# Chipmunkian Revolt

or, the problem with ‘fast.’

When surfing, ultimately, the maximum speed of a surfer and surfboard is a function of the wave being ridden. Both the surfer’s skill and surfboard’s design do have their respective roles to play, as does wind and possibly some other environmental factors, but ultimately the maximum achievable speed is a function of the wave.

To a large degree, surfing is about being in the right place at the right time on a wave. Getting from one place to another, assuming that there is some distance between the two places, requires motion. If you’re moving toward the place you want to go at a constant velocity, then it’s just a matter of waiting to get there – a matter of time. If you’re not moving towards the place you want to go, or you’re not moving there fast enough, then you’ve got to change your current velocity so that you are, that is - you’ve got to accelerate.

Surfers often refer to surfboards as being fast. The implication being that the given surfboard is faster than some other surfboard, under the same conditions –i.e. for the same kind of wave conditions, and rider. In casual conversation, this seems clear enough. However, any attempt to move beyond a superficial analysis introduces some nasty conceptual problems. In particular, what is meant by ‘fast’?

Are coyotes faster than chipmunks? In a hundred-meter flat out race my money would be on the coyote. Same for a fifty-meter race, probably in a twenty-five meter race too. But as the distance of the race gets shorter, the more I’m inclined to favor the chipmunk. In fact, on anything less than five-meters, the chipmunk will likely take the prize. The question is then, what is changing other than the distance of the race that tends to favor the chipmunk? The answer is acceleration – chipmunks ‘own’ acceleration. So, are chipmunks faster than coyotes?

The ‘shortboard revolution’ that occurred back in the middle part of the last century (geez, I’m getting old) was chipmunkian – it was about acceleration, not speed. Waves have not changed, and the maximum speed that can be achieved during surfing hasn’t changed either, but what has changed is the ability of surfboards to accelerate rapidly, and this has been accomplished through innovations in design, and it continues today.

Surfing, and surfers have their own unique language, which is usually able to convey enough information to get the job done. But precise it ain’t. Over the years however it has become more precise, especially on the production side of things, which includes design.

It’s not uncommon to encounter board dimensions given with an accuracy that would lead one to conclude that things seem to matter right down to the millimeter, or tenth of an inch. Yet the language on the ‘beach’, doesn’t really reflect this precision. Which is understandable, the language at you local garage is not likely to be that of automotive engineers. The problem is moving from the ‘beach’, surfing’s true laboratory, to the shaping stall. ‘Fast’ works on the ‘beach’, but it kind’a losses something when its moves to the shaping room.

“I want a fast board.”

“Like a bonzer or something?”

“Yes, but not as stiff,… you know.”

“Not really. Tell me about the kind of waves you surf, and your style of surfing.”

On the beach ‘fast’ is enough, dry off and put a little distance between you and the waves and ‘fast’ loses something, in fact it’s likely to loose a lot. Of course, if you lucky enough to have a close relationship with your shaper, fast may be enough – sort of a local effect. But post something about ‘fast’ on some Net forum, and it’s likely some surfer in some other part of the world is not going to interpret it the same way you did when you posted it.

Saying that some board seems to accelerate more rapidly then some other board under similar conditions, is a little more precise. It doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Think about it, if you have some understanding as to what makes a surfboard go, that is, you have some appreciation of the forces involved, than you know, or at least have some notion as to what it takes to make a board accelerate. Why? Well, Newton told us so – force equals mass times acceleration. You can’t have acceleration without a force. Know the forces involved, and you’re better than half way there.

Did those Chipmunkian revolutionaries way back when understand acceleration? Probably, but they probably didn’t feel any great need to label as such – ‘fast’ probably worked well enough, and anyway there where waves to be caught – there usually are.

nice one

acceleration over short distance is key

we all finish the wave at the same time

centre fin gives good acceleration in low power zones

like behind the foam

Hilarious thread title plus spot-on observations. I agree that acceleration is commonly confused with speed,

and in most surfing situations it’s more important to have acceleration than top-end speed anyway.

And sometimes it’s about ‘‘handling’’. An F1 car tops out at about 220 mph, a Top Fuel dragster goes to 330 mph

in 1320 feet. But which one will first finish a lap on the streets of Monaco? Most of surfboard design is about how

boards react to rider inputs, which falls into the ‘‘handling’’ category.

Top end on a surfboard is going to be achieved by minimizing wetted area, and that includes fins. But would this

board accelerate well in most applications? I doubt it. What we do when we’re really flying is kind of a variable wetted

area anyway, as a good portion of the board (and fin sometime) is out of the water. And that’s a good thing, but it

complicates any discussion of speed and acceleration considerably.

Mike

I’ll add that what has been achieved lately is to make boards responsive, by reducing the overall weight (lighter materials) and inertia (wide point moving closer to the rotational center).

