• Step inside the mind of the man behind Joistik Surfboards, Nick Blair. Shaper’s DNA is Nick opening up about his design philosophy, and how he approaches the art & science of creating a surfboard.

    Part 3 is choosing the right surfboard: A conversation with Nick Blair. Enjoy.

    I often get asked by my customers what is the ultimate three board quiver. Obviously when choosing your three board quiver to cover all conditions it would come down to personal preference, ability and how you want to express yourself on a wave. In general there are a few winners amongst the models which have a high hit rate and will suit the majority of surfers. As a side note, I will stick to the models we currently have up on our website.


    For an intermediate surfer I would recommend the CabSavII, the Bombay Blues and the Silent Savage as a good three board quiver. This would give you an ideal arsenal to tackle conditions from ankle snappers to head and a half overhead. The CabSavII has you covered as a small wave fun board on the smallest of days up to 4-5 foot. The Bombay Blues model is a excellent all rounder in waves from 2 to 6 foot. It is a very forgiving board that surfs through the flats and maintains sensitivity in the pocket. The Silent Savage would have to be the most popular choice as an all-round performance shortboard. This board covers you from 3-8 foot balancing speed and drive with maneuverability and responsiveness. These three boards would also offer a touch more volume for ease of paddling and increasing your wave count, while still providing a great platform and range for performance and also varying conditions.


    For an advanced surfer I would suggest a combination of models with a little more performance injected into their designs. For smaller, weaker surf ride the SubScob, then depending on your usual conditions a Vertrix2 for free and competition surfing. The Vertrix2 excels for advanced surfers in critical, steeper conditions. This model really comes into its own when the surf is powerful and hollow yet it grovels surprisingly well for a high performance shortboard. Ideally suited in 3-6 foot good waves for fast, powerful surfing the Vertrix2 is a cutting edge performance board with speed, flow and drive with great flare in the pocket and lip. It is my best selling performance model along with the Silent Savage. The Silent Savage is the go for those slightly bigger step up days. The Silent Savage is a well balanced, all round great board that goes really well at beach breaks that are quite flat and average and also in steeper, hollower suckier, more high performance waves. It’s a really versatile shortboard. You can ride the Silent Savage from chest high to well overhead.


    Myself personally though, I love riding different craft. In Sydney I often ride my GHT longboard in small conditions, a Karboload Silent Savage as my main shorty and a step up Renegade round tail for the bigger days, customised with a 5 plug step so I could switch to quads in longer, hollower conditions. If I was on an Indo type trip to a location with lots of reef/point conditions, I’d swap the longboard for a Slipper model. Amazing speed, acceleration and flow comes with this model and allows sensitive turns as well as full rail carves in clean conditions across a broad range of sizes. Definitely a winner for me- but not everyones cup of tea!

    When it comes to spending time in the bay, the boards I enjoy shaping the most each season are performance semi-gun and gun shapes. I love shaping Pipeline/Chopes and Sunset Beach boards and I love shaping bigger guns, from 8’6” upwards, preferably around the 10’ mark. I love anticipating where the board will surf and blending the curves and lines accordingly. It is always a serious stoke factor. And it comes with a lot of responsibility too, as you know that the performance of the board needs to be dependable and true in the serious conditions it’s built for.


    After the big wave guns the boards I enjoy shaping most are either going to be my own (after all it is what inspired most shapers to start in the first place and you can really experiment with them) and I love shaping anything unusual. Recently this has been a fair few Fireball Fish type channel bottoms.


    Yesterday I shaped up a new model comprising four new custom boards to send over to Japan for my team riders to try. I designed and shaped a fun hybrid model based off the CabSavII.  It will be available soon, and is designed with the same flavour and attributes of the CabSavII in mind, slightly adapted so the board can be surfed either as a single fin, or as a twin. The outline has been adjusted accordingly with to accomodate these fin settings, so it’s more forward orientated, with a slight adjustment in the rails line through the back of the board, where I have altered the blend of double barrel concave to vee. The nose is also now of similar thickness to the tail (at the 12” marks) and there is a very subtle beak nose. It was nice to shape something new and different, and I am very excited to hear how they ride.


