Musing Hot Buttered Surfboard Design

Musing Hot Buttered Surfboard Design


Monday, March 9, 2009

Re-Born | Classic Drifta

What do you do when you snap your favorite board. Try n get it copied right? So there you have it, the eldest son of TF constantly nagging him back into the shaping bay, to re-produce the specials. That’s pretty much how the story goes, and, a little way's down the track Terry is having trouble keeping up with the orders for his boards.

Yeah , my old mans ‘Drifta’ design was a part of an important design era, (79 to 83) surfboard, and, yes it was brushed under the all conquering Tri Fin, i liken the historical analogy with a Pink Floyd Progressive Epic being brushed aside by a Devo New Wave track.

But, to continue they story, if we were going to re-produce the boards, they deserved to be taken seriously. I think this is one of the reasons Terry had a renewed enthusiasm for shaping his boards . He knew he wasn't going to be shaping them for someone who was just going to ride them on the off day, or because it was the fashion. He could tell i had a tripped eye for the classic wings n concave's and he knew i had the style to surf them properly, because i had ridden the boards before. I grew up surfing them. A deserved recipient so to speak. The fact that i was his son came a distant second. TF is always telling me to get in line. That's his way of saying he wasn't going to shape my boards until the wind moon and tides line up. And that is fine with me, as there is a lot to be said for alignment.

So as soon as i had my new 'Drifta', it was straight off to Rocky Point to surf some Hawaiian juice..

Stoked. New board and chilling in Hawaii.
Photo :

Photo :

I yanked this bottom turn way to hard, but still got a little reo out of it in the end.
Photo's: Chris Hagan

The Story Of Big Red | Classic Drifta

The one board that was probably the catalyst for me making the transition to surfing single fins was the 'Classic Drifta'. At the time I was banging around surfing tri fins, struggling, and far from stoked with any board I was ridding. So out of frustration I climbed up on top of Terry’s shaping bay, and pulled out this weird looking board. I didn’t know much about it at the time except that it was a Drifta, which wasn’t hard to work out, because the word was sprayed on the bottom in giant letters.

Terry was a bit dubious about me surfing this board. TF didn’t keep many boards, just the really good one’s, and the really good one’s for TF meant the really good ones.
Well it wasn't long after that i started to understand why he kept this board on top of his shaping bay, and it wasn't long after that i was calling this old girl the best board I had ever surfed, and luckily I captured a few special moments on film before I snapped her. Which, unfortunately is an ongoing theme of mine. Climbing up on Terry's shaping bay, finding priceless boards, and then snapping them.

TF surfing the old girl 'Big Red' 1980 Photo: Aition

Below are a few shots surfing Terry's original Classic Drifta filming with Mick Waters making his movie 'Believe'.
Click Here | To view the clip from Believe

I also surfed the old girl in a stinky ASP WQS event and slaughtered a few groms on their girlie modern short boards. The poor kids had no idea what was going on.
Click Here | To view a couple of the Heats

This wouldn't be a blog if we didn't have 'Big Red's' last wave and
possibly the last original 'Classic Drifta' in two pieces.

Epilogue by Terry Fitzgerald

Big Red is Dead

It’s not morbid interest, but, good, educational, writing can be found in obituaries. The more appealing are those that use pathos while underlining performance. Marrying personality with cult status. Pointing out peccadillos amidst chronological fact. A straight obit can be pretty dry, but, as boomers on the backside of the slope, emotive connection with the subject matter makes a lot of life’s stories interesting.

Kye didn’t tell me about Big Red for a few days after the break, he wisely waited until the pictures turned up and then let me find them, realising the end result was the death of an old friend, to all of us. I didn’t exactly chase him around the carpark (it’s not like I haven’t broken a few over the years), but, I was just a bit bummed, at first…..

