The tricky history of the channel bottom

Stu Nettle
Design Outline

The general theory of channel bottoms is that they give grip and speed to a surfboard. The 'faces' of the channels give added surface to push against, and by removing bottom curve they create straight line drive.

Yet the history of channel bottoms is anything but fast and stable: it's a slippery history, and it weaves in unexpected directions.

When we embarked on this article we didn't set out to find who was first to make channel bottoms though we quickly found this issue was unavoidable. Curiously, and this was very much in line with our asymmterical article, we found a number of people stumbled on the idea while working independently from each other.

We've done our best to speak to everyone involved and hope we've done justice to their stories, however we wouldn't be surprised if new information tweaks the story you read below. History can be surprisingly fluid.

But perhaps most surprising is the ever-changing use of channel bottoms. What was a distinctly 70s design has evolved in harmony with the major developments to find it's place in contemporary surfboard design. 

1960s
In 1965 Greg Noll carved two shallow grooves, one either side of the stringer, into his Semigun model and called it the 'Slot Bottom'. It's debatable whether they qualify as channels but Hawaiian great Ben Aipa has no hesitation. "That was the birth of the channel bottom," said Ben Aipa of Noll's slots. "The idea may have come from the past - maybe Simmons or Blake - but Greg was the first to include the slot as a design element in production boards."

Noll built Slot Bottoms for just two years, 1965 and '66, and only in select boards. Dale Velzy is another early shaper who some believe may have contoured the bottom of a board, yet Noll has the first known photos. After 1966 the idea disappeared for nigh on a decade before re-emerging in three different locations on Australia's East Coast at roughly the same time.

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Greg Noll 'Slot Bottom' boards from 1965. The ad appeared in the August 1966 edition of International Surfing Magazine.

1970s

After settling in Kiama on the NSW South Coast, expat American Mike Davis set about getting the local reefs wired. "There's a wave there called Boneyards, a real mean wave at size, and I was looking to get barrelled there."

All the big wave boards of the day had long sleek pintails, but these designs weren't cutting it at Boneyards. "We'd get held up every time," says Davis. "I needed something wider to paddle into the waves earlier, yet wide-tailed boards would just skip out off the bottom."

In 1975 he was driving back into town after a session when Newton's apple fell. Davis spotted a ski boat outside of Bombo Beach and saw how it moved in the water. "I could ride a wider tail, a rounded pin, and drop channels into it for grip!"

"I raced to the factory and quickly shaped the same V bottom I always used, and then shaped concaves that got wider towards the tail like the Bonzas. But instead of the one concave on each side of the stringer I carved in three on each side and were deepest at the extremities."

Davis recalls the design working wonderfully. "The board penetrated early and it could drive off the bottom with grip. We dropped our big wave boards from 7'6" to 6'10"."

However, board size wasn't the only thing that dropped. "My production just about halved," said Davis of the increased labour to shape, glass, and sand the channels. "They resembled channels as we know them now," says Lee Middleton who frequently bought channel bottoms from Davis for his shop, Sunshine Surf Shop in Barwon Heads.

"The depth of the channels was an issue," explains Davis. "The crude fibreglass of the day wouldn't sit in the channels. It would be eighteen months or so before Midget imported a nice supple glass so we could market lots of them."

Yet even after suitable glass is sourced Mike Davis' channel bottoms fail to catch on, at least relative to what came afterwards. Geographic isolation may have contributed, though at the time Davis was supplying boards to 65 surfshops around the country. He also, ironically, shaped boards for Col Smith who would later be an integral figure in the development of channel bottoms. 

Whatever the reason, Davis was a pioneer whose his name is conspicuously absent from the accepted history of channel bottoms.

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Mike Davis Designs ad in Tracks 1978 - 'Black Max' is Davis' channel bottom design. At right, Davis at Rincon in 1969.

In the mid-70s, Erle Pedersen from Cairns and Jick Mebane from Hawaii trade ideas while living at Whale Beach on Sydney's far northern beaches. Before moving south, Pedersen created the 'Kewarra Jet Bottom', devised to maximise energy out of the weak waves that broke at Kewarra Beach neach near Cairns. The Jet Bottom is a beautiful arrangement of curved channels, which, says Pedersen, "busts all forms of water tension."

