More individuality to board design of today

LAST week I was lucky enough to chat to Lost Surfboards founder and revolutionary shaper Matt Biolos about the world of surfboard design.

It was one of those semi-starstruck moments, knowing he shapes for some of the best surfers in the world today — Kolohe Andino, Taj Burrow, Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright — and in the past, the late Hawaiian great Andy Irons.

“Things have changed tremendously since I started 30 years ago,” the California-based shaper said.

“V bottoms and big square rails were in, and nobody was looking into things like concave.”

But while the changes were drastic — long to short; one fin to two fins, to three fins, to four fins — in the past decade the changes have been more subtle.

“Look at a board from 10 years ago,” he said.

“There are really subtle differences. It is more about making refined, minute changes to design, and fine-tuning.”

The main change has been in the openness to alternative designs.

Biolos was one of the first shapers to start making surfboards shorter, wider and with more volume to ride smaller, less powerful waves.

“Twenty years ago nearly everybody was riding the same kind of board,” he said.

“Now it is much more individual.”

Think hybrid-performance shortboards — his favourites — with different fin set-ups, all with a little more volume and flatter through the bottom.

“People are more realistic and humble about what is right for them. Rather than try to ride what the pros ride, they take into account wave types and personal ability.

“The good surfers are after something a bit shorter, thinner, narrower and with more rocker so they can manoeuvre it more easily, while other surfers want a bit more volume and flatter boards.”

While there has been a push towards more retro surfboards — single-fin boards and twin-fin fishes — that is not for him.

“I like to look at the past for positive influences — speed, boards that are easy to catch waves, aesthetics — and challenge myself to push forward,” Biolos said.

“A lot of beautiful boards are being made with things like fancy resin, but I think if you are just trying to recreate the past you are living in the past.”

With changes in surfboard design becoming so minute, and shaping largely done using computers and laser cutting for ultimate precision, in the past decade the main battleground for design has become materials.

“Materials are going crazy right now. A lot of people are just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks,” he said.

For the past three years, Lost has focused exclusively on carbon wrap technology, developed by Kiwi expatriate Dan MacDonald (DMS Surfboards) on the Gold Coast.

The boards are made with expanded polystyrene (EPS) cores, rather than standard polyurethane (PU) foam, and wrapped in strategically positioned carbon fibre bands, instead of a standard wooden stringer.

He said finding the right material was about trying to maintain the strength-to-weight ratio and performance aspects like flex patterns, and making something fresh and exciting to ride.

It was not always about competition points. The greater part of it was about having an exciting, fun feel.

Part of it was to do with stringers, typically made from wood.

“Wood is naturally occurring so is always going to be a little different. With composites — like carbon — you can control it more.

“But there is something magical about wood stringers. They have an organic feel, a certain natural dampening that feels just right, and everything gets graded against that.”

Another major change has been transitioning from handshaping to computer-aided design (CAD).

With CAD, surfboards are designed on a computer and the surfboard shape is cut by a machine.

Biolos first got into it while on a shaping trip to Brazil in 1999 when he used one of the first CAD machines.

“I love the design control. You can change the sizes and scale of different shapes, effectively and consistently creating and recreating good designs.”

It works for a global brand like Lost, where the boards are locally produced in different locations around the world. Tommy Dalton at The Boardroom produces them.

“I can make designs and email them around the world,” Biolos said.

“If a guy in Gisborne wants to get the same board Kolohe (Andino) is riding at Trestles, I just email the file to Tommy.”

While he started out handshaping, he prefers the modern technology.

“Handshaping is great — the aura, the romance. And I was really good at it. I handshaped for 12 years, travelled the world and shaped thousands of boards. I won handshaping awards. I have done it.

“But really, it is romantic but not the most effective. Shaping for the really top guys involves minute precision. Then, when we create a really good board, we can keep recreating them.”

LAST week I was lucky enough to chat to Lost Surfboards founder and revolutionary shaper Matt Biolos about the world of surfboard design.

It was one of those semi-starstruck moments, knowing he shapes for some of the best surfers in the world today — Kolohe Andino, Taj Burrow, Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright — and in the past, the late Hawaiian great Andy Irons.

“Things have changed tremendously since I started 30 years ago,” the California-based shaper said.

“V bottoms and big square rails were in, and nobody was looking into things like concave.”

But while the changes were drastic — long to short; one fin to two fins, to three fins, to four fins — in the past decade the changes have been more subtle.

“Look at a board from 10 years ago,” he said.

“There are really subtle differences. It is more about making refined, minute changes to design, and fine-tuning.”

The main change has been in the openness to alternative designs.

