Monday, August 30, 2010

Caught a couple of fun ones last week at my local break...

All photos courtesy of Kevin at CGIPix Check his website for a ton of photos taken during the best week for waves this summer in North County SD. That blue Nova needs a new owner...make me an offer I can't refuse

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Everybody knows or should know the “no drop-in” rule. That’s when you catch a wave that someone else is already riding. Don’t do that. It’s been around ever since “skegs” allowed surfers to go left or right. Before that, surfers just rode straight in, so any given wave could accommodate a number of surfers.  Not following this rule can lead to damage to someone’s board and/or injury to another person or yourself, so it’s a pretty basic rule. Yeah, I’m always amazed at how many people either don’t know this rule or conveniently forget it. But to be honest there are times when “dropping in” occurs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s pure accident, I didn’t take the time to check the peak before paddling-in or I was “sure” the guy in the better position wouldn’t catch the wave/make the drop/make the section/was going the other way/whatever. When this occurs, the right thing to do is to kick-out as soon as possible. When it’s not possible, I try to stay as far ahead of the rider behind me, constantly looking for an opportunity to kickout, and all the while maintaining control of my board. This is not the time for noserides, big cutbacks, floaters or other risky maneuvers. I realize I’m in the wrong and try to minimize my impact on the rider behind me. Once I’m able to kickout, I wait for the rider who was behind me and offer an apology. Giving respect with a simple “sorry dude” goes a long way.  Take the time to learn the lineup, where people are taking-off, who’s surfing on what and where they’re sitting relative to the peak.
Here are some other rules or “guidelines”:  Shortboarders take off much later than longboarders, so if you’re on a longboard and a SBer is closer to the peak (sitting deeper), don’t commit to dropping-in until you’re sure he’s not going for the wave. Better to let the wave go then to push over the edge, only to T-bone a SBer in the middle of his bottom turn.  Just because you can catch the wave first on the shoulder doesn’t mean you have the right to. Be aware and show respect. If you’re riding a shortboard, don’t sit directly in front of a LBer paddling for a wave. Show respect and stay out of the way. When I ride my shorter boards, I frequently find myself sitting “inside” of the LBers. Oftentimes a wave will come and the LBer will start to paddle for it. If I think they won’t catch it, I move closer to the peak but out of their path. I’m ready to go when or if they quit paddling. By moving closer to the peak, I now have the better position. Some people contend that the person paddling from the further-est out has the right-away, or that the first person standing has the right-away. I believe that the person taking off in the most critical position has the right-away.  Of course, this is a judgment call and there can be a lot of grey area when a peak is particularly wide. Letting others in the lineup know what you intend to do at these critical times can help. “Going right” or “I’ll take the left” keeps the surprises to a minimum.
The person riding the wave has the right-away. Don’t paddle in front of someone on a wave when you’re paddling back out. I hate it when people do this to me and I’m pretty sure you do too. Always paddle behind them, through the whitewater if necessary. The only exception is if you can cross in front of them without causing them to change direction.  Lots of surfers try to paddle over the unbroken part of the wave instead of facing the whitewater, even if it means forcing the surfer who may be having the ride of his session, to cut-back or kick-out to avoid a collision. That’s wrong and disrespectful. Do the right thing, paddle in the opposite direction of the rider and take your beating in the whitewater behind him so that your fellow surfer can enjoy his wave. Isn’t that what you’d want someone else to do for you? As it happens, sometimes it’s not possible to avoid interfering with someone else’s wave. You wipeout, and as soon as you surface and collect your board, you realize you’re in the way of someone else. When this happens, and it will, take the time to apologize.
Another “paddling” rule is to always paddle around the impact zone or the area directly in front of the peak. Sure, it’s the long way back out, but it minimizes the possibility that you will interfere with another surfer’s ride, as well as the chances of you getting run over by someone dropping into a wave.
Here’s another: Always try to control your board, especially when it’s crowded. Just because you have a leash doesn’t mean you should just let your board fly whenever you wipeout or kick-out. Sometimes it’s impossible to hold onto your board, like on bigger days. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should just bail off your board at the end of a ride instead of executing a good kick-out. Flying boards are a danger to others and are just poor style.  This brings to mind the debate regarding leashes. Some people believe that the surf leash ruined surfing by eliminating one of the natural crowd-control mechanisms of surfing…the long, cold swim to the beach to retrieve your board. I’m old enough to remember those long swims and when there were days when it felt like I was swimming more than surfing (because I was). But I also remember dodging 35lb logs while paddling out on crowded days at Doheny.  “Log jam” was more than a metaphor back then. I surf without a leash when it’s shoulder high or smaller. And on bigger days, when there is greater risk that I’ll be separated from my board, I wear a leash. But I still surf like I’m not wearing one and I keep my board under control at all times.
Bottom-line, it’s just like your mom taught you…treat others like you would like to be treated. Give respect to get respect, and leave your agro-I-deserve-every-wave-because-I’m-so-bitchin’ attitude on the beach. 