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Erle Pedersen with an early version of his Kewarra Jet Bottom

The October 1975 issue of Tracks runs a spoof article, 'U.S.O found in backyard' featuring a startled Terry Fitzgerald holding a futusristic surfboard. The Unidentified Surfing Object is one of Pedersen and Mebane's creations, while an accompanying photo shows four of their boards, one of them being a Kewarra Jet Bottom shaped in August 1975.

The Jet Bottom is unlike all other channel bottoms yet it shares the same purpose: to influence water flow under the board and increase performance. Pedersen's contributions are significant and don't end here.

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Tracks October 1975, an Erle Pedersen-shaped Kewarra Jet Bottom sits second from right, and Terry Fitzgerald holding an Unidentified Surfing Object.

In 1975 an article appears in an American surf magazine titled 'Groove Ridge Theory'. Co-authored by Jim Richardson and Art Shafer, it details experiments using rubber ridges stuck to the bottom of a surfboard concluding that they improve lift and increase directional stability. The article is read by Jim Pollard who begins his own channel bottom experiments and the third and final sprout germinates.

Pollard, originally from Manly but living at Maroochydore when he begins his channel work, sands corrugations in a curved path so as to follow the board's outline. They're set in pairs either side of the stringer though some later examples have three. Each channel exits the rail at a flyer. Pollard coins the design a bee tail.

Pollard is noticed by Shane Stedman and the two set up Fluid Foils in the Shane factory at Brookvale. Jack Knight is one of the production shapers. At around the same time Pollard hooks up with a phalanx of hot young surfers from the Redhead/Newcastle area, among them are surfer and shaper Martin Littlewood, NSW state champion Steve Butterworth, and rising star Col Smith. Butterworth and Smith begin riding for Fluid Foils. In 1977 Pollard begins experimenting with deeper channels that curved out towards the rails at the rear of the board.

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Jim Pollard in his shaping bay late 1977, and at right Steve Butterworth with a Pollard channel bottom. Note channels curving toward the rails near the tail (Photo of Steve Butterworth Steve Core/Surf)

In late 1977 Col Smith flies to Hawaii with a four board quiver of Jim Pollard-shaped channel bottoms. Three of them have shallow channels that follow the rail line, the classic Pollard bee tails, the fourth is a flat bottom.

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Col Smith with Jim Pollard channel bottoms just before flying to Hawaii for the '77/'78 season (Photo Geoff Moore/www.crowsgarage.com)

In November 1977 Smith emerges from relative obscurity to win the Pro Class Trials at Sunset Beach against an international draw. Two-time Pipe Master Rory Russell calls him the "most underrated surfer in the world". Upon his return Tracks runs a three page interview in their January 1978 issue. Speaking about the reaction his channel bottoms had in Hawaii, Smith has this exchange with editor Paul Holmes:

Paul Holmes: The locals don't usually go for way out designs?
Col Smith: No, they dont and it was the first time that they'd seen anything like them. Boy, did I get some funny looks. They were especially sceptical because I'd never been to Hawaii before. It only took a few surfs to show them that the boards do work though.

In the same article Holmes speaks to Jim Pollard:

Paul Holmes: There have been a few channel bottoms on the market, all have had different types of channels. What has made your boards the way they are?
Jim Pollard: I'm not going to say anything about anyone else channels. All I'll say is that I've spent $15,000 and five years research designing and working out the dynamics of waterflow to find out exactly how my boards go.

Why do you think there aren't more manufacturers making channels?
They're scared of them – exactly that. It could upset the status quo too much in my opinion. I'm something they dont want.

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Jim Pollard and Col Smith celebrate after Smith's Hawaiian success (Photo Geoff Moore/www.crowsgarage.com)

Following Col Smith's success - he backed up his win at the Pro Class Trials with a seventh in the Pipe Masters and another win in the Quiksilver Trials at Bells in '78 - a number of shapers began paying attention, among them were Martin Littlewood, Al Byrne, and Phil Myers. Also, Col Smith began shaping his own boards too. Each of them would evolve the channel bottom eventually putting their own spin on the design.

Martin Littlewood is widely credited as putting the first straight channels into a board. "Jim started it all," says Martin, "Let's make no mistake about that, but I thought the shallow grooves weren't very noticeable." Martin subsequently went and dug a few "trenches" into his board. "I put them in straight and deep - sometimes over half an inch deep at the exit", while he followed his own reasoning for straight channels: "The flow of water follows the board, not the outline."

