Kelly Slater won Bells in 1994 his board was 17 and a quarter inches wide......it was all about being narrow, heavily rockered and short. In fact you couldn't really get a board that was wider then 18 and three quarters wide. This killed the joy of surfing for many surfers I'm sure, and no one suffered more than the big guys. Boards were hard to come buy some combatants became seperatists and were lost to the Longboarders, other's took up goat boats and some the couch. Heavy times.
Board shaping seems to be going through its own enlightenment after some pretty draconian years, as if the Virgin Queen herself had released the shaper from his planer and let the volume flow. No one is happier than the bigger guys out there. As I destroyed yet another surf magazine in toilet breaks at work, I could actually envisage myself riding most of the boards.
The left hand board is the Robber, a twinner (two big twin fins and a small pilot) and the right hand board the Dumpster Diver.
Two events seem pivotal to me. Firstly the closing of Clark Foam the provider of over 80% of the world's blanks simply shut over night and also destroyed some of the most highly regarded templates. This led to epoxy, Firewires, Salmon Core, Surftecs, Resin8's and many more scrambling to fill the void in the market. Different properties led to new characteristics, paddling power, trim, movement of the wide point, gentler rockers, flex...the list goes on. Not only did the core materials begin to change but the way they were constucted and set up also changed. Parabolic stringers, the quad revolution etc.
Left: A parabolic stringer round the edges believed to have increased flex properties.
Below is the board that Kelly Slater finished runner up at the Pipe Masters at in 2009, or rather the Backdoor fest. He was the only competitor to be riding a quad, a parabolic and was the only competitor going short and fat at a time when most were going longer and thinner. It worked well too.
The other pivotal event in surfboard design has been the approach taken by Pro surfers on the WCT, the use of the 6ft X 18 1/2, 2 1/2 give or take has dominated or strangled pro surfing since the early 1990's. It is only in the last 2 seasons that on occasion more free minded surfers like Dane Reynolds, Kelly Slater, and Rob Machado have used alternative boards to success. Dane Reynolds although famous for demolishing a french beach break on a spurned twin fin he found in a second hand rack,is now credited with starting a movement to shorter and fatter boards that are not fishes. The Dumpster Diver being his incarnation of the future of surfing, may be the most likely rebirth of a divine kind in my life, certainly the way he demolished snapper rocks on the gold coast opened a window previously painted shut. Rob Machado has more quirky boards up his sleeve than he has things living in his fro, I've always fancied a look around his board warehouse and Slater himself seems to have gone board tastic as he's the only guy on the World Tour who actually shapes boards he rides. While Taj Burrows rides the same board everywhere.
Left is some of Slater's quiver for Oz. The Asymmetric board on the far side is something else.
All this spells diversity for me and you, more choice, more options, more foam and more things to burn your hard earned wonger on. I'm packing a few thrusters still, but my sawn off quad fish is what's floating me around Cornwall at present. Things are getting completely out of handnot just with the SUP and Alaia brigade but the other day a guy drew his batman tail out of his car, it was actually a tail in the style of the batman logo......it'll be a while for them to catch on though. This enlightenment will only benefit the regular Joe are my own feelings and hopefully things like demo boards will become more common place.