Headed for the Homeland
22 ~ May 2012
These shapes predominately inspired by designs from San Diego are headed back to their roots via ship today. 8 Channel – Alan Byrne/Jim Pollard – Fish – Frye outlines, Simmons Keels, Vee bottoms with modern rails. Glassed by Simon Jones. Fins by Robbie Marshall. Triangle series – 3/3. Done and dusted.
22 ~ April 2012
Dreamboard tails and Dreamboard fins foiled by Robbie Marshall. The fins lie in waiting for the boards, each board and fin unique in their own subtle way, the maker attempting perfection but falling short, creating human character. Is it this human character that hatches the “magic board”? Robbie’s fins lie next to Lost in the Ether, a 100 page book and 60 minute film discussing the process of design and how some shapes move across the water. There’s less than 100 left. Not to be re-printed.
Some New Dream Boards in the Making
09 ~ April 2012
These boards are going over to San Diego. Some custom orders. It will be interesting here how they go over there as 90% of the design has roots in that area. Simmons keel template. Skip Frye board Template.
Dave Parmenter - extract from Lost in the Ether interview March 2007
06 ~ December 2011
Andrew: Dave how did you get started?
Dave: From when I started surfing I just always loved surfboards. I rode every kind of board I could get, no matter how shitty. I was in California and it was in the early 70’s, you could get a Hobie 10’2” for $25 bucks, you could still go in and get the transition boards too, like a 7’10” Challenger Micro Vee. All that stuff was floating around, everything under the sun was there at Newport Beach, if you were a little grem you could borrow boards, I just fell in love with surfboards. They’d always give me chicken skin.
Even when I was a professional at the O.P. Pro I’d be sitting up in the bleachers, in that hum drum existence, just watching endless guys surfing the same boards in the same way. And I’d watch because all of the kooks would come out of
Fountain Valley or Downey, they’d walk up and down the beach for miles and they’d just have the most bizarre boards under their arms. Sometimes they would just turn them a certain way, or the shadow would hit it and it’d make it look like something it wasn’t and I used to just trip on that for ever. I would just see things, and it would make me itch to get in the shaping room.
I like bad boards more than good boards; because a lot of the best shapers their boards have gotten so good that the boards are just sterilised, they’re so antiseptic that there’s just nothing there. When you look at a really weird board that came out of a garage ten or twenty years ago and some guy had an idea and no skill, there’s just some weird elements to it that trips your imagination and you think “if I did this, if I refined this,” sometimes the penny just drops.
That’s what drives me to go in the shaping bay every day. It’s almost like that feeling of surf exploring where you never know what’s around the bend, like you can make a mistake or you can decide to take a shortcut and you come up with something that improves your surfing.
Andrew: That part where you get lost in the shaping process, can you explain that? Or is it like surfing - kind of hard to explain?
Dave: I think Fitzy said it best once, “It’s like long distance driving on a familiar road,” you know at night when you’re driving home, you’re listening to the radio, you’re zoning out, you start thinking about other things, or who you’re making the board for and you just get lost. You come out of it just like you’ve come out of a spell. The other thing you’re doing is every step of the way the board is coming together, it’s getting better. It’s nice to do something where you’re seeing progress. If you’re a doctor you just do these tasks and you don’t always see an improvement. But with a surfboard you just see the thing come together. Sometimes during the process you’ll hit a panic point where you do something wrong or you get a ding, or you’ll get a bubble, something kind of wakes you up and you go, “Shit now I gotta deal with this!” you cope with it and you move on and the board still comes out in the wash. And I always liked that feeling of coming into some unexpected problem with the blank, freaking out for a minute, but it ends up coming out.
