Evolution of surfboard design

surfers_evolutionSo, the latest evolution in the FFW Surfboards design process is curing … damn, don’t ya just hate the waiting to cure process!

Anyway, while the surf is not doing much around here today, I thought I would look back at the evolution of the design process for this ‘all rounder’.

It all started with the ‘forty one’ … why that name? Simple. I made it for my 41st birthday.

Then, it was tweaked, to take some “excess” foam from the front third, and pulled the tail in a bit. This one became known as the ‘forty one’ II … pretty simple naming process!

That design was then tweaked further with the addition of the full concaves into the AKU Shaper design software. Now, if you have not read here already, I can not believe how accurate the software, to cut board, process works. It is amazing, so much so, that with the first two boards, I was tentative with what I saw on the screen against what I thought the cut board would come out like … well, no more, and with this evolution of the ‘all rounder’ which I’ve tagged as the ‘forty one two’ – mkII

Which brings us to this latest incarnation of the ‘all rounder’ … the ‘forty one two’ – mkIII … which has the lower rails, refined concave ‘shape’ and ‘depth’ with a slight reduction in the overall width … but, keeping the volume basically the same as the previous board.

So, what did I learn with each of the design tweaks?

The first board, the ‘forty one’, as I’ve posted on here felt like it had too much foam in the front third and had too much overall volume. It felt too “big” in the front half of the board, and lacked some turning ability which I know was due to the tail, because having pulled that it on the next one, the turning ability dramatically improved. What I also found was in using the design software, adding in concave … yeah, get your head around that first … you add the concave by pulling down the edge of the rail … so, the volume in terms of ‘thickness’ can be reduced when you add in the concave via the design software.

This also, made me realise, that when I did the first board, because it was cut flat, when I hand shaped in the concave I actually flattened the rocker … so, by using the design software and adding in the concave, I ended up with a better rocker. This however, left me with a board that had a funny ‘keel’ under my front foot as I pushed the double under the front foot … only to realise that it could be smoothed by pulling one of the design points, so that now in this latest one, the ‘forty one two’ – mkIII the keel is gone and the shape of the concave has been “smoothed” out …

The current one I’m surfing performs well, in waves that are not flat … it likes a wave with more shape, does not have to be big, but needs to have some shape, otherwise it’s just dead … in small surf, it gets up and goes, actually all of them have, which has been a surprise, but the difference in performance with each is noticeable once the waves get some shape and I can actually ‘surf’ the boards. This last one, likes coming off the bottom and a can fly off the top, when I put the energy into it … if I’m a bit slack, it bogs, but if I can give it the energy and make sure I hit the top turns in the right spots, it comes off the top very nicely. In some running waves during some point surfs last week, it was awesome … I even managed one small little runner that become a bottom turn, sliding, lose fin top turn, slide, back to bottom turn over and over down the line. Fun!

The other aspect with the mkII version, is it’s comfort in tubes … I think I’ve had more green room time on this one board, than any other board I have ever ridden. I seem to get into waves easier (maybe the light weight blank giving it some more zip?) and so can get into waves behind the peak  so I can then tuck under the pitching lip … where, previously, I would get pitched, or have to surf around the breaking section having been caught up in the lip …

So, I’m now waiting for this latest one to cure so I can go surf it!

Fins = confidence to design?

confidenceAs I wrote a while back, I have been trying different fins in the latest evolution of the “Forty One Two”. Now that I’ve found the right fins, I have the confidence to tweak the design. Weird I know!

As you may have read, this latest board has a lot of lift, get up and go, but with that, lacking some control.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no athlete, or high performance surfer. Rather, your average bloke in his early forties, who is lucky enough to get to surf almost every day. So I am “surf fit” and have some experience, having started surfing just over 30 years ago.

As I wrote previously, I started with Performance Core K2.1’s and then put in some of the Parko JP5 fins.  I ended up deciding to try some AM2 fins, and bought an “after market” copy of what I thought were AM2’s … the first give away should have been the poor fit, with a gap between the base of the fins and the board. I sanded the tabs so it would fit flush, but the base of the fin had a curve, so I had to give the corners near the tabs a sand too …  after surfing the fins for a while I concluded there was something still wrong.

Thinking board issues, I decided to double check the finished dimensions of the board.

Now, that was an eye opener … what it said in AKU Shaper, is within a bees dick of the finished board. I checked the concave shape and depth, both single and double and they were as per the AKU design, and what I had wanted … although, I was starting to think it may have been the depth that was causing the performance issues … more depth, more lift, less control?

Or, maybe outline issues I had not figured out yet.

In the process, I decided to check the fin cant, toe, etc … well the toe was the same as other boards I had, but the fin cant was the shock. I had asked for 6 degree cant (when I had the board glassed) and that’s what I got … BUT, all the other boards that I had liked over the last few years had more, some 8 degree’s, other around 7. Each board having concave, I measured from the stringer across to get a ‘true’ comparison.

