The rocker of a surfboard is simply the curvature of the board from tail to nose. The more rocker a board has the greater the curvature. The less rocker a board has the lower the curvature.
These days rocker is often overlooked in favor of volume. Most beginner and intermediate surfers seem to talk about the volume of their surfboard and very rarely does rocker even enter the discussion.
It’s quite strange considering that 20 years ago the volume of a surfboard was not a metric surfers really cared about. The individual metrics that make up volume, namely, length, width and height, yes, but never these combined in one number.
So why should beginner and intermediate surfers care about rocker? Well, the rocker of the surfboard affects the way a board rides in many different ways. Let us look at some of these.
A steeper, more hollow wave is more conducive to riding a board with more rocker. This will allow the board to glide down the face of the wave without the nose digging into it.
Conversely, a flatter more mellow wave is more conducive to riding a board less rocker. You need all the speed you can get to paddle into these types of waves, and having a board with more surface area contact on the water the better.
Moreover, because the wave is flatter it won’t be as critical to have more nose rocker. A flatter rocker in the nose will perform just fine on the drop in.
A surfboard with more nose and tail rocker will ride more dynamically and be easier to manoeuvre on the wave. This is why pro surfers tend to ride boards with lots of rocker so that they can carve and do radical cutbacks with relative ease.
A flatter shaped surfboard, one with less rocker, will be more difficult to carve and cutback on. It will however be faster down the line (riding across the face of the wave), which makes it easier for beginner and intermediate surfers to make it through more challenging sections of a wave.
Surfboard rocker should not be underestimated. When buying a surfboard, be sure to factor in the rocker of the board in you purchasing decision. If you’re an absolute beginner buying a low volume board with loads of rocker most likely won’t bode well for you.
If you’re unsure of what different degrees of rocker look like, ask a surf shop expert for advice. Tell them where you are at in your surfing, and what you are looking to get out of a surfboard. They can then advise you accordingly what the best shaped board will be for your surfing.