Andrew: It’s a tough industry to make a living from…
Dave: If you want to freak yourself out sometime and feel like a dinosaur in this day and age, here I am trying to squeeze money out of this thing where I’m making something by hand in a world where that just doesn’t matter anymore. Everything is just stamped out by a cookie cutter somewhere. As well as being a writer in a world where nobody reads anymore, you can really feel like your time has past. Surfboard economics - on paper it seems like if I shape X amount of boards a month and I get this much, then I’ll have this much take home pay. But it never works out. Your bill cycles are every month, but your surfboards and how long you have to wait for them to turn around and get your cash flow going are like three months. Then you give boards to people, shops don’t pay you.
What really pisses you off is you read these magazines where guys don’t have any understanding about surfboard design are getting credit as “Shaper of the Year” where a lot of the boards that the pros ride I could guarantee you if you wanted to do a test - a double blind randomised trial - you could take them all off the shaping machine, finish them and mix the logos, and no one would no the difference. It’s the phycology of the logo, and I’m not going to name names, but when they see that logo, it’s that logo that matters. That comes from pouring money into promotion and being in bed with the magazines.
Andrew: Which gets back to the satisfaction you get when you’re making boards for yourself. There’s so much joy in it.
Dave: It is joyful and every surfer should do it. The blanks are available everywhere, most of the materials you can get at hardware stores and they’re pretty safe materials, they are not really that dangerous. Maybe the acetone is not good, but by in large it is something you can do in a garage by just flipping a bookshelf upside down. Pad the legs and shape a board by lamp -light, with a dust mask. There’s no excuse not to do it - every surfer should do it, they should get in there and shape a surfboard. It’s part of the experience, and it always has been and it’s even easier now, the blanks are fantastic - there’s no reason if you’re a surfer and you consider yourself a real surfer to not go and shape boards for yourself - if for no other reason other than to appreciate what they eventually get when they go back and have an experienced craftsman do it for them.
I would just like to stress to people no matter how bad it turns out it’s going to work. That’s the thing I tell people when I teach them to shape. And there’s no excitement in your life (outside of surfing Waimea for the first time) then getting that board glassed and waxing it up and running out to the surf.
Like Baddy Trealor in Morning of the Earth that whole feeling is it. I still get that when I make a new board and I can’t wait to see if it’s going to be a dud or it’s going to be magic. And there’s nobody in between.
I remember reading Fitzy when I was a kid and he talked about the concept of the ‘Total Surfer’ - a guy that made his own surfboards, he understood all that, he was an international citizen, he travelled around the world and surfed all the places, you transcend being Australian, you’re a world citizen and I kind of like that idea of being the “Total Surfer” - being able to control what is under your feet and having a working knowledge of all the world’s great waves, so if you build boards for people overseas you at least know what they are talking about - that there’s a difference between Mundaka, Bells and Sunset and that would only help your ability. No matter where you are in the world you can hit the ground running with your tools and go into a shaping bay and shape boards for people. That gypsy shaper thing - that always appealed to me.
When you get to a point when you can control the components, well, then, there’s always that next level. You can always keep learning.
Skip Frye Interview - 2005
19 ~ November 2011
Extract from All About the Speed a 6000 word Skip Frye interview first published in Ether 2005
Interview by Richard Kenvin and Andrew Kidman
In 2005, Richard and I sat down with Skip, at his shaping bay in San Diego, to talk about his surfing and shaping life, his relationship with the fish and his take on its resurgence. This interview with Skip is one in a series of interviews that Richard has collected during the making of Hydrodynamica.
Richard: I’d kind of like to get your take on Simmons and Greenough and McTavish, and the ‘baby board’ and all that.
Skip: I’d just say that, back in the longboard days, things were pretty basic - mostly just rails. Rails would fatten up and thin out. In fact, right at the end of the longboard era, rails got really knifey. They were tryna get release; they almost pointed them to an edge, so they’d go faster.
Greenough was definitely the guy that stimulated the change. That was just him, going to Australia and the Australians seeing what he was doing on his shell. He was a pretty hi-tech guy, and he was the first guy to cut fins down. I would read the Australian magazines and I got pretty stimulated by what I read, but mainly fins. In fact, I was one of the first guys around here to cut some area out of the fin, to get it to flex a little bit. Which really helped the board a lot. The first flex fins were really raked a lot; they could have been more pivotal but, still, it helped the board out so much, compared to the big rudders we were using.
