Creating a hit surfboard is a long, brutal process. It starts with the germination of an idea, and somehow blossoms into something that a consumer will happily pay close to a $1000 for and ride every day. Look no further than every board on the list below for sizzling proof that it takes more than a cup of blood, sweat and capital to build something the industry and public will back.
So what’s the silver bullet that’ll slay it? First, it must be innovative. It must open our eyes to new ways of looking at waves. There’s a thousand shortboards and hybrids out there, but somehow the aspiring shaper must inspire us and separate from the herd. Second, the design better work. There’s no room for a dud at the top, six decades of surfboard sales have taught us that. The competition is too demanding to be solely fad driven. And third, name recognition sure helps. Whether it’s the shapers themselves, the surfers that make their boards famous, or the tech crew toiling behind the scenes, shoppers want a board that’s validated.
Keeping that in mind, Stab polled all the shapers, shops, industry types and friends we could think of to help us make sense of what boards were the most in demand in 2015. Input from a myriad of sources was considered and this list says a lot about who the everyday surfer is – and where we’re headed.
10. Sharp Eye: Holy Toledo
“The Holy Toledo model was the most sought after by the experienced and pro surfers,” says Sharp Eye’s Marcio Zouvi. “The increase in sales during 2015 was definitely driven by Filipe’s performance on the WSL. A lot of young surfers identify themselves with Filipe’s surfing and that generated a lot of interest in his model.” Featuring a uniquely lower entry rocker, the Holy Toledo is built to generate maximum speed for launch…which may or may not work for you, but it’s sure fun to try. (More here)
9. SuperBrand: Fling
“The Fling has been our most popular board for a few years now, mostly because it caters to so many types of conditions and skill levels. You can basically learn to surf on it—yet it still works really well under the feet of excellent surfers in good waves,” says SUPERbrand’s Justin Cote. The SUPERbrand “Shapers’ Collective” is led by Gold Coast shaper Adam ‘Sparrow’ Fletcher and thanks to much improved distribution, the visibility and availability of their boards has grown considerably in the last year. (More here)
8. JS Industries: Monsta 3
Should you ever see your favourite pros out ripping on a JS, chances are they’re on a Monsta 3. Touted as “the highest performing, most versatile board” in JS’s arsenal, it’s the preferred ride of Julian Wilson, Joel Parkinson, Ace Buchan and Ryan Callinan. Originally ridden by Parko during his 2012 world title campaign, in 2013 the board was Surfboard of the Year at the Australian Surf Retailers Awards. This year JS went back and tuned up. Giving it slightly more hip in the outline, quicker turns and more drive from the tail have improved. The rails have been softened for more forgiveness. The bottom contour was revamped to provide more balanced speed, drive and release in all types of waves and conditions. When you’ve got some of the most talented, stylish guys providing input something good’s bound to come of it, and the Monsta 3 is just that. (More here)
7. Firewire: PyzAlien
Because John Florence is surfing’s current King Midas, the handiwork of Jon Pyzel is now internationally acclaimed. Not to say Pyzel’s designs didn’t speak for themselves already, but a nod from John can do a world of good (literally). Combine that with a solid relationship with Firewire and it’s little wonder sales of the PyzAlien surged during the second half of the year. From a Tahitian power broker like Michel Bourez ordering a few for his quiver to WSL commentator Ross Williams revelling about it after a small day at the beach park, it’s the go-to board that everyone seems to be able to agree on. “It’s a little bit thicker in the rails, it’s a little bit shorter, and has a thicker tail, but it’s quick and it’s pretty fun,” says John. Cheers to that! (More here)
6. Lost: V3 Rocket
For as much as customers liked to experiment last year, they still want to just go out and rip. Enter the V3 Rocket. Popularised by fun-loving Mason Ho, the board offers that sublime balance of performance and user friendliness. “The V3 Rocket has been a massive success at retail and is the crossover bro-to-pro performer,” says Matt Biolos. Featuring a double-winged, diamond tail, it’s the board sanders hate and your friends love. But not just a one-trick pony, Lost builds the board using a myriad of construction techniques, including its C3 and Blackdart technologies. (More here)
5. Channel Islands: New Flyer
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. That’s the appeal of the Channel Islands New Flyer. In a shaping world that’s constantly in flux, the New Flyer’s as dependable as an old lover. It was SIMA’s Board of the Year in 2013 and it led sales for C.I. this year (making up 15 percent of total board sales). Look no further than its staying power for proof of its popularity. “Just like the Original Flyer, the New Flyer is so versatile it has stayed on top for a couple years,” reports Channel Islands’ General Manager Scott Anderson. (More here)
4. DHD Surfboards: DX1
