surfboards with different shapes and tails between palms
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The OMBE Guide to Surfboard Tail Shapes: From Rounded Pin to Swallow Tail

You may be confused by the diversity of tail shapes on the market. Learn their main characteristics with our guide.

Once upon a time, life was fair and simple. You made your own surfboard out of wood, and nobody cared what shape it was.

Now, even though surfing may seem too complicated, common sense still says that surfing is an easy sport to take an interest in as you only need a body, a mind, and a surfboard. Regardless, one cannot help but wonder whether they have the body for it, and if you don’t, you need to exercise… like, a lot. Also, you need to reach a certain level of mental fortitude whether through yoga, meditation, or our Surf Psychology program.

Of course, both the body and mind are under your control, and with the right attitude and guidance, you’ll reach the desired level sooner rather than later. However, the world of surfboards is not under your control at all, and it’s a sphere that expands and extends in various ways. Nowadays, there are boards that are asymmetrical or hybrid, there are various meticulously designed noses and rails, and there are all these different tail shapes.

No, honestly, how are you going to decide which tail shape is the best for you?

Which Tail Shape Is the Best for You?

Well, fortunately for everyone involved, the OMBE crew led by the accomplished board shaper Clayton Nienaber has all the answers for you on the front of tail design as well. Without further ado, let’s dive into it!

Pin Tail

As is the nature of pins, a pin tail is a sharp tail shape mostly employed on shortboards that are more performance-oriented and designed to ride bigger waves. The pin tail is capable of digging more into the wave, and therefore, it provides the surfer with more stability and control.

It’s a very handy feature, especially when it comes to displaying skills such as aerial maneuvers, simply because during most of these maneuvers, the tail of your board has to sink into the wave before you throw yourself into the air. Needless to say, in such conditions, the more stable your board is, the better the air.

However, such tails might not work well if you prefer rail-surfing or when you’re trying to take your turns slowly.

Round Tail (Thumb Tail)

clayton surf solar round tail surfboard

You’ll see that lots of longboards and other kinds of beginner surfboards have round tails. It’s because round tails are ideal for riding small to medium waves.

Being beginner-friendly is not the only merit of a round tail either. It will provide you with a smoother ride on the rail, and the lack of edge will help you when mastering how to make turns slowly, fluidly, and stylishly.

In addition, since it has more surface area than its alternatives, your board will have more lift, and as a result, you won’t find it difficult to generate speed on small waves. Of course, it has certain cons as well: you won’t be able to make sharp cutbacks or shred and trim with it.

Rounded Pin Tail

clayton surf mundaka rounded pin tail

The round pin can be considered as a hybrid of round tails and pin tails, offering the best of two worlds.

As we said, round tails are the better alternative for smoother performance during turns, and pin tails are most suitable for dynamic movement on bigger waves. Well, rounded pin tails provide smoothness without allowing you to lose dynamism and speed when the waves are larger.

So, for advanced surfers who’re looking for a high-performance tail that’ll allow them to have fun and work on their flow when the wave conditions are subpar, a rounded pin is a good option.

Square Tail (Squash Tail)

clayton surf dv3 squash tail surfboard

Square tails are one of the latest mainstream tail inventions and have lately become the most commonly-found tail shape. There’s a good reason for that as well.

The back of the surfboard is more or less a flat line in such tail designs. Yet, towards the rail, the design is meticulously curved. As a result, you have a tail shape that covers almost every aspect you’re looking for on your surfboard.

It provides balance and lift thanks to its surface area; it provides stability even when you’re riding big waves on the rail, and ultimately, it provides maneuverability no matter the type of the wave. In addition, when you’re on small waves or when you somehow find yourself on the flat section of a big wave, you won’t find it difficult to generate speed with square or squash tails.

There’s also a subcategory of square tails: the rounded square tail, which is more beginner-friendly. Especially when you’re looking for a board that you can have fun with on bad days, it won’t get any better than the rounded square.

Swallow Tail (Fish Tail)

clayton surf reflex swallowtail surfboard

Imagine someone whose name starts with the letter “V” decided to have their signature on the tail of their square-tailed surfboard and cut the shape of “V” out of it. Then, you have a swallowtail surfboard.

Even better, you have a more performance-oriented surfboard. Flat tail shapes provide stability, yes, but sometimes, such stability stands before better performances, especially during tricks and turns.

In a swallowtail, while the pointy ends of the swallow are responsible for stability, the reduced area of friction will provide you with more dynamism and agility during turns. So, if you’re looking to make sharp cutbacks on the lip of the wave and weave complicated webs like a white-collared arachnoid down the surf line, it should be your tail choice.

Of course, it won’t allow you to take turns slowly, which might or might not mean that you’ll suffer from a lack of style.

Other Tail Shapes Worth Mentioning

Of course, with the current state of the surfing industry, you can have all kinds of custom tail shapes on your surfboard. The Batman, for example, prefers a bat tail. Although it doesn’t differ much from a squash tail in terms of performance, we respect the Batman’s brand choices.

There are those who prefer a diamond tail, which is a more dynamic version of the squash tail, especially when you’re in tight spaces and on small waves. Yet, the difference in performance is very slight.

The asymmetrical tail, on the other hand, is a whole new category unto itself, and depending on the character of the asymmetry, the performance you’ll get from asymmetrical boards might change. To learn more about them, you can head to our thorough guide on asymmetrical surfboards.

Wrapping Up…

The tail is one of the most important components of a surfboard. A wrong choice might sink you unexpectedly and embarrassingly on small waves; a right choice can lead you to pull off an inadvertent moondance on waves that are bigger than your dreams.

But, how are you going to get the right one in this age of extreme diversity? Well, luckily, we have the very program for you: Get the Right Board. With the guidance of acclaimed surf coach and board-shaper Clayton Nienaber, you can self-assess yourself, learn all about different surfboards, and identify which kind of surfboard is the best for you in accordance with your skills and needs.

Don’t forget to enroll in that program and start playing a role in the surfing world by cruisingly rolling in amazing waves!

Written by
Nico Palacios
surf coaching