An adventure in trim………
About five or six years ago I was reading an interview with Jimmy Gamboa in the now defunct Longboard Magazine. In amongst the obligatory pictures of Jimmy hanging ten and hanging out was a picture captioned “Jimmy on the Liddle egg at the place it was designed for.” The picture shows Jimmy demonstrating what I now know to be the classic hull bottom turn, crouched low, six feet of his seven foot board buried up to the stringer as he looks up to the lip of the slightly overhead, perfectly shaped Rincon righthander.
In the text Jimmy talked of his disillusionment with professional longboarding and the lack of support it recieves and of how the chance loan of a board by his neighbour turned him on to a whole new feel in surfing, that of the midlength displacement hull.
At the time I was starting to look away from a surfing experience totally defined by nine foot plus equipment and being heavily influenced by Tudor at the time, the idea of single fin eggs appealed. I find I am often drawn towards things at the edges, little niches that do not have mainstream appeal, both in surfing & in life. I spent a fair amount of time scouring the internet for information about hulls. Back then, Greg Liddle’s site was pretty much the only source of information I found. It seemed no one on this side of the pond knew anything about them, they were hard to surf and unless you lived on a right hand pointbreak, getting one was pointless. So that was that for a while.
Fast forward a few years and, if like me, you keep an eye on what’s happening in California, all of a sudden references to these quirky craft started to pop up again. The odd picture started to surface, Gamboa briefly appeared in Sprout on a hull, Surfers Journal featured Alex Kopp’s film in production “Displacement” and Swaylocks design forum boasted a Hull thread over thirty pages long. My interest was piqued again.
At the same time, but for quite different reasons i came into contact with a couple of UK based surfers already riding hulls successfully in our waves. Always looking for new sliding experiences I decided to take the plunge, sold a couple of boards and my hull journey had begun.
Step forward Mr Tim Mason, underground shaper, sometime importer of fine Californian logs and shaper of some beautiful hulls. Despite living some way from the coast (and spending a lot of time in his car as a result) Tim is a real fount of knowledge on board design and hulls in particular and is quietly turning out some of the most well made boards I have seen on this side of the atlantic. I spent a lot of time discussing different shapes with Tim, Michael Rooke, another British hull afficionado, and Spencer Kellog, a US shaper Tim makes boards under licence for. It all made for a super custom order experience, something that was refreshing to find still alive and well in these days of off the rack, mass produced “cookie cutter” surfboards.
We eventually settled on a 6’10 roundtail with the widepoint 6″ ahead of center rather than the 8″ that Liddles classic pointbreaker design boasts. Wide point position is one of the key design features with hulls and a less extreme position keeps the board more versatile in non rincon style waves. The other key features would be an almost complete absence of rocker, an “S” deck profile and really foiled out rails (as well as the spoon shaped bottom contour of course). The final ingredient is a nice flexy, handfoiled fin positioned much further up the board than looks natural. This is personal opinion but I think a well shaped hull is one of the most pleasing and organic surfboard shapes, all flowing curves and no hard edges.
I must admit to a certain amount of trepidation as I walked to the sea’s edge, board under arm, for the first time. After much anticipation the moment was now at hand, what was the hull “feel” really like? Were they really as difficult to ride as their reputation? Would it work in a beach break? Were small onshore waves really the ideal conditions for it’s first go out?
The board paddled fine and after a couple of minutes I stroked into my first wave and gingerly got to my feet. The first few rides were pretty short and I wont deny the board felt wierd, really slippy and tippy like an old 60’s longboard with the fin in the wrong place. Then I got a wave that walled up, nursed a sort of mid face turn into trim, weight forward and “oh my goodness!” I dont think I have enjoyed going in a straight line in trim so much since I rode my first unbroken wave.
Since then I’ve had a few sessions in semi lined waves although I’m still waiting for a classic day to light up the local line ups. The board has a very different feel through the water compared to anything else in my quiver, one of my friends compared it to riding a bar of soap and it’s certainly true that the design requires a different approach to most other shapes. I have had some fantastic fun already and really that is what surfing is supposed to be about. It’s a very smooth feel and the projection around sections as you bottom turn has been quite jaw dropping in the distance covered, with a definate feeling of spring out of the fin.
Hulls aren’t for everyone, I think they are more about the personal experience of riding the wave rather than any ability to show off to onlookers. Maybe they are a more pure surfing experience as a result? I don’t think they are as hard to ride as people make out, especially if you have a mental picture of the lines they draw and a background in non-thruster equipment. So far my log & fish experience has transferred well. I certainly do see what the fuss is about and I can see their quirkiness becoming an addiction, I think the 6’10 is going to be in fairly heavy rotation from now on. One thing is definately true, as the californians say “it’ll sure make you re-examine & re-define your surfing!”