Stevie Lis was probably motivated by Greenough. He was a kneeboarder; he was the best kneeboarder round here, by far. I didn’t see many, but I saw Stevie a lot. And Rex Huffman, Skinner… there was a number of other guys that were really good. But Stevie… All I know was: the fastest that I ever saw anybody go, probably to this day right now, was him riding a kneeboard. He’d chop off a turn and do a hyperspace across a wall, way faster than anybody else.
So, with the fish, I’ve always been attracted to things with speed. The fish looked fast, or went fast, so I was definitely attracted to that. So, I kind of just learned from Stevie and pretty much adopted, closely, what he was doing with the fish. I made a fish pretty much like he did and I had a quiver of them - about four or five fish at one point - and they really went good.
Later on, the fish kind of disappeared and it was really Derek Hynd… If I had to point to one guy who was responsible for the stimulus and the resurrection of the fish, it would be Derek Hynd. He had a twin fin background and he liked real short boards. The locals at Jeffreys told him about when Bunker Spreckles came through and rode the fish. I guess Bunker impressed them pretty much and it stimulated Derek’s interest. I knew Derek before that point, and he knew that I did do a little work with the fish, so he approached me and had me build one for him. I think the first one was 5’10” and pretty standard; it was 9 x 5’s on the keels, like the old ones.
He took it back to Jeffreys and Tommy Curren rode it. It got in the movies and Derek definitely talked it up, so that is the beginning of what we see now. Ten or twelve years later, it’s probably the most prolific shape being made on the planet.
Andrew: How was Lis in the shaping bay?
Skip: He was the man. He was the Godfather of the thing. He still hasn’t gotten enough credit for it. He was the original man. I know there was a little controversy: that Nuuhiwa and Brewer might have made the first fish. And there was a thing where the locals hung Nuuhiwa’s fish on the OB pier, in the ‘68 world contest, because of that controversy. All I know is: that Stevie Lis was the first guy I ever saw on a fish, and he went faster than I ever saw anybody go. That’s all I know. I never saw anybody else in that realm. He’s it; everything I know came from what he did. Stevie Lis needs more recognition for what he’s done - in that respect, especially. He’s still designing different stuff.
Richard: What do you remember about McTavish and those guys, coming over here, and the experience of riding the ‘baby board’?
Skip: Well, the ‘baby board’ was when McTavish and George came down one day. It’s actually the only time I’ve ever sat with George and talked with him a little bit. The ‘baby board’ was a balsa board - single fin, at that time; it might have been a twin fin at one time but they didn’t talk about it. I think it was a 7’6” and I rode it at the South Jetty, at Ocean Beach. The surf wasn’t real good, but it felt pretty good. It rode good.
Richard: What year was that?
Skip: Early seventies, probably - it was definitely after the shortboard revolution. In fact, I got a letter, right before we went down to Australia with the Windansea club, in late ‘67. The Australians were already going off on the shortboard thing. They were doing vee bottoms and everything, and McTavish sent me a letter, with diagrams and fly-paper. The letter got lost, but it was probably the most electric letter I’ve ever gotten, from any surfer since I’ve been surfing, on design and development.
If you’ve ever met McTavish, he’s just such an electric guy. You can’t help but be around him and not start going off yourself. He’s got this charisma and this electricity, and he’s always stimulated. He’s like this little gremlin, or something, and he just starts going. Even in his letter, I could see it. And then, when I met him, it was totally that way.
Richard: When did you first meet?
Skip: When I first went down to Australia. He had these space age boards… I remember, I went to Keyo’s and he had this one with all kinds of channels and concaves. At that time, it was so space age. There was a lot of boards kinda like that, but this board was the most radical board I’d ever seen.
