Stab Magazine | Haydenshapes' Holy Grail Model Is Like Nothing You've Seen Before

Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy Will Be Broadcast Live On June 21st and June 22nd from 5 PM - 10 PM PDT


Haydenshapes’ Holy Grail Model Is Like Nothing You’ve Seen Before

Introducing 2017’s most uniquely functional shortboard design. 

cinema // Oct 18, 2017
Words by Michael Ciaramella
Reading Time: 6 minutes

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.

Screen Shot 2017 10 16 at 5.45.23 PM

Big Ben survives a steep Jaws drop before delivering a wicked nooner.

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. 

Screen Shot 2017 10 16 at 6.43.45 PM

History of the Grail.

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.


A (very) basic explanation of the Holy Grail’s functional points.

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.

Screen Shot 2017 10 16 at 4.32.18 PM

Dion… on the rail? Who’da thunk it!

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.

367 Holy Grail 2017 JOSH TABONE preview

Dylan Graves surfed this session with a bum ankle. He probably shouldn’t have surfed at all, but the combination of head high Aussie Pipe and a fresh white stick was too juicy to deny. Here Dylan “takes it easy” off the top.

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.”

Screen Shot 2017 10 16 at 4.40.43 PM

Even the infamously hard-to-impress Craig Ando is feeling his Holy Grail.

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.  

Screen Shot 2017 10 16 at 4.48.43 PM

And one last shot of Creed because why not?


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Allow Us To Introduce The YETI Ladybirds And Bottle Rockets Of Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy

Here's our schoolyard pick for teams; who will win the most cred at the lunch…

Jun 17, 2024

Prediction: Moving The WSL Finals To Fiji Will Kill Off Two More Surfing Superstars

Is this JJF's time to collect his titles? We checked the stats.

Jun 17, 2024

Confirmed: Fiji To Host 2025 WSL Finals

Cloudbreak will remain on tour until 2026.

Jun 17, 2024

What’s The Secret To Powersurfing?

Taylor Knox, Kyuss King, and Jessi Miley-Dyer tackle a trio of questions in our third…

Jun 16, 2024

How To Win Stab High Japan, Presented By Monster Energy

A statistical analysis of the 493 airs attempted in previous chlorinated editions.

Jun 16, 2024

Watch: An Intimate Portrait Of The Wave, Village, And People At The End Of The Road

Oxbow’s ‘Children of Teahupo’o’ is playing exclusively on Stab Premium for the next two weeks. 

Jun 15, 2024

Fuck It, Run The Entire CT In Indo

A historic beginning to the Indonesian dry season.

Jun 14, 2024

Ferrari Boyz: Holly Wawn

"I've had 4, 5, maybe 6 cars... I'm a car dealer I reckon."

Jun 13, 2024

A Miscalculated Shallow Dive, Neck-First, Into The Waters Of Japanese Surfing

How is surfing different in the land of cherry blossoms?

Jun 13, 2024

How Has Ian Crane Made 4/5 Stab High Finals?

And who he's most afraid of competing against in Japan.

Jun 13, 2024

“I Haven’t Seen Anyone That Young And That Keen For Heavy Waves In A Decade” —Shane Dorian

Jacob Turner is 16 years old and trying to paddle tow sets at Teahupo'o...on his…

Jun 12, 2024

Long Read: 1,000 Ways To Die In Indonesia

18,000 islands of beautiful people, world-class waves, and danger around every corner.

Jun 11, 2024

Watch: Craig Anderson And Kaito Ohashi Find (Mostly) Empty Waves In Southeast Asia

Oh, and enter to win a grand worth of DB gear.

Jun 11, 2024

Brad Gerlach Rode A 600cc Motorbike Through Europe’s 1980’s Psychedelic Renaissance  

"Fuck London. Let’s just buy motorcycles tomorrow and drive to France, man."

Jun 11, 2024

Caroline Marks Goes Two-In-A-Row And John John Florence Wins First CT Event Since 2020 At The Surf City El Salvador Pro

Plus, we asked Chris Cote for a look into the commentary team's psyche and Griff…

Jun 9, 2024

Why Is Mavericks Core Getting Overrun By Yuppies?

And other questions from our audience — answered by Pete Mel, Mick Fanning, and Joel…

Jun 9, 2024

Everything Worth Remembering From 4 (Mostly) Forgettable Quarterfinals In El Salvador

Plus, what's the consensus on the Griff vs. João kerfluffle?

Jun 8, 2024

Wildcard Big-dogs Italo, Yago Pops The Cork, And Griffin Cops An Ambiguous Interference On Day 2 In El Salvador

"Honestly, that was a bad... uhh I mean, a tough call." - Strider

Jun 8, 2024