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For the last two years Alex Rowse has ridden only displacement hulls, except for the odd log on small days. In between being a director of A-Side Design and being a partner in the founding of the Kook magazine with his partner in crime Dan Crockett, he can be found cruising around Cornish beaches looking for waves with his quiver of hulls.

Riding hulls is all about the feeling,” enthuses Alex. He then goes on to explain the feeling of speed you get from being deeper in the water, connecting more deeply with the wave and how he loves the way you can do whole rail grab turns or whip it back off the fin even on the smallest of waves. When I asked about the drawback of riding hulls, Alex explains, “they can be tricky with the waves here in Cornwall, which can make you do some weird surfing. If you want to surf hulls though, then you just get on with it. I enjoy knowing I have my own unique style when I surf and don’t care if it looks weird.”

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Alex Rowse

This journey of hull riding excess started when Alex purchased a Michael Peterson inspired Fineline Surfboards Hull, whilst visiting California. “I bought the board after becoming interested in MP’s surfing but when I took it down to the beach I had a terrible time trying to ride it. They really are hard to work out at first but I was stuck with using it as I had no other board.”

On that same trip Alex found himself at a party, where he met Brian Hilbers, owner and shaper of Fineline Surfboards. “Meeting Brian at the party was bizarre. He was so drunk that he dropped this big plastic mug full of booze on the floor, where it landed flat on its bottom and the entire contents bounced back up and all over him. But he just carried on with his manic explanation of riding hulls with out a pause,” says Alex. This chance encounter helped Alex to work the new board out and adjust his style to suit it.


Since then Alex hasn’t looked back and developed a quiver of Californian hulls, including boards by Ryan Lovelace as well as Brian Hilbers. This summer Alex joined the Empire Surfboards team and has been working with shaper Steve Croft to create hulls that are more forgiving at UK beach breaks. Steve explained how they achieved this – “basically, the boards have slightly less hull, a little more hip and are flatter or have slightly more vee in the tail than perhaps a classic California displacement hull would have. So, these hulls still displace water to sit deeper in the wave, have the trademark bladey rails and all the characteristics of riding a hull but will react quicker.

Hull concept board

I asked Alex what the best thing about riding displacement hulls is, “with a hull you can strip surfing back because you don’t you have to do lot of turns and that intrinsic feeling of speeding along in the wave, it’s just a blast.”

Photos by Alexa Poppe.

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