Extract from a Conversation with Alan Byrne about Channel Pioneer Jim Pollard
07 ~ November 2011
Last year I took a trip up to Currumbin to visit Alan Byrne and talk to him about the influence Jim Pollard had on his life. Alan still shapes out of the old Hot Stuff factory - with the original sign. Alan made some of the great Hot Stuff boards in the late 70’s and early 80’s for the likes of Rabbit, Chappy and Kong. Most of Alan’s work from this period featured the Clinker Channel. When I walked in off the street Alan was taking a break, reading the paper and listening to the radio. There was a hand painted sign up on the back wall that read: Surfboards up to 6’11” - $650 - channels $700 up to 7’11” - $700 - channels $750.” His shaping bay had about six foot of foam dust piled up in each corner, “I still shape them all out of the blank mate,” he told me. “That’s just a reminder to people I sill use a planer.” I talked to him about Pollard for a while, ordered a board from him (a period 1980 single fin, double flyer swallow, channel bottom) and left him to his business. Legend.
AK: In your opinion was Jim a masterful shaper? Because the foil of the orange board is just beautiful, for the period it’s very modern.
AB: I think he was. To conceptually come up with something like that and then to apply it and to make it work as well as it did. The boards just looked beautiful, you know how there’s boards down the beach and you’ll notice them from 200 metres away and you go “Whoa, look at that one.” Jim’s boards had that. I think he was a brilliant shaper. It’s sad that he didn’t step it up and take it further because obviously mentally his brain worked right, he was just one of those people that was outside the whole fucken loop.
It’s weird because I stood in the shaping room with him and he talked to me about the concept and I swear I’ve never heard anything of him ever again. I’ve never managed to contact him ever again. I never saw those boards evolve into anything else. They got to the one third back from the nose phase and “Bang” he was gone. It’s a mystery in a way what happened to him. He was a skinny little eccentric surfboard maker - you could almost mistake Chris Garret for him…(laughs)
When he lit up on the theory and application of them it was just mesmerising.
AK: Did he have a theory?
AB: Oh yeah, he knew everything about what he was talking about, there was no confusion with him. He was saying that utilising the nose to tail and the flow of water that would run down the board. he was explaining how water approached the front of the board and proposing where the water is going as it travels under the board and how do you store some of the energy and release it. If you start thinking about the way the water would run through the bottom of that orange board you can see there that he is effectively taking water from the front and then squeezing it Venturi Style and doing it over a three barrelled setup so there’s not a concentration of too much water building up, squeezing it fractionally and then letting it run out through the tail. He was analysing the flow over the whole bottom and then he put the dome between the middle of your feet where the action was and that gave the board the rolly-polly feel and then he’d stored all this energy in the channels and was squirting it out through the tail.
The thing that is frozen in my mind is the dome: it’s easier to visualise it than to put it into words. It makes complete sense, when he told me this light just came on, his explanation was brilliant, to this day everything in the bottom of what I do is applying those same principles with a different process.
He said that surfboards aren’t like any other thing in the ocean: they don’t have a motor, they don’t have a sail, they are not driven by any other thing other than the fact that you rise and fall on the face of a wave, so it was brilliant the way he developed a way to use all that water running down a surfboard and to not waste it. He was just so enthralled by what he was doing and no-one wanted to listen very much.
He was so convinced that he was right that he went to the Naval Institute in Tasmania to talk to these people about it. He spoke to an admiral there and he told them this is a concept applicable to global ocean going vessels because there’s always swell running, and that those boats should be able to utilise the power of a running swell and use the surfing aspect of it to save fuel. He told them that this idea will enable a hull to utilise the speed of a swell. The admiral said he’d never seen anything like it, that it was totally revolutionary and that they’d look into it and low and behold Jim disappeared.
AK: How important has his influence been on your shaping?
AB: That moment where he explained it to me, that was one of those moments in my life where I was at the crossroads and he made me turn and follow a different direction away from everyone else.
AK: Have you got any idea where he got the idea from?
