World champ puts truism that best surfers can ride even a plank of wood to the test…
A few years back, there was a shot circulating of Kelly Slater at Duranbah. He was two-thirds of the way though the sorta cutback one might’ve previously thought impossible, rail buried through the nose, trail left an almost complete circle.
(Couldn’t find that shot, but how about these frame grabs on the same board.)
The board was a Greg Webber shaped surfboard he calls Electra and, lately, Webber and Slater have taken to applying the same principles to bigger waves.
“He had the idea that is a design that could allow him to do proper turns in big waves and his guess was the amount of grip the design has could correspond nicely to face turns in big waves,” says Greg, who is fiddling with various things at a surfboard factory on the Gold Coast when I call.
“But instead of altering it to such a degree that it only had a hint of the Electra, mainly a giant gun with a stinger in it, I used the exact file and…stretched…it.”
I’ve just seen the photos of the board on Facebook; Greg ain’t calling me.
He knows the reaction he’s gonna get.
“In forums you always one or two who say he could ride a door. I adore that one because it’s pure idiocy. What appears to be a truism, that the best can ride anything is misleading because they can make a board that isn’t feeling great look like it’s still ok.”
The dimensions of the gun are a wild 7’6” x 17 7/8” x 2 9/16”, coming in at a little under thirty-five litres.
When Slater saw the board he told Webber it was too narrow. Said it was “stupid” and that he was going to give it to Shane Dorian’s thirteen-year-old son Jackson.
“He’s right, of course,” says Webber, who was playing a game where he experiments with zero curve in the planshape and “lots” of rocker, to see what effect the outline curve has on turns.
But if he didn’t go outrageously narrow, and started at nineteen-inches wide, how would he know the parameters?
Let me interject.
You can make a board loose, or easy to turn, a few ways. Little fins. Curvy outline. Ton of rocker.
Same with speed. Straight outline. Low rocker.
Sorta same result but they all feel different.
And Webber wanted to take the outline out of the equation.
He also wanted to prove deep concaves, a matter close to his heart, in big waves.
“It’s not what you want in big waves. You want to shed speed, grip not lift. So it’s then narrowness that I wanted to test. Shortboard style lift in a gun that’s narrow. I wanted to see what that mix would do.”
“It takes guts to make a mad board. And it’s meaningless unless someone is testing it at the highest level in decent size.”
How did it go? Slater was all over a once-in-a-decade swell that lit up the east coast of Australia.
“He said there’s two really good things. The lack of plan shape made it hard to turn but the ability to get grip mid-face was great. You’ll get to turn with that parallel planshape like a snowboard.”
Webber describes his relationship with Slater as “funny” and says, “It’s amusing for both of us. He gets pissed off at me but he’s also, ok, ‘I kinda get you.’”
And, before you ask, Webber says there’s no point in him taking about his pools.
“I’ve crapped on for so many years, most of my shareholders don’t want to hear another word out of my mouth.”
He says the majority owners of his company made a decision to never build a proof-of-concept pool “on some farmland out in the middle of nowhere. They want to do everything in the one go and it’s taking a lot longer.”
He sighs when I ask about the Gold Coast pool called Tunnel Vision and that had government approval to build on a couple of hundred acres between the GC and Brisbane.
“The land go repurposed for an off-ramp for a highway. That had been in the paperwork for twenty years and I guess they thought it’d never happen. God knows how you could get a DA through.”