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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, yet few people outside of California will have ridden one.

Given my well documented obsession with surfboard design i was really interested to find out more about them.

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 referencing apocryphal stories of simmons riding a styrofoam 6 footer til the windansea shorebreak destroyed it, they first made a 9 foot replica in balsa. Kenvin and co. successfully rode this in large waves in both 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!

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  • Jayson

    Great story. And fantastic boards. All credit is due to Bauguess, Elwell, and Kenvin for their re-discovery/ re-innovation and publicizing of this design. Although the historical significance of these boards (e.g. as the “ancestors of the modern high performance board”) is doubtful since the mini-Simmons really did not exist until 2006. I think the revival of Simmons as a great innovator of his time has been a good thing. But his direct connection to the current boards seems an exaggeration and a bit of a marketing ploy.

  • James

    I agree completely. The design of these “mini-simmons” boards should most accurately be credited to Bauguess, as inspired by Simmons via Elwell and Kenvin, and publicized by Kenvin/Swift/Hydrodynamica and Kenvin’s supernatural surfing. Versions made by any shaper other than Bauguess all stem at one point from the original 6’0″ Casper that Bauguess made for Kenvin in 2006. Elwell and Kenvin were the one’s who approached Bauguess, but he was the shaper who translated the idea into foam and glass.

    For a campaign to recover a chapter of surfing’s forgotten design history, the standard mini-simmons story seems decidedly and ironically confusing, muddled, and patchy.

  • john

    long island represents! i recreated a mini simmons from an old longboard 5’6″ totally amazing fun ride. this article is right on the money in its discription, it generates smiles, heeps of speed when you wouldn’t expect any, head high barrels, annihilates flat sections. waiting for hurricane season…

  • monty

    Great article and great boards. I have been riding a 5’4” quad mini simmons setup for 10 months now and it just keeps getting better. oh, `I should note I am one of those super lucky dudes that gets two sessions in a day in great surf here in Costa RICA

    I really think a lot of people can take the credit for these good feel smile generating boards and I will add my, shaper Randy Richenberg out of New Smyrna Beach Florida shaped me a great mini. Another thing I am really not convinced these boards are only for small surf. I have had mine in some meaty overhead to double overhead and she still performs . You just have to learn to manage the speed and deal with the drop.

    Anyway I am a fan to the shape…… Pura Vida.