AB: I think it was just a flash of intuitive brilliance. The fact was that Smitty just blew people’s minds in Hawaii, but I think people struggled with what Jim was doing and it was too left of centre, like “That’s pretty weird man” even with the clinker channels there has always been naysayers like, “Why don’t the pros ride them?”
AK: Anything else?
AB: If he’s still alive tell him fucken thank you. He was one of those bright stars that flitted through the night sky and disappeared again. He changed my world.
Flexing it with Michael Mackie
31 ~ October 2011
This interview with Michael Mackie is an extract from the Lost in the Ether film/book project, released December 2010
Andrew: That whole Winterstick fish thing, how did you come across that?
Michael: I came across it from when I was a young boy looking at Surfing World Magazine. Somehow the article that Richard Palmer wrote stuck with me for all those years. Eventually through going snow boarding it coupled up with my fish boards, I thought that I’d try and deepen the swallows and flex the tails.
Andrew: What attracted you to that design? There must have been something in Richard’s article that resonated with you.
Michael: Just the beautiful aesthetic of the snowboard that Milovich had made. I like the aesthetic of the swallowtail. Richard Palmer was basically showing the people in Australia snowboarding for the first time.
Andrew: What year was that?
Michael: 1979, I think the article came out in 1980 in Bruce and Hugh’s magazine.
Andrew: When did you start tinkering around with shaping those crossover designs?
Andrew: Can you feel the similarities between this board and the Winterstick?
Michael: Yeah I can. Just from sinking the tail and riding off one pin at a time. You get a nice slice off either piece of the swallow and also the whip out of the tail - which you get out of a flexing snowboard. I can feel those similarities, because in powder snow you can push and sink the tail and whip out of your turns - the surfboard is in a softer medium (which is water) so you’re sinking and flexing the tail. The swallowtail seems to work.
Andrew: These other Fish that you’re doing, where did the inspiration for them come from?
Michael: It all came from toying with my own ideas at the start. They came from Skip Frye’s board, that one that Curren rode years ago at Jeffery’s. My brother-in-law Pete was pretty into me playing around with it and we just played around with it. It was just a private thing. Other guys became a little bit interested, but it didn’t really take off.
Andrew: Why did you put the side-cut into the rail?
Michael: That comes directly from the Dimitrije Winterstick.
Andrew: What do you think that does?
Michael: Well, you’re following the curve, so it gives you a little extra whip in and out of your turns. It gives you a little extra drive out of turns; it shortens up the arc a bit out of the end of your cutbacks. It flicks you - gives you a flick - it’s like a radius you’re turning off. It’s excellent off the wash and in that last hook, when you go into a roundhouse cutback - that’s where it really applies. Rodney Ball, he had all that kind of stuff in his boards, back in the 70’s, he called them Ski Tails. Like what Terry Fitz did with the sidecut in his Screwdriver. It all comes back from my childhood, and the interest in design - the whole gamut of design, so to speak.
To read more of this interview see:
The limited edition Lost in the Ether film/book project is available in the shop.
And for work by Michael Mackie see:
Single in the West
31 ~ October 2011
This single fin went over to West Oz during the winter. Shape and ink by yours truly. *See single splice in the surfboard section for dimensions and thoughts.
Glassing by Simon Jones.
Response to shape by the owner: “Just wanted to let you know that my board is magic, it takes me to places on a wave that no other board has before. This makes me very happy.”
Some Winter Shapes
29 ~ October 2011
This board was shaped for my mate Brett in New Zealand. Keeping with the football themes he wanted it red and blue like the Owaka Rugby Union jumper. I painted his home break in the red panel in ink.
The board is based on Simon Anderson’s original ‘81 Thruster, with a flat bottom under the front foot that leads into a panel-vee that runs out through the tail. The vee stiffens the board up, whilst helping to get it on rail. The board was glassed and finned by Simon Jones. Test pilot was Brett’s son Jake, whom is obviously from New Zealand, cause he’s in boardies in the middle of winter.