What came First? Heavy Concave or Heavy Rocker

Barnfield brought up an interesting comment.

Back in the late80’s/early90’s when concaves took hold,

did the heavy rockers respond to heavy concaves or the other way around?

I have no clue as I wasnt making boards and didnt know much about design.

I was knee-deep in college so those were the ‘dark years’ for me surfing wise.

Im guessing that both design features happened together and one didnt dictate the other. Makes me wonder tho, I could see how proper design info didnt trickle down quick enough to many local shapers and guys got boards that didnt go all that great at the beginning.


Just a guess, but I would say concaves were probably created after heavy rockers. Flat boards are hard to turn, so next logical step would be adding rocker, but obviously the boards would have slowed down, than concave as a way to flatten the board out at the center. I am probably wrong though. I guess its a chicken or egg thing.

Whereas it is not like a clear chicken-egg situation, I think it is fair to say rockers evolved much closer to today’s rockers before the modern concaves became “commonly” used.

By the end of the 80’s design was tending towards full (non-spiral) concave for performance, which tended to require more rocker to keep the rails free. But the blanks of that era were relatively flat and thick, so you either had to over-shape the rocker into soft foam, or have the rockers bent in, and still remove a ton of excess foam.

It took a little while for Clark to catch up with lower-volume, more flipped blanks.

The first KKL machine came online right about that time, too, which made shaping foiled-out chips possible on a production level, and, consequently, drove the demand for machine shapes.

I wouldn’t speak in more than vague terms about which came first. It is clear that the modern concave form became common after a milestone event in 1992 in which Webber was the shaper, Herring was the winner, and Kelly Slater was beaten. And by 1992 the rockers were already well within the ballpark of what is common today.

I remember seeing a board of Sunny Garcia’s pass through the shop around 89: it was a Pukas, from Spain- full single concave, low volume, but not super-rockered.

It was actually probably pretty similar to today’s standard, maybe a bit wider overall.

And, yes, I remember well the radically over-rockered boards post 92. That was probably a direct reaction to the Webber/Herring.

When things settled down a bit, though, the design was pretty much fully realized, and hasn’t changed appreciably since then.

Just my opinion, though… I’m sure there are plenty of counterpoints out there!


Barnfield brought up an interesting comment.

Back in the late80’s/early90’s when concaves took hold,

did the heavy rockers respond to heavy concaves or the other way around?


[=Blue]Aloha Craftee

This photo is 1969. The board is concaved bottom, vee in tail.

This photo below is was taken today. Note the 5th blank up from the bottom. It is from about 1990. It belongs to Greg Weber when he was here at ProGlass developing his super rockered boards.

In the context of the “modern shortboard” (as there were certainly many longboards with deep concaves and radical rocker before boards dropped radically in size during the late 60s) both variables as they emerged in the glass slippers of the early 90s appear, at first glance, to arrive simultaneously. However, deep concaves preceded (does anyone recall the belly to concave to vee bottom contours common to Diff’s shortboard pocket rockets of 1968 and 1969) the evolution of heavy rocker from wide point to tail. Adjustments in rocker helped facilitate what deep concaves brought to surfboard design.

Their success as a radical blend of related variables was and is very dependent on the other. As such, they will no doubt be remembered historically as arriving and more accurately developing together.

Tweaking them to this day helps make boards relevant to surfers techniques and the waves they ride. Shapers much like a chef or cook will add a little bit of this and a little bit of that and voila !!! Bon appetit !!!

Kind regards,

Steve Coletta

Two things that I witnessed come to mind. I’m sure other development was going on in other parts of the world,

but this is what I saw.

One was the heavily rockered boards that Jim Phillips shaped for Kurt Wilson late 70s-early 80’s. Kurt was the non-conformist on the

East Coast pro circuit, and riding for Jim, they both were regarded as oddballs. Jim would have to detail the dims, but the boards were

about 5’10’‘, about 13 1/2’’ - 19 1/2’’ - 15’‘, double wing square tails with a square nose around 3’’ wide. They were on the thick and boxy side,and they were chambered Clark blanks (done like a chambered balsa). Again, Jim would have to confirm, but I remember the bottoms being simple flat to V. Everybody snickered at Kirk’s boards, but they stopped laughing when he got in the water. The boards looked like bananas at the time, but twenty years later I saw an old yellowed one laying in a neighbors yard.

Suddenly the rocker didn’t look so weird, so I asked to borrow it for some quick measurements. The rocker was 5 1/4’‘nose, 2 1/4’’ tail. What had looked ridiculous in 1980 suddenly was normal.

The second was Bill Hartley’s rockered AND concaved spaceships from the mid 80s. Greg Loehr and Bill worked up these impossibly thin (for the time) single fins in defiance of the multi fin mania of the early 80s. GL has always liked concave tails, they just took it through the whole board and even put a 4-channel down in the concave.

The consensus at the time was that ''only Hartley could ride 'em", as the low volume, heavy rocker, and deep concave made the boards look quite extreme. When Bill went to Australia and Greg Webber saw him surfing, the theory found a new proponent. (this was covered on an ‘‘industry talk’’ thread a few months ago).


Hi Bill – I always learn something from your input. I saved this picture in my files for reference. I think this is a Simmons replica by Greg Noll.

Another cool photo, epac. What a beauty! I recall some archived photos of some of Simmons’ boards that obviously came from ages ago. I believe they were balsa core with light fiberglass polyester skins - late 40s early 50s. Concave / twin fins. Wow ! Does anyone recall a fin less version of that design ?

Kind regards,

Steve Coletta

Interesting Mike. I wonder if there is film out there of Bill H during that period.

I watched the film BB mentioned of Val C in Waikiki on the little paipo and thought…no big deal…then about an hour later I realized that was 1963! Amazing historical footage.

Well, so far looks like the general consensus is the rocker came first.