Lesson there … check what your riding!

OK, back to the fins.

It was at this stage, I checked the after market AM2 fins against some genuine AM2. They were different, and with that knowledge it filled the gaps with what I was feeling with the board. I had thought the AM2 would add drive, but less than the JP5 fins, and maybe a tad less than the JP5 with K2.1 centre fin combo, but more than all the K2.1’s. Same with the pivot … a mid way solution which was what I needed. What I had found was less drive, like way less, no punch off the bottom and a weird release off the top feeling, like it got “stuck” … I was really starting to doubt my design process.

After comparing the after market AM2 with the genuine AM2, things fell into place. But I still was not getting what I wanted from the board.

So, I went around to see the boys (Tank, Elvis and Foils) at Shapers … As usual they were more than happy to help, well Tank was, the other two were off loafing somewhere as usual. Tank went through a heap of fins and options with me, and after a process of elimination he lent me some Asher Pacey AP02 fins to try …

Whooah, that’s what’s been missing! I used the AP02 sides with a slightly bigger ‘nuke’ back fin … very nice, and just what was missing.

First wave, punched off the bottom, vertical, and off the top with pace. I was not ready for it. Over the session, I found the combination was great and all the ‘issues’ seemed to dissolve. Cutbacks had speed to burn coming out of them and I did not feel like I had to ‘muscle’ the board to get it around … The AP02, being a tad bigger than K2.1, there was  no lack of control.

So, now having found the right fins, I feel confident that the design is OK. So it’s time to tweak it … look out MkIV is on the way!

I’m keen to hear if anyone is finding fin changes are radically changing the performance of their boards. What fins do you use? How have they changed the performance of your board? How have the changed the way you surf a wave?

Ride Report: float, marbles and fins?

Well, first things first, I’ve gotta say that this self design custom surfboard process is amazing. The precision of the design through to machine cut is brilliant and with that the end result is what I have envisaged … and for $330 for effectively a ‘custom’ quality short board, the economics add to the stoke.

Do you get the impression I’m enjoying this process?

OK, so now the new one has been ridden for the last few weeks. At first paddle it felt like it had less ‘float’ than the last couple of boards. That surprised me, since the volumes are all the same … all around the 30.4 litres. What I’ve concluded is that it is the different blank. This one was cut from a ‘standard’ blank, whereas all the others have been cut from ‘lite’ blanks. After some research, it would seem, and well logically makes sense, that the ‘lite’ blank is less dense and so has more air bubbles, and once glassed, that air is “locked in” … so, with a more dense blank, less air bubbles “locked in”, and so, yes, a ‘standard’ blank has a bit less ‘float’ … my best guess is it is less than a 5% difference, which can be easily incorporated into the “design” in AKU Shaper

Having had a few boards made with a ‘lite’ blank, and now back to a ‘standard’, I have also realised how the pro’s can ride boards with a bit less volume; aside from their superior fitness and paddling … Since most of them ride ‘comp lite’ blanks, which would have even more air “locked in”, the float difference to the average surfers board would be noticeable. The density though, does impact the longevity of the board, as I’ve found over the last few, with this latest one holding up a LOT better.

I set the board up with my usual ‘go to’ fins … FCS K2.1’s in PC. The first few surfs were in OK, but not great waves, and it felt like there was something “off” with the board. I could paddle into waves easily, it would get up and go, but making turns off the bottom and top felt like something was missing, which I was putting down to the waves, and in some part, due to wearing a steamer since it’s cooled down a bit … after getting some awesome waves, and still having the same feeling of having to surf more off the front foot through bottom turns, and then loosing the tail off the top too easily, I decided the issue was that I need some more size in the fins. So, I put in some Parko fins from the Kinetic Racing series; these are quite different in size, rake and even design to the K2.1’s … well, first wave, first surf and whoah … bang, off the bottom, vertical to the lip, whack and I was away … totally different feel having that bit more ‘fin area’ and push from the tail.

I can only image how many boards, back in the old glass on days, I’ve had that were dogs which could have been tweaked with a fin change. I’ve always found fins to change a board, and with so many options these days, the performance tweaks are awesome. Now, I just need to play around with some more fins to fine tune the performance of this one … I’m thinking some AM2’s may be the goods … or, maybe even some Mick Fanning fins from the FCS range …

marblesSo, the marbles … right? … Do you want to know about the marbles?