Friday, August 27, 2010


Advanced Surfer -  You surf at least three times a week and have for three or more years. You’ve mastered all the basics and have developed a smooth, flowing style. You catch more waves than you miss and you’re a regular at your local break. You’re comfortable in waves up to 8' faces and have surfed double-overhead waves on occasion (maybe triple-overhead even). You have at least three boards in your quiver including a travel board, because you sometimes journey to far away surf destinations. Your board selection is based primarily upon your mood and the wave conditions. At this stage you should be comfortable on just about any shape that fits your size and age. You should also have a working relationship with at least one shaper. 

If you haven’t already started, now is the time for experimentation. Alternative shapes will allow you to break away from your usual surfing routine, and force you to adopt new approaches to the same waves. The choices here are many with new shapes (or variations of older shapes) popping up regularly. The current trend includes fuller outlines in shorter lengths, multi-fins, bottom contours other than single-to-double concaves,e.g. multiple-channels, concave-out-the tail, tri-plane hulls. 

You should have enough experience under your belt and accumulated surf knowledge to become an active participant in your next board’s design. The give and take between you and your shaper will lead to achieving new levels of enjoyment in your surfing. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Intermediate Surfers – If you can catch 50% of the waves you paddle for, you can turn front-side and back- side, you have no problems avoiding collisions while riding a wave, and you are becoming more comfortable in shoulder-high or slightly larger surf, then you’ve reached the Intermediate level. Now, you may want to stay on a LB and learn to nose ride and/or to link carving turns across the trimline. Or, you may decide that you want to surf a shorter board, and learn to surf in a more “vertical” style. The intermediate stage is also when many surfers begin to build a collection of surfboards or a “quiver”. The advantage of the quiver is that it insures that you have the right tool for the job. Most surfers have a board that works well for them in small surf (below shoulder-high) and another board that works well for them in larger surf (above shoulder-high). This is the basic two-board quiver. A LBer may have a classic single-fin noserider for small days and a 2+1 modern LB for bigger days. A SBer may have a 6-2 squash-tail thruster for bigger days and a “fishy”-shape (flatter rocker/fuller outline/thicker) for smaller days.  Having a quiver isn’t a requirement for having fun, nor does it guarantee that you’ll always have an “epic” session.  It should, however, maximize your chances of having either.  Besides, having multiple boards to choose from will keep your surfing fresh.  As an intermediate, try to select a shape that matches your abilities, but also one that will be a little more challenging to ride. Now would be the time to downsize in order to gain a little more performance. Going slightly shorter, narrower and/or thinner can yield a big difference in responsiveness. Conversely, adding more volume may be just what you need for conquering those smaller days. As an intermediate you should also be trying other shapes and sizes as the opportunities present themselves. Borrowing a friend’s board for a session can open your eyes to new possibilities. 
At this point, talking to a shaper will really help you define what your next board should be.  Many shapers have a quiver of “loaner” boards that you can try out to help you dial in the right board. If you plan to buy a used board, try to arrange to ride it at least once before purchasing it. Even just paddling it around on it can give you a pretty good feel for how well the board’s size fits you. With a new board, make sure that you understand what the “return” policy is. Most shapers will either replace a board that “doesn’t fit”, or refund your money, assuming the board hasn’t been damaged. However, some will not. Just be sure you know what the policy is. 

