Wide Planshape Adv/Disadv.

I am curious about this communities’ views on the advantages and disadvantages associated with wide planshapes. Basically, I am asking about the positive and negative trade offs associated with adding or removing width (all else being equal for the sake of discussion.) In particular, most of the modern performance boards in the racks at my local shop range from 18 1/4 to 18 3/4 while fat boy stuff seems to involve 19 +. Why does it seem that ‘better’ surfers crave narrower equipment? Is this more about psychology or physics?

If anyone posts anything using the words ‘it depends’ or ‘not enough information’ or the like, then I am going to beat my own head against my desk. Don’t make me do it.

I’m no expert but I find that wide boards (and I’m thinking 20"+) surf flatter, whereas a narrower board can be thrown over onto its edge easier (think burying the rail power turns). That’s why I haven’t enjoyed riding the short wide fishes that are all the rage these days (not that I’ve ridden a lot). They don’t seem to suit my style.

That said my new wood “fun gun” which mistakenly came out 22" wide (I had planned on just under 21") seems magic to me. It’s heavier than what I’m used to so maybe that helps me sink the rail.

My 2 cents.

For the same length and width, a wide planshape will have more planning area. This is an advantage in small and/or weak waves as paddling in will be easier and you’ll get speed out of nothing. BUT transition from one rail to the other will be somewhat harder so it’s true that this kind of boards have to be surfed “flatter”.

As wave power/size increases, so does speed and a wide planshape will quickly start to wobble and become very difficult to control, unless you are King Kong.

Short/wide/thick/flat will create speed out of (almost) nothing.

Long/narrow/thin/heavily-rockered will CONTROL already existing speed.

Not true balsa, if your wide board has a very narrow tail, control is fine as you go faster because the board will surf more on the tail at speed anyway, and the narrow tail gvives control. . . … a wide board doesn’t imply a wide tail.


but then again , not EVERYBODY , when standing right on the tail , has 17’ or so of board in front of them eh ?

Hey boy!..

you wanna hear it?

wide is stable

rail to rail.

why twenty two x 6’ and forward wide point

un mistakeable higgh drive ratio .

I’m talkin’ from a single fin fixation

wanna slam a turn?

bury the rail

its yer baby

hard rails will spin out like crazy

but with the round rails and a concave into VEE

and flat behind the fin

way go daddy.

the swing to and from narrow

has been done before.

and will happen again.

the narrow profiteers will say ohhhhhhh yeah

we got wide too!

and they will hawk these mee too units hard but they will not live up to their hype and then they will lead the cash cow back to narrow widths.

save production costs primary drive in commercial promotionalism

meanwhile back at the ranch

while the bad guy in the black hat

is hitin it hard

the good guys

will be slinging

stones at the goliath

and not

cashing out

yep thems white hats.

and they stay on in a fight

with the bad guys.

oh wide boards fade first.

narrow boards might not fade as weelllll

cause they take off later…

they gotta go right away.

be ware mee too ists

watch the real guys do it

before buying a judgement.

a single fin is one step closer to no fin.

Cool insights. Thanks. I agree about the concept of surfing ‘flatter’ on a wider planshape. The 22’’ wide boards I’ve owned were easier to ‘slide turn’ rather the ‘carve turn’ if that makes sense.

Ambrose–I think you should compile all of your posts into a poetry book before someone else does!

I’ve just been thinking about this. I was riding a 6’6" X 21 board(5 fin Bonzer) with a real wide tail yesterday in hollow waves. The width in the tail( & low nose rocker) kept pitching me over the falls before I had time time to pop up and when I did pull in I’d skitter & spin out.

My everyday board is 6’2" X 21 1/4 thruster. This board came alive when I put small H2’s in. I think this increased the hydroplane effect and reduced resistance rail to rail.

So as Ambrose said, wide boards can work well, but you have to balance the fins and rails.

By the way I dont ride thrusters that well, so thats a capital H in imHo.


I had to read and think about your post a little bit. I hear you now. Cool stuff. BTW the poetry book comment was intended as a compliment.



Good thread!, im interested in this also, as this is my next board, hopefully ready by the end of next month.

BTW, it has a 16’’ nose and tail, 22’’ wide at 3’’ forward, and a 10’’ tip to tip measurement. Am curious to how it will go with both keels, and single fin. Hopefully, if i get time ( where does that sh&t go?? ) i can do it sooner rather than later!.

Yesterday I surfed in hollow semi to completely closed out surf using two boards first board was 7’4" 2.80 thick 20 inches wide with a 14" tail and I could not get into the wave fast enough to get down the line. I saw most everyone esle also blowing waves

I switched to an 8" monster fish with a 15" nose 16" tail and same thickness and instantly was able to not only get in the wave but managed to connect some really fun rides.

I am far more comfortable on the second board then the first. Possibly you don’t trust your bonzer near as much as the other board and are unconsciously holding back.

Was anyone else having the same issue? Was there offshore winds? If there was I often am forced to climb up the nose more then normal to get down the wave face in one piece.

Are you a bigger guy and did the waves really give you time to get it together?


Not true balsa, if your wide board has a very narrow tail, control is fine as you go faster because the board will surf more on the tail at speed anyway, and the narrow tail gvives control. . . … a wide board doesn’t imply a wide tail.


