Knee High and Under Design

There are several threads on this theme in the archives, so forgive the redundancy to the extent it is present. However, I would dig some input on a current project my boy John the Gull Phillips and I are collaborating on.

This thread will be different from the archival threads in that I will actually build this board and post the info here as I go.

THE SURFER: You may recall the Gull from my POSSUP thread. He’s the guy I turned the leaf blower on and who pretended to be Carve Nalu in my garage. John is the purest soul surfer you’ll ever meet. He loves surfing. He will try to surf in anything. He could care less about what anyone thinks of his style, equipment, or appearance.

John is 29, weighs 195lb, and is 6’ tall. He’s been surfing for 10 years. He favors his front foot. His style is trim oriented. He does not do hard backfooted hacks or turns. He swoops and banks and throws the odd drawn out roundhouse on the shoulder. His goal is to ride waves as long and far as possible.

His quiver is expansive and features various fishes, single fins, and other alternative designs.

THE WAVE: Beach break. Knee high or less. Crumbly. Onshore. Sectiony. Alternating steep and flat sections. Short period. Imagine small, locally generated wind chop at the very bottom threshold of what is remotely rideable. Longboardable but no fun on LB because of chop and sections.

OBJECTIVE: Catch the above described wave and ride it as far as possible. Coast or pump through flat sections. Generate speed through rider input where possible but trim as well. Basically, the goal is ride to the unrideable… tiny, tiny breaking waves… on as small a board as possible. John has a wicked quiver. This board only needs to do this one specific thing. Over knee high and he’s going to ride something else. He wants it in the 6’ range for ease of transport.

THE BOARD: An outline of our current plan follows. This plan is based upon my experience as an East Coast US surfer and foam whittler as well as some serious archive scouring.

PLANSHAPE: Our proposed planshape is taken from a ‘pigfish’ shaped by John Mel circa 2000 to 2001. I’ve added an extra inch of width to this planshape to yield a 23.5 inch wide board. I don’t have the nose and tail measurements with me. I’ll update. They will be massive. The outline has a swallow tail… probably 4 to 5 inches deep. Rails are fairly parallel. I would guess the tail is about 10 to 11 inches pin to pin. I know we loose a bit of planning area with the swallow, but John is quite attached to the swallow for some reason. I think it’s just that all his boards that work the best for him have a swallow.

FOIL: Max thickness is planned at 2.75 ‘’. I was thinking of thinning out the nose quite a bit… sort of like a regular chip. I was thinking of leaving the tail rather thick.

ROCKER: I was thinking nearly dead flat from front foot to back foot. Entry rocker gradual maxing at 4 inches most of which occurs in the last 12’’ near the nose. Tail rocker… perhaps 1 inch?

RAIL SHAPE: Relatively thin rails as compared to thickness but boxy. Down hard in the rear 2/3 of board blending to crisp 45 degree bevel in front third to nose (about 1/4 inch wide at most) and keeping bevel edges sharp.

BOTTOM CONTOUR: flat_____________________________

FINS: chipfish style converter. Set for twin, quad, twinzer, or thruster, or five. This will be one flexible experimentation area.

MATERIALS: 2.5 lb/yd2 density eps. balsa center stringer. wnc blank. double 6 deck single 6 bottom S cloth lamination. greenroom epoxy resin.

So… I would like to hear some thoughts from the boys on this project and my proposed plan. All insight is appreciated although I’m particularly interested in rockering and rail shape perspectives. Thanks in advance.


Hi Hunter -

I’m not familiar with the “Pigfish” design but why not 25", 26", or even 27" wide? Tail width in small waves can easily go 17" with little fear of spinnning out or getting squirrely. Wide point back from center and you’ll add some hip and shorter turning radius. I would definitely push the tail rocker up. With a wider tail, you don’t need the rocker so flat to still have plenty of planing potential. In small waves, it’s hard to turn a flat tail. The nose rocker can be pretty flat… 4" sounds about right. He’ll be able to shift forward and trim for speed with no worries about unintentional helicopters.

You didn’t mention specific length but that’s mainly from a longboarder’s perspective. Taking the bold print underlined objectives in to consideration, I would personally choose a longboard any day.

If a longboard is out of the question, take a look at one of these. People locally who have ridden “The Beast” rave about it’s small wave performance.

