A surfboard's rocker is its curvature from tail to nose. Generally, the more rocker a board has, the more curvature it has. A board with less rocker has a lower curvature.
Today, rocker is often overlooked in favor of volume. Beginners and intermediate surfers usually discuss the volume of their surfboards, but rocker is seldom mentioned at all.
30 years ago, surfers didn't really care about the volume of their surfboard. The three dimensions that make up volume, namely length, width, and height, yes, but never all three combined into one.
What is the importance of rocker for beginner and intermediate surfers? In many ways, the rocker of a surfboard affects how it rides. Let's take a look at them.
Riding a board with more rocker is more conducive to riding a wave that's steeper and hollower. The board will glide down the face of the wave without digging into it. On the other hand, a flatter, more mellow wave lends itself to riding a board with less rocker.
For these types of waves, you need all the speed you can muster, and a board with a larger surface area on the water will help. Due to the flatter wave, more nose rocker will not be as essential. On the drop-in, a flatter rocker on the nose will work well.
Surfboards with more nose and tail rocker will ride more dynamically and be easier to maneuver on the wave. Due to this, pro surfers tend to ride boards with lots of rocker so they can carve and do radical cutbacks with relative ease.
A flatter shaped surfboard, one with less rocker, will be harder to carve and cut back. Nevertheless, it will be faster down the line (as it rides across the face of the wave), which will make it easier for beginners and intermediate surfers to get through more challenging sections of a wave.
The importance of surfboard rocker cannot be understated. Make sure you consider the rocker of the board when purchasing a surfboard. An absolute beginner shouldn't buy a low volume board with lots of rocker.
Ask a surf shop expert for advice if you're not sure what different levels of rocker look like. Tell them where you are at in your surfing, and what you are looking for in a surfboard. If that is the case, they can suggest the best-shaped board for your style of surfing.