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?
Dave: 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.
SS: 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.
SS: What will a surfer moving from a modern performance longboard to one of your retro inpired logs experience? How does the board feel different?