Jed Done and the joy of flex

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

If it's hard for the average punter to get their head around the metric of flex, then it’s even harder to feel it. We’re told that all good boards need flex. Only a few millimetres perhaps, but those millimetres are essential. Just like an F1 Car needs but a lick of suspension lest it fly off the track.

This science I’ll take as given. Confined to an upper-intermediate skill set, I’ll never require the tight recoil of a pro board. That aspect is lost on me. If somehow it’s making my boards perform better then that’s great, yet no matter how much I tune my antennae, I just can’t feel it in my high performance shortboard.

Fortunately flex can be built into a board in many ways.

He's watching...

Jed Done comes from the far south coast of NSW. In the late 1990’s he travelled up to Sydney to make his fortune. It’d be a disservice to Jed if you read the previous line with a straight face, as it sure wasn’t delivered that way. A stranger in a strange land, Jed lived in the inner city and surfed the Eastern Beaches, mainly Maroubra where the bolshie young Bra Boys were on the rise. Jed, however, was drawn to a different crowd.

At Maroubra he shared sessions with maverick kneeboarder Neal Cameron and also met Peter Berry, who, like George Greenough, was a kneeboarder who pushed his craft via the nuances of flex. Berry shaped “space ships”, futuristic looking boards that tripped something in Jed’s approach to board design. Not all of Jed’s boards were flex tails, only a few in fact, but those boards shared a key feature with Peter Berry’s kneeboards - reverse rocker. The seemingly counter-intuitive idea of bending the tail rocker down, not up.

After two years in the city Jed packed up the chariot and headed home to make Bushrat Surfboards.

Hiding behind his designs

When I meet Jed he’s doing a short run up to the city. He's now opened up a shop, Switchfoot Boardstore, in Pambula with his wife Patricia. The racks there are full of Jed's craft but he's also selling them around Australia and the world. Today his wagon is full of boards, some heading for Sydney showrooms, others to the US. Jed has recently ditched the Bushrat moniker, his label of almost twenty years, and he now shapes under his own name: Jed Done Surfboards.

No more cheese, just clean typeface.

Of the fifteen boards Jed is packing, six are designed for greater flex, and some of those are old team boards. Test boards for curious punters. We spread the boards out on my living room floor and Jed talks me through them. One has parabolic stringers that fade out near the fins, a few have carbon flex tails, and another has a design Swellnet has written about before: the ‘wedge stringer’ or ‘vanishing stringer’. A stringer that begins the usual width at the nose and gently tapers down to nothing.

“The original one didn't vanish,” says Jed of the first board with a wedge stringer. “It went all the way to the tail. But that board really worked. It was a real standout board for me.” And so Jed began experimenting, bringing the point of the wedge up the board so the tail was stringerless and flexed.

Kevlar rail reinforcement, wedge stringer, and carbon flex tail: integrated flex from Jed Done

The wedge stringer is just one example of an overarching concept in all of Jed’s flex boards. “I try to create an integrated flex,” says Jed by way of explanation. “It’s not how one design feature works, but how many features work together.”

Another example of this is an older board of Jed’s, it still has the Bushrat logo on it. The board has parabolic stringers that fade out the rails near the fins, and shortly after that a carbon flex tail completes the rear end. There’s effectively two stringers at the front for longitudinal stiffness near the nose, though the board can twist as all boards with parabolic stringers do. The stiffness eases down the board till you arrive at the carbon flex tail which can bend up to a half-inch if you really put your weight against it. The tail is glassed in vinylester to cope with the flex, though Jed now solely uses epoxy.

When I pick it up Jed points out a hitherto unseen feature: reverse rocker. It’s only subtle, perhaps a quarter inch deep and extending just a few inches from the tail. It’s the kink that he borrowed from Peter Berry, the theory being as soon as you put weight on the board the rocker straightens out and stores energy. No energy is lost in that process but it's released when unweighted.

At 5’10” x 19 ¾” it’s closest to my own shortboard in dimensions. Jed passes me the board.

