You're Probably Riding The Wrong Surfboard
So allow Jason Stevenson (AKA JS Surfboards) to set you straight.
We’re all just Aladdins looking for own perfect little slice of Persian fur to fly on.
But what happens when Aladdin starts to get a little chubby over the years and the dimensions of his original magic carpet don't seem so magic anymore? What does he ride then? And then what about the rest of us that have never even come close to owning a rug we could describe as ‘magic’?
If you’re not following this metaphor, my point is finding the right surfboard for you ain't easy. It's some complex surf math most of us aren't equiped to tackle on our own, so I got one of the world’s most respected genies on the phone to find out where we’re all going wrong.
Stab: When you’re watching the general public surf, what’s the one thing you notice people are doing wrong with their board choices?
JS: I can see when someone has the right board under their feet. I watch some guys that might only surf okay but they’ve chosen the right volume board, they’re going fast and doing good turns for their ability. Some days I’ll be watching 200 guys surf D-Bah and only 10% of them will be riding the right equipment.
I had a feeling it’d be volume.
Yeah, volume is a big one but a lot of people will also choose the wrong model for the conditions. I’ll watch people getting ready to paddle out in 6 ft surf with boards that aren’t meant to go above 3 ft, but yeah, a lot of the boards you see under people’s arms are just too small.
So why is we all keep buying boards that are too small for us?
No one's making the right boards. There's a lot of brands that don't cater to the bigger humans. I'm in my late forties now and I've been surfing since I was 5 but I've had knee, hip, back and neck injuries and I’ve put on weight. Then there’s not surfing as much, drinking too much, having kids and just life in general. There are many reasons people end up 5'10 and 90kgs when they should be 5'10 and 80kg and I’ve found myself needing boards with more volume now.
I thought it might have been related to people’s ego?
There's probably a little bit of ego there. What 5'10, 90 kg guy doesn't prefer to say he's 80kgs? Bigger humans don't want to admit that they're bigger humans. I had a knee injury and I was out for maybe three months and I went from 83kgs and I came back at 88kgs. Before the injury, I was riding 28-litre boards and when I tried to ride the same I was thinking “This board sucks!”. So I made another board and went to 30 litres and I was still having a horrible time and then I moved up to 33 litres and then I was instantly like "I'm back!". I'm the shaper and even I got it wrong.
You rip though, what about volume as it relates to ability? I hear people ask other people how much they weigh and then recommend boards based on this info alone. Surely someone’s ability is the biggest factor?
Yeah, it is. There’s a whole combination of things that go into finding the right board but you’ve got to be honest about your ability. If you're going to spend the money, be as honest as you can because you're going to get the right board. We have a volume calculator on our site that factors in your ability, height, weight, age, etc and we played around with the formula for a couple of years getting the math right and I reckon it’s spot on. I've had a lot of guys ask me what volume their boards should be and I get them to use the volume calculator when they choose their board and they come back and tell me "This is the best board I've ever had."
If so many of us bigger guys are on the wrong boards, what’s the solution?
We’ve started building a lot of our most popular models in what we call ‘Easy Rider’ dimensions for bigger humans. They paddle easier, have foam hidden in all the right places but they’re still a nice foiled out surfboards with nice low rails. They turn. There are all the benefits of extra foam without it looking like you're riding an 8-foot mal.
It seems like a massive oversight from the shaping world.
It’s been something that I only fully realised when I had my own experiences with injuries. I work with guys like Occy and Luke Egan who are bigger guys and I've always been able to make that elite level big guy board but I’m now making boards for bigger people in the general population. There are all sorts of abilities and a big chunk of surfers that just want to be able to put a board on rail and catch more waves.
Hey unrelated to the big boy talk but how different are the boards that someone like Julian is paddling out in heats vs the same model that’s sitting in the shop?
Every single model you see in the store is a replica of the boards I've designed for the pros, it’s just the lamination process that's the difference. If Julian's riding a 6'0 AIR 17 then that 6'0 AIR 17 that's in the store is the same except it’s a Ferrari in regards to its glass. Julian doesn't pay for boards so when someone buys one in store we want to make sure they last as long as they can.
We've gone everywhere with board design, what's next?
There are always little tweaks going on but it’ll be the exoskeleton of the surfboards where the biggest movement will be. With our models made in HYFI construction, we've gone from surfboards with stringers to removing that stringer and finding new ways to build strength and flex into that outer shell.