Pitch: Every board goes through the water at a certain angle. This angle may be with the nose of the board riding high or the nose riding low. In boat and airplane design this angle is called pitch. Pitch angle is perhaps the single most important aspect when considering a surfboards riding characteristics. This is one reason shapers spend so much time and effort on the design curves related to rocker. Understanding Pitch: The difference in pitch angle can be effected by numerous variables. These include board design, fin design and placement, surfer ability and style, foot placement and weight distribution, and local surf conditions. With all these variables you might question just what affect a modern surfboard shaper has on the overall ride performance of a given design. Actually quite a bit but knowing who is going to be the end user and what conditions the board will be ridden in are important variables that of course cannot always be known. This can lead us into a quandary as to how to optimize performance by adjusting pitch angle in an existing board. Wave conditions: Wave conditions drastically effect the pitch balance of a board. A steep wave will force the board to ride very “nose low” while a mushy wave will make the board ride “nose high.” Interestingly when pilots came back from World War 2 many of them took up surfing because it has many of the same feelings as flying. When an airplane is in a nose high position it is said to be mushing. These pilots would go surfing in slow waves and their boards would mush in the in these conditions. Soon slow waves became known as mushy surf. Board design: Most board design characteristics effect pitch balance. Outline, thickness flow, rail shape and of course rocker. A board with a wide tail and a narrow nose will of course have a significant amount of tail lift thus making a board that tends to ride nose low. Conversely, a wider nose with a narrower tail will tend to ride nose high. A thicker tail, because of flotation of the foam will tend to ride with the tail higher. This generally forces the balance to a “nose low” attitude. More rocker in a board makes for a nose high balance while a flatter rocker make for a nose low attitude. Hard rails create lift. A harder rail in the tail will lift the tail while a softer edge will ride lower in the water. So a harder rail will release water faster but will not allow you to sink as much edge in turns. Now if you combine different aspects of board design together you get different combinations that hopefully balance the pitch angle for you and your favorite surf spot. Weight distribution and foot placement: How you surf, where you stand on your board and how good you are at creating speed all have to do with what works for you. Do you dent your board more under your front foot, back foot or about the same under each. If you dent under your front foot, then congratulations, your a front foot surfer in the mold of the former world champ Shaun Tomson. Front foot surfers tend to need a bit looser board because the board doesn’t turn as easily from the middle as from the tail and the pitch angle tends to ride a bit “nose low.” This isn’t that much of a disadvantage though because you will connect sections easier and Shaun was a great tube rider. If you dent under your back foot, then congratulations you are a back foot surfer in the mold of the great two time world champ Tom Carroll. This means that your board can be built a bit stiffer and should have a bit more speed built in because you will have a tendency to have the balance of the board “nose high”. Your surfing style will keep the board loose but it does make it harder to maintain speed. But don’t be disheartened. Tom Carroll is one of the fastest surfers alive and the increased rail to rail looseness of your surfing style allows you to make quick adjustments which can put you into faster places on the wave face. As you can see there is no right or wrong when it comes to weight distribution. There have been great front foot surfers and great back foot surfers and everything in between. So if you dent under both feet you have that in common with Kelly Slater. Need I say more. Ability: This is something you have to earn. Its nice to think that a change in equipment will make you the next Kelly Slater but we all know that doesn’t seem to work. The best surfers are usually able to create speed better and that is usually through their bottom turn. It’s that simple. Well, almost. A board that is balanced nose high is looser rail to rail, the edges don’t catch as easily and is much looser in the pocket. These are real advantages BUT, you have to make the thing go. The average surfer cannot make a board accelerate the way Kelly can so he can’t ride a board that surfs as nose high. Therefore he can’t take advantage of these ride attributes UNLESS he improves his game. Doesn’t seem fair now does it? Fins: Just for simplicity here, lets NOT consider the front fins on your board at all. They have an effect on another balance within your board that is beyond the scope of this article. For this article consider only the back fin on your board which is the primary CHANGEABLE aspect of pitch balance in an existing board. Simply put, the back fin, in effect, pulls the tail down and anchors it to the wave face. The bigger the fin, the more it holds and of course the higher the nose will ride. Also the further it is towards the tail, the more leverage it has to pull the tail down. A smaller fin will hold less but pull down less as well, balancing the board nose lower. By using different fins you can easily change the pitch balance of your board to optimize it for not only your own particular surfing style but for varying surf conditions as well. Longboards and Pitch: Longboards while quite different from shortboards in the style with which their ridden are nonetheless are affected by pitch as much as any other aquatic vehicle. Back in the longboard days of the 60’s some folks would actually attach bricks to the tails of their boards to achieve more nose time. A crude and barbaric way to effect pitch balance, but still, effective in a very Neanderthal way. A larger fin would have achieved the same result but compare the cost of a new fin with the cost of a brick and I think the mind set of these early surfboard design mavens is clear. How to tell if your out of Balance: Does your board bog? Does it feel stiff on cutbacks? Kind of hanging half way through? Not making sections that you should be? Feel like seaweed is hanging from the fins? Check out a smaller back fin. It may free the board up and allow you to make more sections and be freer on roundhouse maneuvers. Edges seem to be catching? Rail to rail transition slow? Spinning out on cutbacks and off the tops? Sliding on bottom turns? Sliding down into the lip on tube rides? Your back fin is too small. Get something a bit larger. Not having any of these problems? Don’t touch a thing! You have achieved true aquatic balance. Blessed surf design nirvana. The sacred place where all good and decent surfers find deliverance from the dreaded evils of pitch imbalance. Say Hallaluah.

