This is the final chapter in Tom Wegener’s journey into finless, paulownia board design. A journey which began back in 2005 and which took Tom across continents and borders of surf board design. Photos: Dane Peterson.
”The wing of genius was not bound to the earth by the cold and conventional rules of criticism, but was permitted to take its flight far and wide over the broad expanse of creation.”
[Prescott the Historian, 1847, on people before modern civilization.]
This is the state of finless surfing. Though it has been around for a very long time, it is still an art without rules. It is a blank canvas.
I would like to sincerely thank Angela and Howard of Drift for helping me document this story. I went to Europe in 2009 to ride the wave of alaia popularity and I asked Angela to help me edit the stories for Drift. At that time I was shaping and promoting alaias like crazy, but the story turned to the Tuna as the summer progressed. It became clear to me that pointy noses and sharp fins made for a dangerous mess in the crowded surf. The alaia had proven that truly elite surfing can be done on a much safer finless board with a rounded nose. The seeds for the Seaglass Project had been planted.
The Seaglass Project is about making a board that rides like an alaia once on the wave but then is easy to paddle and catch waves with. Drift’s articles capture the development and it is fun to go back and look at them. At that time the concept was just a dream. Now there are the two versions of the Seaglass; the Tuna with an EPS core that is glassed with fibreglass and epoxy. The second is the new Albacore that has an EPS core and a soft deck and bottom, like a boogie board. The Albacore flexes a lot and actually feels more like an alaia than the Tuna but it is a bit slower.
The above sequence shows Harrison Biden on the 4’11 Albacore.
Now there are three really good finless boards, the alaia, the Seaglass Tuna and the Seaglass Albacore. Each is unique. When I develop surfboards I always like to have three versions of the same basic design. That is the way to really understand what works and why.
This is so far away from when I started making finless alaia boards in 2005. Back then when you said you do not need fins for a board to go across the wave it was unbelievable. It was like telling someone to jack their car up, take the wheels off and the car will drive better.
This little video is a huge accomplishment for me. It is the completion of the vision I had two and a half years ago.
The Albacore is a revolutionary board. It takes the best of several types of surfing. First, it stand-up surfs really well. It is the easiest finless board to start on because the flex holds it into the wave and sliding out is not a problem on medium to small waves. Second, it rides prone really well. This is really important to me and many older surfers who have a bit of trouble standing in small surf or the bitter cold. There is nothing wrong with prone riding. Third, being finless makes it soooo much easier to transport, store, and you can ride the board right up to the sand. Fourth, dings are not a big issue. I still have not put a ding in the prototypes and I have been very hard on them! Fifth, they are readily available all over the world and they are not nearly as expensive as other boards.
I still work in my shed nearly every day making custom wood boards. That is my job and luckily my passion as well. But I like working with GSI also. With GSI anyone will be able to get a new Albacore in a few days for a reasonable price and experience a great board that I designed. This is not the case if you order a custom board from me. It will take months, the freight is outrageous and customs is a big headache. The strong Australian dollar makes the boards very expensive. Basically, almost no surfers around the world will ever touch a board that I made in my shed.
I have worked really hard to promote finless surfing. I think it is at the opposite end of the surfing scale from modern competition tri-fin surfing. You have to flow with the wave and get speed from good lines. I find it to be beautiful to watch. At Noosa I can spot a finless rider from hundreds of yards away in a second. The whole trim is so different. It is a dream realized to have a good, safe, readily obtainable finless board out there. I am extremely happy to be working with GSI who will distribute this board around the world.
For more information about my boards please visit my website.
For a rewind of what has been posted on Drift, please see these links. This is a summary of the posts which outline a journey:
After years of wood, I start looking to foam for a finless board. The wood will never make a board for the vast majority of surfers.
The Finless movement has caught on and there is a finless division in the Noosa Festival of surfing as well as in the Australian Titles. I made a video to help the surfers and the judges see the benefits of alaia style or finless surfing.