Next: Advanced surfers

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The single-most important thing to remember in selecting a surfboard is that surfing is supposed to be fun. The fun comes from catching and riding waves (in that order). It doesn’t matter how expensive, how new, how beautiful or how trendy the board is. If you can’t catch waves with it you’re not having fun and it’s not the “right” stick. The biggest mistake surfers make is to choose a board that is too small for their size, ability, fitness-level and/or experience.
Beginning Adult Surfers  - Get a used modern longboard. As a new surfer there are a number of skills that need to be mastered including paddling stamina, wave selection, paddling into waves, “popping-up” in one smooth motion, maintaining balance, turning after the wave has been caught and smoothly exiting the wave when the time comes. All of these skills can be learned much quicker on a longboard. I recommend at 9’6” to 10’ X 23” wide x 3.25” thick for men 5’10’-6’0”, 175-190 lbs. and a 9’to 9’6” x 22” wide x 3” thick for women 5’4”-5’8, 125-140 lbs. Smaller people can go slightly smaller in board size and larger people should go a little bigger. The rule of thumb is go bigger than you need if you have to, but don’t go smaller. One of the big reasons that there is an abundance of used boards on the market is because many beginners are convinced to buy a board that is too small for them.  They buy a new board they can’t yet ride, become frustrated and then quit.  Once the basic skills have been mastered, it will be time for you  to pick another board (maybe a custom) whose performance capabilities is a better match for your skills and style. As a beginner, buying a used board that is the right size will get you into the sport without spending a lot of money. Once you gain some experience, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want/need in a surfboard. Most experienced surfers have gone through several surfboards. The board you ride will change as your abilities change and/or your riding style changes.
Next: Intermediate Surfers

Monday, August 23, 2010


There are basically two tail shapes; square and round. All other tail shapes are a variation of these two. "Square tails" include square, rounded square, mini-square, squash, diamond, swallow and bat wing. Square tails offer more projection and drive. They also add more volume to the tail by increasing tail width, and release quicker when turning. "Round tails" are round, thumb, round pin and pin tail. Traditional fish tail is actually two pin tails. Round tails smooth out turns and offer better hold in steeper faces. They also reduce the volume of the tail because they are narrower, allowing the tail to sink easier into the wave face. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Fins add directional control and stability to the surfboard. The surface of the fin has its own foil, which can be symmetrical (curved on both sides) or asymmetrical (curved on one side and flat on the other). Fins have flex, both horizontal and vertical, depending upon the material used to make them. Fins have "base" (length of fin where it connects to the board), "depth" (distance the fin protrudes from the bottom of the board), tip width and rake (horizontal distance the tip overhangs the trailing edge of the fin). Fin configurations come in two basic styles; Single-fin and Multiple-Fin. Multi-fin configurations include 2+1, Twin, Tri, Quad and 5-fin. All of the fin factors I just mentioned can be used in a variety of combinations to achieve a desired effect. The combinations are almost endless. Finding the right fin and/or fin combination is critical to the overall performance of a board, as is the location of the fin on the board and/or the location of the fins relative to other fins in the configuration. Trying different fin templates, sizes or combination of fins is one way any surfer can fine tune the performace of their board. There are some who say the right fin can transform a "dog" into a "magic" board.

Rules-Of-Thumb:  Narrow tip is easier to turn, while wider tip offer more stability. Wider base offers more drive, while narrower base turns easier. Stiffer flex gives more drive and speed, while more flex turns easier.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


My "Hooray-the-groms-are-back-in-school-late-summer-noserider"
9-6 Neo 19"x23.25"x16" 3" Half-length nose concave, pinched/blade-y rails and a little extra tail-kick. I went a little thinner than what I usually ride, but increased the outline all the way around for more planing surface. I wanted a lighter feel with better hold on steeper faces (late fall at Rincon perhaps?)