Parabolic rails and carbon tail with a kink - the subtle curve of reverse rocker

It helps to have waves for a board test. If that sounds like a blindingly obvious statement then allow me to qualify it: It helps to have long peeling waves for a flex tail board test. And that’s what I got for the first few days when a regulation southerly groundswell wagged a long tail, the fetch slowly turning southeast opening up the walling inside section at the local pointbreak.

Which was fortunate 'cos try as I might I couldn’t discern any specific feelings from takeoff or set up. The board did what all boards do, at least should do. However, when given space to unwind down the line, particularly while leaning into long open shoulder turns, and the late stage release was an unmistakable thrill. A short burst of speed that at first felt artificial, arriving suddenly and lasting but a moment.

Mostly I was an observer to this performance, happy to feel something new in surfing. It was only afterwards that I thought about how the reflex could be capitalised on, how it could be used to surf tighter and beat fast sections. It’d require commitment to the design, calling your senses to attention and responding, but it was possible. Of that I’m sure.

When the swell retreated I got a chance at the local beachbreaks and an opportunity to go left - backhand for me. Curiously, the board performed differently. Whereas I couldn’t get reflex during a frontside bottom turn at the point, it happened much more during backside bottom turns on the beaches. My assumption is that a greater backfoot bias and heelside weight forced the flex, which supported my theory about committing to the design and also had me jotting a mental note: pack a flex tail for the next Indo trip!

Flex tails and fish on the Switchfoot board rack

To date there are no standard measurements for flex. I can quantify the length, width, and thickness of Jed's board, the volume too, but I can't put a metric on the flex. And for this reason it remains a nebulous concept. Yet that very aspect has to be factored into the performance of the board.

When I mention to Jed that a scientist at the University of Wollongong is testing flex he asks to get his carbon tail tested. Rather than keeping flex in the dark, hording the arcane knowledge, he wants to build some concrete facts around it. Quantify it somehow. Take flex out of subjective experience and into objective reality.

Right now we don't even know what the units of measurement might be but the process of discovery has already begun.

Switchfoot Boardstore

More reading from Flexi Week on Swellnet
Mitchell Rae's Flexible Trajectory
The road to Firewire and beyond
The science of flex with Marc in het Panhuis

Comments

stan1972's picture
stan1972's picture
stan1972 commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 3:10pm

This was a really good series Stu what are you going to do next?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 4:34pm

Thanks Stan, glad you enjoyed it.

No idea what may come next: fins? foam? fitness? Maybe nothing...

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 4:54pm

Id like to see a blind test series.

For example a blind test on fins, where you get the same template fins in a few different materials, paint them so not completely obvious and get a few different surfers of different ability levels to test them them say three to five waves and give there feed back and rating.

Obviously ensure there is no cheating.

Ada gula, ada semut!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 4:57pm

It's almost like you drafted the experiment, ID!

All that happened just a month or so ago and will appear in both a science journal and here.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 5:00pm

Cool.

Ada gula, ada semut!

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 4:59pm

Also a shaper series, like interviews on shapers from an different areas of Australia, like Gold Coast, Sunny Coast, Nth Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, East Coast Vic, Phillip Island, Torquay, Tassie..and areas of other states.

Even one on shapers etc in Bali (good excuse for a holiday)

Or featuring a board design of different shapers, like i think you did with the sweet or baked potato.

Or a series on Aussie shapers doing different builds.

Or a series on local legends of an area going around Australia (you know every area has different surfing characters well known to an area)

Ada gula, ada semut!

mozzie's picture
mozzie's picture
mozzie commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 7:09pm

Volume vs dimensions and the correlation?

The ocean is my therapist...

wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 8:43am

What about one on bodyboards?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 8:50am

I reached out to a few crew but didn't get much of a bite. I'd still really like to follow it up cos it seems there's some good stuff going on.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 5:07pm

BTW. Also enjoyed the series, probably could have stretched it out though.

Or what about a were are they now, what are they up too interview series on past pro surfers...you kind of did it with (forgot his name) beat slater in the 90's on them banana boards.

