I’ve always looked up to surfing’s more quirky characters, guys who don’t give a fuck about what’s “in”, “hip”, or “trendy”—they march to the beat of their own, at times, off tempo drums. Dora, Curren, “Barney” Barron, Tashnick…they are out there, and most don’t get the credit they deserve. Surfing is about yourself, your board, and the ocean, and whatever you decide to do from there is how you define your art style. However cliché it sounds, surfing truly is, and will always be an art form. From the way you paddle, the equipment you ride, and the lines you draw, everyone is unique. It’s no secret that surf media and the big brands try to dictate what you, as an individual should be wearing and riding, but the more you break free from this soulless homogenization, the more you can get out of your personal surfing experience.
Enter Derek Hynd. One time professional surfer. Ruthless, raunchy, yet brilliant surf journalist. And for over the past two decades, Hynd has been pushing the boundaries of finless surfing, without giving a fuck about what popular surf culture says he should be riding. How does someone maintain control on a twelve-foot face freight trainer at Jeffrey’s Bay without the stabilization of fins? Well, Hynd has found a way, and boy does fly! His talent on asymmetrical, finless surfboards is indisputable, as evident in surf films such as Litmus and Glass Love. How does he do it? He’s been quoted as saying, “Finless is taking the fucking fins out of a board and spinning around aimlessly”. Sounds simple enough, but if you ask your average “Channel Islands” pro model sheep to get close to what Hynd is doing, the results would be comical.
Yet, there is a method to his madness, and lately he’s been neck deep in foam experimenting with radical board designs that will allow him to push the envelope even further. I contacted Hynd to get a brief insight into some design elements that he considers when shaping a board that will boogie. In my email I mentioned I was “just reaching out”. His reply was, “Ok, I’ll do it if you promise NEVER AGAIN to say ‘reaching out’. Put that in your blog”. Fucking all-time…
Length – it all has to do with the relative straightness of rail in the middle – 3’6″ to 11’4″ – at least that’s my interpretation. I found that one out when I cupped the front and back off a board.
Concave – Important to have it at a spot on the board that isn’t going to suck it onto the face. It’s got to contribute the other way to ‘lift’ when in trim.
Symmetry – Unnecessary if the board is contoured to work based on different approached forehand to backhand. Can apply to fin sizings and positions or plain shapes or rail volumes.
Volume – Horses for courses but paddling / entry speed is key for me, so I prefer volume up front.
Rail – I think taper of rail is more important than overall shape of rail. There are two schools of thought re free friction – soft wrap rail v hard edge rail. The one sticks to the wall and is slower but holds in the pit. The other is edgy allowing release onto the flats…so that to get pitted you’ve got to come from behind the section in a drive. I’m with the edge for what it’s worth.
Maybe the main thing overall is application. None of this hipster neo soul bullshit of kiddie fiddling with a bunch of designs. Stick to the one – and work on it for as long as it takes. That’s where the evolution comes from.