"We weren't thinking too much about rocker then," says Littlewood. "It was all about grip and bite. Straightening the rocker came later on." As grip was the primary factor, Littlewood says it made sense to have the longest channel on the outside. "It's when the board's on rail that you need the grip."

In 1978 Col Smith left Fluid Foils, firstly to shape with Martin Littlewood, and later to shape with Phil Myers under the Free Flight label.

A disagreement between Littlewood and Smith - "Yeah it was a blue," chuckles Littlewood - led to Smith reversing the configuration to have the longest channel on the inside. "That was his way of distancing himself from me," says Littlewood.

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Col Smith in his Redhead shaping bay, 1979 (Photo Geoff Moore/www.crowsgarage.com)

In late 1977 Al Byrne landed in Hawaii after three years in the New Zealand Air Force. Byrne told Damaged Goods Zine about the first time he saw a channel bottom:

"I was standing on the beach at Pipeline and Col Smith had just gone out and I’d never seen any surfing like it. He had this Jim Pollard curve channel, single fin. I watched until he came in and he had it sticking in the sand."

"I went walking up to him, “Fuck, can I have a look at that?” And he kinda looked at me sideways and goes, “Only if you don’t tell anyone.” He then went on to like third or fourth at the Pipe contest a few weeks later."

Byrne replicated what he saw on Smith's boards. Just before his death in 2013, Byrne told The Surfers Journal: "I made the mistake of making the channels too shallow. I was dissappointed and didn’t know why. When we got back to Newcastle, this guy Martin Littlewood shaped one for me and really dug in the channels. Really deep. Littlewood is really the progenitor of all my channel bottoms because he was not scared to really carve them in, like a sculptor. He took the shallow Pollard concept and deepened the whole concept physically and philosophically. Then I took mine toward breaking the sound barrier."

Though Jim Pollard and Col Smith had some success, it was Byrne who popularised the channel bottom. He made visually striking boards, put them under the feet of the best surfers of the era, and honed his designs on the Gold Coast and Hawaii - two channel-friendly surf zones. On the Gold Coast, Byrne started shaping for Hot Stuff, where he'd stay until 1986 before going out on his own with Byrning Spears. Al Byrne's commitment to channel bottoms would never waver.

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Allan Byrne in his shaping bay 1998, and at right a classic Byrne six channel.

In the late-70s twin fins made a revival on the back of Mark Richards' success and shapers tried to fit channel design into the new shortboard template. Phil Byrne in Wollongong constructed the Clinker channel, sharp and deep channels that resembled clinker boat hulls where an overlapping series of planks form the structure. Byrne's clinker channels always had the inside channels fading out before the tail so as not to grip too much and hence diminish the twin fins best quality.

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Byrne clinker channels on a late-70s twin fin (Photo Damion Fuller)

Up on the Gold Coast, Allan Byrne's influence was spreading with more channel bottoms appearing. Especially notable were those from the Pipedream factory shaped by Murray Bourton and a young Dominic Wybrow. Like Phil Byrne, Wybrow found a way to mix the skatey feeling of the twin with the grip of channels.

1980s
In 1981 Simon Anderson invented the Thruster which put a halt on clinker channels. Al Byrne and Murray Bourton persisted, but elsewhere shapers found three fins provided enough bite. Too much grip and too many fins made for a locked in feeling. Down in Wollongong, Phil Byrne adapted his channel designs to three fins. He, like other shapers, had discovered the key to the channel bottom's speed: the channels straightened the rocker providing a quicker route to the tail of the board. Because of this many shapers were reluctant to do away with channels altogether. The solution was belly channels, an idea that appears to have been grasped by multiple shapers around the same time. 

Belly channels were usually set in four, two each side of the stringer, and they were shallower and shorter than those shaped in the late-70s.

In 1983 Tom Curren surfed the Australian leg of the tour on a Channel Islands Thruster with four belly channels, while Tom Carroll also rode Byrne belly channels throughout 1983, the year he won his first world title. The channel design had subsequently evolved with board design, from single fins to twins to Thrusters, finding its rightful place at each stage. And with the two best surfers of the early-80s riding belly channels many others followed suit.

