Guide to Short stubby boards and Planning Volume.
“What the hell is that?” Is a common question I hear as I unzip and whip out
my stick. I don’t ride anything over 5'9" at the moment, in fact I haven't for a few years now. I’m not a pre-pubescent grom, or a tubby midget. I’m 6'2", a huggable 14 stone and yet I can still paddle and surf a 5"8" x 18" 7/8" x 2 1/4" micro board without the aid of diving apparatus or floatation devices.
The said board is a Lost Rocket. Described as “A small to average wave all-rounder that can be effectively ridden 4" to 6" shorter, 1/8" thinner, and just slightly wider than your normal short board without sacrificing any carve or drive". They’re not lying either...
That basically translates to the most versatile, manoeuvrable, and fastest board I’ve ever placed my feet on and no this isn’t a CARVE promotion for Lost. Every shaper worth their planer is churning out these short n stubby rip sticks! The more famous ones are the Wizard Sleeve and the Dumpster Diver from the CI stable, Firewire´s Dominator, Pete Daniel´s Fang, Teqoph´s Module, Rusty Dwart, etc.
So What´s Occurin?
The idea is to hide volume, by marrying two templates, one long and gunny, the other short and loose. Flatten out and tweak the rocker, refine the concaves for maximum lift and the rails for drive and forgiveness. Hey presto, you have yourself a sweet little micro stub (I've yet to find a name, and this one's growing on me) with all the drive, speed and manoeuvrability you could possibly want. Plus it’s sub six foot so will go through BA’s barmy board system!
If I’ve lost you during that shaper drivel then we’ll look at the car world as an example. Take a good, fast car, the Lotus Elise. That’s the equivalent of a high performance thruster. We then takeaway any unnecessary parts, refine it’s aerodynamics, get it race ready, and voila a Lotus Exige is born.
Boom - that’s what we’re talking about. These stubby wide-ish boards are hi-performance thrusters with all the unnecessary shit cut out! However to make them more versatile we can offer them with all the modern 5, 4, 3 or 2 fin options, plus we can give it some rad new, performance suggestive name. Not too sure what the Wizards Sleeve suggests though?!
Okay so I understand that, but how do you hide volume in something that is 6-18 inches shorter?
Well you can’t, but you can increase its planing characteristics. Your board might seem like a small bit of foam, but it’s very clever. It’s a foil like an aeroplane wing. Whenever you sit on it acts as a displacement hull, it keeps you afloat. However as soon as water passes underneath it creates lift. Which is why you can stand on it when riding a wave but not when waiting for a set! So these micro stubs have tons of planing area up front to help you paddle and catch waves. They have something I call ‘planing volume.’ Where the board lacks foam, it makes up with lift through hull design i.e. concaves.
Is this concept new? Some say it all started with Slater at the end of 2008, others say it’s nothing new - they’re just fish right?
Well, yes they’re both right. Slater definitely woke the surfing world up with his impressive demonstration at the ‘08 Pipe Masters on a 5'11" Deep Six. He said he just played around with his 7'0" K-Step and 6'0" K-Board templates to create a little board that would fit better in barrels. The fact that he could paddle into solid six to eight foot Pipe bombs without falling out the sky was impressive enough. The true outcome was that he left his opponents for dust, and the surfing world confused and questioning whether their 6'10" step-ups are the right choice.
Knowingly or by sheer accident this concept has been around since 1950’s. Bob Simmons and Tom Blake, some of the earliest pioneers, were always cutting boards down to the minimum. The mini Simmons seems to be making a come back. However it looks and surfs a little like a door with twin fins in, so it's only going to be a novelty. Mr Biolos, your boards are amazing, but please “The Plank” you serious?
Ok, but Slater was the first to use in competition?
Nope, once again, Slater has just followed the path of his mentor and idol, Tom Curren. Any 16 year olds who are asking “who?” put this article down, NOW, go into YouTube, type in “Tom Curren – fish hunt” and watch how a bottom turn should be done. Plus it’ll make you think Fish aren’t just for junk waves, and you can see where Slater adopted his style from too.
TC has been pushing the boundaries since the late 80´s and definitely into the early 90’s with his alternative boards. He was the first to ride huge Indo reefs on nothing but a 5'7" Fireball channel step bottom fish by Tommy Peterson. In fact he turned up to the Rip Curl Pro in Hossegor in the mid 90’s, with a second hand 70s fish he found in New Jersey, surfed it and kicked ass. So where Slater seems to be pushing things, he’s merely just carrying on what Curren started.
All the top air freaks such as Ozzie Wright, Nathan Fletcher on his Stretch quad, even his brother Christian in late 80’s, Ratboy on his M10's, Cory Lopez, Chris Ward, and the rest of the Lost boys on their 5'5" x 19-1/4" fishes. They’ve all been part of what we’re seeing now. Rasta’s been a major contributor too but in a slightly more pure, zen like way. What I’m saying is the quest for a skatey little board to stay under your feet has been in the running for decades now.
What were seeing with the likes of Dane’s and Kelly’s are just the more refined and versatile versions. Which brings me onto Dane’s Dumpster Diver. He’s an aerialist, a powerhouse, and general freak of nature. His DD is a different beast. It still has this hidden volume concept, but a lot subtler. Compare it to Kelly’s nosey boards and you’ll see what I mean. I think the Dumpster Diver is just the start of things to come. It’s an 80’s style board with a very modern twist. Shapers will probably do to it, what they did to the 70s fish. It’s hard to say as there are a lot of sceptics stating his surfing looks messy and the spray off his turns aren’t as good. Anyone who saw him riding it at Snapper this year can make up their own minds up. But come on! I thought Fanning had the fastest and tightest hacks, then Dane paddled out for a few!
So after reading this we should all have them right?
Whoa there Johnny... Put your credit card away! These boards are not for your average Joe, not yet anyway. If you can’t surf a standard shortboard well, as in pump effectively and generate your own speed, not flap and bounce. Then yes, check out your favourite shapers site and get on one. They are the future and you won’t be disappointed. They have to plane, so you need to be able move them to generate speed effectively. They seem to be one of those rare boards that wherever you want to go, they’ll come with you. When you turn, they just come along, they don’t get dragged behind.
If you haven’t felt or understood what I just wrote there, then they’re not for you. I’m not trying to be condescending, just truthful. If you’re not at a competent shortboard level, buying one is going to be a harmful. Firstly to your performance and style and finally to your wallet. You will look a little cooler walking around in the car park though!
So for those of you who still apply, don't get confused. These are not small wave boards. You need something with lots of width for that and these aren’t them. There are a few exceptions in this style but you still can’t beat something fishy. They are, however, your true all rounder board. Waist high to overhead, maybe even double overhead are in their general range. Fin changes can dial them in even more, so quad for hold and drive, tri for general and twin it for fun.
These boards are about to dominate the line-ups, probably not on sloppy days, but definitely the perfect travel board. A one-board quiver may have arrived, finally. Let's just hope you don’t snap it on your first wave!