Stiff boards

Anybody out there prefer stiff boards?

I was thinking the other day about old school guns with the thick and sometimes triple stringers and 6/double 6oz glass jobs and 3" of thickness. Were those boards inherently dogs? They’d have to be kind of stiff

A lot is always said about the importance of flex but it is a factor I cannot individuate in a board. If a board works or doesn’t , for me, it has to do with other things, notably volume distribution, outline, rocker and foil. I’m presently riding one of those magic boards that is fast and loose and paddles well (thanks to Griffin). If you ask me how the flex is I’d have absolutely no idea.

I tend to think that flex is somewhat over rated. Something that lots of guys talk about, but don’t have definite answers. I Just made a Compsand with a flexible nose, and found that on a late drop, the flex keeps the nose from pearling by creating more nose rocker. It’s also a little softer when slamming the lip. I think that flex from midpoint to fins would loose control and speed/ drive. I really don’t think twisting in the middle would do anything good. Flex after the fins would let you pop a little more vertical.

Flex is a ‘‘sacred cow’’ but flex is your performance enemy. Many guns, in the early/mid 60’s had 1 1/2 to 4 inches of Redwood in them, and double 10 oz glass, top and bottom. Some were dogs, and some were not. That was shape, outline, and rocker related. Not material related. Stiffness in the board, and in the fin, produces the most rapid response to rider input. That is how I want a board to respond. Instantly. The difference between making a wave, and not, is sometimes a fraction of a second. Flex can rob you of that time. To the ‘‘true believers’’ in the value of flex, just agree to disagree. I’m not trying to change your mind, I happen to have a different opinion than that which you embrace. Let it go at that.

I’m w/ES and Bill - I’ve tried different flex things: tails, fins. I’d say it’s a compromise. I felt the fin flex, then give back, but then again, the stiff fin just turned that much sharper/harder in the first place… In the tail I’ve found the same benefits - sharper turns, esp. off the bottom, w/my “kick tails.”

Again - like Bill said, I’d prefer to agree to disagree, 'cuz I know some swear by it.

Then again I believe in concaves - that it has little to do w/“straitening out the rocker…”

Keeping the kook train rollin’

tennis racquets, baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs, snowboards, ski’s, skateboards, car tires,

motorcycles, car frames, birds wings, cheetah’s bones, our legs, fish fins and bodies, etc, etc, etc.

all have “flex”. . . the way i see it, is that it’s always there whether we think it is or not. i think that we

don’t know what true “non flex” acutally feels like because it’s always there even with the thickest

applicable stringers and glass jobs. does that mean that we should design surfboards for different flex?

my jury is still out on that one. i think Bill is right but for a different reason. i think even though there

inherently will be some flex, the amount of flex that is desireable usually occurs with the stiffest construction

method. . . it would be near impossible to create an 6’ - 10’ piece of anything that’s 2"-3" thick, floats, and doesn’t

flex at all.

EDIT: also, i think “return” or “rate of return” is far more important than “amount of deflection”. snappy always feels better than dull.

hi, this is a subject i have spent too much time on , first off i think its the way the board is ridden and the type of board/sufing that detimines whether flex is neccesary/important or not , a thruster responds better to pumping and continual movement and flex in the board is really important , i have a 6 8 bonzer that just does/nt responds to pumping in the same way that a thruster does so i tend to surf it a bit differently and its better suited to faster cleaner waves rather than weak waves where you need to try and generate speed,

a 5 8 twin keel thickish fish can only be stiff and they do feel different to a thruster and the way they pump as well

i have made quite a few compsand type small thrusters and they have all been stiff , i have measure them against a poly board and the poly boards have been a lot more flexable , all the compsand boards just didnt go as good as the poly boards that i copied them from,

they have been the same dimensions, some were lighter ,others i made the same weight ,some i made heavier but everyone was stiffer ,

if i could get them to flex with the same poundage as the poly boards i believe they would go as good or maybe better,

i can/t comment on long boards or minimals but from my own experiance with 6ft 1 ins short boards there has to be movement in the board for it to work the best , what the optimum is i don/t know ,thats what i have been trying to replicate , the flex of a poly but in compsand type construction and so far i have struggled,

this is why the pro/s have light glassed boards , its not just to make them lighter, you can create a lot lighter board useing other materials , the less glass just gives that needed movement and feeling in the board,

so my conclusion is short boards that are turned hard and square really need flex to give that exra degree of control and finess,pete

I agree Pete…

The flex of a short board makes or breaks it for me.
I believe the harder a short board is surfed the more important flex is.
I have had fun on stiffer builds but in addition to the familiar feel of flex, I am convinced there are performance gains with proper flex.
Since surfing my bamboo skinned short board I have become more aware of flex return, which affects performance as well.

Stiffer = faster snappier return ???

…you need the strongest legs to properly ride bigger thicker stiffer boards in choppy medium-big surf

the flex in some design like a flexy tail in a fish is pretty good and right

and like previous comment about flex in shortboards for average conditions and not so big and stronger guys is very good too (for surfers with good shortboards skills)

lot of 50 s footage in those stiff and bigger boards “fighting” with the waves and not “accomodating” to the shape

I agree with Bill reducing the variables helps you master your equipment much faster.

