Asymmetrical Surfboard Designs

asymmetrical surfboard designs

One of the things that can make surfing a frustrating endeavor is that we need to learn two different styles of riding: backside and front side. Almost without exception, every board in your local surf shop features boards designed on the assumption that we surf the same going right as we do going left. This is an unrealistic assumption. SurfScience wanted to learn more about asymmetrical surfboard designs that might enhance both our backhand and forehand surfing, instead of tailoring our experience to one or the other.


The Beginning


Carl Ekstrom is a San Diego shaping legend who patented the asymmetrical surfboard in 1967. His motivation for creating the design was his desire to surf his home break of Windansea equally well going both right and left. He found a good board for his backhand surfing and he found a good board for his forehand surfing, but he struggled to find one to fit both styles of riding. He found a solution when he combined the designs of each surfboard.


Until recently, Ekstrom had not been doing many asymmetrical surfboards. “What got me back into it is the fish,” he explained. “A fish is a great board down the line but doesn’t go rail to rail very well. What I’m doing is shortening up the backside rail and adding more curve. It gives you more drive down the line.”


We recently saw one of Ekstrom’s latest creations at the 2009 Fall Sacred Craft show. There he displayed an asymmetrical surfboard that was different in a lot of ways.


“The toe is a lot more on the backside than it is on the front side. The keel on the front has very little toe-in. Fin placement and toe-in makes a big difference. They’re all working together. There’s no reason to stay symmetrical. You can even change the rocker. To check it, put a goofy-foot rider on a board made for a regular and he will hate it. That’s a real good way of checking it.”


To Ekstrom the process of creating the perfect asymmetrical surfboard can be quite easy. “You can go to an Al Merrik catalog and pick out what you think would be good backside board. And then you might find a fish that could be a good front side board and combine the two. It’s as simple as that.”


Ekstrom asymmetrical surfboard

Ekstrom's Influence on your local shaper


Ekstrom’s revolutionary design has influenced some of San Diego’s most prominent shapers. Tim Bessell of Bessell Surfboards is a big believer in asymmetrical designs.


“The theory is that your front side is different surfing than your backside,” says Bessell. “So why should your board by symmetrical? I’ve been riding exclusively asymmetrical high performance shortboards for two and a half years now. Exclusively. That’s all I have.”


Bessell goes on to explain the impact of the different shapes. “Your toe side is a longer arc so you get more drive. When you’re coming off the top you have a shorter radius, so the board is actually spinning around quicker. On the cutback frontside, you’re getting a way faster turn. But there are things about design like fin placement and fin design that need to be compatible with the board or it won’t ride at an optimum level. Almost every time I go surfing I try new fins, to increase my knowledge.”




If you are struggling to find a surfboard that suits your style for both backhand and forehand surfing, then perhaps it’s time to consider an asymmetrically shaped surfboard. You no longer need to adjust your surfing to a shape that is best designed for frontside turns when you really want to improve your backside surfing. Make sure you talk to your local shaper about this innovation in surfboard design and explore how it can improve your surfing performance.

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