Some time ago, legendary world champion Shaun Tomson made the move from his home of South Africa to California’s Santa Barbara. Instead of frequenting J-Bay, he now surfs Rincon daily. Shaun, one of surfing’s most intelligent cats and ever at the forefront of design progression and innovation, has just developed a new Channel Islands board designed for older fellas, called the ‘Warp’. Design specs of the Warp are influenced by Shaun’s fast, down-the-line approach and his love of long, righthand points. It’s tailor-made for over-40′s who no longer have the strength in their knees and the speed in their game that they once possessed. Stab caught up with Shaun at his home in Santa Barbara to discuss board design, iPhone apps, keynote speeches and TV series.
Stab: What’s been happening in the world of Shaun Tomson lately?
Shaun Tomson: I’ve just finished a new chapter of a book I wrote a few years ago called Surfer’s Code, which has been through about nine printers now, so it’s quite a popular book. And I just finished a children’s book of rhymes three weeks ago. I released it as an iPhone application, it’s called Surf Creatures. It’s for kids from five-10 years old and that’s been going quite well. We actually broke into the top hundred in book applications, so that was pretty cool. I’m also speaking at the Smithsonian Institute about Creatures in about three weeks time. I’ve been trying to do more creative things; I’m shooting a pilot next week for a new TV show that I wrote and am hoping will be made into a series. So I’m doing a lot of different media things that I’ve always wanted to do but have never really done. I lost my son and since then… you sort of realise that we’re all just running out of time.
Tell me about the TV series.
The show’s called Surf City and it’s about a group of kids living the Southern California lifestyle. Some of them working at Jack’s Surf Shop, some of them are working at Huntington Surf & Sport, which are the two most important surf shops in the world. In that Huntington Beach zone, Main Street’s the sort of Ground Zero for the surfing industry. All the trends in the surfing world all sort of start in that area. So it’s just a little slice of the California lifestyle. At this stage, our focus is on hard-edge documentary style, as opposed to train-wreck television. I’m not into the whole train-wreck thing, I like to get involved in inspirational projects.
Let’s talk about your new board for the older generation.
Well for me, I’ve always been a carver and I’ve got this new board that I’ve developed with a young Aussie shaper actually, a guy called Mike Andrews at Channel Islands. It’s called the ‘Warp’, which is just a play on the concept of time-warp and speed. It’s made for old-school carving, which is great for Rincon. It’s actually quite popular over here with the over-40 crew. The guys that haven’t got pilot’s licenses. The reason I developed it is, I’ve found that as you get older… how old are you? You’re probably a young guy.
I just turned 24.
Ok, so what happens as you get older is, you lose that explosion of power to your feet. And you need a little bit more volume under your chest as you’re paddling over the edge. Each year you lose a millisecond and once you reach around 45, it’s a bit more profound, so I wanted a board that had a little bit more volume under the chest. Most boards are so finely-tuned and when young guys paddle they have that really profoundly-arched back and their weight is much further back. You need that volume under your chest just to get you up and going, because as soon as you get up and going quickly, you get the speed and any manoeuvre is possible. I also wanted a board that could be put on rail really hard. Most modern boards are a single-to-double concave. The whole thesis behind modern surfing is power and release. When you’ve just been a power guy all your life like I have, and a lot of guys who’re over 40 who never got into the air thing (not because they didn’t think it was valid, but just because they couldn’t do it), then you never really subscribe to that design. I wanted something that had the speed of that concave and had that rail-to-rail transition on the V. On the outline we fooled around with a half-inch single wing. I just don’t like that volume behind my back foot. So I wanted to really bring in the area behind my back foot. We worked out some different fin-positioning and flattened out the entry curve, which really starts to give you a lot of lift in small waves. I wanted to base it more around the zero to five foot range, which is what most the waves here around Southern California are. So it’s just a really good board for 40-plus. – Elliot Struck
Below is a video of Shaun making his keynote speech at the inauguration of the local government in Santa Barbara County recently.