Surfboard technology is an interesting part of our sport. From the evolution from the early Hawaiian olos and alias, to the logs of the ‘50s and Simon Anderson’s invention of the thruster in the 1980’s, anyone who surfs is interested in what makes what do what. Different outlines, different fin setups, different materials, and different waves – it all has an impact on how much fun you’re having. And it’s a complicated subject. Varying wave conditions, varying skill sets, and personal preference all play an integral role in a shaper’s often unappreciated job.
Shaping is a job that’s always evolving. As technology changes, boundaries are pushed further and further. Surfers now have a larger variety of crafts to ride than ever before – and along with that evolution is a movement to create more functional boards in less-than-perfect waves.
Depending on where you live, chances are good that you aren’t surfing perfect waves every day. There will be days when the wind is onshore and the swell direction isn’t right. One of the shapers that’s developing surfboards to work in smaller waves is a man named Dane Hantz, a California native, shaper, and owner of Vulcan Custom Surfboards. Hantz grew up surfing on one of the surfing state’s most important coastlines.
In the early ’70s, at Point Dume, a headland that makes up the northern part of the Santa Monica Bay, he started on his path building surfboards at an early age.
“I grew up in Malibu,” Dane told me over the phone on a sunny Thursday afternoon. “I used to cut through the neighbor’s property to get down to the beach, and there was a shaping shack there. It looked like an interesting fort. I remember the first time I went in a saw a poly shape… I was amazed.”
From there, his interest in surfboards blossomed into a full-blown passion. Years later, he found himself digitizing Daniel Thomson’s files. Tomo builds some of the most interesting and progressive surfboards on the market today, and along with Hantz, is incorporating hydrodynamic principles into many of his designs. “When Dan came over here, I was the guy that digitized all his files,” Hantz said, speaking about his experience with some of the big-name shapers. “I’m a CNC engineer and I’m also a designer.
Using design experience, Hantz began developing a design that was so unique he put a patent on it. Now in North County San Diego, his design was built for everyday waves and looked to make smaller, softer waves more fun. “Seventy percent of the surf that we deal with is really gutless and slopey,” he explained. “They’re not island waves.”
In short, the design involves a convex shape that tapers at the nose and tail. It has no stringer, and according to Hantz, has more flex, recoil, and basic strength than anything else around.
“I really became excited about stringerless technology for high-performance surfboards when I was working for XTR,” he said. “We had a lot of team guys that were surfing stringerless boards, and I wanted to surf them too.” Dane, however, was larger than a lot of the team guys. “The problem was that my average board is 5’10, and I’m 200 pounds, so I could buckle boards at will. If I would ever get a magic one, it wouldn’t last for more than three or four weeks.” After buckling board after board, he began looking for a solution that would enable him to surf those same stringerless boards while still maintaining the same strength that a regular surfboard – meaning one with a stringer – has. “I started investigating ways that we could add structure and flex and recoil to boards and make them stronger. I started fussing around with channels and corrugation and different composites, and I discovered that if you have a single channel, structurally they feel really good, but they don’t really add any integrity to the board.”