One of the main board elements, in addition to the nose, rails (sides) and bottom, is the tail (back of the board). There are several different kinds of SUP tails. A first time buyer might think the tail design is just an afterthought and won’t have much affect on how the board performs- and they would be wrong. Stand up paddleboards take a lot of their design and shape directly from surfboards. In fact, many of the current well-known paddleboard designers got their start in the surf industry, which has over a 60 year head start on paddleboarding. Integrating surf designs into paddleboards allows the creation of a wide variety of boards meant to perform and behave in specific ways.
For surfing paddleboards, tails with a sharper and more angular design generally release water more quickly than rounder and softer ones. The affect is that the tails with a sharper design will allow the board to turn more quickly and have a looser, more agile feel. The boards with rounder tails will hold steadier to more water and be more stable as you turn. Rounder tails are good on larger waves where long, swooping turns are the norm. For flatwater paddling, a chopped off design, a.k.a. square tail, will add more surface area to the tail that will help with stability the board making it less tippy from side to side. For this post we will look some of the most recognizable tail shapes and their functions so that you have a better understanding of what they are meant to do.
Swallowtail designs have a vee shaped wedge cut out of the back of the board. This shape gives board a bit more power by extending the waterline through the board’s rail. The more water line, the faster the board will go and this is very beneficial when surfing smaller sized waves that aren’t as powerful as the larger waves.
The pintail design is another popular surfing shape that is great for larger waves. It consists of an elongated arc that is perfectly even on both sides and narrows towards the end to form a rounded point. This shape allows the board hold tight to the water as the rider gets the board on edge to turn. The smooth and consistent shape of the pintail offers a more stable ride than the swallowtail when surfing larger waves.
Squaretail designs are excellent for flatwater because they add stability (remember you need to “stand” on SUPs as opposed to just “ride”, like on surf boards) and you can design a faster board with a squaretail paddleboard. What makes a squaretail more stable is the increased amount of surface area and width of the tail. Since it doesn’t taper down to a point or have a vee shaped wedge cut out of it, there is more contact with the water and thus more volume. The more volume a board has the more weight it can carry. And the extra width of the tail helps prevent the board from tipping side to side.
For speed, racing boards tend to be a lot narrower than other boards. They have a lot less drag because of that narrowness but can be tippy from side to side. The stability the square shaped tail helps compensate for that narrowness making the board more stable and easier to paddle. The same applies for all-around stand up paddleboards.
So there’s a general overview of SUP tails that should give you a bit of head start when trying to figure what board you may want. Keep in mind, that there are other factors that affect how the tail performs including rocker, width and thickness. And there are many variations of these three basic shapes. As always, talk to your local SUP shop to find out what best suits your needs.