Does the Number of Stringers in a Surfboard Really Matter?
Well, this is a complex one.
I'm going to start with the easy version of the answer first...
If you are ordering a custom mid-length or longboard and trying to decide between one stringer or two, or even two stringers or three, then the number of stringers won't play a tremendous role in the feel of the board under foot.
The stringer is there to provide two primary functions:
- The stringer controls the rocker profile of the surfboard
- The stringer gives the board the strength and stiffness.
ROCKER: an often over-looked, but critical element to determine how a surfboard rides. We, as a general rule, tend to prefer lower rocker profiles than many other surfboard builders. We like a continuous entry rocker that allows for maximum glide and effortless travel across the surface of a wave. We add a little more pronounced kick in the tail, so when you do step back on the tail, the board is ready to swing with you and your new direction of travel.
The exact profile of the rocker is something we determine and order our stringers to match. We have spent many years perfecting our preferred rocker profile, and our stringers are cut to spec, making them different from other board builders or stock rocker profiles that you might find on another surfboard blank.
STRENGTH: The same way concrete needs rebar to give it strength, foam needs a stringer to give a surfboard it's structure. On longer surfboards, we make the single stringer a little wider, to ensure it's up to the task. By adding multiple stringers, you're adding more support for the board—and reducing flex in the process. The more stringers we add, the narrower each stringer can be.
Like we talk about in our Almond's Guide to Surfboards, everything in surfboard design is give and take. You can add more stringers to make the board flex less and hopefully withstand the test of time longer, but in doing so you are adding a bit of extra weight in the process.
Over time, a surfboard can flex and create "stress cracks" perpendicular to the stringer. This is because the wood and foam below flexed more than the resin in the fiberglass was willing to jive with. Adding additional stringers can help reduce the likelihood of this happening. Although—keep in mind—the ocean is powerful, water is heavy, and nothing is entirely fool proof when you enter that playground. Let's not forget the Titanic was billed as the un-sinkable ship!
GOOD FLEX: Not all flex is bad. Sometimes it works to your advantage, particularly on smaller equipment. You'll notice we make 5'2 Secret Menus with no stringer at all. You'll see performance shortboard brands play with stringer placement and carbon fiber, in order to unlock never-before-seen flex advantages. A buddy of mine had a fish years ago with a wedge stringer, that got really narrow in the tail—the idea being that the wide fish tail would kind of twist a little on your bottom-turn, and then spring back to place as you came out of the turn—essentially giving you a little extra sling-shot of speed as you came back up the face.
AESTHETICS: There is an undeniable aesthetic piece to this conversation. If you love the look of a double-stringer, go with that. If you like the classic t-band, we're all for it. We won't let you write up anything we aren't comfortable or confident in building—that's part of our job.
CONCLUSION: We have been building surfboards for 13 years now, and we are confident in the stringer options we have being a good blend of strength-to-weight ratio. So go with the look you like, and we will take care of the rest.
When you've decided how many stringers you want, go back to our Complete Guide to Ordering A Custom Surfboard, and let's get shaping your dream board!