Like whats Kong up too, or that little ripper from the Goldie Jason Buttonshaw..etc

Or even a spot check, going around Australia (yeah I'm sure some guys would hate it) but I'm talking revisiting the classic well known set ups, interview with locals etc.

Ada gula, ada semut!

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 2:55pm

You are thinking of Shane Herring Indo. I did a piece on his brother Brett a couple of years ago who is still out there ripping up some serious size out west. Not sure Shane would be interested.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 2:59pm

Journey on Shane Herring by Monty Webber / Vimeo

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 5:40pm

On the money indo d.......great series Stu really digging it but i wonder if there is really an answer to the flex question cause there's sooooo many variables, some you have mentioned previously,that come into play ....do flex in fins affect /enhance a flex tail board..etc....endless.

simba

thatguy's picture
thatguy's picture
thatguy commented Friday, 13 Jul 2018 at 7:43pm

Perhaps we could have a Swellnet BBQ cook off next. Seriously, how beautifully crafted are Jeds boards.

Gary G's picture
Gary G's picture
Gary G commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 1:47am

Gary loves watching Stu Flex

For your next holiday, why not get all up in Gary?
Gary, Indiana.
Nestled at the tip of Lake Michigan, the best spot for scoring a facey anywhere on the great lakes, Gary's such a delight that once you've come once, you're certain to want to come again.

morg's picture
morg's picture
morg commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 9:09am

A board in one of the photos above seem to have circles around the base of fins, and the yellow board, seems to have have cylinders cut through from bottom. Is this so Jed can vary the angle of fins, and if so how much does it effect performance?

Stu it appears that rear foot position ends up being about a foot further forward than normal on the flex tail style boards. Did this take much getting used to, or is it just part of getting used to the board, rather than needing to adapt your technique?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 9:24am

Hey Morg, 

Jed uses 4 Ways Fins System - http://www.4wfs.com/ - in some of his boards. The holes are the plugs for that system.

The back foot position...unlike Mitchell Rae, and also Mick Mackie for that matter, Jed doesn't like replacing the lost foam with EVA plastic or anything else, as he believes it changes the carbon flex pattern. The forward position was a concern, I like having my foot pushed back, so it took some getting used to. I also had one late drop out the point where my back foot landed on the carbon and slid straight off which left me one foot on and one foot off with a 12 inch blade between my legs. Worrying...

Jed's made a few with a short length of EVA above the carbon so the deck grip can be affixed in normal position. That's definitely what I'd do.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 9:40am

I've been really enjoying this series too. A lot of it is lost on me though, up until recently the nuance of design hasn't really held my attention. Maybe Stu's pretty wordss have piqued my interest?

Some good suggestions from Indo too (but please don't do fltness).

;)

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 11:08am

You sure you don't want an article on deadlifts and their impact on surfing?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 9:54am

Nice little 6'0 2+1 Bushrat on G.tree for $525

rees0's picture
rees0's picture
rees0 commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 1:17pm

Thanks stu really enjoyed this series particularly this one as my last 4 boards are all stringerless with parabolic rails.

They really add some extra life through the transitions and down the line speed runs. my thoughts where that the ability to flex on the diagonal axis was where this extra "zip" came from. Storing and releasing the tension at greater angles across the board as opposed to a straight stringer only releasing the tension length wise.

What material is Jed using in the rails? I like the traditional pu blank with glass rails it seems more conducive to the flex as opposed to the carbon which is stiff by nature. The way the carbon releases the tension feels snappier to me where the pu glass rails release slower but smoother.

Keep this stuff coming looking forward to this fin test.

CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 4:16pm

'Some good suggestions from Indo too (but please don't do fltness).'

'You sure you don't want an article on deadlifts and their impact on surfing?'

AYE!!! Nah, No danger of that!!! The science, the experts, and internationally recognized markers of athleticism have already dealt with''lite 'thlete surfees!!!?? You know how all those other elite athletes display amazing, astounding, highest ever recorded, elite results when tested and pushed to the max!!!!

Well, in a nutshell, the surfees took 'to the max' to a whole new level!!! Again!!! Amazing shit!!!

