a general summary of various rail designs. Each rail type is discussed below in terms of where it is most effectively used. This is a typical overall estimate and not to be construed as accurate for every wave type when other factors of the overall board design are taken into consideration. The reader is also cautioned that the board's bottom and rail design must go hand-in-hand for the rail to be effective.


Best in big or heavy waves and also in fast point breaks.

Best in slower beach break and reef break waves.

Best in small beach break or shore break waves.

Best in fast or steep beach break or reef break. Most effective in smaller waves but sometimes found on big wave boards.



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