I spent last summer surfing waves like you describe just up the NC coast. I had a bump squash 80’s style 6’6", 20.5" wide with a thruster set up with very small futures fins. Flat bottom, wide point forward, which I think is key. You’d be surprised how much speed you can generate on tiny waves if you can find the power source. I’ve also had good luck in the kind of waves you describe with a twin fin (NOT keel) 6’4" fish, about 21 inches wide with a wide, deep swallow. Yes, a lot bigger than you might normally ride those kind of designs, but since he wants to ride the unrideable, just catching the waves is a significant hurdle…think corky and skatey. I dunno, 23.5" wide on a 6 foot board sounds a bit unwieldy. You still have to fit into the shape of the wave.

John Mel knows what he’s doing with boards of those dimensions - he’s a fine shaper of kneeboards (about that size), too.

If the chop is bad you may want a little vee up front and under the fins - to let the board sit a bit in the water - especially with 17-20" of tail. Don’t know whether Gull’ get up enough speed in those gutless waves to start skipping, though - so it might not be necessary.

Are you thinking of putting vee panels under the rails? (1-2" deep x 1/8" above rocker should be enough)

…but beware - this is not the most educated input - just some naive thoughts that arise from the “two foot and under” competition board I’ve been thinking about. I’m going more conventional (wide) MR twin to have points to pivot off and curve to help with carves when speed permits. I think twins are much faster than my normal thrusters in dribble.


thanks for your thoughts. this was the sort of discussion I was hoping for.

John- I am constrained by my 24’’ wide blank with respect to width. The gull has a number of 7 foot range funboards and several longboards. He really likes to longboard, but has a vision of a 6’ nano groveler.

With respect to the pigfish-- it has the appearance of a traditional fish with deep swallow and widepoint forward. The rails are somewhat more parallel however. I was out in SCruz back in 2001 and saw guys going lightspeed on Mel’s boards at the hook (quite a different wave from what I’m describing of course) and ordered one. It was a twinzer and worked unreal here in NC beachies. I unfortunately lost it in an unusual boating incident I don’t wish to discuss, hehe. I will take some photos of the planshape as soon as I can and post 'em.

Twinnie sounds like it might be call… esp after seeing the video footage of slater an nano-malibu.

Perhaps I should look to a more conventional fish rocker–say 1 3/8 tail? Thanks guys. Keep it coming.



I personally do not have any input, other than I love this type of thread! From conceptualization to realization with construction photos (and hopefully action photos)… but here’s something I found online at that may help, except for the width part, which you are already constrained by…


My friends and I have been experimenting with a very unusual shape that is suited to slow, small, choppy waves. Allow me to pass on what we believe is innovative for slow, small, choppy surf.

We believe we have created a design that turns easily at low speeds, creating very little drag in the turn. This board catches waves like a long - longboard, but is 2’ - 3’ shorter, and turns easily twice as fast.

This design is 7’ - 8’ long, and 3" - 4" thick, (depends on surfers weight) with about 2/3 of the total thickness available 1’ from the nose and tail. It is 14" - 16" wide at the outside tips of the rounded fish tail. The tail 1’ from the end is 20&3/4" - 21&1/2". The nose 1’ from the end is 20" - 20&3/4". The center width is 25" - 26". The nose rocker is 5". The tail rocker is 1&1/2". The twin fins are molded 7" cutaways cut down to 6&1/2". The fin box is a 7&1/2" Fins Unlimited type (with this box the fins can be adjusted to a maximum of 13&1/2" - from the tail end of the board to the trailing fin edge). The board turns much looser with the fins all the way towards the nose. The bottom and top are very flat rail to rail. The rails are almost perfectly round everywhere (much better for choppy conditions). I also have two experimental boards: 7’6" x 28", and 7’ x 30", with nose and tail measurements similar to the above mentioned boards. These experimental boards turn easier than the boards with dimensions in the first part of this paragraph, but are slightly slower in the flat part of the wave. By using the narrower tail measurements and wider center widths, a board which turns extremely easy will be created. These may be the widest surfboards ever made. The blue boards shown in the photos, throughout the book, are small wave designs.

A 7’ x 25" x 3" design with the measurements below will float a 120 lb surfer with the entire top of the board out of the water.

14" tail tips

20 &3/4" tail - 1’ from the end

20" nose - 1’ from the end .