I like this 9.5" "Slick" fin because it's upright with a wide tip for holding-in on noserides, but not too wide at the base for easier turning. Another fin I have been experimenting with is the 9.5" Velzy Noserider. Great hold and even better turning than the Slick. Both fins are by True Ames.

Monday, August 16, 2010


 Concaves, flats, "V" panels, bevels, etc  are all control surfaces added to the bottom of the board to achieve specific effects. Concaves give lift at the cost of some drag, while flat surfaces give speed at the cost of stiffness. Concaves and channels are also used to direct the flow of water across the bottom of the board. When considering bottom contours remember that a surfboard is a collection of compound curves, with convex surfaces morphing into flat or concave surfaces. Or, single concaves blending into double-concaves. The location of these control surfaces relative to the curve of the rail, the curve of the rocker and the location of the rider dictate the performance of the board on a given wave.
Perhaps this interaction is most apparent on a modern longboard (MLB). The tail has bottom rocker that accelerates in the last 24” or so. Applying weight here (at the tail) raises the front 2/3 of the board out of the water making it easier to turn (imagine what happens when you step on a rake). The board can now be swung or pivoted on an axis around the fin. The MLB also has a narrow tail which creates more curve in the outline at the tail. By leaning the board over on its rail a rider can take advantage of this curve-ier shape to shorten the radius of his turn. The “V” panel actually helps in two ways. First it makes it easier to roll the board over on its rail (think here about the difference between standing on a plank with a flat bottom versus standing on a plank with a round bottom) The “V” shaped into the bottom of the tail also increases the rocker curve at the rail. Tilting the board over on its rail allows the rider to take advantage of the increased rail curve made possible by the outline and the increased bottom rocker curve made possible by the “V” panel bottom. Hang on, there’s more…Some shapers will add even more contours to the tail bottom by inserting  small concaves on each side of the stringer where the “V” panels are located. These surfaces create “lift” by re-directing the water flow down. The added lift reduces drag yielding acceleration through the turn. Keep in mind that all this happens in the last 24” or so of a 9’ MLB. Once the turn has been completed, the rider must move to another location on the board where the combination of curves and contours optimizes the desired performance, e.g. the mid-section where the bottom is relatively flat rail-to-rail, the rocker has hardly any curve and the rail has a tucked-edge so that water will release easily for maximum speed.


There are three basic rail shapes. There are round or 50/50 rails, where 50% of the rail is above the apex and 50% is below. This is the classic rail shape. There are 60/40 rails, where 60% of the rail is above the apex and 40% is below. This is a more modern rail shape. And down rails, where the rail curves down to the bottom, forming a hard edge. The thickness or volume of a rail can be "full" (or "boxy"), regular or thin. Round or 50/50 rails can be thinned or drawn-out, so that they resemble the pointed end of an egg. These are referred to as "egg" rails or "pinched" rails. Sometimes, the apex of these pinched rails is below the centerline of the rail. They are then referred to as "pinched low". Most modern surfboards have rail shapes which combine all three basic shapes, with a "soft" 50/50 rail in the nose, flowing to a 60/40 tucked rail in the middle and turning down to a "hard" edge in the last 16" or so of the tail.

