Surfboard Design, Fins & Dave Parmenter

One of the hardest things about shaping surfboards yourself is working out what is true and what isn't. It's one thing copying a board you own or copying a familiar design like a Lis Fish. But when you're actually thinking about concaves and fins on a design that is more your own blend - it  takes a lot of reading along with experience of surfing different boards to try to remove the flotsam of received ideas that you've been fed by surfboard ads and popular media.

I really like Dave Parmenter - inventor of the Widowmaker surfboard design and champion of single fins and channel bottoms - who I discovered through Andrew Kidman's movies, especially "Lost in the Ether". He's very articulate, incredibly experienced in terms of both shaping and being an excellent surfer and as interested in deconstructing received ideas as developing his shapes.

The reason I'm writing this now is that I've just read the most marvellous article of his in "The Surfer's Journal" (25.1) called "Must We Burn the Single Blade." Sometimes I wonder why I spend a fortune on "The Surfer's Journal" and every so often an article like this comes along that reminds me. Not only is it nicely written with his usual wit and depth of knowledge (he refers to thruster surfing as surfing you're constantly "starting a lawnmower"!) but in it he describes how the speed that you get from a thruster is actually based on increased drag. That sounds counter-intuitive but what he explains helps you to grasp the fact that the thruster design is about helping you to grip the wave face in order to be able to generate speed by quickly pumping or turning. To me, as someone who hand shapes boards now, that is such a wonderfully key concept - and he describes it beautifully. We often forget the key elements of design by being caught up in the whirlwind and hypnotic detail of contemporary design fashions. It's great to have a voice that calmly reminds you to keep 'right mind'. My Dad used to say that moving to the countryside taught him how to tell the difference between horse-shit and bull-shit. Much thanks to Dave Parmenter for trying to help us with that in surfing.

(I should also mention that I contacted Dave a while back about trying to get hold of some of his Widowmaker fins. Not only did he reply but he took it upon himself to ask about the board they were going to be for and emailed back and forth a few times, volunteering information and advice - I was amazed and delighted that he showed such totally unexpected interest and generosity of his time.)


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