And, I guess, what the hell do marbles have to do with a ride report, right? Well, I’ll do my best to explain the ‘feel’ and design linkage …

In the process of understanding the feeling with the K2.1 fins in the board, I had started to notice I was getting a lot of speed, but, when it came to turning, I could not control or use that speed easily, so bottom turns were faster, into a top turn that was not as vertical with the timing slightly ‘out’, so I was having a constant adjustment process … I then noticed how the board would just ‘go’ when I got into a wave, and tried surfing along the wave with less turns to feel the board …

It was not until I was heading in one day, dropped to my belly and rode the whitewater to the shore, then I noticed it … the board would easily, like really easily turn from left to right in a rocking motion, like really really noticeable … so, I went back out and caught a few waves and rode the whitewater in until I could understand the feeling and differences depending on where my body weight was … I’d lie further back, then further forward, arm by my side, or out like I was trying to fly … yep, I’m really just a big kid!

Then it hit me, it felt like, when the weight was right, the board was turning like it was running on marbles … like it had all these little marbles or ball bearings under the front to chest area, and so as I would lean into each turn, remember, I’m still only lying down on the board at this stage, it would just float across the marbles and with no resistance it would turn, and keep moving …

So, out the back again, to test the feeling when I stand up … yep, with some weight over the front foot, and a bit of a heel toe movement I could feel this same effect … more, testing with weight to the back foot, and yep, same type of effect, albeit a different feeling through the tail. This then got me thinking about the fin area, and issues with the surfing I’d been doing to that point. Overnight I decided I needed to try some bigger fins, and well, as I wrote above, it really changed the board.

So, what was / is going on here … I think it is the lift from the impact of the the bottom contours and concave(s). Looking at the design of the board, it is a refined version of the one before it, and with the ‘keel’ at the stringer reduced, and the double inside the single concave more refined, the air being trapped under there, and the water flowing across the surface, it is all just simply more efficient. Hence, the boards get up and goes, and why I was getting speed but having trouble using it or controlling it …

Now, I’m off to learn more about it … time for a surf!

Showroom Condition?

Forty One Two - mk III - outline after glassing
The ‘forty one two – mk III’ – outline and planshape

What a difference ‘professional’ glassing makes!

As you may have read, the glassing quality of the last one, was, well, let’s say below par … So, with this one, I went to a different glassing service and the result is chalk and cheese compared to the last one.  With many things, if you pay slightly more, you get a better product or result. Well that is NOT the case here.

I now have a new, custom surfboard in showroom condition. And, it was better value for money …

The previous one (i.e. the poor quality glassing) cost me $240. That was for 2 layers of standard 4 oz on the deck and 1 layer of 4 oz on the bottom, FCS equivalent fin plugs and the leash plug.

This one, was $220 for … wait for it … “S” cloth, 2 layers on the deck in 4 oz with a layer of 4 oz on the bottom, plus the carbon rail patches at the tail (as you can see in the pic), fcs fin plugs, and leash plug … plus, they sprayed the board white! So, not only a awesome glassing job, but all round better value.

Learnt my lesson.

Big thanks to Saltman aka Dave for suggesting this new glassing service.





Here’s another pic’s of this new one:

Forty One Two - mk III - rocker and foil
The ‘forty one two – mk III’ – rocker and foil



NOTE: If you click on any of the pictures they will open as a full page image!

“forty one two” Mk III – ready for glassing

I picked up the the cut blank earlier this week … here’s a pic of it straight off the machine:

mkIII - cut blank - deck up







and this one, showing the concave between the fins. This is again, the cut finish straight off the machine.

mkIII - cut blank showing concave between fins







… and, here’s the finished blank, showing the same concave.

mkIII - finished blank showing concave between finsFor those of you watching, you’ll notice each board has a different coloured logo. This one has a red one …







Forty One Two – mk III … design tweaks

med rail tweakOK, so you’ve probably read about my design issues with the next shortboard …  see my ramblings down the page.

My goal is to work this one out, then experiment from the base design, and to be honest, while the last few boards are getting “there”, it’s not quiet there yet. Each one is getting better. I could have saved myself some time and cost if I’d just trusted that the AKU shaper software was true ‘what you see is what you get’ …

So now, I’ve taken then Forty One Two – mkII and tweaked it some more … mainly the rails in the mid section, which you can see in the pic here. I’ve also backed off some of the concaves, just a smidge, and I worked out how to get rid if the ‘keel’ type ridge that was being created by the double concave.

So, I think I’m about there … tweaks done, time to get it machine cut. Thinking I might go with a standard blank this time, for some added compression resistance. I’m also going to talk to the new glasser, and see what they say about adding a heel patch, or just go a different cloth. I’ll keep you posted.

Let’s see how this one goes!

I am getting just a tad excited …

PS: How’s the rail measure points at the 1/2″, 1″ and 2″ mark in off the rail … one of the new features in the upgrade AKU Shaper software. Made it super easy for a newbie like me to tweak the rails, and know exactly how much I’ve adjusted them compared to the original file.

NOTE: Big thanks and shout out to to Nick Carroll for his comments, input and suggestions made over in the Real Surf forums … you can read the discussion over there here: http://forum.realsurf.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=24350