"It's The Best Board That Goes Straight In The Whole World” - Stab Mag

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Tai, in familiar territory on his first ever Pro model. Photo by @harroart

“It’s The Best Board That Goes Straight In The Whole World”

Jason Stevenson and Tai Buddha offer their solution to the board thickness + big tube equation.

hardware // Jul 9, 2024
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Editor’s note: Though I initially called Tai to speak about his new board model with JS — which you can see here — we ended up spending an hour diving into his business philosophies, tales of intrepid Indonesian adventures, the story behind starting Single Fin, and how he was so broke he had to ride a pushbike in Bali. That story will be live tomorrow. For now, enjoy his excitement surrounding the new tube-specialized equipment he’s perfected with JS.

“I’m left wondering if there are any adventure pirates out there anymore,” Tai ‘Buddha’ Graham tells me, moments before hopping on a boat with the Billabong team in remote Indonesia.

“For the last five years, Mikala [Jones] wasn’t getting paid a dime. He was just doing it for the love of it. I talk to some of these surfers now and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, but no one’s paying me.’ Does someone need to pay you to go maybe get the barrels of your life? Is that what it’s about? Or is it about the adventure spirit?”

“One session that really stands out in my life was a giant Apocalypse session during Covid, it was fucking massive out there, like triple overhead,” Tai Buddha tells me. “There’s usually heaps of crew around, but it was just me and Mikala [Jones] sitting in the water bobbing together, not even a fisherman in sight.”

The type of person who fondly remembers a solo session at triple-overhead Apocalypse tends to also be the type of person who knows exactly what sort of boards work in gigantic tubes. 

Tai fits both descriptions, and he’s injected his decades of business + heavy-water experience into a new board with Jason Stevenson — the Big Horse.

“I was pretty starstruck to be honest with you. When he said he wanted to do a model with me I was like, ‘Fuck, this is one of the best shapers in the whole world and he wants to do a model with me?’
I had grown up on the Gold Coast watching Parko and Dingo and all the heroes ride their boards. It feels like it’s come full circle.”

“I’ve always felt like I was chasing the perfect Indo board, something that was perfect for the barrel. And maybe I just never really considered myself to be the guy to have that conversation with the people I was riding for. Jason offered to make me a batch, and I ended up bringing 20 different boards to the Ments. I wanted to make a decision on who to really hone in on a board with, and the best board by far was a JS. 

“I’m not an air guy or anything like that. I just love getting barrels. So I was like, I want the paddle power and I want the rails to be able to knife in if I’m surfing slabby Greenbush or Nias or something.”

As explained by Jason in the above clip, the board is a remarkable solution to the ‘need more foam, but don’t wanna bog’ dilemma. 

“This file has been around for years, I guess. He started with Makua, who wanted something narrow but thick for Pipe. And then Kauli wanted something similar for Chopes. We started playing around and I just wanted to pull a bit more foam forward, almost under your chin, and then pull the rails down a little bit more. From that first file, we played around with another five or six boards back and forth. Then we just got it. I went on a mission and got some of the best waves of my life. I just thought, ‘This is the board.’”

Uniquely the board comes in three tiers, with Tier 1 at 3-6ft, Tier 2 at 6-8ft, and Tier 3 at 8ft+. Depending on your definition of ‘8-foot’ these tiers could mean very different things (looking at you, Rob Kelly), but the general sentiment is that the stock dims get narrower and longer as the waves get bigger. 

Tai Graham // Height: 6’0” (183 cm) // Weight: 85 kg – 187 lbs
Tier 1 rides 6’2” x 19 1/4” x 2 3/4” x 33.3L
Tier 2 rides 6’4” x 19 1/8” x 2 13/16” x 34.8L
Tier 3 rides 6’6” x 19 1/8” x 2 7/8” x 36.5L

“It’s a tube board, so if you want to do airs or you want to surf fat burgers, this is definitely not the board. Looking at Andy Irons or whoever, it’s pretty hard to relate to them in the tube because they’re just so freaking good. But I feel like I’m a pretty relatable guy. I want paddle power, but I still want knifey rails, and I think this is the perfect blend of that. It gives you an extra couple of inches, an extra half an inch in thickness, but it feels like a smaller board. Because of the thickness and because the rails are so pulled down, you still get that paddle power without having big fat boaty rails.

“That was the problem I was having for so many years, I was getting the thickness, but then I was getting these big oil tanker rails to come with it. You want the thickness to your chin, but then you don’t want too much width. I’ve been riding this thing in everything from three foot slabs to like 12-15 foot big raw ocean movers. It’s the best board that goes straight in the whole world.”

Got an upcoming Indo trip or just nervous about your next swell at home? Scope Big Horse options here.

“When I look at a lot of guys riding a lot of boards everywhere, I can’t ever tell what they’re riding from far away. But, for example, the Black Beauty, you can see what it is from miles away. There’s only a couple of boards like that — the Hypto Krypto is the same. I was racking my brain thinking of a way to do something similar, and I was just like ‘Put a fucking red stringer on that thing!” Then we have the two options of a black board and a white board. I know 90% of people like white, but it looks sick as a black board too.” – Tai

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