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Asymmetrical Surfboards

Posted on August 01, 2016

Asymmetrical : a·sym·met·ri·cal / āsəˈmetrikəl
1. having parts that fail to correspond to one another in shape, size, or arrangement; lacking symmetry.
"the church has an asymmetrical plan with an aisle only on one side"
lopsided, unsymmetrical, uneven, unbalanced, crooked, awry, askew, skew, misaligned; More
disproportionate, unequal, irregular;
informalcockeyed, wonky
"the quilt pattern is asymmetrical"
“asym” for short
having parts or aspects that are not equal or equivalent; unequal in some respect.

Asym surfboards. Unique. Different. Confusing. All true. Mis-understood is the best descriptor. Yes, one rail is longer than the other. But there is much more to the asymmetrical surfboard. As with all design blogs, I try to cover the basics, understanding that you should contact a professional shaper for the deeper nuance of surfboard design.

Carl Ekstrom first implemented the asymmetrical design into his personal boards in the ‘60s. Ekstrom quickly understanding that he displaced weight differently on his toes (balls of feet really) than on his heels. The asym, like many design concepts, came and went as the modern surfboards evolution progressed at warp speed, often times changing so quickly that many concepts didn’t have time to ripen on the vine.

In the mid 2000s Ekstrom’s design idea was rekindled when La Jolla’s Richard Kenvin and Ekstrom began tinkering anew. Ten years later (2015) and here we are; the modern asymmetrical surfboard is no longer looked at with a raised brow, but rather an inquisitive tilt of the head.

It is generally held that the toe side rail should be the longer rail and the heel side should be the shorter.

I disagree.

I’ve owned and ridden numerous asyms, and I am of the belief that the opposite is true. A short toe side rail (the sensitive, light footed, balls of my feet side) gets the rail and the board up the wave face quicker, over and over again, allowing me to generate speed. Once I have all the speed I need, I can transfer to the longer heel side (not sensitive- but heavy footed; and oh by the way, this is why single fin surfboards feel so solid on the heelside/backside) and bury more rail, carry more speed, and put more weight into the roundhouse cutback turn.

I am not alone in thinking this way. Asym snowboards are designed this way.

I tried them both (heel side long, toe side long) before I decided. I’m a regular foot, and my favorite asym was made for a goofyfooted surfer. The guy didn’t like it, so the shaper, with the board languishing in his garage, gave it to me to try. I didn’t want to give it back.

But there is sooo much more to the asym then the rail outline. I had completely different rail line rocker on my last asym. Fins, fin placement, rail rocker, center line rocker (is there a center line?), and bottom contour all variables in the equation. But asyms, by their very nature, do not equate. They are two different boards in one. You’ll be best served if you think of the craft in that vein.

If you leave this blog with only one take away I would hope it would be this: with asyms, there is no right way. That is true of all surfboard design, but on a different intensity with asyms. You must experiment. Be open-minded. Be willing. – SB

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