Wednesday, 26 February 2014 - Posted by Roger at 8:34 am

Norman is an Island! (Part II)

What come after Norm was short, had two fins and was called a Fish.

IMG_20140302_0002 (2)
This 5’10” was one of many twin keeled fishes I built and rode during the seventies and beyond.

The Fish design dominated both, my shaping and surfing for the remainder of the decade, until 1980 when “Toes” emerged as the first of a controversial design: the modern Longboard! More on this later…

Back to “Norm”.

It’s ironic that an over proportioned surfboard called Norm that featured so early on in my shaping career could hold such a key to the future. The irony is that the lessons that Norm offered up to me were obscured from my view until 40 years down the track. I now know that Norm had all the fundamental ingredients working together. The rocker curve was good, for example. However, the real joy of Norms design comes down to just one factor – generous VOLUME!

Why? Because Norm’s volume floated me well which gave me plenty of paddle power and my wave count was up on Norm.

I glided in easily and early which allowed me to set up a nice take off with a good well timed bottom turn. When you have the ability to delay or instantly punch into a bottom turn you really have the entire wave in the bag. A good bottom turn sets you up for everything that follows. Your flying up into the lip and down the line. Norm’s volume gave me float and glide over the flat spots as well as comfort and more options when it came to cutting back. Being able to run further out from the power zone with speed and flow gave me plenty of scope for picking the line and arcs that best suited the situation on any given wave.

So, how was it that the valuable lesson that Norm offered me about volume failed to fully connect with my developing design sponge brain?! Well… as it so happens the very short, narrower and thinner fishes that come after Norm just happened to correspond with a man made miracle. The construction of Marsden B oil fired Power Station right in our back yard proved to be a significant event in more ways than one for the future of my surfboard building career… (More on that later).

An unexpected spin off of heavy industrial actively was a sand bank! But not just any old sand bank. This one was more like a reef. Suddenly we had a wave in our back yard that produced consistent good shaped waves that peeled left and right.

IMG_20140302_0001 (2)Putting one of my beloved fishes through its paces on our private man made test track circa 1979.

The little fishes were great at this new break where the waves mechanically peeled off from the same take off spot every time. Thus the valuable lessons of a board called Norm were lost as I was gripped in Fish fever for the next several years until the whole world got swept away with Mark Richards dynamic surfing as he won four back to back world titles and inadvertently kick started the multi-fin revolution with his twin fin design. The inspiration for Mark Richards Twin Fins had come from the same Fish surfboards that had made such a huge impact on my shaping and surfing.

My little hobby was morphing into a business by this stage and a new sort of pressure was coming to bear; commercial conformity. In other words our surfboards started to look like everybody else’s, a necessary evil it seemed to have our boards excepted in retail stores and by the NZ surfing public beyond the not so transparent walls of our Bream Bay bubble. Luckily for me this latter period was short lived as my 1979 and 1980 trips to Hawaii exposed me to a large dose of one of my most potent influences – Ben Aipa!

I will connect the dots between the Fish and Ben Aipa’s influence in my next post which will be timed to coincide with The Cove Fish Fry coming up on Sunday the 9th of March.

Isn’t it ironic that the volume that made a surfboard called Norm such a stand out forty years ago was subsequently removed from board design the world over in the quest for high performance?

In my opinion, high performance comes from the surfers ability to extract the most from the surfboard he or she is riding on any given wave.

In 2014, a high level of performance is often accessible due to the VOLUME contained within the design of the surfboard being ridden.

The key is to put the volume in the places that will enhance performance and all around surf ability while using complex compound curves to create foils with refined rail radius and edges to utilize and control the SPEED and FLOW that VOLUME provides.

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