All design comes from nature. Every innovation is the result of NATURE Interacting with man’s IMAGINATION, coupled with the DESIRE to explore new realms of the wave. That is the closest we have to a unifying theory of surfboard design. There are no unanswerable Questions in surfboard design. What the surfer acts out of life performance on a wave), the designer Apprehends as TRUTH (design innovation).
To test this little theory I’m high on a famous Far Northern NSW headland at dawn, where a lot of the Shit form the shortboard revolution went down, with a buffed groundswell peeling and Whales swimming leisurely past. Lets see what comes to mind.
But first let’s clear a current myth. There is no SCIENCE of surfboard design. There is no SCIENCE of WAVE RIDING. From the action of wind on water thousands of miles away, through the complex History of the swell train as it approaches coastline, there are a myriad of factors imperfectly Understood. Throw in the mix; the bottom contours; the prevailing winds; the shearing currents; and Before we even introduce a human on a surfboard, there’s and incredibly complicated natural flow of Energy which lies just outside the outstretched fingertips of science AS WE KNOW IT.
Enter a human into the equation whose physical make-up; experience in the ocean, creative thoughts, Intelligence, aggression, etc., etc. all determine how well and with what approach he actually surfs that Wave. And THEN and ONLY THEN throw in a piece of shaped foam and fiberglass under his feet and The whole thing starts to spiral out of control into an increasingly unknowable MYSTERY. Of course it’s Not or we would all still be riding redwood planks. The principals exist but they are understood by Very few.
All the hoo-haa about shaping machines and pre-shaped blanks advancing design is BULLSHIT. They are A crude labor saving technology of copying which has led to the mass-produced, homogenized surfboard that has reduced or eliminated one variable form the equation that of a shapers skill in mowing out a surfboard from a blank.
If the principles of Nature herself are not understood by SCIENCE then how could surfing, the most Intimate embrace between man and nature, be explained by science? It can’t. Design is not a science- it is the intuitive search for the feeling on a wave, brought to fruition by bizarre individuals influenced by nature.
Example OK, after the Second World War and all that nasty shit was over, strange blokes like Bob Simmons were cruising up and down the as-yet-unspoiled Californian Coast. The waves he and his mates saw were glassy lined up points and reefs, and across the sparkling swells and large sea birds glided with PERFECT TRIM and POISE, surely the epitome of the STYLISH FREEDOM the young Americans were chasing. The gliding gannets became the model for smooth, cool styles of Californians like Phil Edwards and Skip Frye. Form followed function and the buoyant, low-planning-speed, gliding hulls of the Malibu’s were developed to a high degree.
The Californians thought they had it wired but the sea bird, despite all its grace and trim is ABOVE the WATER and AWAY from the tube. Surfing is unique because it deals with the interface of two elements and know where is the interplay between air and water more crucial than within a breaking wave. Something that was needed that could provide greater involvement with radical parts of the wave. Something that could surf deeper, go faster, accelerate in and around the pocket, GET..IN THERE!
Enter George Greenough and the yellow-fin Tuna. While the Californian stylists were trimming across groomed point breaks, the weird Greenough was holed up in aquariums observing water flow around the bodies and fins of sleek, aquatic freaks- the yellow-fin Tuna. In the yellow-fin Tuna he saw high-speed direction changes, awesome acceleration and plenty of involvement.
Greenough was seeing waves ridden, not in graceful trim, but in a series of high-speed full rail carves, in and out of the tube.
Surfing Was About To Be Set Free