Biolos was one of the first shapers to start making surfboards shorter, wider and with more volume to ride smaller, less powerful waves.

“Twenty years ago nearly everybody was riding the same kind of board,” he said.

“Now it is much more individual.”

Think hybrid-performance shortboards — his favourites — with different fin set-ups, all with a little more volume and flatter through the bottom.

“People are more realistic and humble about what is right for them. Rather than try to ride what the pros ride, they take into account wave types and personal ability.

“The good surfers are after something a bit shorter, thinner, narrower and with more rocker so they can manoeuvre it more easily, while other surfers want a bit more volume and flatter boards.”

While there has been a push towards more retro surfboards — single-fin boards and twin-fin fishes — that is not for him.

“I like to look at the past for positive influences — speed, boards that are easy to catch waves, aesthetics — and challenge myself to push forward,” Biolos said.

“A lot of beautiful boards are being made with things like fancy resin, but I think if you are just trying to recreate the past you are living in the past.”

With changes in surfboard design becoming so minute, and shaping largely done using computers and laser cutting for ultimate precision, in the past decade the main battleground for design has become materials.

“Materials are going crazy right now. A lot of people are just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks,” he said.

For the past three years, Lost has focused exclusively on carbon wrap technology, developed by Kiwi expatriate Dan MacDonald (DMS Surfboards) on the Gold Coast.

The boards are made with expanded polystyrene (EPS) cores, rather than standard polyurethane (PU) foam, and wrapped in strategically positioned carbon fibre bands, instead of a standard wooden stringer.

He said finding the right material was about trying to maintain the strength-to-weight ratio and performance aspects like flex patterns, and making something fresh and exciting to ride.

It was not always about competition points. The greater part of it was about having an exciting, fun feel.

Part of it was to do with stringers, typically made from wood.

“Wood is naturally occurring so is always going to be a little different. With composites — like carbon — you can control it more.

“But there is something magical about wood stringers. They have an organic feel, a certain natural dampening that feels just right, and everything gets graded against that.”

Another major change has been transitioning from handshaping to computer-aided design (CAD).

With CAD, surfboards are designed on a computer and the surfboard shape is cut by a machine.

Biolos first got into it while on a shaping trip to Brazil in 1999 when he used one of the first CAD machines.

“I love the design control. You can change the sizes and scale of different shapes, effectively and consistently creating and recreating good designs.”

It works for a global brand like Lost, where the boards are locally produced in different locations around the world. Tommy Dalton at The Boardroom produces them.

“I can make designs and email them around the world,” Biolos said.

“If a guy in Gisborne wants to get the same board Kolohe (Andino) is riding at Trestles, I just email the file to Tommy.”

While he started out handshaping, he prefers the modern technology.

“Handshaping is great — the aura, the romance. And I was really good at it. I handshaped for 12 years, travelled the world and shaped thousands of boards. I won handshaping awards. I have done it.

“But really, it is romantic but not the most effective. Shaping for the really top guys involves minute precision. Then, when we create a really good board, we can keep recreating them.”

Surfing community in mourning

It has been a rough past few weeks in the Gisborne (and New Zealand) surfing scene.

The “Sheriff of Makorori”, Bob Hansen, passed away last Saturday, following the recent death of surfboard shaping pioneer Bob Davie.

Hansen’s impact on Gisborne surfing was immense.

While he was an excellent surfer himself, it was his positive influence on others and his larger-than-life personality for which he will be remembered.

He raised one of New Zealand’s best surfers in his son Bobby Hansen, and coached the New Zealand junior surfing team for many years.

He was at the helm for one of the biggest achievements in New Zealand competitive surfing when, at the world junior championships in Australia in 2001, Gisborne’s Jay Quinn won the under-18 title, Bobby Hansen came second in the u-16s, and the team took out the overall title.

But his influence went well beyond surfing, particularly in his role as a teacher, both at Gisborne Intermediate and later at Gisborne Boys’ High School. The 700 people who attended his funeral service on Wednesday, and the hundreds (if not thousands) of comments and posts on social media, are testament to that influence.

Tomorrow morning at 9am a paddle-out will be held at northern Makorori for Hansen and his family.

A Gisborne Boardriders Club shortboard competition will follow at 10am.

It is free for GBC members. All are welcome, with a $20 fee for non-members.

GBC’s next competition is on March 25. It will be the first of three events in the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) series.
The following weekend, on April 1, the club will hold the second event in the longboard series.

The surf forecast is not looking too flash for this weekend, although Tawhirimatea (god of weather) might provide a little offshore window on Saturday morning for Hansen’s paddle-out.

See you out the back.

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