The importance of symmetry in a surfboard, while prominent, is probably overstated.
Think about how you surf a wave or just how wave break in general – you’re never really riding your board in a way that demands symmetry.
Hand-shaped surfboards -even from the most experience shapers – can even have slight, maybe even unnoticeable differences between each side.
Think about how your front-side surfing differs from your backside. Are you able to surf rights the same way you surf lefts? Probably not.
So really, board symmetry is simply another lever to adjust in the overall design of a surfboard.
What is an Asymmetrical Surfboard?
An asymmetrical surfboard is simply a surfboard without symmetry. Asymmetry could come in form of different sized rails, off-set fins, forked noses, combined tails, and even bottom contours and channels.
An asymmetrical surfboard is designed to cater to the differences of front-side and backside surfing.
The most common asymmetrical shapes often combine the tail shapes and rail lines of different surfboards. This is taken a step further with the fin setup and configuration. You might find an off-set fin set up or even different amounts of toe and cant from side-to-side.
Asymmetrical boards are designed for either goofy OR regular foot surfers, meaning, if you surf goofy and try to surf goofy on an asymmetrical board built for a regular-footed surfer, it might not feel right.
As with anything in surfing, it’ll take some experimentation to see what’s right for you. But asymmetrical surfboards are certainly something to consider and explore.
History of the Asymmetrical Surfboard
Walking into any surf shop in the last few decades, it’d probably be pretty easy to assume that the surfboard has always been symmetrical.
And it’s true, the symmetrical surfboard has been and still is the predominant design.
Asymmetrical boards are more niche, but have been in the background for a long time, opening up new possibilities and experiences for surfers who search beyond the mainstream.
Carl Ekstrom of San Diego filed for a patent for the asymmetrical surfboard in 1967 after designing an experimenting with boards he was surfing at Windansea.
The patent is since expired, but Ekstrom still makes some beautiful asymmetrical boards and has had a large role in inspiring new generations of surfboard shapers.
However, prior to the patent, you can find evidence of asymmetrical surfboards that probably date back to the beginnings of surfing itself.
Looking through archival photos, you can find pictures of boards with off-set fins, slight variations in rails, and ding repairs that result in some thing asymmetrical.
When you think about the way early surfboard were built – with hand tools out of solid wood – it’s hard to image that asymmetrical surfboards didn’t exist.