It's early on a mid-week afternoon, and the Ricky Carroll Surfboards production facility in Rockledge, FL is buzzing. With a staff of more than a half-dozen each putting his touches on a variety of surf crafts for a selection of brands like Surfboards by Donald Takayama in the many shaping and airbrush bays, it's easy to forget that Carroll's compound exists in a sleepy industrial district near Florida's central coast, rather than in the more storied high-production havens of Southern California.
As his crew toils under the late fall humidity that seeps through the compound’s open bay doors, Carroll's currently in the middle of an R&D session with a longtime collaborator, Jacksonville’s Justin Quintal, jotting down notes as the two discuss subtle changes to the board sitting atop the bay's racks--a beautiful, burnt-orange pintail step-up, which Quintal called "the best barrel board" he'd ever ridden, despite his snapping it during a hurricane swell session at a North Florida beachie.
As they seek to fine-tune the craft, there's an easy comfort apparent between the two, as they draw on knowledge gleaned from a nearly 15-year partnership, in which Quintal’s racked up seven Van's Duct Tape Invitational wins (including four consecutive at the U.S. Open) and an endless run of photos and movie parts riding boards shaped by Carroll.
Carroll and Quintal have sought to expand that wildly successful partnership, launching a new surfboard label specializing in classic logs and alternative surf craft, Black Rose Manufacturing, in 2015. Pairing one of the most talented shapers on the east coast with one of the world's best longboarders, Black Rose is trying to improve upon designs first made popular in the mid to late-’60s--the pinnacle of the longboard evolution, often referred to as the "Total Involvement" period.
"They were just kind of figuring things out," Quintal says of the period before surfers from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL, in accordance with the shortboard revolution, spurned the longboard to focus on the advancement of sub-eight foot surf crafts. "Around '66-67 you start to see shapers adopting flat spots to allow water to flow toward the belly and adding concave with boards like the Nuuhiwa Noserider and doing super, blade-y boards like what Mike Hynson was riding. There was this crazy variety and progression in longboard shaping at the time. Then it just stopped."
Much like Noosa-based shaper Thomas Bexon's efforts to enhance the wiggly, knife-y-nosed, Nat Young-inspired Son of Sam, Quintal found a board worthy of a second look in a 10'0", late-’60s Hansen Competitor he’d purchased on Craigslist.
"I didn't really know what to expect. It looked like it would noseride well, but also looked like it might be a dog," Quintal says of his expectations for the beefy Hansen noserider. "I was blown away by how stable it was on the nose. It felt like it could push through any section. It ended up being one of my favorite longboards of all time."
Quintal brought the shape to Carroll, who quickly cranked out a replica.
"It's a unique board," Carroll says of the Competitor. "There are things about it that you don't see in other Hansen boards. A lot of those old boards were straight off the tail. This one was more streamlined and had a nice amount of flip in the tail. It seemed to be a well-balanced board for that era. It had a really pleasing template."
Now, years later, after working through many tweaks and adjustments, Carroll and Quintal have added the "Deviated Septum” — a classic-style log heavily influenced by that Craigslist-cribbed Competitor — to their slate of Black Rose boards.
A true log, with two top layers and a single bottom layer of eight-ounce Volan cloth, the Septum can weigh upwards of 20 pounds, depending on the length. The extra mass helps the board gain momentum when paddling, and according to Quintial, adds to its ability to plow through whitewater sections.
Aesthetically, there's a notable difference between the Competitor's beak-y nose and the Septum's more rounded one. And though still 50-50, the Septum's rails are thinned out considerably compared to the Competitor. Additionally, the Septum forgoes the slight concave found under the nose of the Competitor, leaving the area relatively flat.
Still, the Septum stays true to what Quintal felt was the Competitor's most redeeming design element: a convex bottom contour.
"One of the things that I think made the Competitor a smooth ride and able to get through sections was that there was a lot more belly in it than in most noseriders from the late-’60s," Quintal says. "[For the Septum] we incorporated a heavy roll through the bottom of the board. The belly helps the board suck up to the face of the wave so it can hold in a steeper pocket."
In conjunction with the bottom contour, the significant kick running through the back of the Septum's squash tail allows the board to stay glued to the pocket as the rider stands near the front portion of the board.
"[On other boards], you'll see a lot of guys using their hands in the wave to stall, which is cool. But personally, I like to not even touch the wave if I don't have to," Quintal says. "The belly and the tail help pull the board back into the pocket, so with this board, you can control your speed from your knees down when you're on the nose."
Quintal’s not the only one jazzed on the Septum's noseriding capabilities.
"It noserides amazingly," North Carolina logger and Black Rose teamrider Dylan Bradshaw says of the Septum. "The board will go much farther than a board with more concave, especially in whitewater sections."
“The Deviated Septum is one of the better noseriders I've ridden,” says Tofino, British Columbia-based logger Andy Jones. “It has an amazing amount of lift when on the nose and seems to fit perfectly in the pocket.”
Meanwhile, France's Nathan Sadoun, who recently joined Black Rose's international contingent of riders, says he's made the Septum his go-to log for all manner of conditions. "It's the most polyvalent log in my quiver, so it is the one I choose for trips. It works in everything from knee-high to overhead, so there’s no need to have another log in your board bag."
The initial response from customers has been encouraging, as Black Rose cranked out more than 300 boards during its first year of production, including dozens of Deviated Septums.
"A lot of people of different skill levels have been ordering the Deviated Septum," Quintal says. "The feedback we've been getting is really good. I think that belly, even in choppy conditions, makes it ride so much more smoothly."
Though it has proved a fluid, versatile noserider, Quintal stops short of recommending the Septum to longboard-novices.
"It's really a good choice for someone who is already pretty good at noseriding, but looking to take it to the next level and dial it in," he says. "If it's possible to noseride through a section, this board is going to hold."