But there is use in having mass in a board - recall the initial and ongoing complaints by some of boards that are too light. After considering the actual meaning of the poorly verbalized complaint, it’s that the board is actually too responsive. The goal then becomes to make the lightest board possible, with a carefully considered limited responsiveness, and of course to have it hold together “long enough”.

Lotsa luck! The customer who it all can go somewhere else - there is no “one size fits all” solution and they will never be satisfied.

There’s more fun in liking what your ride, and less in riding what you like.

Interesting topic. But if you’re surfing 8 to 10 foot heaving barrels what are you after? Acceleration or just sheer speed? Or both? I also remember hearing a few years back that some of the Hawaiian shapers were getting there boards too fast and riders were outrunning barrels. Also don’t forget the variables of any break on any given day. What would be really nice would be a board that is extendable in length, width and thickness with adjustable rocker and fin positioning. If anyone knows how to accomplish such a thing please let me know. But as for building a board that accelerates well, goes fast and works in a variety of conditions, well it’s already been done many times before.

So to my mind if you take an old board by a well known shaper, stick some new rails on it and some more fins you’d probably be better off than some of the shapes around today. Personally I don’t think design has changed a great deal over the last 30 or 40 years. If surfboard designers spent half the amount of time they do on designing on materials and placement then I think surfboard would be light years ahead in terms of performance.

Unfortunately when something new becomes “old hat” it gets forgotten about only to become rediscovered again. It’s like the petrol engine, only it hasn’t been around as long or refined as much. Oh, to get my hand on some of those Clark blank rocker profiles. And not the stock one’s either. To me this is the potential beauty of the internet. Shapers sharing designs so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. So what does all this have to do with acceleration and speed? Already been done. Many times. What’s old is new again.

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But if you’re surfing 8 to 10 foot heaving barrels what are you after?

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Unfortunately when something new becomes “old hat” it gets forgotten about only to become rediscovered again.

The tri fin. Out performs them all in most conditions.

Hey Mike,

I agree, but I’d add that handling, tracking, holding, are all just different aspects of controlling acceleration.

Anyway, Silly’s post “steep drops thick lips and tuberiding” got me thinking about the Roy Challenge and about Roy’s boards in general.

Given enough time, I’m sure Roy could hit Mach speeds on one of his boards. The problem is you don’t get to choose how long you’ve got to get things done at the Pipe, it makes that choice for you. Which I guess is true for most waves; the Pipeline being notoriously less forgiving to the tardy than most however.

As beautiful and as ‘fast’ as Roy’s boards are, I guess I just don’t think they’re capable of the level of the acceleration demanded by the Pipeline. (Notice the use of the word fast - sort of correct, but then again, maybe not so correct when you think about it.)

That’s about it, no big thing.

Fast vs. Quick

Quickness is more important in surfing, I surmise.

Quick mind. Quick decisions. Quick adjustments. Quick board. Is Fast Surfing.

B.W.I. The surfboard is a Brain-Wave-Interface Device.

the only way to know is to have a skilled surfer ride one there

if they were doing it the sixties on dungas

then it can be done

simple

What’s a Brian-Wave-Interface Device?

Hey Silly,

I agree, at least I also see it as far more of a ‘skill challenge’ than a ‘board challenge’. Perhaps skill will be enough - it often is.

… and who’s Brian?

Nice one Casey, Great read and actually makes perfect sence,

Just an obsevation, the Fastest board I’ve ever riden was an old 8’ single fin egg/pintail thing, flat rocker and very very heavy, not very manuvarable but for down the line speed I havent beat it, probably has more to do with grevity than wave speed

Thing is, how much speed do you really want or need, the board would out run the curl and you would have to wait for the wave to catch you up, so with out the manuvrability to cutback to the pocket you had to constantly stall the board to decrease speed to stay with the wave. It was actually a lot of fun.

Acerlerasion or drive is different in my mind is different than pure speed, as it implies some sort contol, ie the rider make the decision to cause the board to accelerate.

My brain hurts now and my lunch hour is over so in summary, chipmunks can climb trees quicker that cyotes, but cyotes will fall from the tree with greater velocity and a high impact force.

who is Brian? Don’t you remember what the prophet said?

“There shall in that time be rumours of things going astray, erm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things wi-with the sort of raffia-work base, that has an attachment. At that time, a friend shall lose his friends hammer, and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before, about eight O’clock.”

But I once met a girl named Inertia.

She was a mysterious gal,

and once I got to know and feel her.

she got all wrapped up in my brain.

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... and who's Brian?

Damn… you guys are tough.

Anyway, Brian is the little guy in your head that tells you when to turn and puts you in the right part of the wave.

problem with them monks is that they can never stay focused without a good yelling at

especially that simon guy…

(way too much helium or batu I guess)

kind of like most modern high performance surfing

all over the place with no general direction

I guess its true…

life according to Brian has no soul(s)…