How To: Build An Indestructible Tube Shooter
An essential tool for those who barrel on a budget.
Two years ago I approached my long-time shaper, Rusty Surfboards’ Mike Russo, with a request that almost certainly made him cringe.
Please oh please, make me a tube board that will not break.
The purpose behind this unreasonable request was simple: my next several months were booked with trips to some of the world’s best waves, and I wanted a board I could rely on. Something I could bring to Mexico, Australia, Fiji, Panama, Hawaii and beyond with the confidence that it could catch waves, make drops, and most importantly take a brutal beating (without snapping). I told him I didn’t care about the board’s weight, shape, or aesthetics, so long as it fulfilled these criteria.
Oh, and make the board orange because it looks cool and won’t get sun-ugly over time.
One month later, Mike handed me a 5’11 x 18.75 x 2.38 Rusty Blackbird, complete with a 5-fin setup, round tail, Stretch-style rail gutters, white carbon across the bottom and tail, and a whole lot of fiberglass. The board was heavier than a bag of rocks and looked kinda funny, but boy was it strong. Instantly I knew this would be my travel-tube board.
What I didn’t know, but what I would discover over the following months (and years), was that this was the best surfboard purchase of my life. $500 for an unbreakable barrel-monster? Take my money!
Over the past two years, throughout trips to all of aforementioned places and beyond, this board has not only survived, but thrived in a plethora of heavy barreling conditions. The extra foam and weight makes paddling a breeze, the quad setup takes a high-line better than Charlie Sheen, and when user-error puts this board in peril, its Herculean composition makes it impervious to snapping. In fact, between the twenty or so flights it’s endured, the tens of bumpy boat rides, off-road adventures, and double-ups on the head, this board has hardly earned as much as a pressure ding. It’s a fucking tank.
In my opinion, every surfer should have one of these trusty, military-grade crafts. Here’s what you tell your shaper to get your own indestructible* tube shooter:
Make it a step-up
If you plan on getting shacked off your gourd, there’s no reason to make this board a potato chip. Add a couple inches in length, put some width in the nose, and pull in the tail. Above all else, you want this thing to catch waves, make drops, and go exceptionally fast in a straight line.
Give it some belly
Adding thickness in the middle will help you paddle over the ledge and, should you fail to make the drop, help keep the board from snapping in half. A little foam goes a long way.
Gutter the rails
Due to my utter hatred of physics I’m unable to explain how or why, but something about those deep, Stretch-style rail gutters make a board significantly less likely to break. They also help for gripping purposes when it comes to heavy duckdives and/or pigdogging. Aesthetic preferences aside, these are a must-have for any
Gimme fin options!
Different strokes for different folks, but you really can’t go wrong with the 5-fin option. Spend the extra $40 and try out a few different setups–quads, tris, a cheeky duo, whatever. It will change the way you think about barrel riding.
Fiberglass is your friend
Double-6 on top, double-6 on bottom will make your board heavy, sure, but also incredibly strong. It’s also worth noting that in powerful conditions, extra weight will keep your board glued to the face and allow you to plow through foamballs with ease. Remember, this board is meant to ride like a Cadillac; not a Ferrari.
Embrace the carbon shield
While my carbon-based knowledge is admittedly slim, I do know that it increases a board’s strength and stiffness. In talking with surfboard shapers, I’ve learned that wrapping carbon around the rails multiplies these factors, so I’d recommend covering the bottom of your board and wrapping it around the tail of the deck.
Thicken that stringer
You know that traction pad liner-upper in the middle of your board? That’s called a stringer, and believe it or not the skinny piece of wood has some structural function in the board, though I won’t profess to know what that is. What I do know about stringers is that the thicker they are, the less likely they are to break. So don’t be afraid to ask for the next level up from your standard shorty. More wood, more good.
Pull in the tail
Round waves require a narrow, round tail. Make sure your shaper tucks it in tight.
With these instructions and a few Franklins in hand, you too can have an international barrel beater. Now what are you waiting for, call your shaper!
*Obvious disclosure: no board is truly impervious to breaking. However, with the right construction methods and a little bit of luck, you too can build a board that performs well in heavy conditions and lasts for years.
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