The Squash Nose

In the hull world, this is about the fullest nose as you'll generally come across...

But lurking out there is an even more extreme level of 'nasal plenitude.'


The squash, or squared off, nose has surfaced in board design from time to time. The aesthetic is so far outside the norm, even hardcore hull aficionados avert their eyes in disgust.

Prior to the shortboard revolution, squared-off noses were utilized...usually in the context of enhanced nose riding.


The other, more ubiquitous use is on body boards, which doesn't help the social image of squash noses one iota...

So what's the 'point' of a squash nose? What possible benefit does it have?

Look at these two squash nosed boards banking over into a turn. 1968 and 2010 respectively...


Yes, they both are wide hulls that carve easily. Yes, both surfers obviously know what they're doing. But there's an added component of 'bankitude' in both these images.

There's a reason why. It's hard to verbalize, but I'll take a stab at it.

The rate of curve is an important part of why a board (with displacement hull) wants to bank over on its rail. When you cut the nose off, you increase the rate of curve in the nose area, which encourages a board to carve up on its rail.

Let's take a 7 foot long by 22" wide hull, with the wide point 6" ahead of center. The outline in the front half of the board curves a total of 11 inches in 3 feet...which is the distance from the wide point to the end of the nose. If you cut 3 inches off the length in the nose, that 11 inches of curve would be compressed into 2' 9'', even though the curve itself didn't change until the very end of the nose. That shortened, square nosed board would ride differently.

When you push the board over on its rail in a turn, there's a subtle tendency for a board with a shorter, blunter nose to continue its banking motion beyond the energy you put into the turn. Even though the rail line that's touching the water isn't altered, the ''lateral polar moment of inertia'' in the nose area is increased. So even though the nose is completely out of the water, when you push the board over on its rail, that banking/rotating motion wants to "keep going."

Conversely, if you added length to a similar board (in the form of a longer, pointed nose) it would want to remain 'flat' on the wave face, and take more force for you to bank it over. Which is why guns are hard to bank over in small waves. And why powerful surfers in the mold of Nat Young or Michael Peterson can carve boards with a pointed nose with ease.

To prove this hypothesis -- which I have on several occasions -- take a hull with a pulled-in nose. Ride a few waves. then saw an inch off the end of the nose with a saw. Ride a few more waves. Then cut another inch off the nose, and surf it some more. Each time you do that, the board will be easier to bank over into a turn...until you go too far, and the board becomes uncontrollable.

The sweet spot would probably be somewhere between #3 and #5.

This relates more to displacement hulls than flat bottom boards. A flat bottom board will usually catch and stick if you cut the nose off. But hulls have a more complex bottom that allows for greater latitude in terms of the outline.

Look at these Boston Whalers with 'squash noses.' The hull under the bow allows them to penetrate the water with ease without the nose catching. Hull surfboards, while not as extreme, afford us the same 'best of both worlds' component.

This doesn't mean that boards with pointed noses won't bank over into a turn. Or that banking over into a turn is the end-all and be-all of  hull surfing. It's just to say that...

A) Boards with blunt noses want to go up on their rail with less effort.

B) Design elements that aren't even touching the water can effect how a board rides, and how it feels.

Food for thought...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have a squash nose 8ft board that was built 15-20 years ago by Ray Dalton of Gisborne, NZ that turns exactly as you describe. It is certainly a very different ride than my retro McTavish Bluebird of roughly the same length. Until I read this article on the roots of the squash nose, I would not have been able to provide an in-depth explanationas to why it was shaped like that---other than for nose-riding, which it really won't do with 80kg of me on it. Thanks very much for making sense of why I really like it---and continue to nurse it into old age! I understand now why it so quickly engages a rail and sticks to the face of the wave as I attempt to zip down the line. Great blog. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Cheers from NZ