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A classic 80s Thruster with belly channels

Down in Ballina at the Free Flight factory, Phil Myers was looking for a work around solution; something that'd keep him at the cutting edge of design - meaning it would have to include three fins - yet allow him to drop his beloved channels in.

Myers found it with the Hydro Channel, a regulation channel bottom with a drop out step to loosen up the tail. The step could be located behind or in front of the fins, yet either way it avoided the locked in feeling. In the early eighties Michael and Tommy Peterson visited the Free Flight factory and the seed was sown for a design that'd be ridden to worldwide acclaim a decade later.

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Phil Myers in 1981 with single and Thruster version of the Hydro Channel. Middle and right show step in front of and behind the fins.

In 1984 Erle Pedersen moved up to the Gold Coast working out of the Pipedream factory. While there he shapes a mix of toned down Jet Bottoms and conventional channel bottoms. He also teaches the craft of channel shaping to a young Darren Handley. "He was as green as grass," says Pedersen. "But he was always gonna go far."

At the time of writing Mick Fanning had just won the J'Bay Open riding a modern channel bottom shaped by Darren Handley. “I'm no stranger to channel bottoms,” said Darren flatly.

1990s
During the late-80s belly channels faded out due to the increasing use of concaves. Concaves were conceptually similar to channels, they straighten the stringer line to provide fast transport of water beneath the board, but concaves don't have the inherent production issues of channels. The late 80s and early 90s mark the beginning of surfboard mass production, a matter that can't be seen as inseperable from channels falling out of favour.

However, arguably the dominant reason for channel bottoms waning are competing design. In 1990 Maurcie Cole begins working with Tom Curren, a partnership that would lead to the Reverse Vee, and then in 1992 Greg Webber's concave and rocker experiments begin bearing fruit. Both designs largely made channels redundant.

But that's not to say they dissappeared. Allan Byrne was succesfully pursuing his line of thought with Byrning Spears channel bottoms appearing in a great many Hawaiian quivers, and Phil Myers kept the fire burning at Free Flight.

Yet the greatest channel design of the 90s was the Tommy Peterson Fireball Fish, which was an 'evolution' of Phil Myers Hydro Channel. Tom Curren rode a 5'7" Fireball in huge waves at Bawa, Indonesia, in 1994. That one session, which appeared in many magazines and Rip Curl's original Search video, helped ignite the Fish revolution. The Fireball, however, wasn't a Fish, it was a Thruster and had channels and a step very similar to Phil Myers' Hydro Channel.

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Tom Curren on a Fireball Fish (on the cover he's riding a regulation 6'10" Thruster which he swapped mid-session), top right shows a still from Rip Curl's The Search, bottom right a Fireball Fish.

2000s
The ripples from the Fish resurrection kicked off by Curren, with further help from Andrew Kidman and Derek Hynd, eventually reach the mainstream shore. High performance board lengths shrink through the first decade of the new millennium causing shapers to look at their craft anew.

Daniel Thomson, a second generation surfer and shaper from Lennox Head, begins making boards unlike any other on the market. Tomo takes the 'shorter board revolution' to new lengths - at least metaphorically, some of his boards are meant to be ridden 6 - 8 inches shorter than exisiting boards.

To make up for the reduced rail line, Tomo puts channels into some models. "The channel bottoms on these give it control so you can ride it in bigger waves as well," says Tomo. "You're never going to slide the tail out if you have that edge on the rails because it acts as a fin itself and lets you drive off of it."

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The Evo by Tomo with channels for hold. According to Tomo the Evo "should be ridden as short as possible."

While Tomo finds new uses for channels in contemporary shortboards, a number of labels continue refining channel designs. Chief among them are Phil Myers at Free Flight with his Col Smith Channel Design and Al Byrne at Byrning Spears. When Byrne passed away in 2013 he passed the baton - not to mention templates and tools - to his son Jamie Byrne and business partner Dale Wilson.

They're not the only pioneers still shaping channel bottoms. Jack Knight, who shaped alongside Jim Pollard at Fluid Foils, still fills orders for channel bottoms. These days Knight curves the end of his channels out towards the tail and his reasoning also sums up why channel bottoms have endured for forty years.

"The straight channels are like a race car," says Knight. "But when the channels curve outwards they're always working with you. They're graceful and they're smooth."

