Internationally published author-editor, scholar, and writing professional working for the tech industry
Photo: Thomson

“That thing looks like a kiteboard!” Non-traditional outlines draw varied responses. Photo: Thomson

The Inertia

Richard Kenvin, Historian:

RK is probably the most knowledgeable surfboard designer who never picked up a shaping tool. Richard introduced me the Lis fish and Bob Simmons in my early years through John Elwell and the Hydrodynamica project. Richard believed in me from the beginning and encouraged me to push the envelope of planing hull technology, feeding me with historical knowledge from which to compose new concepts. I still work with RK on a daily basis digging through the archives and brainstorming new pursuits.

Bob Simmons:

Through RK and Hydrodynamica project and through the many stories recounted by Simmons’ best friend John Elwell, I was able to understand and appreciate the achievement and enigma of Simmons. RK and I researched Simmons’ work to decipher the concepts and formulas he used. From his use of epoxy and Styrofoam cores pre-polyurethane to his planing hull architecture and reference to aviation principles with regards to surfboard design, I was completely inspired by Simmons. I wanted to be like him, pushing the boundaries of design with disregard for the contemporary.


Rich Pavel:

Rich is a humble, genuine human being and an articulate designer. He supported me big time through the early stages of my shaping career. His meticulous approach to design and shaping was very appealing to me and his designs were beautiful and functional, and I still use his curves quite a bit in my current work.

Modern shortboards, the shapers who build them and the surfers who ride them:

I have always used the performance of WCT-level surfing as a yard stick for my designing. I totally appreciate modern shortboards and many elements of these designs which I apply to my planing hulls. My early influences were Murray Bourton teaching me to shape in my early work experience days in junior high school, the designs of Darren Handley, Rod Dahlberg and J.S. in Australia, the designs of Al Merrick, which he made for Tom Curren and Kelly Slater through the ’80s, ’90s and 2000’s. And let’s not forget MR and Simon Anderson, who I believe have contributed equally to the evolution of surfboards today.

Kelly Slater:

It’s not just his freakish surfing ability that inspires me. It’s where he derives his seemingly supernatural energy from. It’s his way of harmonizing with the ocean every time he paddles out for a heat, and the aura and presence he has in person that has nothing to do with how many magazines he’s been in. His ability to spiral outwards and continue evolving is what truly inspires me. I would like to get to know him better and learn some secrets of the cosmos from the master of surfing.

Mark Price and Firewire:

Mark recognized and believed in my vision and has given me the opportunity to live my dreams and the resources to proactively explore design and technology potential. Firewire has a fantastic team, an environmental ethos and they are dedicated to progressing the sport of surfing. I’m also learning many organizational, professional, and leadership skills from working closely with Mark and Chuy Reyna.

So, given the internet paradigm in which board builders must now exist to get their shapes and ideas out there, what’s your take on social media for the modern shaper? How do you reckon things are different, for better or worse, than back in the era of Greenough or Simmons?

Well, it’s a positive thing for the most part. Shapers are able to get their designs out there to a wider audience at the click of a mouse. The internet forums are a place where you can get your designs seen on a wider scale, but that media makes your designs public domain for any fresh design ideas so there are pros and cons. These days, I don’t spend much time on the forums; my time is limited so I limit my correspondence to working directly with my customers and focusing on positive energy and staying in the real world and not getting sucked into a vortex of public opinion. It is certainly a different world these days compared to, say, the ’80s where new designs were only discovered when they found their way to the podium of international competition. Nowadays, one can follow any shaper on their iPhone and see exactly what’s current. Again, there are pros and cons to this, but I do think surfboard design is evolving more rapidly than ever before which, as a result, is ultimately good for the sport.

Social media aside, let’s talk about the MPH design. Understandably, the boards have been turning heads since you first got them underfoot. Looks aside, what the hell does an MPH actually do and what kind of waves is it designed for? Can you grovel it?

The MPH is a design for all types of surfing and its efficiency is obvious from 1ft grovel to potentially the tow realm. Learners to top-level professionals can experience a freer, faster and more intuitive ride. It also really has that crossover board sport appeal where the skate, snow, and kite worlds meet surfing.

The modern planing hull can be defined as a high performance surfboard design featuring an ultra parallel rail line running nose to tail, a generally narrow central wide point combined with a high performance entry and tail rocker foil. Multiple concave/channel combinations are also a dominant feature to the design’s generally five fin set up for predominantly tri or quad fins. It’s ultimately founded on the dual keel fin and historical planing theory of Simmons’ design(s).

In a more general sense, the MPH was inspired by the need to make modern high performance surfing more accessible and intuitive for any rider.

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