    Remember that the volume reading (L) does not provide the single solution to your design, rather it can be used by your shaper together with all of the other design elements. This figure can be used to create a board that is closely matched to a surfer’s build, experience/ability, the types of wave’s ridden and any other specific’s the surfer may want out of the board. Before the CAD programs came along stating the exact volume of the boards, shapers were still considering this carefully to adjust their dimensions and achieve correct volume. The precise measurement wasn’t readily available to customers though.


    Some thoughts to bear in mind when deciding the volume of your next board (looked at individually, other factors would apply):


    – Volume can be distributed in a range of ways across a board.


    It is about putting the volume in the right places. For example if you require more volume in your board as you feel you are sinking in the water, placing a blob of foam on the nose of your shortboard isn’t going to do anything. Placing volume under your chest is going to assist you with paddling (For example with an older surfer “slowing” down, or someone surfing a ledgy reef break who wants to get into the wave quickly from under the ledge), but the volume may not always be as relevant once up and riding. Where as placing volume in the back half/third of a standard shortboard would help a back-footed surfer traverse weaker parts of the wave.


    – Each of us apply leverage in different ways when we surf, a result of our physical build and surfing style/stance


    For example taller surfers will are able to apply more leverage with the same force, as shorter surfers with the same weight, as may someone with larger feet. The width of your stance can be taken into consideration. A short surfer who surfs with an upright stance would have more leverage though than a taller surfer who surfs low down. So a tall/lean and short/stocky surfer of similar weights and styles may have the same volume surfboard- but the taller one would suit a wider board with less thickness to accommodate his leverage whilst the shorter surfer would have an increase in thickness rather than outline width.


    – Surfboard outlines with more area (and appropriate rockers) will create more lift


    For example an advanced surfer with good fitness may be able to keep the same volume in a fish style board to be surfed in weaker waves, riding a wider board with more surface/planing area in the water helps create more lift, which can compensate for keeping the same volume. However for a less experienced surfer, it would be beneficial to increase overall volume too, for example with the addition of greater overall thickness, to help them in the weaker, flatter wave conditions.


    – Surfers have different preferences for volume depending on ability, fitness and the wave conditions, as well as plain old inclination.


    Many customers these days will come in with ideas of, or requests for specific volumes. I try to ask a lot of questions to gauge whether that might be appropriate for them and why.  I think it is important to allow a shaper to guide you on volume. Sure it is a helpful guideline and important consideration but not the only one, so try not to be too specific to exact detailed volumes as they may change across designs.

    I often get asked how concaves work. Many articles on the subject don’t seem to consider how water is not only flowing down the board length, but also flowing transversely, particularly when set hard on rail in bottom turns or carves. So it’s not just about speed. Speed will be relative to the curvature anyway. For me the foremost attribute of concave is positive rail feedback and energy.


    To illustrate, here is a fun and simple experiment when you are near a pool this summer. Grab your board (assuming it has concave running though the centre) with the fins removed. Stand in water up to around your knees and hold the board with both hands cupped around the rail. The deck should be facing away from you in the context of this explanation, nose and tail will be to your left and right (or right and left) respectively.  Push your board down into the water until the stringer is a couple of inches away from the surface, your one side of the board will be underwater, with the stringer parallel to the surface on deck and bottom. Now release your weight and allow the buoyancy of the board to “pop” the board up out of the water. Keep your hands supporting the board, but only very loosely. You’ll notice the board move upwards and the top rail you are holding rotates (along the stringer axis) towards you. Essentially, as the board is rising up, the curve of concave that is underwater is causing the board to rise up more on the rail/deck side. If you used a board with vee, the top rail would move away from you instead.


    This illustrates the positive feedback that a concave will give you when you put it on rail. As you push down on your rail with the balls or heel of your foot, the rail pushes back at you with more energy than a flat bottom would, and much more than a vee bottom would. You are gaining more energy through your turns as a result and that adds to your speed and drive through transitions. Yes the rail is rising back out of the water as a result of it’s buoyancy, but further energy and rate of return is added due to the curvature through the bottom cross-section of rail, that the concave gives. This is the genuine “lift” that concave adds. Inversely, vee allows you to sink the rail easier, which is why it is often used in wider tail blocks where you would require more effort and leverage to put the board on rail if concave flowed right to the end of the board.


    Concaves do get a bit more technical than that obviously, and they also work in conjunction with the other variables in the design. This is just a simple way of illustrating one of the major benefits of concave.