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Surfboard Design - Future Nostalgia

What's new and what's true?

The thing I love about surfboards is the future nostalgia to them.

Future Nostalgia means that the industry and craft have built - and continue to build - a nostalgia to the way things were… How things were built, designs that still hold true, and the craftsmanship and attention to detail behind them. Even boards that are cut by CNC can’t finish their own shape and glass themselves.

Future means that there’s no end to what can be done. New designs, materials, constructions, are endless.

At all times, the two words Future Nostalgia are in play together in surfboard design.

Daniel MacDonald of DMS Surfboards explains how knowledge of shaping is essential to using machines to cut boards.

The Knowledge

The Experimentation of new designs or materials doesn’t come without some knowledge of the history behind surfboards.

The shapers that have had the biggest impact on designs are usually the ones with the most historical knowledge behind our wonderful sport.

In fact, they more than likely have a deep understanding of the history of things outside our sport, which has helped lead them to their design breakthroughs.
dx1 being glassed
A DX1 by DHD Surfboards getting some close attention.

Take a look at surfboard fins for example...

Tom Blake first introduced a metal Skeg, taken from a speed boat, which was around 12 inches long and 4 inches deep. Immediately giving way more control of his board.

Not long after, partly influenced by Blake, as well as writings on the naval architecture and hydrodynamics of Lindsay Lord, Bob Simmons was experimenting with bottom contours and twin fins.

With many variations of single, twin, bonzers, widow makers (the list goes on) we were eventually lead to what has become an industry standard for many shortboards.

The thruster, introduced by Simon Anderson.

It took looking into the past, along with looking to outside sources that lead to the future of surfboards.

max stewart eye symmetry hand shaping boards
One of the new breed, Max Stewart of Eye Symmetry hand shaping some channels and also creating funky resin tints.

How does change happen?

I see surfboards with the same light as I do sailboats.

The functional aspects of each will always play some part in current and future models. Traditional designs will always be used by some as they have a certain feel to them that you can not mimic with new designs and technology.

They may not be the most high performance craft, but surfing and sailing are just as much about aesthetics and feel as they are performance.

Both have had many advancements, and will continue to with the experimentation of new materials, and constructions.

Matt Biolos of lost surfboards working on a Green Foam Blank
Matt Biolos of Lost Surfboards - an example of leading shapers working with green foam blanks. Photo: J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

There will always be shapers that want to hold onto the nostalgic side of surfboards just as much as there will always be the ones pushing the limits of performance. And there will always be a market for each.

More and more shapers these days are blending the two, which in turn makes them fantastic, well-rounded craftsman.

Dave Rastovich playing around on a Gary McNeill Concept shape
Free surfing legend Dave Rastovich playing around on a Gary McNeill Concepts shape.

Then there are the brands that focus on high performance only and play a part in pushing the limits of design.

They use feedback from elite level surfers to design new models, both for the elite competitor as well as the average surfer.

mick fanning testing out a ducks nuts replica
Mick Fanning putting his Darren Handley Designs Ducks Nuts Replica to the test.

While they definitely play their role in the advancement of surfboards, they are usually too busy to look into new materials and experiment themselves.

It is usually the underdogs that put the hard yards in, and if they are lucky, their experimentation can be adopted by the right brand.

Daniel MacDonald of DMS Surfboards explains his patent pending Carbon Wrap technology.

Why is it changing?

Many people lay claim that one of the big leaps in advancing surfboards and materials was the closure of Clark Foam.

This left many brands high and dry, the majority of whom had orders waiting and could no longer source the blanks to shape the boards.

Everyone was forced to look into other options, and it probably was a key turning point in epoxy boards.

Luckily, there had been people using EPS and Epoxy resins before the end of Clark Foam, so the knowledge was there, we just needed the push to get everyone else on board.

There have always been guys who experiment.

Unfortunately, the surf world is a hard nut to crack as many people are afraid to try something new.

Then, if "new" works, it comes down to the supply and demand aspect to make these new materials affordable or at least desirable enough for people to pay a premium.

haydenshapes future flex technology on a shred sled king
Shaper Hayden Cox of Haydenshapes produces Future Flex, a technology shown above on a Shred Sled model.

Sustainable Materials

Look at the boards being made with sustainable materials. The technology has been in place for a while now.

Entropy Resins is a bio based Epoxy Resin that uses tree sap in replacement of petroleum based ingredients in their epoxy resin as well as making practice of using less energy to produce their resin.

Entropy Resins have been available to the public for well over 6 years now, but it is only within the last couple of years that people are starting to jump on the program. Same holds true for Marko Foams recycled EPS.

gavin upson in the shaping bay
Shaper Gavin Upson working on some rails in the 1-DA Surfboards shaping bay.

Boards made with these materials perform just as well, if not better than your traditional PU/PE construction, so why wouldn’t anyone want to switch?

They are more expensive, because the demand for the product is still relatively low while the raw materials are high. But in reality, the costs are probably the same when you look at the total lifecycle of your boards. They will generally last longer.

in the hammo surfboards shaping bay
In the shaping bay with Hammo Surfboards working on their designs.

Both companies obviously didn’t start their mission to make a buck off the surf industry (they have other industries they cross over too) they truly just want to change the way we see surfboards.

They have put in the hard yards to start changing minds, and thankfully more and more people and brands are following suit.

There are now companies working on a fully biodegradable blanks including using algae as an alternative for PU blanks. There are even people experimenting with mushrooms (these are used as a surfboard core, although I am sure a lot of designs both good and far out came from mushroom use as well).

But none of these will succeed unless the products hold up to or exceed the standards of what is out there today.

in the chilli surfboards shaping bay

A hand-crafted Chilli Surfboards model by shaper Jamie Cheal.

The Best Part...

The beautiful thing is, though, that these alternative materials are being produced, they are holding up, and when you think about combining them with other new materials, the possibilities are endless.

Take the old, blend it with the new, and you have the future nostalgia of surfboards.

The Board Engine

27/05/2015 4:20 pm