swallowtail surfboards
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Swallow Tail Surfboards

There are different surfboard tail shapes that serve different surfing purposes. Here's all you need to know about swallow tails and a list of our favorite swallowtail surfboards.

Getting the right surfboard is imperative to both learning how to surf and improving as a surfer. However, picking the right board is not a straightforward process in which there's a match made in heaven and your quest is to find it and jump right on it. You need to understand your board’s design as well.

The Challenges of Picking the Right Swallowtail Surfboard

There are so many surfboard shapes on the market at the moment that it's perfectly understandable if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by the variety. The differences between these surfboards are not limited to their overall shape either. They come with different rail, nose, and tail shapes, all of which serve distinct purposes. Understanding all these differences might pay dividends when the time comes to shop for a board.

You might have already come across some of the most common tail shapes: the squash tail and the square tail are mostly seen in beginner surfboards because they provide more stability and they catch waves more easily when compared to other tail shapes. However, the swallow tail, a.k.a. the fish tail, isn't that easy to come by, especially if you've just begun your surfing journey.

Consequently, whenever you see a swallow tail, you might raise your hands to the sky and cry out: "But why? My dear God, I've been to highlands and lowlands, I've been to marshes and mesas, I've ransacked libraries and didn't leave a stone unturned, but I still can’t figure out what distinguishes swallowtail surfboards from the rest! Please, give me a sign as to what makes them unique, so I can surf in peace, and may the ocean hide my tears!"

Unfortunately for you, God chooses not to interfere with such trivial matters. Fortunately for you, we choose the exact opposite.

What Are Swallow Tail Surfboards?

You might think that the tails of swallowtail surfboards are shaped like a swallow, but you'd be wrong. They're actually shaped like a swallow's tail, but naming them "swallow-tail tails" would be a bit confusing, so we're going with "swallow tails" at the moment (if you have better suggestions, you can, of course, email us, but we hardly have a say in the matter).

Put more simply, swallow tails are shaped like the letter V and are also known as fish tails. As we mentioned above, the squash or square tail is more common in beginner boards because it provides stability. However, such flat tail shapes also make surfboards less mobile and maneuverable, especially during turns and when surfing on the rail.

In swallow tails, the pointy ends of the swallow provide stability, while the fact that the friction area is smaller allows the surfer to be more mobile when turning and changing rails. Swallow tails are especially useful when you need to do sharp turns.

Their performance-boosting quality might make you think that swallowtail surfboards are ideal if you want to surf bigger waves, but that's not the case, either. See, on bigger waves, the key is to take turns slowly, and swallow tails might not allow that. However, on small waves, you'll be able to rip and shred, cut back, and jump rails better without sacrificing your planing speed.

Therefore, we might say that swallowtail boards are made for surfers who want to enjoy themselves when the surf conditions are not all that great and traditional longboards with classic tails can’t do the trick for them anymore.

The Differences Between Swallow Tails and Other Surfboard Tails

Classic pin tail: In a sense, a swallow tail is two pin tails brought together at the end of a surfboard, so wondering why there are two of them is quite justified. Pin tails are mostly employed in surfboards designed for big waves, which makes them more responsive. Two pin tails, on the other hand, offer both stability and performance, albeit on smaller waves.

Round tail: There are many different types of round tails like a thumb tail or a rounded pin tail. You might even consider squash tails to be rounded square tails. The main benefit of this tail design is the same for most round tail types: the lack of sharp angles means smoother performance during turns and additional lift during takeoffs on small waves which don't have much lifting power themselves. However, if you want a dynamic board, a round tail won't perform as well as a swallow tail.

Diamond tail: If you're looking for more dynamic performance in small spaces and on small waves, a diamond tail will perform better than a rounded pin tail, but it won't be as stable as a swallow tail nor will it match its planing speed on a straight line.

Bat tail: A bat tail is a variation of the swallow tail. Its angles are less pronounced and there's also a pointed midsection which adds more stability. However, we don’t know of any surfers who can attest to that additional stability yet. If you want to stand out, you might opt for this rare tail shape, but, to be honest, it's not much different from a swallow tail in terms of performance.

Our 4 Favorite Swallow Tail Surfboards in 2022

Clayton Surf Reflex

clayton surf reflex

OMBE Surf’s Clayton Nienaber is a great surfer and an amazing surf coach, but he's also a professional board shaper. Many great names in the surfing world have ridden his boards over the years, including Dane Reynolds and Kelly Slater. Therefore, you probably assume that his surfboards emphasize performance more than anything else.

Well, the Reflex is an exception to that rule as it's designed for those who lack the physical power necessary to paddle and the technique required to take off smoothly. It's a wide board, so the paddling power you might be lacking is redeemed by the board. Moreover, its wider nose allows for easier takeoffs.

