The Tail Tells The Tale
If you want to know in less than 3 seconds what the intended design of a surfboard is, look no further than the tail. The tail of a surfboard will give you a pretty great indication of the board's intended purpose.
With very few exceptions, these rules will hold true:
Narrow, pointy tails with lots of curve to them are done with turning and maneuverability in mind, and are intended for waves with steeper faces and more power.
Wide, square tails with plenty of surface-area are done with planing and noseriding in mind—using that bigger surface area to harness as much of the wave’s energy as possible.
When you design a board for Pipeline, you want it narrow overall, with a narrow tail that gives the rider maximum control. Since steeper waves have more power, you need less help from the tail in capturing wave-energy, but you need all the control you can possibly get.
When you design a board for a slow, rolling wave like Waikiki, you want a fuller outline with a wider tail—to help generate more speed in the smaller, softer waves.
The control and sensitivity on a big, wide board is not as generous, which is why the rider wants to get his or her foot all the way back on the tail. This is done by walking back to to tail—in the case of a longboard—or by designing a short, full outline where the rider's natural stance puts their back foot near the tail—like in the case of the Secret Menu or Sea Kitten.
The Secret Menu and Sea Kitten examples of surfboards that are designed to draw the most energy from the wave, while still being ridden very short.
So when inspecting a surfboard, pay close attention to the tail and consider what the board's intended purpose is.