January ’06: This Is My Board

Now more than ever, the ultimate shaping machine is no machine. It’s a living creature. A strange beast of evolution with four hands, for legsand – most of all – two brains, as the world’s best surfers and shapers feed off each other to continually refine both their surfboards and their performances. At this year’s Boost Mobile Pro, we asked six surfers to show us their latest prize, then asked the boardmaker to describe all the science – and sharing – that goes into making these mysterious creations.

Mick Fanning riding a Darren Handley shape
Mick Fanning’s Board:
6’1″ X 18 1/4″ X 2 3/16″ Rounded square
Shaper: Darren Handley / DHD Surfboards
Years Shaping For Mick: 7
Boards A Year: 50
Keeper Ratio: “Nearly {{{100}}} percent. I’m always going, ‘Come on Mick, you gotta give me a couple back!”

As the fastest surfer on the planet, Mick Fanning uses a lot of fuel. He burns through boards, he burns through design ideas, but mostly, he just burns to win, resulting in one of the most focused and driven surfers on tour. And as Fanning hits breakneck speedin his all-consuming quest for a world title, it’s Darren Handley’s job to keep up, making sure none of that precious energy is wasted.

SURFING: Can you describe what Mick’s riding right now?

Darren Handley: It’s a 6’1″ by 18 1/4″ by 2 3/16″. It’s a really deep single concave, really deep – almost a 1/4″ deep between the fins.

How many boards does Mick order at a time?

He orders 12 at a time, but I usually end up doing six [laughs]

What’s his keeper ratio?

He always keeps ’em. He’ll be like, “This one’s good for J-Bay, this one’s good for the next trip and this one I’ll use for photos. He’ll have 50 or 60 in his garage, like, here’s the J-Bay section, the Kirra section, the Teahupo’o section. So, a monthe before a contest, he pulls them all out and rides them again and says, “Yep, those are the eight boards I’m taking with me.”

Now, how is Mick’s feedback? Is it pretty technical?

Very technical. Every couple of weeks,I get all this video footage of him training and contest stuff, and we go over it, check out the slow-mos and see how the spray’s doing and all that stuff. And I surf with him a lot so I understand the east-west movement of surfing – which is how the concaves set up and how the fins set up – how he lets it breakthe bottom turn and how it releases off the top. And he can really elaborate with that type of stuff.

Is he open minded to new ideas?

He wants to stick to the same stuff and make tiny adjustments. And then every now and then I throw him something weird and he basically looks at it and won’t ride it. Then he’ll finally give it a go and say, “I shoulda rode it sooner!”

Does Mick ride other guys’ boards too?

Well, this year he’s been getting a few from Al, and a few from JS and when he goes to Hawaii he gets a few from Pat Rawson and Wade Tokoro.

Do you feel any more pressure when Mick’s in a title race?

No, I put it out of my head. You can’t be making boards for each event thinking, “Geez, if this doesn’t go good he’s gonna lose.” Just make ’em one at a time and hopefully there’s just something in there that’s a little bit better.

Taj Burrow puts his Greg Webber board to the test
Taj Burrow’s Board:
5’11” X 18″ X 2 1/8″ Rounded square
Shaper: Greg Webber
Years Shaping For Taj: 5
Boards A Year: 50
Keeper Ratio: “I don’t want to pat myself on the back too much, but it’s up there.”

They’re two of surfing’s most famous mothers of invention. Greg Webber, the man who delves deepest into the world of concaves. And Taj Burrow, the superfreak whose imagination on a wave knows no limits. Yet for all their work together, they hardly ever share the same space, proof that if great minds can just think alike, together they can produce the unthinkable.

SURFING: Can you describe Taj’s go-to board?

Greg Webber: He rides a 5’11”, mostly. I’ve got some thing happening with blending and matching plan shape with rocker. Anyone can say those words, but I’ll define it by saying if the characteristics of the bottom are similar to the characteristics of the rail then the transition between them has got to be smooth. So the degree to which you can match those two types of curves will determine how fast the board is, how free the board is, how much hold the board has and, one more factor, how forgiving.

Sounds technical. How’s Taj’s feedback?

Unfortunately, I don’t get a lot of communication, really. He’s never even been in the shaping bay with me. It’s just, “I need more 5’11″s.” [laughs] They’re like packets of chips. “I need some of those crinkle-cut ones, you know, the salt & vinegar. I need two packets of them, please.” That’s pretty much what those guys do. I was talking to Eric Arakawa today and Andy [Irons] has never been in the bay with him either.

How’s the feedback when you do get it?

He’s said some really good things. Just really basic fundamental stuff about the transition or thikness flow. He wants the thickness distribution just to have one point, right at the center at the thickest point, and immediatly it should start tapering. And I don’t know that’s something he would like. I thought it would be too twitchy. But if you can blend it in, it’s fine.

For more from Greg Webber and Darren Handley, along with the stories behind the boards of Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Cory Lopez, and {{{CJ}}} Hobgood, pick up the January 2006 issue of SURFING.