A cross between a tadpole and an electric toothbrush. Surely no one has uttered those words when describing the shape of a surfboard, and some might argue, never should. But that's how you might describe the latest design from Swedish-born California transplant Thomas Meyerhoffer. An award-winning designer with clients like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Puma, Meyerhoffer released his first surfboard design, the Meyerhoffer Longboard, in 2009. With its wide nose, pulled-in mid-section, wide hips, and narrow tail, it was a radical departure from the traditional longboard. The board took home a slew of prestigious awards, including the 2010 Gold International Design Excellence Award, the highest honor for industrial design.
Meanwhile, the surf world reacted with bemused curiosity. Surfers are a notoriously skeptical bunch. Until an "alternative craft" is seen underfoot Dane Reynolds or the like, it's almost met with a slight pity, if not outright disgust. Most often, it's sideline judgment, based purely on a discomfort with the unknown. Many who've dismissed Meyerhoffer's shapes have done so purely on principle. Most who have ridden them, however, have raved about them, touting their ability to turn, gain speed, and noseride exceptionally. At the very least, they've been appreciated for allowing the rider to experience waves in a new way.
Since the release of his signature longboard, Meyerhoffer has designed a quiver of unconventional craft, most recently, the Slip-In, an unorthodox single-fin ranging from 5’11” to 7’6″. According to Meyerhoffer, this newest incarnation "mixes trim style longboard elements with shortboard performance, allowing you to draw classic lines, stall in the barrel, or turn on a dime." And this time around, it's the surf world that's handing out awards. In 2012, the Slip-In took home the Best Concept Surfboard Award at the Boardroom Surfboard Expo.
But despite its acclaim, it's likely you've never heard of the thing, and have never come across one in your local lineup or surf shop. And there's a reason for that. "We had been flying underneath the radar until we knew we had something that really worked," says Meyerhoffer. "I have worked to advance [the shape] millimeter by millimeter, and I think now we have something really concrete. We're always trying to push the boundaries, and my boards are for the surfer who does the same."
One such surfer happened to be Josh Mulcoy, who was recently privy to a Slip-In test session on the right pointbreaks of Mainland Mexico. Generally accustomed to standard thrusters, Mulcoy was surprised by how quickly he took to the unusual craft.
"You can put it on a rail and spring out of a turn," describes Mulcoy. "And you move up on it and it goes so fast. The flow on it goes from turn to turn without losing speed, where my other boards don't really do that so much. But it's crazy to me how well it holds a rail, and if you get behind a section, all you do is move your front foot up and the board just takes off on its own. I've ridden a ton of single-fins and that board rides like no other. It has all the good qualities of a single-fin, but at the same time, you can turn it on a dime. It has the best of both worlds: the thruster feel and the speed, but you can get on a rail like you do on a single-fin."
Mulcoy admits, however, that rather than a replacement for his go-to board, the Slip-In would more likely serve as an add-on to his existing quiver, an option for mixing things up. Surfers have long been enamored with experimentation, with the perpetual quest for a new experience. So while Meyerhoffer may not be the next Merrick, he's certainly found a way to scratch that particular itch.
"Who knows where it will go," says Mulcoy. "I walked into Stretch's factory a while back and saw one of those Fletcher four-fins and I laughed. And now look, the whole world is riding those things, even at World Tour events. Now, you walk down the beach with this board and people trip out on it, but where will it be 10 years from now?"
It's quite possible that Meyerhoffer's unique perspective is another step in the single-fin's evolution—or perhaps it's just a rogue, bowling-pin-shaped detour in our endless search for something new.