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SUP Rocker: What It Is And Why It Matters

How Curvature At The Ends of A Board Affects Performance


When selecting a paddle board, it is helpful to go beyond just the dimensions and outline shape of a board and consider an often disregarded aspect of SUP design known as rocker. The term “rocker” refers to the upward curvature at the ends of the board. The main types of rocker are called nose rocker and tail rocker, which is the upward lift at the front (nose) and back (tail) of the board.

 

Nose Rocker


Nose rocker is what prevents the front of the board from going underwater when encountering waves, chop, boat wake, or any other kinds of ripples on the water. All SUP boards have some nose rocker. What varies between boards is the degree and location of the upward curvature.

Moderate nose rocker is found on boards designed for all-around use including flat water, ocean paddling, and various calm water activities that can be done on a SUP board such as yoga and fishing.

High Nose Rocker is a feature of boards designed for particular conditions where additional vertical clearance is needed at the nose. This includes whitewater river running and river surfing, where it is important to channel moving water under the board without submerging the nose of the board.

Low Nose Rocker is typically found on boards designed for racing or long distance touring. This is because the glide of a board increases with the flat length of the board that is in contact with the water. An extreme case of low nose rocker would be zero rocker, a completely flat board profile.

A board with no nose rocker would typically have a displacement hull, which is designed to stay submerged and cut through the water instead of planing over the top of the water. This design feature can increase the glide of the board but results in less stability.

ERS SKYLAKE and V3 boards are designed with a moderate nose rocker for maximum flexibility and use in different water.  Our Whitewater series are designed with a high nose rocker and our SKYLAKE GT boards are designed with a low nose rocker.

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Tail Rocker


A smaller percentage of boards have rocker at the tail, which is usually a very slight upturn that starts less than a foot from the end of the board. A little bit of tail rocker can make a board turn with less resistance in certain conditions. The downside to tail rocker is that it can make a board a little slower, which is why most touring and all-around boards are made with straight tails and no tail rocker.

Banana Rocker


Banana Rocker refers to a continuous board curvature than runs all the way from the nose to the tail of the board. This is found mainly on specialized whitewater SUP boards made for downstream river running or river surfing, situations where the board sometimes needs to conform to the contour of a wave to prevent the nose or tail from going under.

Many paddlers purchase and use their boards without giving rocker any thought, which is fine for most leisure paddling uses.  But if you’re looking for a SUP board for a specialized purpose, it’s helpful to examine the side view of the board and consider how the rocker profile will contribute to the performance of the board for your particular use.