Just my out of the box way of looking at things but…

Most people don’t realize that a standard classically made and glassed PU boards with a center stringer flexes just fine in fact probably flexes the best. It just loses it flex fairly quickly due to material breakdown over a set number of cycles like anything else. I remember CMP putting regularly made PU boards on the garage floor and jumping on them to show me that everyone was missng the boat on what boards were doing in the first place. Again these were normal boards and not the super light weights being made for the pros…

I think going off on this tangent of using different materials to improve or increase the flex response of a board was a materials and material sales focused sidetrack versus just trying to find a way to make the existing flex felt in todays existing PU boards and materials just last alot longer using different materials. Trying to re-engineer the design and change the flex characteristics is probably an attempt to make a surfboard become a snow ski, skateboard or tennis racket versus doing what it does best which is in being a surfboard.

I also think the smaller you go like when you get down to these hyper small multifinned disks, pods, simmons, fish or what ever you want to go even stiffer as well becuse you’re planing and bouncing off the surface more and would want more of a hydrophobic response from your equipment than you would want with more normal sized or bigger equipment to prevent bogging.

personally I like stiff cause I’m fat like the majority of the regular surfing world 185lbs and above. Trying to figure out flex without bogging down for the heavier weighted riders is much more difficult than making a potato chip flex for a twig.

Stiff boards and stiff fins(that don’t cut me into sashimi) for me…

Flex or stiffness is definitely something that can be felt. Pick the one that feels and performs the best and maximizes the experience.

For me, stiff doesnt feel the best. Just a little flex goes a long way.

In certain conditions like steep curvy powefull and not big, flex can be a significant performance advantage with shortboards.

I agree with Bill about response time. But when youre out having fun in average waves of no consequence, having a board that feels better is just, well, better. Good responsive fins can make up for slower board response.

I might say that its compromise between feel/handling and response.

I think some people may confuse flex for dampening. Something that maintains it’s rocker but handles bumps well at higher speeds sounds good to me. But if you were to compare a surfboard to a high performance race car, would you want flex, or would you want stiffness?

i have to agree with bill on big waves and guns , flex is okay up to 5 ft then thing change perhaps

i prefer stiffer boards over head and a half

big fat dudes in 8 ft waves go good on stiff 8 footers

I do.

I’ve been riding balsa boards or boards with 3-6" of balsa stringers almost exclusively for 15-16 years.

While many surfers believe the weight of the balsa boards is what gives them momentum, I believe it’s as much the stiffness of balsa.

A couple of anecdotes that brought me to this conclusion:

1980 or so. I was on Kauai for a couple of days doing sales calls with the Sundek rep there. After a day of visiting stores, N, Yoneji Store, Ching Young Store, Joe Kitchen’s Surf Shop, I returned to the Kauai Surf Hotel to find some nice little peelers on the right side of the cove there. The South Shore was out of control and there was a bit of a swell sneaking in there.

I’d left my board on Oahu. The beach boy had some boards for rent and I opted for a 7’0 Morey Doyle soft board. I paddled over to the break (only a couple of guys out) and paddled into a nice little wave, faded left and cranked the hardest turn I could. Half way through the turn the board just collapsed. It went all springy on me and died.

I flashed back to some experiments at G&S where I was working 10 years earlier. Skip had made a flex tail. He’d ground the foam off of the tail of a board from the top leaving a glass only tail for the last few inches.He was looking for flex. I don’t remember the details but he never made another one.

About the same time, Tom Morey had stopped by in his 1950 Chrysler business coupe and shown us a trunk full of spongy boards he called “Water Snakes” with s.n.a.k.e. being an acronym for something. Of course these later became the “Boogie Board”. Larry Gordon took some of the foam and then took a stock G&S board and ground out the top of the board removing most of the PU foam, leaving the fiberglassed bottom intact. He added some boogie board foam to fill up the board to the deck line. The board was comfortable to lay on but it didn’t ride very well. Too much flex.

A couple of years ago I was surfing “Threes” at Waikliki on this board:

I took off on a wave just behind the peak and at the same time another surfer took off right in the peak. We both went right. When we got to the end of the wave and both kicked out he said, " Wow, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d make it around that section". I laughed and said, “I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been on a balsa board”. I let him try my board.

Later on the beach he ordered a balsa board and one year later he’s riding it. Now he’s taking off behind the peak.

I think Thrailkill hit the nail on the head with his comments above.If your flexi flyer is chattering along you’re losing forward motion. And yes, there’s no doubt that flex, either in board or fin will delay the boards reaction time. I’m not saying that’s bad if that’s what you’re looking for.

I remember Skip Frye sanding his fins until they flexed to his approval. He would go into a turn and load the fin up and then when it sprang back it would launch him out of the turn. I have some old movies of him turning that way and you could see the results of how the fin was working. I remember him trying it with the plasic w.a.v.e. set fins. I was there the day he threw the gym bag full of plastic fins in the trash can in front of the P. B. Surf Shop when he went back to glass fins. So it’s not just flex. It is the return. And that has to do with the materials.