That was the most thought-provoking bedtime story I`ve read in a long time. Thank you!

Greg: This reminds me of a tattered copy of 4 pages of material I’ve used for years, something you wrote sometime ago I believe. “The Theory of Balance” has served me well, as a foundation, that I use when surfboard design theory begins to get murky in my own mind. I’m not even sure where I got this material, seems that it came with the pricing info I requested from Resin Research. I’ve often thought of scanning it an posting it here on Swaylock’s but I knew sooner or later you’d show up here. I may have already put it on disk somewhere if you don’t have a way to digitize it, never the less it would be a great addtion to the archived info on Swaylocks… Thanks for sharing your ideas and thoughts here. Tom Sterne

Yes, the above article is part of the theory. I discovered it years ago and have always thought that it was one of the best things I ever did even though almost no one knows about it. If you would like to put it on Swaylocks I’d be thrilled. Thanks, it is great to know that the theory still lives.

Greg, I liked the article - where did it first appear…here? It’s terribly uncomplicated (that’s the beauty) and it makes sense. Pilots also have a “trim” control which helps to hold the pitch at the angle you want it. On longboards I believe even trim is found about 2/3rds forward while locked in.

I only hope i someday get to sit down with you Greg to just talk design. I have worked with many great shapers and men with such insight. Thats why i have always said a great shaper must be a great surfer to be one with his shapes. I’m not worthy!!! Thanks so very much… Rob http://surfnwsc.com

…I pitched a 95mph fastball @16 yrs old,only to dislocate my arm 2 weeks later,ended that dream career quickly.(had to get that off my chest).Greg your input here is treasured,Thankyou.Herb

GREG; Don’t know when you started contributing on Swaylocks but its great to see you on here; I’ve been checking it out the last couple of days ;great stuff–by the way you need to come up to Jax and educate these guys on “pitch” I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall most of the time–look forward to seeing and reading more of your imput-clay

Greg - Thanks for all the informative input on pitch and epoxy. Between you, Noodle and Paul Jensen, we should all be experts. What’s your take on (here we go again) flex and how it interacts with pitch???

Now were talking… I would like to here your thoughts… Flex talk always brings me out of my shell… http://surfnwsc.com

does a front footed surfer benefit from more rocker in the nose to balance out the low pitch?

I always thought that a “front footed” surfer benefitted from a straighter forward entry, a bit more tail rocker and a carefully placed rocker apex.

Yes that is true on some waves. But perhaps not on really hollow surf. Remember Shaun Tomsons board that he rode at pipe in the late '70’s. A real banana. I do realize that the article was a bit general in some aspects. I hope you could read through that.