A decade ago, at a summer spot south of Cannon Beach along the Oregon Coast, Colter Deupree waxed up one of his self-shaped boards for the first time. At a glance, you’d think that Deupree’s creation was better suited for Mt. Bachelor than the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest: a snowboard-inspired outline that featured severe inward sidecuts in the rails and double concave out the tail, with a center width tipping just above 15″. Deupree had wanted to transfer a snowboard’s friction-free speed and grip to the waves since his days as a professional snowboarder out of New England. He began to tinker with specs that would mimic a tight carve on powder. Now was the moment of truth.
“It was really eye-opening for me,” says Deupree about that first paddle-out with his High-Performance Colternator model. “The board worked well in hollow waves, and it worked especially well in mushy waves, which I wasn't expecting. Because of the inward sidecut, the board holds well and it turns well. You’d think that it needs a steep face. But because it's so buoyant with the foam in the middle, it rebounds off the water, creating a lively ride in flat-faced waves.”
So marked the unconventional creation of Colt Surfboards, where Deupree has worked as lead shaper and designer since 2012. All of his boards, save for two traditional shortboard models, hold to the philosophy that a snowboard’s attributes can open up intriguing new lines for intrepid surfers. The easiest quality to phase in, according to Deupree, is a snowboard’s narrow sidecut.
“The width in the middle of our boards is half the width of the normal surfboard, so there's already less resistance and drag compared to a typical thruster,” says Deupree. “When you turn with the sidecut, it holds really well, as you can easily hook in and turn sharply. And because the boards are a lot shorter, it's easier to maneuver.
“In snowboarding, that inward sidecut can really dig you in and make it easier to turn. There's no restriction to the board, like when you're going downhill. You can go as fast as you want and still maintain control as you’re flying down the mountain.”
But how much practical cross-over could you really find between a snowboard and a surfboard? Deupree says he frequently hears testimonials from surfers who are doubtful of the hybrid’s performance before they take it to the lineup. But, according to Deupree, skeptics tend to come around after the first session and enjoy the unique feel of the unconventional design.
“It’s strange to initially get over the fact that the nose is so big, and to think that you have to surf differently than what you are used to,” says Mike, an Oregon surfer and now-loyal customer. “But as soon as I started paddling and taking off like normal, the board just melted away beneath my feet.”
As Deupree’s boards caught on with local surfers, he shaped more models to accommodate the Pacific Northwest’s waves and conditions. His small-wave board runs from a flat bottom to a slight double concave near the tail to generate speed, and beveled rails to easily dig into carves. His single-fin design combines the glide of a small longboard with sidecut maneuverability. And then there’s the All-Around Colternator and the High-Performance Colternator, which shed more foam from the rails and thin the nose and tail for a lightweight, more maneuverable craft that still holds well in larger surf.
A trip to the Boardroom International Surfboard Show in early May gave Colter the opportunity to expose his shapes to a wider audience, one that is increasingly open to alternative designs. The concepts that are in-progress in his shaping bay, like a new finless model, continue to be inspired by his connections to both snow-capped mountains and rolling North Pacific swells.
“My biggest inspiration comes from life itself: To always keep it fun and new. Always going into uncharted waters and pushing the limits on what is possible,” Colter says in our 2017 Surfboard Guide. “When I was snowboarding, I dreamed of riding the waves the way I rode the snow. That dream, and the frustration of not being able to find the right boards for the different wave conditions I was surfing, led me to where I am today.”