The one-time fourth-highest rated surfer in the world on what works, what don't…
A brief exploration of Dane Reynolds’ thoughts as they pertain to surfboard and surfboard design. Helpful, perhaps, as Christmas comes closer and gifts must be suggested and sought.
DR: I know you know boards. So tell me about the board you’re riding at the moment. Who shaped it, dimensions, volume, rail shape, rocker, bottom curve etc. What characteristics do you like, and do you not like, about this board?
Dane: It’s a Channel Islands Black and White shaped by Britt Merrick. The dimensions are, 6’0″ by 19 1/8″ by 2 7/16″. It was a really good board. I’ve had a couple other memorable clips on it. Pretty much most of the footage I’ve shot in the past three years was on four boards, all Black and Whites. Somehow I’ve had really good luck with them. I probably get quarter of the boards I used to but have a way higher ratio of good ones. They’re pretty basic boards: low entry, actually mellow overall rocker, hips, good foil, nothing fancy but just feel like they’re enablers. They get you there. Good balance of drive, rail-to-rail transition, pick up, hold, just neutral and familiar feeling.
You’ve always been hands on with Al and Britt. What gives you a kick about making boards?
Dane: Riding them! Making boards that allow you to surf the way you want to ride a wave.
What’s the first thing you do when you get a blank and you chuck it on the shaping stand?
Dane: Me personally? Drawing out the outline is fun, trying to blend curves and stuff. Then I grab the saw and all of that’s pretty much out the door, as I’m really shit at sawing. I find that to be the hardest part of the whole process. Then I hack at it with a planer, which I’m also shit at, then try and pick up the pieces after that and see where you’re at and reassess the situation.
They’re pretty basic boards: low entry, actually mellow overall rocker, hips, good foil, nothing fancy but just feel like they’re enablers. They get you there. Good balance of drive, rail-to-rail transition, pick up, hold, just neutral and familiar feeling.
What blanks do you use, which particular models?
Dane: If I’m making a normal shortboard for myself, the 6’4″ EA from US Blanks.
How often do you ride boards you’ve shaped?
Dane: Not so much. I was making a lot more boards before I had a kid and started a company.
Describe the best board you’ve shaped.
Dane: I have one from 2014 I still ride a lot. I’d say it’s the best board I’ve ever shaped. Just a really good shortboard.
Describe the worst board you’ve shaped.
Dane: I’ve made lot’s of shitty boards. When I first started I thought it was so cool to shape ’em without templates or dimensions or plans, just kinda hack away. I was, like, “Look at my foot! It’s not symmetrical! Look at the way i stand on a board! It’s not symmetrical! Why do I need symmetry!” Some of them were really good boards, though. I’d say the worst is when you try to make a high-performance shortboard and get it wrong. There’s a narrow margin for error on a high-performance board and if you get it wrong it’s really shit.
What do you like about riding your own boards?
Dane: It’s a fun process, building it and then trying it.
What don’t you like?
Dane: When they go shit.
What’s your level of sensitivity in regards to riding boards? Can you feel single design elements in your boards? Can you feel a slightly deeper concave or a touch more rocker in the tail?
Dane: I’d say I’m pretty sensitive to the way a board rides but can’t really attribute it to one design quality. Like, two boards that look identical, pretty much never ride the same And it could be anything, the foam, glassing, sanding, stringer, twist in the blank, slight differences in edge, tuck, concave, who knows. It’s better not to analyse too much and move on.
In the sixties and seventies there were a ton of surfer, shapers: MP, Simon, MR etc. Not so much now. You got a theory why?
Dane: Because it’s hard! And time consuming. Back then, those dudes would probably make a few boards a year for themselves and they weren’t exactly fine tuned. There was a way bigger margin for error, they weren’t very refined. Now guys are getting 26 boards before a contest and picking the top six and the guys shaping for ’em are so good! Of course, computers help with replication. It was just a different time, too many reasons to name, really. When you shape a board it gives you a lot of respect for the guys who do it well. It’s not easy to make a good shortboard and, especially, to do it consistently.
You can only pick one element of board design, (ie rocker, planshape, concaves, rails, tail etc) which is the most critical?
Have you delved much into much retro or experimental boards? (ie singles/ twins, asymmetrical.) Do these sorts of designs excite you or do you find them limiting?
Dane: When I first started, most of the boards I’d make were, I wouldn’t say retro or experimental, but more like fun shapes. They’re really a lot more fun to shape and ride because pretty much whatever you do they’re still fun to ride, where as a shortboard, like I said, if you get it slightly wrong it’s not a fun ride.
How have you boards changed from what you ride today, from when you were on the Tour?
Dane: When I was on tour it was mostly Rookies and Protons which are really curvy. My shortboards are quite a bit mellower rocker-wise these days.
I have dreams where I’m trying to make it to my heat and I’m stuck in traffic or people keep stalling me out or keeping me places while I know my heat’s coming up. Or I’m in a heat and my legs won’t move and I need a score or I’m getting chased by a shark and also trying to surf a heat.
What do most average surfers get wrong with their boards?
Dane: Shit no idea. Most people I know or see at the beach take what they can get.
What is more likely to keep you awake at night, thoughts about shaping or surfing?
Dane: I still have dreams where I’m trying to make it to my heat and I’m stuck in traffic or people keep stalling me out or keeping me places while I know my heat’s coming up. Or I’m in a heat and can’t surf, like my legs won’t move and I need a score or I’m getting chased by a shark and also trying to surf a heat.
There’s the old Terry Fitz piece of advice that until you’re a a very good surfer, you should build your style around your boards, not your boards around your style. Should an average cat worry about his boards or just get something that sorta fits and work it?
Dane: I’d say, consider the waves you surf when choosing a board. Point breaks you want something that glides. If you live in Hawaii you want something that harnesses speed. If you live in Florida you want something that generates speed. Then have your friend or girlfriend film you and if it’s shocking or embarrassing, reassess your equipment and approach. Ha!
(Editor’s note: A longer version of this story first appeared in Surfing Life‘s surfboard issue, number 338. Buy it or subscribe here.)