At first glance of an asymmetrical surfboard, you might think that there's no possible way a shape like that can shred. From both a psychology standpoint and a surfers perspective, it just doesn't seem right.
But as shapers and surfers began further expanding on the idea and functionality behind these boards, the benefits and abilities provided to you by the shape of an asymmetrical surfboard becoming more clear, these types of surfboards are now the latest integration into surf culture.
With this it becomes essential to further expand on the ideas behind asymmetrical surfboard design, as a knowledge of the craft allows us to better our surfing in the water, and to go over a few of the intricacies maintained with this innovative surfboard shape; as well as answering if an asymmetrical surfboard might be a solid addition to your quiver.
Asymmetrical surfboards have been around for a while, it just took some time for them to become well known and highly acknowledged within the surf world.
Although there are a few tales and instances of asymmetrical surfboard designs before this, credit to the first asymmetrical surfboard shaper can be verified by an actual patent. A surfboard shaper by the name of Carl Ekstrom crafted the first asymmetrical surfboard shape in 1965, acquiring a patent for this shape only two years later in 1967.
Ekstrom wanted to surf his local break, Windandsea, with equal prowess on both his frontside and his backside.
Ekstrom found a board that he enjoyed while riding frontside, and also found a board he enjoyed while riding backside. In an effort to bring out the best in his frontside and backside surfing, he combined the tail shapes and rails of these two boards into one surfboard, thus discovering the benefits of catering to your toe and heel edge through unique asymmetrical shapes on the same surfboard.
An asymmetrical surfboard shape doesn't have to follow a one set pattern. There is no definitive outline for an asymmetrical board shape, and they can be shaped to any size. There are asymmetrical longboards, asymmetrical shortboards, and asymmetrical fish!
The defining characteristics of an asymmetrical surfboard shape then become the fact that both sides (the rails and the tails) are different from one another.
When looking at a normal surfboard shape, the stringer acts as the Y-axis to the symmetry. If you folded the surfboard over the stringer, each side would equally match. No different than the hot-dog and hamburger technique of folding paper we learned in grade school.
This is not the case with an asymmetrical surfboard design. Regardless of whether your stance is regular or goofy, an asymmetrical surfboard design will cater to the varying human idiosyncrasies of our own body symmetry by not being shaped the exact same on the left and right rails.
If you folded an asymmetrical surfboard design down the stringer, it would not equally match up!
Turning on our toes versus our heels is not only a different feeling, but it requires completely different body movements and shifts of weight, both because of our direction on the wave and the effect of this change in hydrodynamics, and also the ways in which our body moves forward versus backward while maintaining balance on the deck of the board.
We have a lot more leverage and a lot more control on our toe side based on our ability to move and pivot our ankles, which is part of the driving force behind any turn. The toe side rail on an asymmetrical surfboard will usually go past the stringer, or in a sense is longer than the heel side of the board, extending further out.
This shape on the toe side of your asymmetrical surfboard will help maintain elegant speed down the line while keeping your backside hacks nice and tight in the pocket, allowing us to best utilize our increased levels of control on our toe edge.
Our heel side turns are more restricted, as we simply have less control over a shift in weight to our heels, as well as heels being larger and bulkier parts of our feet. The heelside rail and tail of an asymmetrical surfboard design will be shorter than the toe side, and will often feature a much more rounded shape.
This rounded shape helps to maintain control on our heel side turns, granting us a better ability to comfortably ease and wrap into those frontside carves with the epitome of heel control.
Asymmetrical surfboard fin placement is as important as the actual shape itself, and if the fins are not correctly placed, then the entire integrity of the purpose of the board is compromised.
The placement of surfboard fins is also going to be different on the frontside and heelside rails of your asymmetrical surfboard to match the differences in surfboard shape and the effect this has on your surfing.
An asymmetrical surfboard fin itself is not asymmetrical, as it can look like any standard surfboard fin, and what matters more is the placement of the fin boxes.
The fins on the toe side of the board are generally further back towards the tail end of the board, as remember, the rail and tail of your toeside edge of an asymmetrical surfboard will be longer than that of the heel side. As well as being further back, they are also placed slightly further apart in terms of measurement from one fin to the other should the board be a quad set up.
This helps increase your drive, speed, and at keeping your backside turns nice and whippy in the pocket.
Oftentimes, however, an asymmetrical surfboard will feature only one slightly larger fin on the toe side versus two quad-like setups on the heel for similar reasons.
The heel side fin placement will be pushed slightly further up towards the nose, and the fins will also be closer together to one another when compared to the toeside fins. The heelside fin placement helps to give you more pivot during a frontside turn, again making up for the fact that we have less control and aggressiveness when turning from our heels.
Now that you know the basics of the shapes and fin placements of asymmetrical surfboards, so arises the questions:
What does this mean when riding these types of boards in the actual water? And do asymmetrical surfboards work?
Asymmetrical surfboards absolutely do work, and although they might not be as appealing to the eye, they sure are appealing to your riding.
We all have certain surfboards that we know benefit our frontside and our backside differently, and an asymmetrical surfboard is the one way to bring out the best of both in a single shape and a single board.
The truth is that asymmetrical boards really do feel pretty similar to that of a regular surfboard, but instead of saying “I like this board for lefts and this board for rights”, you simply have one that is perfect for both.
Waves are like a slope. Because of this, we always have to have one rail engaged into the water, but we can't have both rails engaged at the same time. Although you might think that the different shapes in rails would make an asymmetrical surfboard feel really weird in the water, it actually feels really good, as the rails never try to ‘interfere’ with one another.
This allows you to work with the wave, regardless if you are going left or right, and this creates a form of harmony between the wave, your board, and you as a human being that will do nothing but enhance your surfing.
If you haven't had or been lucky enough to ride an asymmetrical surfboard, then you simply won't understand the benefits of this shape until you actually get to feel one on a nice, open face.
They are incredible surfboards, and surely a worthwhile addition to any quiver. I mean come on, isn't variety the spice of life anyways?
But asymmetrical surfboards might be even more beneficial for a surfer who is struggling to find a board that feels as good going left as it does going right. It kind of sucks when a board helps you with your frontside and hinders your backside, and asymmetrical surfboard designs are literally shaped to prevent this!
If your local break is an A-frame and you find yourself equally going left and right, then an asymmetrical shape is the best way to ensure that your board is crafted to bring out the best in your surfing no matter what direction you ride on a wave.