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 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.
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.
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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 - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.