A one-board weapon even for pro's, says shaper to the stars…
Two weeks ago, the BeachGrit principal Charlie Smith wrote of the virtues of an asymmetrical surfboard he’d been given from Album Surf in San Clemente.
Let me remind the reader of the breeze Chas blew across its bow.
“It was almost too much fun.”
“I am getting another asymmetrical to try out because it feels like the key to me getting on the WQS as a 40-year-old man. The feel-good story of the decade!”
“Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me I’m a dirty dirty bad boy.”
Are asymmetrical boards, which have been around for thirty years, as good as Chas says or are they an embarrassing crutch for kooks who have little need for direction changes?
Who must we turn to for sensible surfboard advice?
Oh you know it has to be Matt Biolos, shaper for three decades, to world champs etc.
BeachGrit: When did you first become aware of ‘em?
Biolos: Honestly, I’m not sure. One of the best snowboards I ever owned was a NITRO “Pyro” asymmetric. This would have been Winter ‘92/93. It was an early “twin tip” with different side cut and effective edge on heel and toe. If you were goofy, you would set up the bindings one direction and if you were regular you’d do the opposite. The good thing for the business side was either a goofy or regular footer could buy the same board. No double inventory. I made a few asym surfboard tails for myself that next summer, 1993, because of the great experience I had on that snowboard. It really made your heel turns and heel-to-toe transitions easier. It was the first time I felt I could do a good snow carve on my heels.
BeachGrit: How did those first surfboards go?
Biolos: I don’t remember anything standing out and lost interest in it quickly.
BeachGrit: I remember great New Zealand shaper Allan Byrne loosing ‘em, oowee, would’ve been in the nineties sometime.
Biolos: Rest his soul. I don’t know much about those boards but I’m friends with Carl Ekstrom. Obviously he’s pretty much The Godfather of Asym. He’s a brilliant guy. Engineer type of mind and approach. Very good aesthetic to everything he designs. A few years ago I ordered one from him. It’s beautiful. Goes really fast. Had one really good surf on it one winter, a northwest swell at Uppers. Where you’re taking off way, way up near “Barbwires” and racing the wall, full horizontal speed, one hundred yards behind the normal take-off. But, overall, I struggled with the board and it didn’t really fit my surfing, although I cherish it.
BeachGrit: I get the theory. But are they really, as one commenter put it so eloquently, for people who like to go straight?
Biolos: Most of the ones you see these days are more about art or “Shock and Awe”. So it’s easy to say that and be cynical. But I believe that statement is too broad and sarcastic. It’s just that no one is really working on them in the competitive zone. The best surfing I’ve seen on them is Ryan Burch, by a mile, so you know it can be done. Someone like him could push them to more acceptance. They can actually be made far more subtle and I think make turning a bit more easy. The thing is that fringe, artsy shapers have pushed them too extreme.
Most of the ones you see these days are more about art or “Shock and Awe”. So it’s easy to say that and be cynical. But I believe that statement is too broad and sarcastic. It’s just that no one is really working on them in the competitive zone.
BeachGrit: Tell me about your recent shaping experience with ‘em.
Biolos: My best experience was one I made myself in 2000. I took it on an early trip the Ments. It was a diamond tail on my toe edge and a round tail on my heel. It had more rail rocker spiraling off the toe edge. I surfed it at speeding, hollow, head-high Rags Rights and similar, playful Macaronis. At Rags I felt the longer rail line of the toe edge gave me lots of projection in the fast walls and tubes but the round heel let me do quick snaps and stalls under the lip. It was more forgiving than if it was a squash on my heel. At Maccas, and other backside bowly waves, I always struggle on sharp backside bottom turns. Especially on a squash tail. I always feel like I need a rounded pin to do a firm backside bottom turn in bowly reef waves. Thus the round tail. But by having the wider outline on the toe side it made backside snaps off the top more loose and playful. Solid off the bottom, loose and almost drifty off the top. Great board and great memories. I still have the board.
At one combo ASR/Sacred Craft show in SanDiego I had a bunch of asyms in our booth. It was actually the year I won the Tribute to Masters/Simon Anderson shape-off. We were launching Hydro-Flex construction with Bufo. The only ones that seemed interested at the time were Gorkin and Tom Carroll. TC was tripping on one of them (There is a photo with him floating around the internet) but beside Gorkin ripping on a couple, we got no traction with them.
I had another one, a more grovel-style board, which was actually a prelude to the Puddle Jumper back in October 2013. It was 5’10” x 21” x 2.75” with a round tail on the heel side and Rocket tail on the toe. Same theory as the old board. Faster with drive, and skate, on the toe, with a forgiving, precise heel turn. I remember Tyler Wright had flown to California to begin our working relationship. I had just made this little board and we surfed really soft , late-season windswell at Lowers for a couple days. The little board just flew, and skated, but still felt precise. You could really lay into the heel turns. I think asyms are good way to negate the corkiness of high volume, wide-tailed boards. I ended up making a few of that particular design for some of my buddies here in southern California and over in Florida. Still have that board as well.
If we took the time to dial some in for a top surfer, and they had success on them, which I firmly believe is possible, there would be dramatically increased demand.
BeachGrit: I defer to shapers like you (and Pyzel too, occasionally) because what counts but experience and expertise, right? So let me ask. Why isn’t there an asymmetrical in the Lost range? Wouldn’t it be a seller if pushed by Brother, Yago, Carissa and co?
Biolos: The biggest hurdle for the success of asyms is getting retail shops to stock them and manufacturers like me to make ’em. Asyms are a regular or a goofyfoot board. Stores don’t want to have to double the amount of boards to cover a size range. I think it’s financially daunting. Like glass-on fins are now. No one has the room to stock them although I think they could sell.
Another thing is the extreme art board guys have embraced it more so I think it could be turning off the “performance” guys. Most of the guys working on them now don’t even sell to shops. I do agree though, if we took the time to dial some in for a top surfer, and they had success on them, which I firmly believe is possible, there would be dramatically increased demand. I should try to do it. But like most people I get too caught up in my everyday stuff.
BeachGrit: In theory, could a customer walk into one of your Get a Board Shaped by Mayhem appearances and request an asymmetrical?
Biolos: Absolutely. I do them on request. We actually made a regular, goofy sample pair of Puddle Jumper spin-offs a year ago. I cut them, shaped them and threatened to put them in our 2017 line up. Then I got scared or distracted. Those two boards are both still around. We can make nice functional, realistically proportioned asyms that work. Not quite the “Shock and Awe” monstrosities you see hype fed on Instagram but more for function than fad. Kolohe could have done well on one in France this week. He rode two nearly identical boards on finals day. A squash in the am, then the same exact board, as a round tail, in his second two heats. As the swell grew I think the one with a squash on the toes and round on the heel could have been a one-board weapon.