It was a cool morning down at Uppers Trestles. A few of the crew had made the skate from the parking lot about an hour earlier as the first traces of the sun creeped out from behind the hills. We were waiting between lulls listening to the crackle of the cobblestones as a familiar face paddled out into the lineup. We didn't know his name at the time but we were always talking about the funky shaped board he was riding. He was constantly throwing buckets of spray with big turns off the top. He had amazing control on the wave face and really stood out of the crowd. We recognized his board as an asymmetrical shape with a long and short rail. Later we did some research and decided to head to Album Surfboards in San Clemente where owner Matt Parker has been shaping and riding asymmetrical boards for over 15 years. To our surprise he was the very same surfer killing it at Uppers!
Since modern surfing began, surfboard shapers have been on the quest to create a watercraft that provides the best performance possible. While the definition of performance has changed through the decades, the main goal for the average surfer has remained the same. Catch more waves and have more fun while riding them. So what does a funny shaped asymmetrical surfboard have to do with more fun out in the water?
Asymmetrical surfboards have been around for over 50 years. Back in 1965 San Diego surfer/shaper Carl Ekstrom applied for a patent on the design concept which he maintained until 1984. The story goes that Carl wanted to design a surfboard that he could ride equally well frontside or backside at his favorite break, Wind and Sea near La Jolla, CA. Carl made the realization that when riding a surfboard it’s much easier to make frontside turns facing the wave due to the leverage and flexibility of your foot. When riding backside with your heels to the wave your center of gravity changes making it harder to nail that bottom turn.
So what goes into making a perfect surfboard these days? Is it having the latest in technologically advanced space age materials? Is it having an experienced shaper with intimate knowledge of your home break and your own wave riding ability? Should human biomechanics be taken into account?
We found all of these elements together when we went to Matt Parker, creator and shaper for Album Surfboards. Matt created two asymmetrical surfboards for us. The boards he made are mirror images of each other, one designed for regular foot riders and the other for those who ride goofy.
Matt Parker's surfboard shaping philosophy is a very simple one. Surfing is about having fun. Every single board he has shaped was created with that singular purpose in mind. He believes that with the right board design and the right dimensions you can reach your full surfing potential and surf the way you want. He also believes in taking advantage of the latest in technological advances. He offers boards that utilize the stringerless foam blanks from Varial Surf. These mad scientists are taking space program level technology and sticking it into surfboards. Their foam uses a new altered chemistry that provides an extremely high density closed cell structure. Testing has verified that their blanks are 25% lighter, 30% stronger, and 100% UV resistant. Say bye bye to those dingy old yellow boards. Choosing a high end quality foam like this can help you get into waves sooner not mention protect your board from those Indo tubes on your next epic surf adventure. The stringerless blank also loads up energy like a spring allowing you to keep more speed and power through your turns.
Most people assume that asymmetrical boards are designed for a point break type wave in which you only ride one direction. Contrary to that notion the design was originally created in order to make backside surfing easier. It actually starts to make a whole lot of sense when you start to break down the reasoning behind it.
An asymmetrical surfboard combines two different boards, one to compliment your front side and one that works better on your backside. It’s easier to apply pressure when turning on your toe side because your foot naturally pivots that way. It's more difficult on your heel side because ourbodies just don't move as naturally in that position. The goal is to create a board that is sensitive on the toe side and more forgiving on the heel side. We've all experienced this before on land, its easier to move around when you are up on your toes then back on your heels.
In order to compensate for this and make it easier to turn, the shorter and rounder heal side rail has a sreduced radius which makes it easier to pivot faster and harder with less effort. A surfer’s toe side rail is the longer side with an extended arc, which gives more drive and speed.
So in theory, in order to make the board handle the same on the heelside turn as it does on the toe side turn, the board would have to be asymmetrical in order to compensate for our bodies not flexing the same. This takes into account the bilateral movement of the human body. Moving the rail and foil back, shortening the rail length overall on the heel side, and giving it more curve relieves the pressure required to engage the rail.
If its such a great design why aren't all the pros riding it?
For starters pro surfers on the world tour are literally the best in the world. Their ability to precisely control their speed and position on the wave far exceeds that of us mere mortals. The performance edge provided by an asymmetrical design might not help an expert who has learned how to compensate for the intricacies of human bilateral movement. Not to mention the fact the most of the boards pros ride have extremely narrow tails. Their feet often hang off the side of the board. If you made an asymmetrical board with an extremely narrow tail the effects of the design would be negligible. But if your name happens to be something other than Slater, Florence or Medina, an asym might just help you fulfill that age old quest of having more fun on more waves.
It's just ugly.
No doubt symmetry is a beautiful thing, but should it be the main consideration when choosing your next custom board? The standard issue black wetstuits we all wear are not exactly stylish. People these days are riding all types of surfboards. Longboards, fish, retro single fins, and performance shortboards all dot the lineup at your typical beach break. Maybe its time to add an asymmetrical board to your quiver.
The asymmetrical design concept is a rational and logical step in producing a board that specifically takes into consideration the differences between front side and back side surfing. Don’t just take our word for it, get out and try one for yourself. Feel free to hit us up and join us for a session on these beautiful boards. Or better yet order your own from Matt at