Sorry, Tom, I missed your post. You’re right, but I’m not wrong either: when I say “wide board”, it just means that: a board that’s got a wide planshape, including the tail. Teardrops shapes, although wide in the nose, can hardly be considered as “wide boards”. I’ve been a longtime pintail advocate, so don’t tell me how good they are, I know that. I was just trying to sort out some basics, and, as such, they may seem kind of “abrupt”. But simple rules lead to clear ideas. And a good board is always a compromise between opposite theories like speed as opposed to control.

I’m with you Balsa, probably I should really just lurk when shortboard thruster widths are discussed !



As wave power/size increases, so does speed and a wide planshape will quickly start to wobble and become very difficult to control, unless you are King Kong.

Short/wide/thick/flat will create speed out of (almost) nothing.

Long/narrow/thin/heavily-rockered will CONTROL already existing speed.

I’m riding a 6’ x 20 3/4" x 2 3/4" Greg Griffin fish with 5 fins. It goes really fast, but with the 5 fins, it’s very solid. I have not experienced any negative effects of similar boards. I’ve ridden this board in waves with 8’-10’ faces. The only thing that can be a problem in waves that size is that it can be extremely fast. You just need to make top turns that are more than 180 degrees, and also learn to scrub some of that speed off by making little adjustment turns. Longer narrower boards have more control, but they tend to be stiffer, so you need a bigger wave to get it to loosen up. You still need to learn to control the speed, but the board is naturally stiffer. Too much rocker will make a slow board.

Hi Ben,

The only guy really making the waves ( and that was 1 in 5) on the day was a longboarder. That particular Bonzer I really don’t like (its not a campbell bros) and I really think thats down to the tail width. If I had my 7’6" Campbell bros, I know I’d have made a lot more waves. Its a round pin with a bit of rocker and fits better into hollow waves.

Getting my hands on a Griffin 5 fin 6’6" next week, really looking forward to that in those conditions.

Getting back to the thread, I think width is good in fat conditions, but when it starts to hollow out, control becomes more critical.

Thats interesting. I’ve just finished my 6’6" with 17x22.5x17 and two keels 7x5. We don’;t too much hollow surf but for hanging in the face I’ve kept the last 1.5’ of the rail progressivly sharper. I am curious how this will work but I expect to get some hold. Of course being a big guy(100kg) means I can weight the large board and sink more rail than a lighter guy, perhaps this may be a factor in your skitting around experience?

Your imHo thingy applies here too… :wink:

Its not just wide point per se. And it does “depend” on where you put it and what you do with it in relation just about every design aspect and dimension of a board from overall thickness, rail profile, rail volume distribution, nose and tail width and configuration, wings, and fins and their placement and size. And not even getting into rocker and various concaves.

In the nid 80's I shifted to shaping narrow and thin boards 18.5 X 2.375. Reputable builders laughed at me...They said, "you have no frame of reference." In a couple of years it became main stream standard show room issue,  not by my  innovation, just a cycle. 

Ten years earlier, in the mid seventies D.C.B was shaping 17.5 to 18.5,  blocky pocket rockets . I went back to 19- 19.5 in the 90's  and caught more waves than the mainstream line up.  

 Theres always a compromise, it not whats "Best" for a select set of conditions, Its what is optimal  for a variety of conditions.  Unless of coures your in the final heat of the PipeMasters and its 8-12. 

 Likewise, Its not just how quantiately wide a board is,   its how efficiently you integrate it with other design aspects for an optimal effect. The main stream string bean potato   chip   bores me, Its so [URL="mailto:#$@%"]#$@%[/URL] Walmart. I'll never pick one up to check it out.

i know one thing-simmons’ boards were wide, nose to tail and were ridden in big reef surf with NO problems over 50 years ago.( i have seen the film footage dozens of times)there are some blokes down san diego way who have had their pics in surf mags riding simmons replicas in some damn nice surf and i don’t see them spinning out at all. these tails are something like 19 or 20" wide!

Matt, how much did these boards weigh? We’re talking about reasonably modern and light boards…

20+ years ago, when I was in much better shape than today, and surfing every day, I loved riding smaller narrower and thinner boards. You get so much more control on a small, narrow and thin board. But as age and weight set in those boards get harder and harder to ride. I’m 48, 5’ 6" and 165 lb, so I need a little more paddling power.

If you’re wondering what type of board to get think about what shape you’re in, do you surf a lot, have you been surfing for a while or not so long. If you’re fairly new to surfing a smaller narrower board will be much harder to ride. I’ve been surfing since 1966, but it has been an obsession since around 1969.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there isn’t one perfect board for all conditons at all beaches. You need to have several boards to cover a wide range of waves. A board for small fun waves, another board for larger waves, and maybe a third board for the really big days. Another consideration is the crowd. Are you going to get waves if you go out on a small fish, or do you need a longer board. I often have to take off behind guys on longboards, but I don’t mind riding in the sweetspot of the wave, while they ride out in the safe part of the wave.

There are so many variables that go into the board, the rocker, the bottom contour (flat, vee, concave), the rails and how the deck flows into the rails, and the fins. All these variables will make a board work better in one type of wave more than another type. If you know a local shaper that surfs where you usually surf, it would help to talk to that person about boards for the waves you ride.

If you are making your own, look at the parts of a board you really like and incorporate it into the board you want to make.