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What is the rocker on a paddle board?
When choosing a paddle board, there are some parameters that you might ignore or don’t even know about. This happens to a lot of beginners who don’t know much about the sport. Here’s one aspect of the board known as rocker that you might neglect when choosing your first SUP board.
The term “rocker” refers to the upward curvature at both ends of the board. The one at the front of the board is called the nose rocker and the one at the back is called the tail rocker.
Some poorly made boards might bend when you stand on it and it’s not the same thing as rocker but rather the result of poor rigidity or terrible construction.
Rocker is part of the design of a board that serves the purpose of specific performance enhancements. Different rocker profiles will give the board different feels. And combined with other physical factors of a board like the shape, thickness, length, and width, the designer is able to create boards with different abilities and merits.
Nose rocker is the upward curve at the nose of a board which keeps the board from going underwater in different water conditions. Basically all paddleboards have some nose rocker. The difference usually lies in the degree and the location of the upward curvature.
Moderate nose rocker is probably the most common kind of rocker you will find because it’s usually intended for all-around uses. A moderate nose rocker profile is suitable for flat water, ocean paddling, and other activities that are usually done on flat water, like yoga or fishing. It’s also used in some high-intensity activities like surfing or whitewater paddling.
High nose rocker is relatively rare as it’s usually meant for specific conditions where it requires addictional vertical clearance at the nose. It’s mostly seen in whitewater paddling, and river surfing. In such conditions the most important thing the rider needs the board to do is to channel moving water under the board without the nose going underwater. The reason why it’s not commonly used is that since the nose is high up in the air it increases air resistance, and there’s less surface contact, so the glide performance won’t be as good as boards with a lower nose rocker profile.
Low Nose Rocker is usually for boards optimized for conditions which require high-level of glide performance and speed like racing or long-distance touring.
There are boards with almost no nose rocker. These kind of boards are usually faster and have better glide performance than other boards. It’s because a flat SUP board means it has more waterline, and that means faster speed and better glide. A long waterline also helps the board go in a straight line easier. The downside of a board with no nose rocker is that it won’t be as maneuverable as other boards with a different type of nose rocker profile. A paddleboard with no nose rocker usually has a displacement hull that would allow the board to stay submerged and be able to slice through the water. A board like this is usually meant for flatwater race or touring.
Some boards will feature rocker at the tail. Tail rocker will help make the board turn more smoothly, but it will also make the board slower at the same time due to the reduced waterline. There aren’t many boards with rocker at the tail, most all-around boards and touring boards use a flat tail in order to gain more speed.
You might occasionally run into a board with an upward curvature on both the nose and tail of the board, which kind of resembles a banana. A board with a rocker profile like this is also very rare, which is usually made specifically for downstream river running or river surfing. Banana rocker allows riders to change rocker height by moving around the board to prevent the board from going underwater.
Most paddlers don’t know anything about rocker so normally won’t give it any thought when buying a paddle board, which is fine since most boards will feature a moderate nose rocker profile that can handle most conditions and uses pretty nicely. But if you want the best performance in what you’ll be doing with your board, it’s best to take rocker into consideration as it could have a major effect on your performance.