Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What’s up with Nose Designs? by Len Barrow

In my past design articles we have analyzed tail, fin, bottom configuration and rocker elements in surfboard design in both the realm of surfing SUPS and Surfboards.  One aspect of board design that does not receive a lot of attention is Nose outline and configuration. It is a bit of a mystery.  The following article will explore various nose designs.

I once asked the famous shaper Ben Aipa about how nose designs affected board performance and he responded dryly: “It’s in front of you”.  This may sound like a dull answer yet it is most profound.  When you are surfing, the portion of the board that is in contact with the water “first” is the nose.  The Nose engages the water initially and thus is of most importance in surfboard design.  It “orients” and directs the water flow under the board first and is of great importance to SUP or surfboard performance.

One cannot talk about nose design separate from nose rocker or “entry rocker”.  Various types of entry rocker will allow you to enhance certain characteristics of your board’s performance.  All of this might sound a complex yet it is quite simple.

The Round Nose

The rounded nose is simply that. They include noses that look like the shape of your thumb.  They occur both on longboards and surfing SUPS.  Typically they have low nose rockers.  The extra area equates to more foam, hence more lift.  This allows you to walk up to the nose and nose ride.  Another advantage of the round nose with a low rocker is that it is easy to paddle into waves or if you are on a surfing Sup the low nose rockers allows you to paddle into the wave without “pushing water” (I will explain what pushing water is later).  The noses are ideal for the beginner or for those of you who want to noseride or just surf more traditionally and cruise.

The disadvantage of a round nose is that the outline of you board near the nose is pulled outward.  This may cause your board to have a wider turning arc.  If your nose is too wide it can also “catch rail” which means your nose rail outline can dig into the water causing you to fall off.  That is why round noses with low rockers are not recommended for big waves or super high performance surfing. 

The Narrow or “Needle Nose”

Most high performance surfing sups and short boards have pulled in noses that roughly resemble a triangle (albeit, a “rounded triangle).  The narrow noses are also combined with high nose rockers.  This enhances the performance of the board especially if you want to “hotdog” or high performance SUP or Surf.  This nose design allows the surfer to cut his turning radius by a third or more in relation to the rounded nose.  As the nose rocker is more bowed or curved it allows you to “pocket surf” meaning you can keep pivoting right in the sweet spot of the wave next to the curl which is the area of the wave that is curved.  Remember, a curved surfboard fits a curved wave!  This design also allows you to take late drops as the nose is narrow and flipped up.  Simply, you have less chance of pearl diving.   A narrow nose with high rocker also allows you to “lift the board” in to off the lip sections.  If you want to see what a narrow nose board is capable of YouTube Kai Lenny and my above comments will come to life. 

The disadvantages to this design are that you have to keep the board moving from rail to rail or they slow down rapidly.  They are usually meant for the advanced surfer who is able to utilize the performance characteristics of a narrow nose to put the board up into the lip, or gouge a deep cutback.  If you are a beginner going strait, the high nose rocker will slow you down as it pushes water in front of the board as you are not constantly pivoting on the rail.  It is also for this reason that narrow noses are not meant for nose riding, as the high rocker and lessened amount of foam will cause the board to sink if you run up to the nose.

The “Fun Board Nose” or the Middle Path

Some boards are called “Fun Boards”.  The nose is neither narrow nor round.  The rocker is neither extremely high nor low.  It is a blend of the two configurations.  Due to this you get the advantages of a round nose mixed with the maneuverability of a narrow nose.  The boards are called fun boards for a reason.  They allow the average surfer to explore hotdog, maneuver oriented surfing without losing the flow of a larger rounder nose.  Many fun boards can even be nose ridden.  They exist in both the SUP world and the surfing arena.   If you are an advanced beginner or intermediate SUP or surfer I would recommend this design type.

Avoid Dogmatism

The above information are just broad recommendations.  Every shaper will have his theory.   If someone swears by a design he or she has just never tried other things.  I ride longboards with wide noses and low rockers and am able to surf big waves and hotdog surf on it.  This is not supposed to happen but if you figure it out, it can be done.  Conversely, I have seen SUP surfer’s nose ride on narrow noses.  It is up to you to explore the possibilities.  That is the beauty of our sport!   There are no boundaries!  I hope to see you all in the water experimenting with different designs!

Aloha Dr. Len Kelemoana Barrow

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