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SUP insider: all about the rocker

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We’ve said time and again that spotting good from mediocre, or telling bad from outright dangerous, is a little difficult for those new to the sport.

So lot’s of people turn to local shops for advice, which is normally a good choice.  However, some retailers might be more interested in the margin that they make on certain kit, or promoting the brand that gives them the most free merchandise, rather than actually providing honest advice.  And the one thing most retailers won’t do is recommend you to a direct sales brand like McConks, no matter how good the gear is.

So it’s in our interest to help you make good decisions, and help you spot good from dangerous.  And one give away of a cheap lay up is a hockey stick rocker on the nose of the board.  Let us explain….

Rocker

Rocker is the term used to describe the amount of curvature in the longitudinal contour of a boat or surfboard.   It comes from the curved bars of metal or wood that rocking chairs used to sit on, which are also known as rockers.  The rocker has a really strong impact on performance, and affects stability, speed and turning performance.

On prone surfboards, rocker design is an art, and the terminology quickly gets very complex.   Although we often say the devil is in the detail, for the purposes of this article, you don’t need to know the detail.  But if you want to know more about types of rocker and the impact on surf performance, this page is a good introduction.

On rigid SUP, rocker is just as important for prone SUP, but the shaper has normally got different objectives / outcomes to a prone SUP.  And one important factor starts to come into play that is not so important for prone surfing; windage.   SUP riders will nearly always want to travel more on a standup paddleboard that on a prone board.  Even those  who are into the sport purely for wave riding will want to travel on their SUP occasionally when there’s no swell.  And therefore the nose rocker, or the amount the board turns up at the nose becomes really important for travelling upwind.  Too much, and you won’t beat the wind, too little and you run the risk of sinking the nose and stalling that upwind glide you’ve battled so hard to get going.

On an iSUP, finely tuned rockers are much more difficult to achieve because of the manufacturing process and materials.  You will never get the finely honed shape that a rigid board delivers, and that’s one reason why a rigid board is still the best option for some riders.   So when you hear phrases like “sculpted balance flow”, be sceptical.  Especially when accompanied by a board that costs less than £500.

Hockey stick

Not ‘jolly hockey sticks’, but ice hockey sticks.

And a hockey stick rocker is one that has a significant upturn at the nose.   Why is this a bad thing?

  • It’s symptomatic of poor manufacturing process and poor design.   This is the easiest and cheapest type of rocker to provide on an iSUP.  Quite simply cutting the top layer of the drop stitch shorter than the bottom layer drives this upturn into the nose.  It’s very low tech, cheap and easy to do, but difficult to control.  To get a progressive rocker into the iSUP requires more technology, time and prototypes.  Therefore a good rocker is more expensive, and not found on cheap boards.
  • It degrades performance, particularly upwind.  Despite what the cheaper brands might say to convince you (“cuts through the chop better”, “well-defined nose rocker enhances the up-wind performance”), none of this is true.  If it looks like a hockey stick, you’re going to have a horrible time paddling upwind or cross wind, and the increased windage is going to really affect your stability and progress.  As for cutting through the chop better, the upturned nose is just going to get buffeted and bashed, reducing your stability and speed.

 

So there you have it.  If you’re worried about the pennies, and are in the market for lower cost iSUP, try to avoid those with hockey stick rockers!

And make sure you have a look at McConks SUP.   Progressive rocker, fibreglass shaft paddle, and all of the other features synonymous with top notch quality, all for just £595.


For more SUP insider knowledge, come and join the SUP insider community on facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SUPinsider/

For hacks, friendly advice and non judgmental guidance join the SUP hacks community on facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SUPhacks/

 

Progressive rocker. The sign of a quality iSUP
How to spot a poor quality iSUP #1
How to spot a poor quality iSUP #1

 

 

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