Still, the emphasis on comfort and buoyancy on the nose and the wide body of the board is balanced out by the sensitive and more performance-oriented swallow tail design. In addition to the standard characteristics of a swallow tail (like maneuverability and mobility), the tail design elevates the performance of the board and, combined with the fuller rails, helps it draw cleaner lines.

So, when you're sure that you know how to maintain your standing position on the rail and how to pop up to a balanced stance, the Reflex will help you improve your performance on knee- and waist-high waves.

Check Out Clayton Surf Reflex

Wave Bandit 6'6" Performer X Ben Gravy

wave bandit performer ben gravy

The 6'6" Performer is actually a fish-shaped fun board embellished with a swallow tail, and it's everything you'd expect a fun board to be: super-fun, of course! This board allows surfers to have fun when the surf conditions aren’t good enough for an experienced surfer to take their high-performance short board out. The unique bottom design contributes to that fun, too!

However, the Performer is not only great for advanced surfers who can’t find the steep waves they'd normally ride. This Wave Bandit model specifically targets beginner surfers who want to make the transition from traditional longboards to more performance-oriented shortboards. And guess what, it totally works!

The swallow tail compensates for the lack of volume (55 liters, which might be considered too low for a beginner board) by adding more stability. Although the Performer is still a soft top surfboard, meaning it's less responsive, the tail shape allows for more briskness during turns and when rail-surfing.

All in all, the Wave Bandit 6'6" Performer is a good fun board for advanced surfers who don't want to be left out when the waves are only waist-high. It's also great for newbies who’ve mastered the basics and are aiming high now.

Check Out Wave Bandit 6'6" Performer X Ben Gravy

South Bay Board Co. 8'4" Magic Carpet Hybrid Surfboard

south bay magic carpet hybrid

A longboard with a swallow tail might be hard to come by, but you can always trust South Bay to provide what you need (even when you didn't know that you needed it). The Magic Carpet might be exactly what you need regardless of your skill level or board preferences, and that's not just because it's aptly and imaginatively named.

You're a beginner who’s getting bored of riding a conventional longboard that’s hard to maneuver on a straight line? Well, that's why the Magic Carpet has a swallow tail and tapered rails. They will provide you with more flexibility and guile during turns and when changing rails. Furthermore, thanks to the Magic Carpet’s round nose and wide chest, you won't be sacrificing any paddling power or buoyancy.

You're an advanced surfer looking for a board that you can have fun with during holidays on less-than-perfect waves? Don't worry, the Magic Carpet has less volume than its length suggests (58 liters) and will perform quite well and let you experiment on mushy waves.

In addition to its rich surfboard collection, South Bay is also known for the environmental sustainability of its boards and colorful board art. The wax-free Magic Carpet comes in various outer design options and won't be a disappointment in any way.

Check Out South Bay Board Co. 8'4" Magic Carpet Hybrid Surfboard

Catch Surf Odysea 5'6" Skipper

catch surf odysea skipper

Whenever you want to have fun, you can rely on an Odysea surfboard. With the swallow-tailed Skipper, you'll shred every small wave because it's the fastest board on this list. Moreover, despite its shortness, you won’t have a hard time catching waves or floating because that's the trademark of an Odysea board: the wide chest of the Skipper makes it super-buoyant and a real wave-magnet.

Does this mean that the Skipper is only good for transitioning beginners and experienced surfers who just want to have fun like all the other boards mentioned above? Absolutely not. The Skipper is preferred by many pros, too, because it has drive on the face of steep waves, and is ideal for tube-riding due to its speed and quad fin system.

More often than not, such wildly versatile boards come with steep price tags, especially when they're also the choice of pros. The Skipper, on the other hand, is quite affordable. Given the fact that you can use it in both beginner and pro surfing, the Skipper is a real bargain.

Check Out Catch Surf Odysea 5'6" Skipper

Wrapping Up...

Despite the shortness of many swallowtail surfboards on the market, they're not exactly high-performance boards. It's true that there are some like the Skipper reviewed above, which are great for tube-riding, but as a board’s stability and buoyancy go up, its responsiveness goes down, and you want your performance board to be responsive.

However, as our picks show, swallowtail surfboards are great for having fun in conditions that are far from ideal. They can be fast, agile, and more maneuverable on small waves that might get overlooked by advanced surfers.

Swallowtail surfboards are also good for novice surfers who are done with their traditional longboards and soft tops and want to enjoy more intermediate sessions. After all, they provide you with more mobility without sacrificing stability, and that's certainly a great quality.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching