[=Blue]High Performance Surfboards! Just the name conjures up all kinds of images and expectations of wild innovative design features that cause the boards to be leaps ahead of all others. When fact is, the best boards, proven over time, are devoid of gizmos and quirky design features. Not that there aren’t leaps in design from time to time. But once stabilized, it is small consistent refinements, within the parameters of that eras basic design, that creates and defines the high performance surfboard.
Keep in mind, this is assuming that the terms “High Performance Surfboard” and “Best” or “Most Advanced” are all pretty much synonomous terms. If not we have to have two distinct discussions here. One to describe the most advanced surfboard made. And one to define how and who should judge what a high performance surfboard is and then what the board is.
If we look for the most advanced board we must consider what the criteria is to define it and validate it. Simply choosing the winner because it is the most radical departure from the existing standard, doesn’t necessarily mean the board is “advanced” or really even ahead of the standard. The word “advanced” implies that the board is first in the race down the pathway toward the eventual place where all boards will someday be. Simply calling something “advanced” because it is different, is completely inappropriate and the only fair description would simply be “new” or “different”, with no presumption to it being better.
Sometimes, in fact quite often, the standard model can be quite advanced. Take tennis rackets for example. Other than Howard Head’s Prince Rackets, that had a much larger head, standard tennis rackets have been a well established and evolved design that doesn’t seem to have too much room for radical innovation. Nor have any really set a player apart from the rest. Still that doesn’t stop the best tennis players from continually exceeding the players before them and playing those “standard” rackets at incredibly “High Performance” levels!
The same is true for surfboards. We have a very matured product and a very matured activity. Even at the highest levels, surfers only differ from one another in very small increments. It has been awhile since a new surfer has come along that has a style or technique, leaps beyond everyone else. And even more rare is the surfer who has done this based on some kind of new or original surfboard design.
Less experienced surfboard makers are always looking for the magical design innovation or feature that will instantly propel them to respect and stardom in the surfing world. Little do they know, that great boards have very little to do with such elusive and self agrandizing dreams. But rather are a result of a slow, methodical, plodding through an immense pool of mostly existing design possibilities. All the while slowly absorbing and learning what things do what and in what combinations they do them better than other, and for who and where those combinations will excel.
I wish I could make these realities more exciting and provocative, like it can be when talking about all those imagined and hoped for “advanced” designs. Be assured, I hate to have people look forward to my posts, like a bad case of depression! Ha! But I haven’t figured out how to tell the truth in as exciting of ways that one can explor a great fantasy.
Lets face it, the fun and excitement in surfing and surfboard building, really comes from not taking any of it too seriously. We mostly make toys for fickle children who play in dynamically changing sand boxes, with continually evolving styles and fashion. While it is important to make those toys safe and customer friendly, we shouldn’t get ourselves in a tizzy over making our plastic, sand box buckets and shovels out of Carbon Fiber, Kevlar, Polyester or Epoxy. Not that these aren’t great materials with huge potentials, but for the majority of customers, they wane in comparison to good principles of business and exceptional customer service.
High Performance Surfboards are those boards that allow a particular surfer to surf to his ultimate abilities in the waves he needs to, if he wants to. It is all in the eye of the beholder and that is exactly what makes surfing so much fun and so unique among sports activities. Everyone can participate at whatever level they like and at the same time, believe anything they like about whatever level they “think” they actually perform at. It is all kind of one big illusion that everyone agrees to leave generally unmeasured and unjudged because it is much more about the experience and value that each person gets from surfing and much less about finish lines and absolute measurements of performance.
That is exactly why it is so hard to definitively define what a good surfboard is, let alone what a High Performance Surfboard is. Still it is all fun to speculate about in that sense there is no need to really resolve anything.
Please continue the fanciful discussions about design they are great fun and a good read. I will try to throw in my 2 cents here and there on things like sanded finishes or other issues that come up.