Shaper Interviews

Dave Allee: A New Take On Retro Surfboards

updated retro surfboard shapesDave Allee of ALMOND surfboards has taken a new approach to a few popular retro board shapes.  By applying contemporary shaping knowledge to classic designs he is able to achieve board shapes that are unique, fun and deeply rooted in our sport's tradition.  

SurfScience: Why retro boards?
Dave Allee: I first got into retro boards because of a twin fin fish that I picked up in 2005.  I loved how loose it felt and how fast you could get it going.  That board kind of sparked my interest in what else "retro" shapes had to offer.  
I slowly started to accumulate more vintage-ly inspired surfboards until I had weeded out everything else.  It also helped that I was surfing Blackies all the time and was witness to some of the most incredible logging going on anywhere; courtesy of Alex Knost, Jared Mell, and dozens of others.
For me, it basically comes down to the glide of the bigger heavier boards.  Getting into waves early allows for so many more options on a wave, and makes the whole experience so much smoother and more peaceful.  Surfing a big, long surfboard that allows you to take three strokes and fade into a wave, and then set your line, is an intoxicating experience.  To me, it changed the whole dynamic of surfing.
SS: Who are some of the shapers of old that your boards take inspiration from?
ALMOND surfboardsDave: Definitely a ton of inspirations in terms of board design.  Not going to pretend like we invented this stuff.  We basically started with an old Hobie log that was shaped in 1964 (super heavy and super narrow) and surfed it at Blackies.
Right off the bat, there was stuff we wanted to do differently.  So, when we started on what would become the Lumberjack Model, we widened it to 23" to make it more stable, and closer to what was being ridden these days.  We slimmed down the rails a bit, because the Hobie had really boxy, full rails.  That was basically where the Lumberjack started.
Everything after that was primarily based on conversations about what would make the boards perform better in certain conditions, or do specific things better.  We'd talk about what we thought would work better, as well as look at how other guys had solved the same issues.  There's a lot of trial-and-error in dialing in the details, but there's also plenty of inspiration being pulled from watching good surfers in the water.
If I had to make a short-list of shapers who have directly inspired me, I'd have to say.... Terry Martin (living legend), Greg Noll, Rich Harbour, and Dale Velzy.  And it would be ridiculous to not mention Dan Forte, because he was shaping so many of those boards at Blackies that encouraged the style of surfing that really caught my attention back in 2005/2006.  Although our boards aren't as directly inspired by Dan's shapes as many people would tend to assume, considering our geographical proximity.
dave allee almond surfboardsSS: When you take inspiration from a vintage shape, what design elements did you find yourself modifying the most?
Dave: The five biggest differences in the stuff we're building now, and the boards from the early 60's are: 1. Weight. 2. Width. 3. Rails. 4. Fins. 5. Rocker templates.
Weight: Is very tied to technological advancements in surfboard construction.  Lighter foam and lighter weight glass that requires less resin have enabled many advancements in modern surfboard design.  The early 60's logs are often so heavy that they are hard to get to accelerate or slow down.  They pack a quite a bit of momentum. 
Width: Many of the early 60's boards I've come across are a few inches narrower than most of the 'logs' you see today.  Many of them were designed for Malibu, which works out fine, because at a wave like that you can just lock in and hang on for the ride.  But the wider boards tend to open up the possibilities at beach breaks by making the boards more stable, especially when setting up off the tail and noseriding.
Rails have changed a tremendous amount over the years.  Although we still make most our longboards with the classic 50/50 profile, they have been slimmed down to make the board more responsive than their predecessors.  Which is also helpful for beach break waves.
Fins:  George Greenough's developments in fin design have changed board design as much as anything else in history.  Although we still do boards with the old D-Fin templates, most every surfboard fin has Greenough to thank.  Now we have fins that pivot, fins that flex, fins that flow through turns to carry speed through a turn. 
Rocker Templates:  The other obvious difference with the old longboards is how flat they are.  Nowadays shapers discovered the benefits of Tail Rocker to help slow the board down, and make it easier to turn.  Super flat boards are unbelievably fast. (Just watch Nathan Adams beat a section on his 9'9)  Tail rocker helps the board stay locked into the pocket, and helps for rocking back on to initiate a cutback.
SS:Looking specifically at weight, is there an ideal weight for a longboard and do our current materials let us achieve it?
Dave: Weight is a big deal in surfboard design.  Shortboards are trying to get lighter and lighter to be more responsive and performance oriented.  Longboards however benefit from some weight to them.  A really light longboard sits high in the water and feels really wobbly. 
Shapers and surfers mess with foam densities, cloth weight and stringer set-ups to achieve a desired weight for their boards, in order to find balance between stability in the water and maneuverability.  It's fairly subjective though, so everyone will have different preferences in terms of weight.      
almond surfboard modelsSS: What will a surfer moving from a modern performance longboard to one of your retro inpired logs experience?  How does the board feel different?


Dave:The biggest difference is going to be the volume.  Having more volume allows a surfboard to do two things: sit lower in the water because of the extra weight and catch waves earlier. 


The extra volume allows you to glide into waves early, but also effects how quickly you can turn the board.  Bigger heavier boards typically do everything smoother and slower than high-performance boards.  This means truly turning the board off of the tail, waiting for it to come around, and then setting your line. 


The stability of the board makes noseriding a much more realistic option.  The modern performance longboard is as different from a traditional log as a Dumpster Diver is from a displacement hull.


I see a lot of kids who want to snag their Dad's old 8'6 Stewart out of the garage and try to surf it like Alex Knost in One California Day, but there's a bit more to it than that.  Oppositely, if you get someone who rides shortboards or high-performance longboards and throw them on a big heavy log, they usually feel like they can't get enough of the rail in the water to turn it. 


SS: What keeps you stoked on vintage inspired surfboards? 


At the end of the day, there are an absurd number of ways to ride a wave these days.  But there is merit in each of them, I still get my kicks riding a 9'7 Singlefin log, and I'll continue to do so until it isn't fun anymore. (Likely never) 




By applying new board knowledge to classical shapes, Dave and the team at ALMOND are able to create boards that perform well in unique ways.  By adjusting design elements like: weight, width, rails, fins and rocker, they are able to achieve results that work well in their local breaks.  If you would like to see more of Dave's boards, you can do so in the Board Rack or by checking out his website


Board Rack Listing for - ALMOND Lumberjack

Board Rack Listing for - ALMOND Sandia Fish

Board Rack Listing for - ALMOND Surf Thump


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