What surfboard for intermediate
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Guide to surfboard-tail-shapes

The tail of your surfboard drastically changes how the board will perform and what type of surfing and surfer it benefits. Learn how each tail works and pick the one to suit your surfing goals.

Surfboards come in many different shapes and sizes. Among many other types, you have the smaller, more maneuverable shortboards that require a bit more expertise to handle properly, and the larger longboards that give you more stability at the expense of being more cumbersome.

While both the size and the shape of the board affect the way the surfboard behaves on the water, another important factor to consider are the tails.

Surfers control their boards by balancing on their back foot and turning the board towards the waves in such a way that they can get the most speed and control. In simple terms - the tail controls the surfboard.

While there are about a dozen different tail shapes that a board can have, they can all be sorted into 4 basic categories.

Round Tail

The round tail is probably the one you’ve seen on quite a few surfboards. While it’s mostly found on wider boards, the round tail can also be seen on a lot of shortboards as well, given that it makes them more maneuverable in the water.

The round tail makes the turns of the surfboard feel a lot smoother due to the shape of the tail and the lack of any sharp angles that can get in the way of the turning motion. 

Additionally, the rounded surface area on the back of the surfboard can also provide some additional lift, which can really help you pick up speed in slower sections or on smaller waves.

Pros: Great for smaller waves since it makes turning the board much easier

Cons: Not ideal for fast, more dynamic movements.

Pin Tail

The pin tail is like a round tail that ends at one sharp point at the back of the surfboard. The pin at the back allows the surfer to better dig into the wave and gives them a lot more stability and board control.

This tail shape is usually found on smaller, more narrow boards and is perfect for surfing bigger waves since it provides the surfer with the necessary hold and control they need to go into the barrel of the wave.

The weakness of the pin tail is that it limits maneuverability. This means that the board is going to be digging much deeper into the waves, so it’s not at all recommended for smaller waves where you can’t get that much momentum.

Pros: Gives the surfer better control on bigger waves

Cons: Makes the board less maneuverable

Swallow Tail

This design, also known as a fish tail, is recognisable by the V shape that's carved out on the back end of the boards that have this type of tail. 

The two points at the end of the board provide additional stability through the two contact points that sink deeper into the waves. The two points also allow much easier maneuverability and transition from one rail to the other.

This tail design can often be found on surfboards designed to perform particularly well on smaller waves. The V design can help the surfer pull off some particularly sharp turns, while still providing enough surface area so that decent speeds can be maintained.

Pros: Grants even better wave control than the pin tail

Cons: Rail to rail transitions become much more difficult to pull off

Squash Tail

The last type of tail that we’re going to be looking at is the squash tail. This particular design is characterised by the back of the surfboard ending in a flat line, or giving the impression as if the end of the pin-shaped tail has been cut off.

The squash tail is the one that would be considered as the best all-rounder. It can be put on any type of surfboard, no matter the size and shape, and provide the same perk to all of them, the perk in question being the balance of maneuverability and stability it provides.

The one weakness of the squash tail is that it’s not particularly good for any specific waves or situations. While it’s great for providing some additional board control, it doesn’t add anything that would help the surfer handle certain types of waves, unlike the other options.

Pros: Gives the surfer a lot more versatility than the other tails

Cons: Doesn’t provide the same benefits for turns or wave control


The tails of the boards are more than just the places where the fins are attached. The type of fin that you have on your board can dramatically change how the surfboard handles certain situations.

Before you buy your surfboard, all you need to remember is this:

  • Round - Provides excellent maneuverability and stability and is primarily used for bigger waves;
  • Pin - Grants excellent hold and control, which is really helpful when going against big waves;
  • Swallow - Excellent for smooth turns and adds additional lift, making it great for small waves;
  • Squash - A good all-rounder for every situation.
Written by
Clayton Neinaber
surf coaching