Watch the Haydenshapes team ride their unanimously favorite surfboard. Film: Tyge Landa
Haydenshapes' Holy Grail Model Is Like Nothing You've Seen Before
Introducing 2017's most uniquely functional shortboard design.
Haydenshapes new performance model, the Holy Grail, began as something else entirely.
A few years back, an Aussie big-waver by the name of Ben Wilkinson came to Hayden Cox, owner and designer of Haydenshapes surfboards, with a major problem. For Ben, riding big waves had become humdrum. Monotonous. Blasé. “A man can only go straight so many times,” Ben explained to Hayden. “I want to turn. I want to turn at Maverick’s. At Jaws!”
And so Hayden, who is something of a surfboard-obsessed meganerd, thought long and hard about Ben’s conundrum. What he came up with looked like a beaver-tailed 9’6, with fins starting much further up the deck than usual and a sidecut in the back third of the board.
It was very weird, but it worked. Thanks to a big of abstract engineering Ben was able to toy with big waves like never before.
The next generation of the Holy Grail was roughly half the size of Ben’s Maverick’s gun. Heading to Nias for an “R&D trip”, Hayden packed a 5’6” that was thick through the chest but pulled-in significantly toward the tail. The fins were positioned 10 inches from the back of the surfboard, leaving a genuine beavertail behind his feet. According to Hayden, the board held in 15-foot faces like nothing he’d ever ridden. “I was kinda hoping it would get bigger,” he explained. "The bigger it got, the better the board performed."
But when the swell dropped, the extend-o-tail became a hindrance to the board’s turning ability. He considered chopping off a few inches and re-glassing it over there, but opted to retain the original and start working on newer versions once at home.
The design theory was simple -- well, at least to Hayden -- and he thought it could apply to more than just big-ish wave surfing. Hayden explained: “I was exploring the use of rail line curvature to affect a board’s performance when surfing on its rail line. The challenge was to create a board that could ride the fastest on the horizontal plane but also have the ability to carve and turn when on rail.”
In layman’s terms, Hayden designed a board that was wider and flatter through the front half, as to allow for speed through soft sections, and then used a sidecut to slenderize the tail for increased hold on steeper sections. To compound that, the sidecut creates a slightly concaved outline in relation to the rest of the board's convex, which increases the rail line curve. So instead of forming a hip that creates a break in the water when the board is put on rail (a la Al Merrick’s Flyer and many other boards from the 80’s), the Holy Grail’s inverse rail line moves the water in different directions to create flow through carving maneuvers. It’s the difference between holding the rail with an arc versus releasing it with a snap.
Over the next couple years Hayden tinkered with this concept, using his own surfing as the sole metric of success, and finally reached a point where he was content with the Holy Grail’s design. But being a perfectionist, Hayden is rarely convinced that a surfboard has reached its true potential. The only way to find out was to let his team riders ride the Holy Grail.
Dion Agius first rode the Holy Grail a few months ago. After a couple minor tweaks in the numbers, he’s convinced it’s one of the best boards he’s ridden -- especially in the context of his trying to become a better rail surfer. His most recent edit, New Blood, was filmed exclusively on the Holy Grail within a span of two weeks.
During the filming of New Blood, I sat on the beach with Dion in between sessions at Aussie Pipe. When I asked him about the Holy Grail, he seemed to surprise himself. “It’s the first kind of grovel board, that doesn’t feel like grovel board,” Dion told me. “I’ve been riding those shorter, fatter boards for such a long time that I forgot what it was like to do a proper turn. This board keeps the speed and pop that you’d want for airs, but when you put it on rail, it’s like a shortboard -- but better. I’m kind of freaking out... This might actually be the Holy Grail [laughs]”. That last part was sort of an inside joke, as the Haydenshapes team had spent the week teasing Hayden over the board's hackneyed namesake. But hey, if the bejeweled goblet fits...
Dylan Graves had similar feelings toward the board. “When I first saw it I thought it was a groveler, because you ride it a little shorter and wider than a normal shortboard. But the more I rode it, the more I realized it was a high-performance model with some groveler benefits. I was really surprised by the lift it got through flat sections, yet it still maintained drive through turns. The more juicy/steep the wave, the better it began to feel. It’s like someone was sitting on the beach with an iPad or something, changing the size and shape of your board as you surfed... does that makes sense?”
Somehow, yes. Yes it does.
But a pro’s endorsement should be taken with a hectare of the Bonneville Flats. Their abilities can mask a board's inherent flaws, or even override certain negatives that would be experienced by you or me. Hayden told me his belief has always been that the best board is the one that's most fun to ride (see: Hypto Krypto). So I asked him, "Will a typical punter enjoy riding the Holy Grail... or is this more of an experts-only kind of deal?"
“This board isn’t for beginners,” Hayden explained. “If you can’t yet do a cutback, you’re not ready for the Holy Grail. That said, surfers ranging from intermediate to expert will find something they love about this board. For the less skilled surfers, the flatter rocker will give them down-the-line speed, and as they learn to put the board more on rail, the Holy Grail will start to perform better and better. It’s the type of board that allows for exponential improvement. Then for experienced surfers, it’s basically a high performance stick with small wave capabilities.”
And even if he’s got the science to back up those claims, it’s always gonna sound like a sales pitch coming from Hayden. That’s why over the next few days, Dooma and I will put the Holy Grail to the (mostly unbiased) test. Dooma an excellent surfer, me somewhere between decent and half-decent, will float around SoCal’s premier beachies and points in an attempt to bring you the truth behind the marketing campaign. A fun-sized south is filling in and we can’t imagine a better way to spend a “work day”.
To check out the Holy Grail's specs head to the Haydenshapes (newly refurbished) site, here.