Rules-Of-Thumb:  Round rails are forgiving, 60/40 rails (especially with a "tucked" edge) give a good combination of speed and control, while hard edges maximize water release for speed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


The standard way of calling-out board dimensions is to list the length in feet & inches, the width of the nose 12" down from the nose, the width of the widest point of the outline and then the width of the tail 12" up from the tail (all in inches) and finally the thickness at the thickest part of the board along the stringer (not the rail).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


"Rocker" is the curve along the bottom of the board, from nose to tail. Some would say this is the single most important design feature of any board. Rocker determines how fast a shape will be, how easily it will turn, how well it will paddle and how well it will catch waves. While rocker is sometimes described in terms of maximum nose rocker (NR) and tail rocker (TR), the entire curve needs to be considered. Rocker is usually parabolic, which means the amount of curvature accelerates at both ends. Rocker is usually measured by placing a straightedge on the bottom, parallel to the stringer and touching (or tangent to) the exact middle of the board, lengthwise. The vertical distance from the tip of the board to the straightedge is the NR and the distance from the tail to the straightedge is the TR. Rocker can be further quantified as the measurements up and down the length of the board at regular intervals, say every six inches. Rules-Of-Thumb: Increased nose rocker allows for steeper take-offs and more vertical surfing. Decreased NR paddles easier and improves nose riding. Increased tail rocker makes a board easier to turn, while decreased TR makes a board faster.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Every surfer should know a little about surfboard design. I'm always amazed at how little even some of the most proficient surfers know about what makes their board perform. Knowing some of the basics will help you to have an intelligent conversation with your shaper about your next board. It will also allow you to better evaluate the features of a board being hyped by the sales guy at your local surf shop. When you buy a car you don't need to know how the air-fuel mixture is calibrated, but you should know the performance difference between a "V-8" and a "V-6" engine, or an automatic and a stick-shift transmission. There are six main features you should know about: Outline, Rocker, Rails, Foil & Bottom Contours, Tail Shapes and Fins.

It's important to remember that a well made surfboard is an integrated and balanced design. Every design feature impacts performance and must be considered in relation to all other design features. Usually, there are performance trade-offs that must be made. A board with a lot of rocker at both ends will not be as fast as a board with minimal rocker, but the rockered board will turn much easier and much quicker. As a surfer, I might be willing to sacrifice some ease of turning for more speed, or vice-versa. A "dog" is a shape in which the performance trade-offs are so striking that the board is essentially un-rideable. A "magic" board is one in which performance trade-offs are barely detectable.

The shaper has to balance the board, keeping in mind the performance requirements of it's intended rider. I might compensate for speedy, low tail rocker by increasing fin toe-in slightly, then I would have a board that is pretty fast but not overly stiff. Or I might increase thickness along the stringer by 1/8" to accommodate thinner rails, making them easier to sink into a turn while keeping overall volume in the right place. Try not to focus on any one design attribute, instead look for balance and harmony in your board. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

Every shaper has his own ideas about design, and what makes a board work. And, while there is some consensus among shapers regarding basic design theory, there is also some disagreement. Keep in mind that surfboard design over the years has relied upon a trial-and-error approach, as in “move that fin 1/4” back and see what happens”. What we have is a lot of experiential data, with after-the-fact explanations and speculations. Add to that the variables of wave size and shape, rider age and size, and so on, and you can easily see why surfboard design is not an exact science. However, knowing a few of the basic design features will help you to make a better choice when selecting a board. What follows are the basic concepts of surfboard design as I have come to know them.

Next: Rocker

Monday, August 9, 2010

Getting my blog on...

My buddy Reef says I neeed to have a blog for Thomas Patrick Surfboards. And, he should know 'cuz as a surfer/hip-cat designer dude he knows a lot about such things (to see what I mean go to ). So while he's busy re-building my funky garage-built website into a primo pro model, I'll be doing my best to get this blogging thing down.
My plan is to use this blog to present my ideas on surfcraft design and function. I frequently get questions from my customers about design and I always try to provide them with a well-thought out reply which, I'll admit, can be a little lengthy at times. I'm thinking this blog may be a good way to share that info with anyone else who may be interested. I'll also try to post photos of recent boards I've completed, and hopefully photos of surfers riding my creations. Getting feedback from surfers on how a board performs is very valuable to a shaper, and hopefully surfers riding my boards will use this blog to give me such feedback, positive or negative. Maybe we'll all learn something in the process.