The formula is quite logical and simple: straighter (rail) lines provide less drag and more glide (just as a flat rocker would), the most efficient way for fluid to move around an object is in a straight line. Understanding this is a big part of the equation. Secondly, as a result of the rail line being more drawn out, this allows the designs to be made much shorter than your standard outline curve. The rectangular nature is quite stable so narrowing the central wide point will allow for fast rail to rail transitions and the board will still maintain comfortable volume similar to a high performance shortboard. Add a functional segment of a high performance rocker which allows the design to fit tightly in the pocket and finally some multiple concave bottom contours for added lift through dead sections and grip through critical turns. The end result is a design that is much faster, provides more glide and flow between turns, and is much more stable and effortless to control. For high level riders, you can expect more pop off the lip, faster rotations and softer landings.
As anyone who’s worked in the board building industry for any length of time knows there are a lot of shapers, even some of the big names, who surprisingly don’t actually surf all that well. While many may not know it, you’ve got a bit of a competitive surfing background behind you. Has that really helped you push forward on advancing the MPH technology? When it comes to tweaking board design, I’m sure it’s different for a shaper who rips than it is for a shaper who depends exclusively on rider feedback…
I did compete quite a lot through my teens and early twenties, but I didn’t have the killer instinct to really break that level of sponsorship required to support a full WQS campaign. I won the odd smaller pro-am events, had a few finals appearances in Pro Junior and star WQS events, all on my own boards, which was satisfying, but I didn’t have the passion for it. I got nervous easily and I would overanalyze. But looking back, I think things have panned out the way they were supposed to be. If I qualified, I probably wouldn’t have developed my designing as much. I am happy where I am today so I wouldn’t change things if I had my time over. I didn’t like the idea of having my future in the hands of judges either and a pro surfing career is rather limited, with few career options after retirement. Now I have the security of a much longer career span which takes the pressure off and I can focus on surfing well and designing well every day. When you are fit, healthy, flexible and surfing at your best, your whole life just falls into place, so I keep that in mind and try to keep a healthy lifestyle. Naturally, designing your own boards is a great way to continually evolve your surfing. If you are always improving your designs, surfing becomes easier and you continue to progress and I believe I have developed a pretty sharp sense for refining and visualizing new designs. I can’t speak for other designers, but this formula serves me well.
Speaking of rider feedback, Stuey Kennedy has been consistently riding your gear on the WQS for the last few years. How has that relationship helped you continue to think about refining and modifying the MPH designs?
Stu and I have been friends since he was a little grom. I’m a few years older than him so I kind of took him under my wing when we were growing up. He is a really naturally talented surfer who has still to reach his full potential. He’s currently sitting in 33rd position in the one world ranking, right on the cusp of qualification. Stu motivates me to really dial in my designs for high-level competition. Because MPH designs are so different, judges really put them under the microscope in competition, but credit to Stu who, this year, is silencing critics and shredding really hard. His boards are dialed, he just needs one or two close calls to fall in his favor and we will see him on tour next year where he will really get a chance to show off the MPH in the world’s best waves.
What other names have been giving the MPH line a go?
Ever since Firewire came on board, there have been a bunch of pros getting on Vanguards and V4’s. CT guys like Firewire team rider Felipe Toledo and Timmy Reyes have given good feedback and have expressed interest in the potential of Vanguard and MPH. I’ve had a long-time friendship with Tom Curren who continues to get boards from me. Dave Rasta in Australia has a few in his quiver. I did one for Kolohe (not sure if he ever rode it?). I would obviously like to get Kelly’s feedback on the MPH, but I understand that the (brand) politics involved might make that difficult. I hope that doesn’t divide us in different design directions because I’m sure he appreciates my work and would like to try them.
Since their inception, Firewire Surfboards has worked with some really progressive board builders from around the world, taking composite sandwich technology (Future Shapes Technology/FST) from the underground to the mainstream. How’s the partnership developing?
Nev Hyman really set the stage for material development when he started Firewire. Polyester resin and polyurethane foam are 60-year-old technologies, highly polluting, and their performance is lousy in comparison to Epoxy. You can test and prove superior strength, flex memory and durability in epoxy laminations, and that translates to high performance. Firewire has the resources and the desire to really revolutionize high performance construction standards even more so than today’s standard and I’m really looking forward to what they have in store in the coming years.
What does the 2014 line of MPH shapes hold? How are the shapes changing? Where else can the design go?
The one thing I can say for certain is that what you see now is only the tip of the iceberg for MPH designs. They are rapidly changing and evolving week by week. Every new design that we will release will be an obvious improvement from the last. “Evolution is the key, an existing design can always be improved upon, stagnation won’t be tolerated, progression is mandatory!”