In other words, they're adaptable.

*****

Thanks to:
Phil Myers at Free Flight Surfboards
Mike Davis
Erle Pedersen at Surf 1770
Dale Wilson at Byrning Spears
Martin Littlewood at Delta Designs
Geoff Moore at Crow's Garage
Jack Knight Surfboards
Phil Byrne at Byrne Surfboards
Lee Middleton
John Boorer
Steve Core
Richard Palmer

Comments

talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 4:18pm

Now that's some surf journalism! Hot stuff! Stoked I've still got a coupla boards from a coupla of the blokes mentioned.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 4:29pm

Great to see Mike Davis get a mention. I had a series of boards of him in '74-75 and enjoyed some great Boneyard sessions with him. A great character who is still shaping. He's based in Noosa these days.

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 6:31pm

Second that - remember having a long chat with Mike in his Kiama Shop around 1980. He was making some nice channel bottoms then and was totally sold on the design
He also had a theory that the nuclear tests in the pacific created freak easterly swells that lit up breaks inside Jervis Bay

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 4:30pm

Nice one Stu......really good read.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 4:32pm

Oh and was Jick Mebane a real person? I thought it was Glen Brown or Frank Pithers in disguise!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 4:38pm
blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 4:49pm

Thanks Stu.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 5:52pm

Blindboy or anyone surf movie VerticalDrive do you remember this movie ?

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 6:27pm

Great Article.

Jeez I kick myself sometimes for never holding on to boards. I had a wicked Murray Bourton 6 channel bottom pinny that I loved in the mid-eighties and not long after that picked up a Byrning Spears that I rode till the death (actually my bro finished that one off at Kirra).

For a very short time I picked up for a song off a mate a Zappa that was unlike anything I'd seen before or since, it had four very shallow belly channels and a double step down to the tail. I can't remember what happened to it but the only reason I didn't like it was because it was red. Go figure.

Really enjoyable article Stu.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 7:30pm

Zen, I've read about five of your posts that include the line "...I lent it to my brother" when describing how a surfboard died.

I'm hoping you got to balance the ledger somewhere along the way.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 7:44pm

Yeah, he's amazing. Holds on to his own boards for years, picks up one of mine and it explodes in his hands.

Nah, he's a good lad, good surfer and in the brotherly stakes I probably owe him.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 8:33pm

Hey zen I hope you are staying nice and dry! We were just watching the floods on NHK news.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 8:34pm

.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 9:10pm

Cheers BB. Typhoon right over us now, heaps of rain and wind but we're high and dry here watching tele.

So much surf too. Been non-stop swell for weeks but I'm out for a few weeks recuperating.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 9:50pm

Good to hear zen, grab a few for me when it cleans up. Nothing but ankle crushers here!

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 6:23pm

Heresy zen, not liking a board because it's red. I am seriously worried, I only have one in the quiver at the moment.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 6:29pm

One board BB or one red one?

I've never been into coloured boards. I've got a sweet new ride with black rails which was a nice surprise when I picked it up but that's about as funky as I get.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 6:35pm

.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 6:38pm

One red, currently total of 5 in the quiver from 6'0 to 7'5" which is over the top. I am aiming to sell two!

tonybarber's picture
tonybarber's picture
tonybarber commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 6:38pm

Gordon Merchant (Billabong) used 'chimes' on his boards back in the late 60s which are similar to the Greg Noll slot bottom. Again similar to the channel bottoms but maybe not as pronounced. They worked well with tucked under rails.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 7:04pm

Chimes TB or 'Chines' like on a boat?

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

tonybarber's picture
tonybarber's picture
tonybarber commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 9:24am

Yep, I stand corrected, 'chines' like a boat. Similar to channels and given the time Merchant used them maybe a lead up to channels.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 8:06pm

Great article...in my reflections on all time favourite boards...6 deep channel bottoms are always part of the conversation...love 'em!

benski's picture
benski's picture
benski commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 10:20pm

I enjoyed that too.

My first board (after the McCoy coolite) was a channel bottom by Rod Dahlberg (got it second hand at Coogee Bay Surf). I was a kid riding a lid at the time and decided I couldn't be bothered learning to surf when all my mates were getting barreled and I was back feeling like a kook. Figured I'd get back to it one day... I gave the board away to some family friend in Brisbane a few years later. Dunno if the board was particularly special but sometimes I wanna punch young me in the face.

