Do Asymmetrical Surfboards Actually Work?
We tested the Album Disasym to find out.
Prior to this Joyride, I had never ridden an asymmetrical surfboard. I'd assume that's true of many surfers out there.
My goal was to determine if asymmetrical surfboards actually worked, or if they were just a cruel marketing gimmick with the Mayhems, Burches, and Matt Parkers (Album) of the world laughing their way to the bank while we, the people, flounder on misshapen crafts.
While that would be hilarious (in retrospect), it is indeed not the case. At least not with the Album Disasym.
Forehand, on rail, she's like a machete through jungle brush.
You might recognize the Album Disasym from the first Electric Acid Surfboard Test with Dane Reynolds. It's a shape that Dane wanted to hate but simply couldn't find a fault with when he put foot to foam.
Now, a little description of Album, for those who don't know them:
Album is what I'd call a luxury alternative surfboard brand. Based out of San Clemente, California, Matt Parker (Album's founder) places equal emphasis on his surfboards' aesthetics and design, creating a fleet of functionally gorgeous crafts made for surfers of most abilities (you can check out Morgan's three-board quiver here). Along with Josh Kerr, Album recently acquired Asher Pacey as its marquee team rider.
When selecting an Album board for the Joyride, I told Matt I wanted something I could rip on in decent-to-good surf. He said the Disasym was definitely the go-to due to its slim outline and performance-based curves (Album is mostly known for its "fishier" shapes). When we started talking dimensions, my head spun. I basically told Matt my standard shorty numbers: 5'7 x 18.2 x 2.15 x 23L. He chopped off 3 inches of length and 0.2" of width, which frightened me.
How could he make a board shorter and narrower without increasing thickness and still have it float me, let alone work?
Who did this?
"These boards are meant to be ridden narrower," Matt explained. "The overall outline is a little straighter with more nose and tail width, so they're amazing at generating speed. For that reason, you just don't need as much planing area."
Matt continued to assure me, revealing that his personal Disasyms are a quarter-inch narrower than his standard shorty.
"Fine, you win," I thought, but didn't say. "But if I sink it's your fault!"
Matt, of course, was right. But decreased width was just the first of many things that I'd yet to learn about asymmetrical surfboards. The next big revelation was around fins.
Not that I'd ever put too much thought into this before riding the Disasym, but in my mind, asymmetrical boards were meant to be ridden with a single set of quads, from which one trailer fin would be missing on the "single" side. This, of course, was dead wrong.
As I'd come to learn from Matt (and would later have verified by our friends at Futures), an asymmetrical's tri-fin set-up requires two separate sets of fins—one part twin (on the single side) and two parts quad (on the double).
This kinda seems like a pyramid scheme by the fin brands, but whatever.
I started my testing with a twin that I knew I liked—the Futures Machado template (as seen in our JS Black Baron Joyride), which is flexible with a deep foil for ultimate speed and maneuverability—and a set of quads recommended by Matt—the EA (Erik Arakawa) template, which is stiff with a flat foil for power and control.
I justified this strange combination with RVCA Theory—it was a balance of opposites. I had a rigid quad set beneath my heel for harder frontside carves, while the flexible twin betwixt my toes would provide extra release on the lefts.
Fins pictured: Futures' Rastovich twin + quad.
This brings me to the next point on asymmetricals: do they even go backside?
Popular surf culture had led me to believe that, no, asyms don't really work with your back to the wall. But Matt Parker wants us to reject that narrative.
According to Matt, asyms, or at least his asyms, are ergonomically designed to surf in both directions. Because if you think about it, backside surfing and frontside surfing are extremely different from a technical standpoint.
For most folks, frontside turns are rounder and utilize more of the rail, which is why asyms are designed with extended rail-line and extra fin on the heel-side. Meanwhile, backside turns are more pivoty in nature, hence the shorter rail-line and absence of a second fin beneath the toes.
My first experience on the Disasym was at good-sized but heavily textured Lower Trestles. From the very first wave, I found the Disasym to be fast, loose (but in control), and surprisingly easy to ride. An instant success.
That was frontside. Backside was another story.
Skippy bottom turns, bogged snaps, and a total lack of control marked the majority of my heelside attempts. Granted, the lefts had a heavy headwind that sent sizable chops up the face, but even these moguls couldn't account for my Christmas list of backhand woes.
Second session, I opted for fin conformity. Futures makes the Dave Rastovich template—which sits somewhere in the middle of the Machado and EA templates, with a large base, semi-flexible construction, and flat foil—in both quad and twin designs, so I went full dolphin-lover on day two.
The waves were meager. One-foot, soft, and 49 shades of SoCal grey. To my surprise, the Disasym produced ample speed and spark in the minimalist conditions. The clips are underwhelming, but the feeling underfoot was quite positive. I even had a couple of decent lefts, but nothing that made me believe the Disasym was truly designed to go backside.
Some stereotypes are, unfortunately, true.
Airs on an asym: possible.
All up, the Album Disasym made a quick believer of me. Not only did it prove that asymmetrical surfboards "work," but also that they're stupidly fun even for non-pros. I would recommend that pretty much everybody try one, particularly if they live near a forehand point.
If you want me to list a negative (beyond the backside thing), it's that the Disasym literally can't stand upright due to its uneven tail. This might seem trivial on paper, but it's not until you physically can't rest your board against a car, wall, or other vertical object that you realize how often you do it. This gets annoying quick.
As far as fin preference goes, further "testing" has revealed that the Rasta twin + quad is a happy medium I enjoy most. Plenty of hold on the heels and the right amount of release on the toes. No sense of disconnect when rolling from rail to rail. They also planted a vegetable garden in my backyard just last week.