The Inertia

Brad Domke estimates he’s broken around 100 soft-tops – a small fortune of Costco merchandise. He’s made a name for himself riding big waves on skimboards, but also for his “board transfers”: paddling into waves on a surfboard, switching onto a finless skimboard, and oftentimes, getting blown out of shorepound tubes. There are few people in the world who are as well acquainted with foam surfboards, or use them to make a living, like Domke does.

Thus, it was intriguing when, while scrolling my Instagram feed, I saw that Domke had partnered with a soft-top brand, NIMBL. But at the same time, this board was different… It folds in half (yes, you are reading that correctly). You can fold it like a hot dog bun and wear it in a backpack. Plus, it has a storage compartment inside the board.

Us surfers definitely know the hassles of transporting longboards, soft-tops included. Has anyone ever broken their windshield by closing their rear car door onto a poorly-positioned longboard inside? I have. Or have you had your longboards fly off the roof of your car? Ok, I haven’t done that but my friends have. So, I pondered, “Is this the future of novice surfing? A board that is convenient to transport? But does it sacrifice anything in the part that actually matters: the surfing?”

I had a chat with Domke to hear about his experience on his foldable NIMBL surfboard to see if the product is too good to be true.

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How did the partnership between you and NIMBL come about?

Once I actually broke a soft-top in three places. But it all kind of popped back in place because the top flap piece was keeping it all together. And the board is actually still usable for what I was doing, board transfers. In my head I was thinking how this could be a foldable soft-top. But that was just an idea. Then, I came across the ad with the foldable soft-top from NIMBL, I reached out to the guys and I was like, “Hey, you’re quick with it. I’ve had that thought in the back of my head.” I was just genuinely stoked and saw that they’re onto something. After breaking so many soft-tops that just ended up at the dump, I was like, “This looks perfect.” You know, this is a very fitting sponsorship for me. And I think that you know, being with them, we could definitely evolve something even for the board transfers too.

Is the deal just for free boards or you are on salary with them?

Right now we’re on salary. The thing is, I fully believe in this product and I fully understand why they created this. I’ve spent more money on soft-tops than anyone from doing my soft-top step off thing, in one-foot waves to 10-foot waves. The boards I’ve used in the past just haven’t been that durable. So, thus far I’ve been testing out their boards and giving them some feedback. 

How does it ride compared to a traditional soft-top?

To be honest with you, the results have been very good. And I’m finding nothing wrong with it. I think it’s the perfect board for a beginner because, first off, it fits anywhere. It folds up and I put it in my back seat or my trunk. It’s super durable, made with EPP (foam), and it has wooden stringers in it as well. The rails are more high performance shaped. They’re not like your average thick (soft-top rails). The bottom has a double concave contour to it, which ultimately gives the board a little more performance overall than the flat bottom standard shape that you get with soft-tops. And it also has a built-in waterproof compartment in the middle where you fold it. So when you don’t have anywhere to put your keys or your wallet, whatever you have, there’s a little dry bag to put it right in the middle. The top is a nonslip, which is pretty much like having a traction pad over the whole top. It doesn’t need wax. And also, instead of the standard plastic fins, this board has an FCS thruster setup.

And the cons?

As far as the cons, this is the first of its kind so maybe there will be a couple unforeseen issues. But overall, I’ve had one for the last few weeks and I’ve ridden different kinds of waves – even some heavy waves, pulling into a couple little closeouts. It does weigh about a pound more than your usual Wavestorm. It’s around 14.5 pounds, but I didn’t find a problem with it. I honestly think (the weight) makes a difference in the way it rides in a positive way, because with a little bit of weight, on bigger waves, you can put it on rail a little bit better.

How many Wavestorms would you estimate that you’ve burned through?

It’s funny because somebody commented on my page the other day saying that I was just trying to get a kickback. I told him that I’ve been through like 100 of these soft-tops the last 10 years. Throughout a whole year, I can go through four to eight, maybe 10 boards.

That’s like the value of a car in soft-tops.

Yeah, exactly. If you’ve ever seen my board transfers, there’s been some investment into this. I have to continuously get new soft-tops in order to do my thing. But ultimately, these guys are on the right track with this whole thing.

What type of surfer would this board be ideal for?

It’s for the person that’s looking for a convenient board. I would imagine that these could be amazing for surf schools because of the (ease of) storage. Or, for instance, if you have a little car and you don’t have a board rack, you might get the NIMBL. Some surfers maybe only go a few times a year and don’t want a big, wonky surfboard in their house. Ultimately, I think that there are people that will probably think it’s kooky and not want anything to do with it, but then there’s another half of people who it’s going to be perfect for. So it’s all good however people look at it, but I definitely think it has its meaning and (purpose).

So are you going to post some board transfers on one of these soon?

The first board that they had me trying was a kind of prototype, it wasn’t the final product and I didn’t want to destroy the board that I was testing. So we’re going to try that. But I see the (downsides of doing transfers) if it ends up at the beach and the nose hits. There could be a chance of it breaking. Also, I don’t really prefer this board for transfer because it’s a 7’6’’ mid-length. Since it’s more of a high-performance shape, it doesn’t favor transfers because I like the thick, eight-foot soft-top for what I do. Technically, when I do the board transfers, if you watch the video, the board doesn’t actually catch the wave. I just paddle, plank, and then jump off the board. You want a lot of buoyancy and you want that eight foot length. Over time, my main goal with them is to create the ultimate board transfer board.


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