And that USO thing, isn't there one of them hanging up on the wall at the Pacific hotel?

BenMondy's picture
BenMondy's picture
BenMondy commented Monday, 22 Aug 2016 at 11:01pm

I grew up in Redhead where channels were the norm and Col Smith and his boards were the highest art form. As a grom I just assumed most other surfers rode channels, why wouldn't you? They've stayed with me for life, with AB providing 20 years of channel bottom pleasure after Col passed. Anyway a great piece, thanks Stu, much appreciated.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 9:00am

Cheers Ben. A few months back I bought a board off eBay and the seller lived at Dudley. Curiously enough the board was an AB-shaped six channel Byrning Spears and I rode it at the nearby point. After the session I darted south over the headland to Redhead simply because of its significance. With a six channel in the back of the chariot it just made sense.

MRsinglefin's picture
MRsinglefin's picture
MRsinglefin commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 7:26am

Now that is the best surfboard design history article I have ever read. I've had channel bottoms from Col Smith, Tommy Peterson (best board ever), Al Byrne (surftech), Albert Fox and will be ordering my next one from Corey Graham shapes in Torquay. Actually Tom Peterson is down in Torquay now shaping a few customs. If you have never ridden a Fireball fish do yourself a favour and order one. Can't believe I traded mine when ordering a new MR (even Mick Adam regrets selling it to a backpacker for $150)

eyrehead's picture
eyrehead's picture
eyrehead commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 8:18am

One of the most articulate and well researched design articles i've read in 35 years, and I've read a few...
Well done!.

tootr's picture
tootr's picture
tootr commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 8:27am

Remember an epic sequence in SW years ago of Col Smith. Don't really see cutbacks that big these days.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 8:40am

This one Tootr? (this version was taken from Deep, but the same sequence ran in SW):

tootr's picture
tootr's picture
tootr commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 8:49am

That's it. Love it.
Prolly wouldn't score in a contest these days ;-)

groundswell's picture
groundswell's picture
groundswell commented Monday, 30 Jan 2017 at 7:01am

Cole Smiths son lives near me and is just as good to watch at the reefs around here as Ry Craic and crew.And his Dad. they all love there channel bottoms.
Will have to upload some footage one day on here.But sometimes my camera/tripod cant keep up with how fast they are going. :)

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 10:47am

Great footage from 'Fantasea' of Col Smith riding Pollards channel bottoms, even includes a straight to camera piece with Col expanding on the design. Well worth a watch:

 

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 2:09pm

Can't remember ever seeing that clip. Cheers.

@3:10 burns that guy and looks to me like the bloke attempts to spear him.

Hawaii 'eh? Then and now, some things don't change.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 3:44pm

Yeah, nothing like venting the frustration of being dropped in, and channeling that into the energy needed to get your board into the back of the offenders calf, knee, leg, back or head. Just what needs to be returned to the Qld points - might make a few of the repeat offenders think twice before dropping in?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 1:29pm

best journalism on surf design ever..well, right now anyway, i dunno about "ever"..as there's always another untold tale to unravel from somewhere..having said that seriously awesome and exciting Stu, the direction you are taking your surf journalism.
Also, I was very happy to read about Marty Littlewood's significance, having recently interviewed him and featured one of his shapes in my Frontier Surfing exhibition. At the time I was thinking his depth of knowledge, wry humour, scientific disposition and sheer range of experimentation must come from somewhere deep, and now I know it truly does.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 3:47pm

Great article Stu, and onya swellnet for taking this line of content. I can see a book at the end of all these articles. Each article being a chapter, matched with pictures etc.

Also hope ya syndicating them into the inflight magazines of all the airlines flying to surf destinations. Just what surf travelers need to read while heading to surf some exotic location.