After accepting the fact that another one had bitten the dust, I thought about mirroring an obit and writing up Big Red. You know how they go, born August 1980, surfed Narrabeen mostly, with highlighted travels to Africa and Tahiti. Spawned from a generation of Drifta models and tried vainly to compete with MR and Simon. Died August 2006. I don’t know if I could be that detached. Filling in the gaps with anecdotal memory. But, Big Red is a story to be told, and pictures to be shown

The whole Drifta thing was a design divergence in the hunt for a combination of speed and points per turn. Moves to match MR’s twinnies and Simon’s thruster. Derek Hynd was HB’s twin fin master, DH’s narrow tailed thin nosed twin fins allowed him to surf on edge and hold speed, vertical and down the line. Frank Williams was our production shaper at the time, he had been fiddling with third fin stabilisers on his twinfin, which Derek (and Derek’s shaper Ronnie Woodward) picked up on. My tri tangent was a little more off beat….harkening back to the single fin/trailer side fin concept that Brewer shaped and the Chapman’s surfed in the early 70s. All the above options featured variable fin sizes in various three fin configurations. It was Simon who turned on the lights by making three fins all the same size.

So, with MR flitting all over the face, Simon going vert and laying back, what was a poor boy to do? To hold onto some individual space in that competitive race? Trawl the memory banks and look for something better…..drift!

At the time (the late 70’s), needle nose boards were injuring kids, there was even a move to ban ridiculously sharpened noses. Of course the purists all got their knickers in a knot, but, the jump to safety was too easy, by simply rounding off noses. Which also made a lot of design sense when 3, 4, 5 inches were lopped off….keeping the hips and width of a (say) 6’3, but, lopping and rounding the nose, voilá, you have a shorter board with no nose weight, that can be stood up, vertical with less effort….but, still hold longer board lines on the rail….strike 1.

By taking the old double wing swallow tail templates and widening the front wing the boards had impressive planing area, speeding over flat spots and skating down the line. In stepping down real tail width with two wings, the narrowed tail held in when it mattered. By pinching the wings, they would bite deep into the wall, keep you high on the face where gravity and wave speed provide the power….strike 2.

Ten years of concave work had provided the engine…single concave under the front foot – lean forward and accelerate, double under the back - lean back and turn. All that planning area allowed speed set-ups which could be ridden as almost a slide, controlled, waiting for the fins to kick in and drive, drifting, down the line, through bottom turns, setting up for the punch and side fin controlled pivots….strike 3.

So how to keep these suckers in the water? Simple, a wide based single fin (straight out of a Sunset gun from 1975) and two smaller trailer fins focused on the front wing release points. Couple of flutes through the second wing to channel water into the narrow swallow and what have you got…..a triple latte double flat caramel shot mongrel mix that was love at first sight…..hey, this board was so weird (quote JF) it even had the foil on the side fins reversed….flat on the oustside foiled on the inside (and it worked)…..strike 4.

Big Red was my number 8 in the series. Shaped in August 1980 (and my template says so). It held the battle against Simon's Thrusters for about six and a half minutes and sadly to say ended up on top of the shaping bay with one of its brothers. Until…..

Kye and Joel did some single fin surfing for a mag shoot about five years ago . You know the sort of thing, young smartypants editor dragging out old single fins, trying to show the way things used to be. But, something stuck for the boys when they rode those things. Then Kye re-birthed Big Red in a retro add shot…..

And so, after the loss of my son Liam, Kye and Joel’s brother, we went off to Africa, the boys took a quiver of the oldies but goodies. And rode Jeffreys like those old boards were made for the place (which they were). Anyway, K and J kept surfing the bloody things at home….and hounding me for new replicas. And, yes, I’m guilty of wallowing a bit in the glory of my old boards getting a re-run. There is definitely a heap of satisfaction in seeing 25 - 30 year old boards tearing it up. There was even a WQS at Northie, Kye made the semis.

I guess I should have made the boys new boards sooner though,. That may have stopped the abuse of all that old fibreglass, shrunken foam and triple patched rails. Then again, imagine if you were an old board that had been resurrected, would you have handled being put back on the shaping bay roof with a bunch of broken and tired old relics? Worse than an old people’s home. Or, would you rather go out with your boots on, getting barrelled?

Big Red died in a beach break tube…on a crisp clear spring morning, with an offshore blowing and nobody out. Kye buried Big Red in a poetic end.

Big Red is dead….long live Big Red.