When Julian Wilson signed up for our “Stab in the Dark” project he only had a vague idea of what he was getting himself into. We solicited the help of 11 of the world’s most renowned shapers, had them build their favourite high-performance shortboard, and then glass the boards clear with no logos – only a number so we could ID it. Then we set Jules loose on them in West Oz and told him to rate them accordingly. Some broke, some flew but only one was the best. That honour went to the board with the number 99 on it: Darren Handley’s DX1. The board utilises a single concave throughout, which grows deeper as it moves into the belly and tail. A clean, efficient plane shape combined with a smooth rocker and tight squash tail round out the package. As of late Jack Freestone has been on the board a lot and helping provide feedback as he readies himself for his rookie debut on the world tour this year. (More here)
3. Lost: Puddle Jumper
“From a sales point of view the Puddle Jumper was a smash success,” says Lost’s Matt Biolos. New to market, the only thing holding it back from being higher up on this list is that it was released later in the year. The board is billed as “domestic bliss with a twist,” and for an everyday surf craft, its wide yet responsive design is about as blissful as it gets. “This is the most excited I have ever been about a small wave surfboard,” continues Biolos. “Personally, it’s the best small wave board I have ever ridden. I have never made a claim like that about any board before.” Sales back the claim up. Not just popular in Lost’s Southern California home turf, where shops had a hard time keeping them in stock, but Biolos reports that international sales in places like Australia and Indonesia were also robust. Add to this the fact that Lost and Lib Tech teamed up to offer a special composite version of the board and it’s pretty obvious why this was the little board that could in 2015. (More here)
2. Haydenshapes: Hypto Krypto
There’s still a place in our hearts for the Hypto, and thanks to Ando’s freaky stylings at Kandui this summer the board’s popularity continues to soar. “Our most popular model in 2015 was once again the Hypto Krypto, which has continued to surprise us and surpass our expectations as it keeps growing year on year,” says Director of Marketing, Danielle Cox. Noting that the popularity still hasn’t dropped off at all, they’re able to spend next to nothing on marketing this model because it is still so heavily driven by word of mouth. It also helps that it’s still one of Craig Anderson’s favourite boards – the man does move that proverbial needle. “Customers keep coming back to buying the Hypto and are moving down in size as their surfing levels improve which they often credit to the model,” adds Cox. “That’s the best feedback you can possibly get as a brand.” (More here)
1. Firewire: Evo By Daniel Thomson
What’s a surfboard without a little je ne sais quoi? Enter Daniel Thomson and his future-minded artistry. Collaborating with the technically apt team at Firewire, this year the Evo debuted to much ovation.
“The Evo has been a breakthrough design,” says Tomo. “It’s a result of about 10 years of development on the path of the alternate. Although the Evo is considered by many to be a very unorthodox design, its success really highlights the fact that how a board performs in the water is ultimately all that really matters.”
And when it comes to how the board performs, Kelly Slater’s endorsement goes a long, long way. “I see Daniel on a whole other limb on the surf design tree, influenced by planes and fish and waves and materials all intersecting in a planing vehicle,” says Kelly, who’s now teamed up with Tomo on his offshoot project Slater Designs. “It’s refreshing to see someone who always has fresh eyes and mind for the excitement of what doesn’t exist yet or what they feel does but just hasn’t been created.”
So what makes this no-nose hull so user-friendly? First, there’s the obviously unique bottom contour. Featuring a technical “Q-I-S-C” (quad-inside single concave) modern planing hull, the design provides lift and response when at speed. Another driving component is what Firewire and Tomo have dubbed the Linear Flex Technology (LFT), which incorporates a 0.75” (18 mm) wide aerospace composite that runs down the centreline of the board, in essence replacing the wood stringers of old and giving the board an extra little get up and go. The composite strip runs the entire length of the board and helps optimise flex from nose to tail.
Of the diminutive length, Tomo notes, “It is one of the shortest high performance surfboards ever offered to the mainstream market. The Evo’s central width is quite narrow comparable to the sleekest high performance shortboards on the market. Throwing the old rulebook of shorter equals wider out the window, the key is a straightened functional rail line combined with a balanced volume distribution.”
The Evo was Firewire’s number one selling board around the world and surf shops reported overwhelming customer demand. “We couldn’t keep them in stock, especially the boards in the 5’5” to 5’8” range,” says John Ennis of Surf Ride in San Diego. “People would come back into the shop just raving about it, and then their buddies would want one. It was by far the board with the most buzz. And the thing is, it just kept selling. A lot of times when something new comes out sales spike but then taper off… but the Evo’s been strong all year.”
Getting people to accept his aesthetically unconventional designs has long been one of Tomo’s greatest challenges, but as more people get them under their feet that stigma is rapidly evaporating.
“I’ve had a couple Tomos that friends looked at and almost laughed and said they would never normally try those boards and then wanted to order one 10 minutes later after catching a couple of waves on ‘em,” smiles Kelly. (More here)