The most interesting thing about tail design is the impact that it has on both speed and maneuverability (how you turn).
The tail is where all the aft energy is released.
The tail is you slicing surface on a turn, it either creates more resistance or facilitates flow.
A fish tail, aptly defined, will help you push water more easily through a turn.
Think of it this way, next time you are in the sea put your hand under water with your fingers together and make a sweeping movement, you’ll notice lots of resistance.
Do that same movement with your finger spread “Spok Style”, you’ll notice much more ease and fluidity. That same principle applies to surfboard tails.
The other thing to consider is that increased surface area in the tail, such as a classic mini squash, will be faster down the line. However, the extra surface area will slow you down in turn.
Let’s take a look at tails in more detail to understand what we want for our Mini.
In order to understand how a tail design affects a surfboard, we have to consider the mechanics of tail hydro-dynamics. It boils down to the fact that a more angular or knifelike shape will allow you to make sharper pivotal turns. Conversely, with a rounder surfboard tail shape you’ll obtain smoother and glider turns. Contemplate the surfing of Kelly Slater versus Joel Tuder’s and you get the idea.
Surfboard tail shape influences the grasp and release on the surface of the wave. Picture how water flows off the back of the board. Water is syrupy and follows the lines of the board. Curves hold water flow whereas corners allow water to break away and be free. Hence, curves can slow a board, and angles can increase the flow or speed of the water.
Think of a big wave gun and a longboard. The sharp nose on a gun allows for fast entry and the rounded nose of a longboard facilitates a slow and stable take off. Visualize the same two boards and think about their tails, a pin tail will hold the water longer and make it more stable in bigger surf and a square edged tail will release water making it looser and snap happy.
Pin tails are best for tracking and control. Imagine skipping down the face of a bomb at Puerto Escondido, you need to control your speed and draw a fast and straight line to make it through critical sections or you’ll get slammed like a Hulk Hogan takedown. Less surface area will cause the tail to sink or bite into the wave. You won’t be surfing your Mini at Puerto, you’d want to grab a board with a needle tail, something that holds tight in the pocket and isn’t made for quick turns.
More surface area equates to more lift and a rounded tail is just a pin with a wider arch. The added surface area allows for more speed in slow sections and lifts the rear of the board a tad—did you say stomp it! A round tail is best for big, fast , hollow waves where you need a bit more maneuverability than a pin but not so much that you’re going top to bottom. A round tail doesn’t quite jib with the Mini design so we’ll skip this one too.
The squash surfboard tail gets us closer to where we want to be when we think of a tail for a Mini Simmons because it allows for the most surfing versatility. The squash tail is the most common tail on the market, the square edge allows for quick release, giving the surfer responsive and loose turns. More surface area means more lift down the line, giving you speed and planability (sic). The wider the tail the more lift, that extra speed can help you get through flat sections of the wave and explains why big fat tails on the Mini Simmons do so well in mushy conditions.
The swallow tail is your classic fish tail, it’s really like two tails in one, offering a nice balance between speed and control. The swallow tail construction allows the shaper to create much wider shapes nose to tail, giving the surfer a very different experience. The upside-down “V” (the section between both tail points) allows for bite and control when making turns. It also gives the water a release point, but remember that when in a turn the pin on the opposite side of the turn must disengage before the tail can reengage on the other pin to pivot. This is why a swallow tail is sometimes hard to turn and will bog out if you hit a flat section in your cutback, that far pin just won’t disengage and can be like dragging an anchor through a Florida swamp. However, the swallow does allow for a much wider tail section and more surface area means more speed. Thus if you want to maintain your potential for speedy turns, grab a board with a shallower “V”.
The surfboard square tail is the grandfather of all tails. The square tail is like a knify squash, the corners of a square tail dig into a wave while turning and allow pivotal turns. Less curve in the rail means there is more stability. These are old school designs and aren’t used much anymore, except on longboards.
Mini Simmons Tail
I personally like a Mini tail that is somewhere between a square tail and a squash tail, the extra surface area is really going to give you some extreme speed through flat sections and the knifey rails will help you dig long curves into the face. I have also been experimenting with a slight outside “V” on the rear rail to help improve water flow—I’ll keep everyone posted on how that develops.