Saturday, 25 September 2010
flying the friendly ghost...
Anyone with even half an idea of current trends in surfing outside the all encompassing thruster movement will doubtless be aware of the emergence of the mini simmons as a new branch on the board design tree. Coming out of the work of Simmons in the late 50's and his adherence to the principles of even earlier boat hull theory, the concepts were rediscovered by Richard Kenvin as part of his Hydrodynamica project. Working with Joe Baugess from much longer simmons originals and apocryphal stories of simmons riding a styrofoam 6 footer til the windansea shorebreak destroyed it they first made a 9 foot replica in balsa that Kenvin and co. successfully rode in large waves in California and the Galapagos. Then they went shorter..
The result was an epoxy 6 footer quite unlike anything else out there, a seemingly simple shape with decpetive subtleties. This first board was named "casper" after the friendly ghost and started to pop up in photos and videos around the net a couple of years ago. Having been ridden by a number of high profile surfers, all well documented with glowing ride reports the idea caught on and quickly many different shapers began to take the idea and put their own spin on it.
I think it's pretty safe to say that few people in the UK have actually seen one of Baugess original shapes though there are a few UK shapers who are making a version. For the past 6 weeks or so i've been riding the little 5'8 in the pictures and it's very quickly become my favorite board. This one is a Point Concept Velo sim, designed by Ryan Lovelace in Santa Barbara but loving shaped over here by Tim Mason off Ryan's templates.
Tim actually does a very fine copy of the Baugess which is shorter and thicker than this with a more pronounced s deck and has a slightly more complicated bottom shape. My board is bellied to flat to concave through the fins, 5'8 x 22 x 3 but foiled out through the rails. The fins are wood keels but more semi-circular in shape than those for a classic fish.
So after digesting all the hype i was keen to get a feel for the shape people are raving about, and let me tell you it's a hell of a lot of fun!! It's definatley a board that draws lateral lines rather than truly vertical ones on the wave. The feel is probably best described as being like riding a bar of soap. It rolls from rail to rail smoothly and cuts through the water much like the feel of a hull. It's a board you need to get low on as you bottom turn and it feels great in a high line trim. Where it differs from the hull is in turning.The fins are set well back, only a few centimetres from the tail and the board will pivot off the bottom or the top much like a normal twin keel fish. Once you outrun a section it cuts back like a skatey loose fish so you can set up for the next speed run, then repeat til your grinning like a loon and hooting yourself!
It's much friendlier on your backhand than a hull too. Like a hull, the roll in the bottom gives it a slightly "unsafe" feel as you put it into a bottom turn. It requires a bit of practice to get the right amount of weight on the rail as you start the turn, you almost need to gently but progressively weight the rail but once you have that figured it performs backside too.
Like any board, it loves a clean down the line wave, i've had it out in headhigh and under surf so far and the speed it generates is awesome. Where it really excels, however, is in junk surf. I can honestly say that a couple of weeks ago i had the best surf ever in 1-2ft sloppy windswell. The combination of effortless speed generation and quick direction change facilitated by the bottom contour and short length respectively give you the ability to chase the open face through, over and around whitewater and maximise the fun in poor conditions. It could be the ultimate junk wave design, as long as you're not a died in the wool shortboarder desperate to live out your slater fantasy for every surf.
While Tim obviously isn't the only shaper who will make you one of these, i honestly think few shapers in the UK understand boards derived from hull principles as well as he does and for something like this you want someone with that knowledge. Ryan, whose original design this is, has a proven track record in these types of shapes with a group of like minded test pilots and Rincon to work out the flaws. Once again not it's not going to be everyones cup of tea but it is a MUCH more functional daily driver than a hull while still retaining the smooth feel and different enough from a Lis style fish to warrant having both in your quiver.
These shapes are a different branch of the tree than conventional concave bottom shortboards and if you believe Kenvin, are the true ancestors of the modern high perfomance board as well as both skateboarding and snowboarding. Big claims but the proof as they say, is in the eating!