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

freddieffer's picture
freddieffer's picture
freddieffer commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 4:06pm

Still go my '79 model 6'4" Col Smith Channel pintail gun. Been with me everywhere for the last 35 years. That board holds incredible memories, and probably has a place in most of my top 10 highlights in my life. It doesn't get to taste much salt water these days, but the last quote in the story really defines this board "The straight channels are like a race car" - so so true; and the story on the evolution of channels correlates with my journey with them too. I had a Free Flight channel hydro tail that was simply amazing to ride, and have regretted parting with it ever since.
Thanks Stu, you were spot on with telling the story of the channel evolution and with identifying many of the nuances that contributed to the overall development of not only channels, but its linkages found in some contemporary board designs.

toneranger's picture
toneranger's picture
toneranger commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 8:04pm

i had a Rod Stock thruster with channels bought in 1982.it was 6'3 and i surfed it exclusivley for 15 years.admittedly that was during the kiddy upbringing years hence the longevity.Rod was from the mornington peninsula and was doing a bit of experimenting with them.luved that stik

morg's picture
morg's picture
morg commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 10:10pm

Great article Stu. It's interesting and rings bells for those of us who grew up through those periods and rode them. As a grom I had a Jim Pollard with channels that looked a bit like corrugated iron, and then a few others before settling on twinnies with four deep channels. They disappeared when I got my first thruster. Looks like my next board's going to have channels :-)

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 23 Aug 2016 at 10:44pm

Great article Stu. My first thruster was a Byrning Spears 6 channel, Mr V8 doing the glassing, and what a board it was, to this day probably the best thruster I've ever ridden. Of course, it was loaned to a brother's mate, who snapped it in 2ft surf...
So in 2009 I asked AB if he would do a '1988 replica' of the 6 channel thruster I had, he kindly agreed and shaped an amazing board. That's a keeper.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Friday, 26 Aug 2016 at 4:06pm

Just read the article what a ripper. I had a few of those belly channels up until the very early 90's. Bean down here is shaping a lot of channels at the moment. One his more bizarre boards he made back in the 80's was called the golf ball (he loves golf, can't fathom that). The bottom was covered with mini hemispheres to help lift and separate. Nightmare to shape and glass I must ask him how it went.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 31 Aug 2016 at 10:33am

Just found this photo of Phil Myers with a few variations of his Hydro Tail. When looking at the board on the left it's damn easy to see where Tommy Peterson got his inspiration from. That channel set up is a Fireball a decade before the world knew what Fireballs were.

img_0061.jpg

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 31 Aug 2016 at 10:46am

NC has a new 10 channel from Phil ...pics and ride report Nick ?

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Wednesday, 31 Aug 2016 at 3:26pm

Had one of those step tails years ago and really liked it,loved the way he did his rounded channels..so many good sessions on it.Ahead of his time in a lot of ways the old Phil....

simba

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 17 Dec 2016 at 3:58pm

Anyone ever heard of a channel bottom flextail ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Saturday, 17 Dec 2016 at 6:52pm

Mark Rabbidge has!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 17 Dec 2016 at 7:01pm

Shit theres some wild stuff on his insta.

Gumtree Rose bay there is a channel flextail for sale

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Saturday, 17 Dec 2016 at 7:07pm

Fuck! It's far out, isn't it?

Might give the fella a call and drive down for a chat.

I couldn't find the Gumtree board?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 17 Dec 2016 at 7:20pm

605 step up epoxy flextail channel bottom channel rails.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 29 Jan 2017 at 3:03pm

Curved Belly Channels are back.
Tokoro surfboards insta.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 29 Jan 2017 at 3:22pm

Very nice. Might have a chat about his thoughts about them:

screen_shot_2017-01-29_at_3.15.29_pm.png

Meanwhile, here's my latest board, though I haven't taken delivery yet. It's not asymmetical but it does have ten mother truckin' channels.

screen_shot_2017-01-29_at_3.15.55_pm.png

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 29 Jan 2017 at 3:41pm

Very surprised the 6'6" AB channel bottom on Gumtree Pittwater area hasnt sold
probably a bit thin for most at 2 1/4
Described as off the rack cond..its a collector.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017 at 10:50am

There's an Erle Pederson jet bottom on gumtree too.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017 at 10:59am

Got the URL?

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017 at 11:09am

It's not cheap, but looks like perfect nick and full gloss finish.
http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/mooloolaba/surfing/black-widow-shaped-by-...

Looks like a fairly recent one.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017 at 11:19am

Cheers LD. You're right, it's not cheap, but if we're being honest it's worth every last cent the fella is asking. The amount of work that goes into those boards is extraordinary.