A 8’ x 25.5" x 3.5" design with the measurements below will float a 170 lb. surfer with the entire top the board out of the water.

14"tail tips

20&3/4" tail - 1’ from the end

20" nose - 1’ from the end

A 8’ x 26" x 4" design design with the measurements below will float a 220 lb surfer with the entire top of the board out of the water.

16" tail tips

21&1/2" tail - 1’ from the end

21&1/2" nose - 1’ from the end

As a child, I remember thinking a board with a narrow tail would turn easier (as many ads suggest). At slow speeds just the opposite occurs. A narrow tail will sink at slow speeds, dragging water. A wide tail will plane on top of the water. These boards are designed to be turned by mostly twisting your body, instead of mostly leaning. This will create rotation over a central point with the board relatively flat on the water, with very little drag.

This design has been ridden since 2000, in many conditions, including double overhead, but that is not remotely what it is made for. It is best suited to gentle, knee to chest high, choppy waves.


I’m still jazzed on this crazy thing attached

With a box and 2 Lokboxes for the occasional keel hauling or what have ya


9" Liddle W flex fin at 9" up give or take


MR twinzithruster

I had an egg that worked great in everything. But this is what happens to them if you ride it in heavy stuff too. I miss this board!

6’8" egg

slight nose concave, slight double concave in tail


2.75 thick

20.25 wide

14.75 tail

I made it so I could surf more with my shortboarding friends. It was basically a modern shortboard with a pretty round nose and a little less rocker. Made a huge difference getting into waves, and picked up speed quick.

PS- sorry theboys

This looks fun!!!

Be cool to plug it out with 5 boxes for single fin and also quad setup!

What a great thread–

I need a board just like what this is all talking about. I think a wide board, wide tail with lots o planing surface in back, and a low drag fin setup is the go. Low rocker and plane being key. I think a single with flex fin or a twin keel. Curve of rail for maneuverability

I liked those boards John M pointed up.


I redacted my original post and I sent you a pm mate.


i think alex k’s small wave trimmer known as siglo might be in the archives or in a hull thread…wide and thin…hauls ass…

For me, this was one of the best grovelers ever. 6-2 x 21 x 16T and 14N. 6 channel bottom, beats sections, turns solid, DOH to less than knee high… Wide point is 3" front of center. Built from a Clark 6-2C:

Later groveler, everything’s the same as above except wide point is dead center.


how would you describe the performance differences between those two, and would you attribute the differences to wide point placement. Also, what are the dimensions of the rider–ht./wt.?




how would you describe the performance differences between those two, and would you attribute the differences to wide point placement. Also, what are the dimensions of the rider–ht./wt.?


I’m pretty much similar to your guy. I’m 6-0 x 195+/- (it ain’t all muscle, believe me). It’s funny, I built both of these boards for an older friend of mine that’s about 5-6 and 150#. He finally realized they were too floaty for him and has since gone shorter/thinner/narrower. I comandeered the blue flame after it died, just for the reference point. The green flame, I traded for, just because I liked the floatyness for my beer belly (actually, I like to think of it as a $15,000 investment).The wide point forward suited me really well, I like to surf off my front foot, so that, along with the fins being pretty far forward (12" or so to trailing edge of front fin) it really lent itself to that style of riding. However, I still ride the newer one on occasion and it’s a real drivey, fast little bugger too, but one can definitely pivot off the tail more with fewer hangups.

Hi Hunter,


John is the purest soul surfer you’ll ever meet. He loves surfing. He will try to surf in anything. He could care less about what anyone thinks of his style, equipment, or appearance.

Just thinking outside the box, but have you thought of a mat from Dale? I don’t have any experience on one but I hear they can ride unbroken swells. 'Might be the ticket for your buddy.



that ain’t a bad idea for a christmas present my man. good one. John would dig the heck out of a mat.

However… he’s already bought a blank for me to butcher in the instant case.


the instant case.


I smell lawyer!


cool thread.

my two cents: a tiny, wide, flat, thick, quad fish. perfect for skating over sections, releasing in short turns, driving across flat spots & hanging in in steep sections.

this is a great thread. I know from personal expirence as i surf everyday (no exceptions) often in whats classed as unridible waves.

for me i like my 6’0" 22 1/2"! 2 7/8" traditional twin keel fish with a 12" pod in those waves and 9 x 5" keels.