Introducing the NB2, coming to a peak near you. Photo: AVG
Dane Loved It, Eithan Won On It, Now You Can Ride The Neck Beard 2
Introducing Channel Islands' new hot thang, as explained by Britt Merrick.
Don't try to tell us that after watching Dane Reynolds thrash it in Electric Acid and Eithan Osborne launch it in Stab High, that you're not the slightest bit curious about Channel Islands' new Neck Beard 2.
Over the past month, the Stab team can't shut up about this step-down, chop-tail, choose-your-construction craft. What we saw from Dane in his Acid Test and Eithan in the pool made us wonder what, exactly, had changed since the original Neck Beard released nearly 10 years ago.
Naturally we hit up Britt Merrick – infamously bearded son of Al and a revered shaper in his own right – who alongside Dane, helped design this revamped slider. He told us all we wanted and more about the NB2.
Dane picks a winner.
Stab: Where did the original Neck Beard come from?
Britt Merrick: Well this was back in 2009, and Dane was in a place where he wanted to feel something different – something that had a little more flow. He’d always been so focused on riding the most cutting edge and high performance equipment, I think Dane just wanted a board that facilitated fun. The Neck Beard was one of his first real “step-down” boards, which are extremely common now but weren’t back then. It happened around the same time as the Dumpster Diver.
We heard a rumor that the Neck Beard’s chop-tail came from Dane walking into a shaping bay and either saying, “Just lop that thing off!” or perhaps even doing it himself. Is there any truth to that?
[Laughs] Well that’s what’s rad about the Neck Beard – it’s maybe true depending who you ask. There’s so many stories about how the Neck Beard got started, probably because there were so many different versions of the thing. But I believe there was a version of the board where Dane, who was getting frustrated with some of the boards he was trying, just told the shaper to chop a foot off the tail and he’d ride it like that. Though I don’t believe that’s the model we went to market with.
Who needs bottom contours when you can fly?
And man, that tail sure is strange. I can’t say it looks very pretty, or even functional, but if Dane loves it there must be something special. So what’s the theory behind the super-wide, squared off tail?
Dane thought the board would turn sick with more area off the block. He didn’t think you needed the curve found in a rounded squash or whatever. Through testing, we learned that it actually provides a pretty good pivot point and allows the board to turn rather tight and snappy despite how it looks.
How did the original Neck Beard perform with consumers?
It sold really well. Just like with the Dumpster Diver, people seemed to eat it up.
And now, nearly 10 years later, you’ve released the Neck Beard 2. What was the inspiration for that?
It was actually Stab’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test. You guys approached us about reconfiguring one of our classic alternative crafts for Dane, and the Neck Beard seemed like a perfect fit. So I connected with Dane, and we basically looked at all the old versions of the Neck Beard and said, “We like the nose on this one, but we like the tail on that one,” basically just trying to mix it all together to find something Dane likes now. That included changing the bottom contours coming out of the back, straightening the rocker through the middle, and making the tail a bit wider than the market version.
All of those changes you’ve listed – I can picture them in my mind, but how do they translate to the NB2’s performance as compared to the original?
By taking the vee out and adding a little more width in the tail – so that it’s not such a straight rail line down there – I think we’ve loosened it up in the tail a bit. I’ve been riding one and I’m really surprised at how loose that tails gets. I think a lot of people get intimidated when they see that wide, straight tail, but it’s actually like the loosest thing with the most control.
You’ve been a shaper all your life, and you grew up under your dad, Al, who is one of the most iconic shapers in the history of our sport, so I’m sure you’ve had a lot of shaping “principles” drilled into you over the years. When Dane comes up with something like this crazy chop-tail, is there a part of you that says, “No! Don’t do that!”?
My dad's whole philosophy on shaping was, “I want to do what makes a surfer feel what they want to feel, surf the way the want to surf, and so be happy.” That was his whole thing. He’s the designer at the core, but he wants to design for his surfers. So whatever is gonna allow them to feel what they wanna feel, that’s what he wants to do. My dad always saw himself as serving the surfers, rather than serving himself. I think some designers can be like, “This is the way that I see it, this is my design, get on board with that and feel what I want you to feel.” My dad was never like that. And he imparted that in me.
Look back at it!
Above all, my dad always felt like the surfers that he shaped for could surf better than they were, if only the boards could catch up with what they were imagining themselves doing. We always surf better in our minds than we do on the waves, and my dad believed part of the reason for that was that boards held people back. For that reason, we should let the surfers lead the way, not the shapers.
Has following that open-minded path, as forged by your pops, led to you being surprised by the functionality of perceivably strange designs, like, say, the chop tail?
Absolutely. And I think the end of the road for anybody in their personal passion is when they think, “Well, I kinda know it all, and I’ve arrived there, so let me tell you how it goes.” I don’t even fathom getting there as a shaper, because we can always learn from surfers.
Any tips for a decent surfer who’s thinking about buying a Neck Beard 2?
I think a lot of surfers, especially those who are more skilled, want to force their approach to surfing on any given board. But the thing is, a lot of boards want to be surfed in different ways – I think that’s the beauty of, and why we’re in this “ride anything” culture. I think the Neck Beard is surprisingly intuitive, it’s got a pretty big sweet spot, so just jump on it and try to feel it and in no time you’ll be going fast and ripping.
Would you look at that pop?
Speaking of going fast, I found the speed and height Eithan Osborne was generating at Stab High incredible. He actually won the Big Air award, and as it turns out he was on the Neck Beard 2 in your Spinetek epoxy. So how much of that is the board, and how much of it is just a talented, super-charged grom?
I mean, yeah of course it’s always the board dude [laughs]. Just kidding. If it’s not going well it’s always the board’s fault; if it is going well, the surfer was just killing it [laughs]. But no, I think the Neck Beard lends itself to that quite well – the way it’s laid out proportionately, it has a ton of inherent speed, and it gets a lot of pop out of the top.
Stay tuned, as we'll be testing the NB2 for ourselves in an upcoming Joyride.