Windsurf Board Jargon & Terminology by Jon Squires


I recall from my early days of windsurfing being totally overwhelmed by the use of windsurf 'jargon' – specifically words used to describe the way a board looks. I'd hear comments like "hmmm…too much vee in that to ever work" or "yep, there's no way the rocker matches the outline" and I was left nodding my head knowingly so as not to lose face. In reality, I had absolutely no idea what on earth they were talking about. What I needed was a 'glossary of terms' to help me to understand what they were talking about. So, here you go – an introductory guide to commonly used windsurf Board jargon & terminology. I hope you find it useful!

However, before we get started it is critical that I highlight the fact that no one feature of a board will determine in its entirety how 'that' board will behave. This is so important I can't emphasise it enough – board design is as much an art as it is a science; every sailor likes something different. Each element combines and interacts with other design features to create a unique style & feel. Attempting to explain these relationships is beyond the scope of this article – and me for that matter – so, bearing this in mind, here is a summary of the 'components' that together make up a board.

Lets start with the Nose: The front (sharp) end. But not always… there is a growing trend, particularly in dedicated freestyle boards (ie: the JP Freestyle 100) to literally 'chop' the nose off. The idea behind this is to make the board shorter without having to alter the curvature in the outline. There are several reasons for this, the two main ones being:
• To prevent the nose catching during the more advanced 'bouncy/skiddy' aerial maneuvers (eg. A vulcan).
• To allow the board to 'spin' more rapidly around its axis, thus making it more maneuverable (radical).

You are bound to hear people talking about the outline, rocker & vee. This family of three is so closely related they must be described together – the interrelationship between them will have an enormous effect on how a board behaves.
Outline: The outline (plan-shape) of a board will influence the way it turns (ie. gybing, carve turns).
For example, a "straightish" (no its not a real word!!) outline (such as that found on a slalom board) will be relatively 'stiff' to sail, quite directionally stable (goes well in a straight line), while a board with a curvy outline (ie. a wave or freestyle board) will be more 'loose' and manoeuverable
(see Diagram A).

The width of a board is also important, especially now that boards are no longer always measured in terms of length but width. So why are boards getting so wide? The bottom line is based around the concept of moments & leverage(remember school physics??). As a board gets wider, the amount of moment (leverage) there is between it, the rig and the sailor will increase. This will generate more lift (power) without sacrificing top end speed/control, there is a limit though – at some point, usually determined by the wind strength, width will start working against you and control becomes more wishful thinking than reality. By making boards wider you can use bigger sails & fins across a wider wind range on one board, thus dramatically increasing its usefulness.
Diagram A --> Outline

Rocker is the term used to describe how 'bent' (curved) a board is. Rocker is measured along the centre line on the bottom along the fore & aft axis (Diagram B). Typically a wave board will have a lot more rocker (bend) than a slalom board because rocker determines board trim, how easy it is to turn and to a certain degree how 'safe' it is as water conditions deteriorate.

Diagram B--> Rocker

Vee is the cross-sectional shape that is built into the bottom of the hull (Diagram C). Vee can determine, among other things a boards ultimate speed, how safe (well behaved) it is and how well it may go up or downwind. For example, a board with no vee whatsoever (ie. flat) might be extremely fast, but prone to spin out and have unsafe handling (ie. blowing away, violent spin outs). Generally speaking more vee = more control. There are two commonly used types of vee; spiral and panel (and a heap more – a whole article could be written just on vee but its enough to know the basics): - Spiral Vee: vee increases at a steady rate until it reaches the tail. - Panel Vee: vee remains constant at all points of the board.

Diagram C--> Vee

Staying with what's on the underneath: concaves. These will create additional lift and help you to get planing (Diagram D). Concaves will go in and out of fashion, so don't get too hung up on them!

Diagram D --> Single Concave

On the bottom of some boards, you will find cutouts. These are the areas, usually towards the tail that are literally 'cut-out' from the bottom of the board (Diagram E). Doing this has two benefits:
1. Reduces wetted surface area (water resistance = drag) hence meaning more speed (such as on the Mistral Devil III).

2. Allowing the board to 'trim' more effectively along its longitudinal axis (ie. fore & aft). This has become more important as tail widths have grown – it allows you to use a relatively shorter fin for a given tail width than would be necessary were there no cut-outs (such as the JP Super-X, Mistral Devil III). Channels: are usually seen running along the longitudinal axis on the underside of the board. (Diagram F).

Their function is twofold:

- To provide some sideways 'grip' in the absence of a fin (ie. during freestyle moves that involve sailing backwards on the plane).
- To create more grip and force water along the bottom of the board, not just across it (ie. on a Formula board in lighter air).

Diagram E --> Cutout

Diagram F --> Channels

Moving on to the rails (the side of the board – Diagram G). There are thousands of different shapes of rail, however, at each extreme are 'soft' or 'hard' rails. What determines how hard or soft a rail will be (hence how it behaves) is the amount of tuck that it has in combination with how thick it is. Generally speaking, a soft rail (more tuck) will be more forgiving, maneuverable and easy to sail (loose) than a board with harder rails (less tuck).

Diagram G --> Rails

So, equipped with all this newfound knowledge, how do you apply it to your next purchase? Try this. Firstly, consider the manufacturer's stated purpose for the board (ie. is it waves, freestyle, slalom). Next, review each of the features described in this article and compare them with that stated purpose – they should match up. If they don't, enquire as to why your potential Taranaki conquering, down-the-line, wave-shredding machine has hard, thick rails, a low rocker and a straight outline..? If there is a difference, chances are, there'll be an extremely good reason – but at least you will have noted the inconsistencies, questioned them and consequently made a more informed decision!

So what if you still can't find exactly what you are looking for? Consider a custom or custom-production board. Commissioning a custom board gives you the opportunity to make specific requests of the designer, hence allowing them to tailor a hull to suit your local conditions and sailing style.