If I wasn't buying the above Free Flight I'd be all over it.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 5 Feb 2017 at 10:15am

$600 will buy the Red Earle supposedly.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 23 Jan 2018 at 6:39pm
stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 23 Jan 2018 at 6:42pm

Damn it...missed that.

Great price.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 23 Jan 2018 at 6:44pm

It was in my watch list but I forgot about it.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017 at 1:06pm

VitaminSea did a Torpedo shaped Belly Channel.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Sunday, 5 Feb 2017 at 9:00pm

Rawson 7'8" Channel Bottom Swallowtail Glassed in fins - Kong Elkerton Replica

Troy Beros insta

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 6 Feb 2017 at 11:10am

Hmmmm...not as excited by a replica as I am by, say, this board, which I got an eyeful of over the Xmas break.


lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Monday, 6 Feb 2017 at 11:17am

Wow!
What's the length on that?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 6 Feb 2017 at 11:24am

It's 8'0". More detail from Gav here:

https://www.facebook.com/thesurftrip/posts/1801338806783455

He's got a couple of Kong's boards.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 6 Feb 2017 at 11:16am

What a Weapon !

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 10 Mar 2017 at 7:48pm

No channels in this one - 7"10 Al Byrne pin Single box - fcs plugs side bites
Gumtree Redhead -$1000

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 21 Mar 2017 at 8:42pm

Interesting comment from Christiian Bradley re [belly] channels on his insta
Found the perfect positioning for them....but when we followed them through to the tail they did not work so im thinking its a compression and lift kinda thing.

Eugene Green's picture
Eugene Green's picture
Eugene Green commented Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 12:19am

Great article Stuart. Just found it. Better late than never. Love a good channel bum!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 22 Mar 2017 at 3:41pm

Simon Jones m.ot.e. 4 days ago cut a few deep ones..

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 19 Apr 2017 at 11:26am

Alex Gray riding a modern channel bottom with curved channels. Check middle board:

More I think about it the more I dig the concept. Aside from straightening the rocker, channels help direct water toward the tail, meaning you can have a vee bottom but not lose water off the rails, it gets shunted toward the rear giving the board lift and drive. Having the channels subtly curve inward at the rear would appear to accentuate that function.

And yeah, it's one of the boards that got destroyed in the recent baggage handler brouhaha.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018 at 12:52pm
eat-your-vegies's picture
eat-your-vegies's picture
eat-your-vegies commented Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018 at 5:50pm

Nice. That 7,2 looks gorgeous.
Can’t justify it though cos I already got 25 boards clogging the place up

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018 at 5:54pm

Haha, well one sold, and the 7'2 has just had $300 added to the price.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018 at 7:31pm

Only 70 views and Ken has upped the price

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018 at 6:59pm

Ha ha ha...Ken rang me and I advised him to up the price just a touch. Apologies if I stuffed anyone up who thought they'd get a bargain, but you guys know as well as I that an unsurfed AB...an unsurfed six channel flyer swallow tail AB, no less, is worth more than he offered.

Course if I had the money I woulda taken it ASAP.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018 at 7:27pm

Na gd on him i would have listed it for 2k not a penny less.

Finntim's picture
Finntim's picture
Finntim commented Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018 at 8:43pm

Great article stu, I picked up a mike davis channel bottom from hard rubbish awhile back. Needs some serious tlc but still nice to have for local sentimental reasons and also a piece of pretty specific surfing history. I might have it fixed up one day. Anyhoo, good stuff and all the best for new year.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 23 Jan 2018 at 7:57pm

Kenny's unridden AB still on GumTree
$1300.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Thursday, 25 Jan 2018 at 6:46pm

Back to the original price of $1150.
That's $120 worth of fins, $100 worth of board bag
So a brand new AB gun for $930.

And now Stu has cost him all those top ad fees for the extra time it's been listed, haha.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 11 Apr 2018 at 11:10am

Adam Robbo recently riding a 6 channel Allan Byrne swallow tail in waves that some people would say aren't suited to channels: bumpy and soft off the top.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 17 Apr 2018 at 9:33am

_Jay Phillips throwing around a 6 channel single fin in 1 ft surf on his insta
Stylish...

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 17 Apr 2018 at 11:55am

Jay on the Free Flight six channel singley...

Hover the cursor over the image, then click the 'right' button to go to the video.

 

A post shared by Jay Phillips (@_jayphillips) on

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