Names surfboard after important religious artefact! Can you guess?
The surfboard designer Hayden Cox, who is a sunny faced thirty-five, arrives for the interview carrying three gorgeously brazen surfboards. One is an all-black eight-foot-six gun, a scaled-down version of a nine-six he’d made for the Narrabeen big-wave surfer Ben Wilkinson to ride at Jaws, and early and final versions of his new model the Holy Grail, one a five-six, the other a five-seven.
The original Holy Grail, as if needs to be explained to our theologically aware readership, was the cup that Joseph used to collect Jesus’ blood as he died upon a wooden cross during his crucifixion in 33 AD. His death would later become a public holiday in Judeo-Christian societies. (Good Friday.)
I remember, two-ish years ago, when Hayden told me the name. I thought it divine, literally. Hayden was worried that he’d get himself a little heat for its religious overtones, another surf media person had said as much, but as I said to Hayden, live a little, risk eternal damnation. There’s worse things.
Hayden’s here to explain his kink for rail curvature, or side-cuts if we’re to be specific, and how he says he can build a board that has all the easy-paddling and stability of what you might call, in hushed tones a fun board, but with a radical high-performance back end. Think, a car you can easily drive in traffic but still loose on the track.
The inspiration for the side-cuts, and it’s the reason the eight-six is arranged on my terrace next to the Holy Grails, is it came from solving the problem of Ben Wilkinson wanting a board he could turn mid-face at Jaws.
“We always talked about how you could get big-wave board to surf with all that speed but have enough curve to do a big hack underneath the lip,” says Hayden. “And it took me two years of thinking, on a million plane rides, visualising what the board could be and then it came to me. I gotta use side cuts. I gotta use a fast, straight rocker down the centre of the board put the curve in the rail line so as soon as he tilts the board on a mid-face bottom bottom turn, you want that rail line curve to draw you up the face. And when you flatten the board you’re on the flatter centreline rocker.”
Hayden ain’t saying he invented the concept of side-cuts. First, you’ll see ‘em on snowboards. Second, they’ve been around since the late seventies, and mostly on twin-fins. Hayden says he was turned onto the concept of side-cuts, and it’s a concept he first introduced commercially with his Psychedelic Germ model, via conversations with the shaper Mick Mackie.
“He’s an absolute chilled legend,” says Hayden. “He loves a good chat about how boards ride and how they flex.”
Now let’s get into more theory. Hayden picks up a basketball and shows how the black channels intersect, at one point resembling a rounded pin tail.
“People need to understand that there’s different parts of the board you surf on different parts of the wave,” he says. “And the concept is that when you surf horizontally on a wave, which is across the wave, you’ll surf on the centreline rocker. As you know, the theory goes that the more rocker you have the more manoeuvrable the board and the more sensitive it is in the pocket. And the flatter the rocker, the more lateral the board surfs and the faster is moves across the wave, but you lose the ability to turn in the pocket.”
Side-cuts give you a hit each way.
“Where it translate to the surfer,” says Hayden, “is the fact that now you have a really straight centreline rocker, which you feel when you surf horizontally, and that’s giving you flow and speed. But when you tilt the board on rail, now you’re surfing on the rail-line rocker which has all the curve late off the back foot.”
In his thinking, in his experimentation, Hayden rode a five-seven at big Nias. The design is an early version of the Holy Grail, fins well forward and with the side-cuts kicking in, dramatically, a dozen inches off the tail.
“I’m not going to surf Jaws but Nias is a big, open face,” says Hayden. “I felt that speed and that flow and that turning ability when you hit the rail line that curvature coming into play. But even with fifteen-foot faces I felt like it was only just starting to come to life. The concept of the long tail is to create hold and to give you that connection to a wave face that draws you upwards. I knew it could be insane in small waves but I knew I had to cut off the tail.”
The result is the finished Holy Grail.
“In small waves that’s the evolution. You don’t want the hold. The outline and the amount of that curvature was put into the rail line to suit everything from shoulder high faces, three foot, up until, shit, I’ve surfed it into good twelve-foot faces, South Coast sorta stuff,” says Hayden.
Three foot, double overhead.
Hayden picks up the basketball, spins it.
“Maybe I should’ve called it the Spaulding,” he says.