“We have just experienced the best Noosa Festival of Surfing ever!” That’s what Bob McTavish said as he watched Noosa’s first point peel perfectly for hundreds of metres during the Festival. It was as if Godly forces were at work, bringing in the swell of a lifetime to the points in time for the contest.
For Wegener Surfboards, the Festival was great fun and gave us lots of publicity. We caught up with hundreds of our best friends in our shack at surf city and revelled in the success of the finless surfing movement.
The Wegener week kicked off prior to the Festival, when we made a custom Olo for Dave Rastovich. We started with huge slabs of paulownia and spent two weeks milling, gluing, and shaping the wood into a fine 16-foot, 160-pound, solid surfboard. In the surf shack we oiled the board and Dave surfed at Granite Bay. Tears welled up in the eyes of the onlookers as Rasta skilfully steered the board across the walls of water just as the Hawaiian royalty had done in the distant past, demonstrating as he did so how surfing is truly the sport of kings.
The contest started with a free finless surfing exhibition, mainly on alaias and my new foam version of the alaia. The surf was absolutely perfect and the likes of Harrison Roach, Christian Wach and Taylor Jenson were happy to surf first point with no competition from other surfers. The viewers were very enthusiastic and the comment I heard most often was that the boards were much faster than anything they had seen before. Also, they couldn’t believe that a finless board could hold into a tube so well.
I was pleased to see that my new mini-tuna foam boards were surfing at a very high level alongside the alaias. I have been working on the foam tuna hulls recently, mixing them with flex from an EPS blank. I cannot believe how much water is displaced by the ‘Tuna’ tail – do check out the previous entry in this blog and how we learned about lift. The big rooster tail that Isaac Blyth is throwing out in this picture is formed because of the water rushing through the concave. Also, check out the line of spay thrown by Jacob Stuth as he does a bottom turn on his peanut. Jacob is still the master alaia rider.
During the week there was a shapers forum on surfboard design. There was the largest group of shapers I had ever seen and I was absolutely beside myself to share a stage with heroes like Bill Wallace, Bob McTavish, Mark Richards, Simon Anderson, and Peter Townsend. We each gave a bit of a talk on our contribution to surfboard design, and I spoke about how the surfer in the Diamond Head photo showed me about how the ancients had used concaves and parabolic rails.
[L to R] Simon Anderson, Mark Richards, Thomas Meyerhoffer, Phil Jarratt, PT holding the photo, Micky Munoz, Mike Henson, Bob McTavish, Bing, Joe Larkin, Bill Rice, Gordon Woods, Bill Wallace. And me talking.
There was plenty going on in the evenings, too. Richard Tognetti, the great Australian violinist, played live to surf clips including Derek Hynd riding finless at Jeffreys Bay. Jack McCoy hosted a night of short, living-room-style surf movies including Denny Auberg’s (he was there) Super-8 footage behind-the-scenes of ‘Big Wednesday’, and George Greenough’s new narration for the tuberiding sequences in ‘Innermost Limits’. One night, the real Gidget, Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, hosted a girls’ night out featuring fashion, stories, and music… The fun never ends during the Festival.
During the week the surf was pumping off its head all day long and surfers were soon weary from the hours paddling. After surfs, we relaxed in our Wegener shack in surf city and talked story. We had lots of time to contemplate where surfing is going and what surfers would like. It seemed to me that shapers have been focusing on fins on boards for a very long time and not looking at flex and twist in surfboards. The alaia is based on flex and the new foam tuna/alaias I am making are held into the wave by flex more than edges or concaves. I think I will be focusing on taking what we know about fins and the boards based around them and mixing them with the advantages of flex in the future.
One thing I have noticed is that almost all surfers want a light surfboard that is easy to transport yet can still catch waves. The alaia is the smallest and easiest board to travel with, as well as the best board in the world when on the wave, but it is very difficult to paddle. For the vast majority of surfers, the EPS foam tuna board will be a very good surfboard. It is very small and light, easy to paddle, extremely fast – which suits good surfers – and easy to belly board – which suits beginners. And, very important for today’s more crowded surf conditions, it is VERY SAFE to ride. There are no fins or sharp points and the foam is softer than regular boards.
My life as a surfboard maker has taken many twists and turns as I try new ways to ride waves. Nothing has been more surprising than the success of the alaia! Now I am taking a new direction to help more surfers enjoy the waves. I have been wrestling with the fact that I am experimenting with boards that are not green, and that I do not enjoy making – nothing is as good as wood in my book. But there is a place for these boards. I think surfing is a bit stuck with the domination of the tri-fin surfboard. Don’t get me wrong, these are good, but they’re a little one-dimensional. I think that this foam finless board will open up a wide range of surfing to the majority of surfers who are not interested in wood.