I’m not saying balsa boards don’t flex, but under most conditions they don’t and if they do the spring back (even on foam boards with balsa stringers) is quite different.

I remember reading somewhere that Dewey Weber discovered back in the early sixties that a foam board with a wide balsa stringer would have some riding characteristics of a balsa board.

When the first foam boards came out in the late fifties they were called “flexi flyers” and wood was added to make them stiffer (and to retain rocker).

It’s wood that will stiffen a board up more that any other factor.

flex frontflex2griff1


the jury is still out on the benefits of flex for me…


i believe stiffness and flex are extremes on the same scale, so we all talk about the same thing … really

and yes oneula, i like stiffer boards, they are for power surfing, feel the Zing, stiff boards can give a little, and still be stiff… :wink:

tell us more about your griffin board, where is your review??


I believe that flex is real important based on the overall design of the surfboard.I believe that flex needs to be tuned to the surfer and the conditions that the board will be used in.The problem with the average surfer is that we can’t get enough testing in.It is very similar to the way motorcycle suspension,frames flex.The riders test all kinds of different flex in the bike to find the right combo that best suits there style.Not only does the suspension need to move to follow the road but the frame also has to flex side to side to act like a second kind of suspension.

I just don’t see the point of flex in the “riding area” of the board.

Forward motion is created by the boards resistance to the force of the water acting on it. Any loss of resistance would cause the board to slow down. If the board flexes under my feet, then the resistance to the force of the water is lost. I can see where the shock absorbtion of flex in the nose has a place. I can also see where an increase in tail rocker behind the fins could have a place. But I can’t see a situation where I would ever want the board to flex between my feet. Any flex or twist would release the water pressure that is giving me my propulsion.

I’d like some of the flex proponents to do some testing.

Rather than the “put the board upside down on the floor and jump on it” display that the flex gurus always use. Put the board on some racks suspended by the nose and tail. For safety, do this very close to the ground. Climb on top and stand on it. Measure the rocker now and see how much it deflects, and where on the board the deflection is. Jump on it and see how high it rebounds.

Lastly, video this board in action. Compare it with the exact same design and weight and rider and day. Do a cutback. How many frames does it take to get the flex board around. How many frames to get the stiff board around. I’ll bet if someone really measured it in a scientific way, the results would favor stiffness in the riding portion of the board.

There was mention of snow skis and tennis rackets flexing. Snow skis flex in order to create rocker in a turn since when at rest they actually have a camber not rocker. They also are not relying on floation for speed in the same way that a surfboard skimming across a wave does. Tennis rackets flex in order to keep the ball on the strings longer in order to reduce power, and gain control through spin. Neither of these responses are factors when surfing.

Flex is also important if you are the kind of surfer that generates speed by pumping the board.Here in florida that is how flex helps me to generate speed but there is a fine line between to much and not enough.

I like stiff boards better for the surf where I live and my front foot style.

My friend and I own the same pop out model surf board. Both came from the same mold but one was an older stiffer-heavier prototype. The lighter flexy board is better in up to

head high surf. In the bigger stuff the nose flaps up and down on the drop and it is barely rideable . The heavy stiff one handles up to head & 1/2 + surf.

I have made boards that had too much flex and they did not work in powerful beach break. In small waves stiff fishes work good. You have to add volume to compensate for lack of flex.

The triple solid wood stringer boards still flex in the big stuff. When clark shut down and people tried making gun blanks with plywood stringers we had more boards snapping than

with solid wood stringers. Plywood is stiffer.

In bigger waves you need a board that weighs enough to give you the speed and glide to paddle in and handle the wind sucking up the face.

20lb-24lb for double over head + waves is a must and wood is a good cheap way of adding weight.

hi, i agree with all what surfercross has said, flex is really important for boards that are pumped to generate speed, its a neccessity,

i think the word flex probabally is/nt the right word because it really does/nt define what the situation is or what is really required,

people talk about flex return but its all words that don/t really explain what is happening,

i hav/nt got anything better to describe what i think is needed with the use of single words,

boing might be a good word, like when you flex a ruler over a desk edge and it goes boing,

its about stiffness that bends under load but flexes back quickly, unfortunatly one goes with the other , you can/t get out more than you put in ,so to have quick spring back things need to be stiff ,but not too stiff that its too stiff, if things are too flexy the spring back is slow which is equally no good ,

nothing is measured or quantified as yet is the surfing world so its all about educated guess work for the most part ,

if you could buy a board that gave a value of its flexural nature you would be closer to finding the perfect board for you,

spring rates and damper values say in racing bikes or cars make or break their lap times and are the difference between winning and loosing races ,

if you think that flex or boing ar/nt as important in surfboards do you think kelly slater if he rode one of the surftech al meric k boards as a competition board would surf as well as normal, the surftech board is just as light, stronger than a pu, the same shape everytime , why does/nt he ride one that he endorses,

because they are stiffer , pete