'Considered one of the top in his field, Dr. Sheppard'
"Almost every surfer I've ever trained lacks adequate leg strength. They are literally weak in the part of the body that provides some serious propulsion. I think traditionally people have thought strength training meant getting injured or getting heavy, or getting slow, but there's no scientific evidence for any of that. Stronger people get fewer injuries because weak things break. That's just physics. '

Aah no, nothing to worry about there lads, you won't be seeing any elite, to the max vids about that in a hurry!!!! Damage control.... 'these kids'... Rooooosssieeee!!!!

Boardies forever!!!!??

In a nutshell!!!

thatguy's picture
thatguy's picture
thatguy commented Saturday, 14 Jul 2018 at 7:12pm

This series sparked a memory from many years ago. As a young fella I was a member of the Seacliff SLSC. In those days there was a shed out the back where the nippers boards were kept segregated from the seniors equipment. In that shed was a long forgotten yellow knee board with purple fins and a flex swallow tail that no one really knew how it came to be there. I grabbed and for 3 years I rode it as a stand up, I was a scawny from back then. Loved it to death, rode it everywhere from Hallet Cove to Streaky and it never let me down.
Sadly I left it behind in SA when we moved and life being what it is, I gradually lost contact with the old crew who were babysitting it.
Mind you this was 35 years ago but now I'm wondering where it ended up. it was shaped either by Strapper or Trigger Bros.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Sunday, 15 Jul 2018 at 7:52am

The reverse-rocker idea is what sets Jeds flextails apart I think. If you visualise a non-reverse-rocker flextail in its resting position it's sitting at "zero", and when pushed through a turn it flexes into a "negative" position and then returns to zero. Jeds tails are resting in the "positive", which when passing through the water would be creating a tiny bit of high water pressure (and potentially lift) in that region of the board. When pushed through a turn into the negative and then returning to the positive there might be a bit of a response due to the return of high water pressure to the tail. It would be a fine line though to get the positive resting position of the reverse-rocker proportional to the viscosity of water, otherwise you're going to get drag instead of lift and this potentially opens a can of worms as water density is not consistent. Another field of board design I don't think many (if any) have touched on yet is surfboard density relative to water density in a given region (i.e., board density x performance in warm vs cold water).

Mango Carafino's picture
Mango Carafino's picture
Mango Carafino commented Monday, 16 Jul 2018 at 11:07am

I would like to see these redundant articles on surfboards take a hiatus from this site. Same old bullshit. I'd rather watch the tacky ads than pay 9 US a month to be updated on the same old same old.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Monday, 16 Jul 2018 at 11:15am

Well, there ya go. This comment has gotta be Exhibit A for showing how difficult it is to please everyone.

Aside from the fact that these articles aren't behind the paywall either - which is why you're able to free them for free, Mango. 

C'mon mate.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 20 Jul 2018 at 6:00pm

Ben was your headshot professionally taken ?

You’ve got a kind face.

As in not mean.

pointy's picture
pointy's picture
pointy commented Wednesday, 18 Jul 2018 at 10:00pm

Hey Stu,

You should get in contact with Neal Cameron and do an article on his boards - flex, reverse rocker and air intakes.

I've also seen photos of great looking fibreglass bikinis that he's made...

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 20 Jul 2018 at 5:55pm

His name keeps getting mentioned to me. Someone's trying to tell me something.

And I'm curious about those fibreglass bikinis.

pointy's picture
pointy's picture
pointy commented Saturday, 21 Jul 2018 at 9:14am

Check out his Instagram account

Chameleon_neal_cameron

rightfootfwd's picture
rightfootfwd's picture
rightfootfwd commented Friday, 20 Jul 2018 at 4:55pm

Stu, for a couple of decades racing alpine skis and snowboards have had a reverse rocker and use material flex patterns specifically for that acceleration through transition that you describe ... kind of like a mid turn subtle flipper kick.

Perhaps refer the UOW researcher that way and there may be some work that he can already leverage re the flex and retraction patterns of specific materials.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 20 Jul 2018 at 5:56pm

Great suggestion RFF.

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