The Junior Diver - :PCC Surfboards

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
The Depth Test

"Do you listen to much Captain Beefheart?"

"Hmmm...a little."

"Then get hold of the song Distant Cousins before you ride the board. Listen and you'll understand where it's come from."

And with that advice I walked out of :PCC Surfboards with a piece of foam and fibreglass that marked an intersection of surf history, scientific theory and musical inspiration. It went by the name of the Junior Diver and the etymology of its name was as interesting as the design, but we'll get to that in due course.

Five years ago Stuart Paterson, owner of :PCC Surfboards, lent me a mini-Simmons to muck around on. I rode it for a weekend, thought it a beautiful board, but was underwhelmed by its performance. Pato, on the other hand, had his curiosity piqued by the short, flat and wide design so kept mowing foam guided by Bob Simmons' theories.

"The Simmons is a great fun shape that has unlimited possibilities." says Pato, "Bob Simmons called his design a planing hull, meaning there was no tail rocker from the middle of the board to the tail – dead flat!"

After four years of design Pato's "burning romance with the mini-Simmons was dimming to a flicker." A promise made to a friend recovering from hip surgery, that he'd help him get back in the water, proved to be fortuitous. Utilising his newfound theory he created a couple of boards that planed like a Simmons yet drove like a shortboard off the rail. They were just 5'7" and 5'9" 21 inches wide and reportedly worked brilliantly.

Pato quickly turned out more of these peculiar shapes for other surfers and the word spread. Due to the wide, cut-off tail, which looks not unlike Dane Reynolds' Dumpster Diver, the new shape was affectionately named the Stuey Diver. Further refinement led to the Junior Diver ("Which," according to Pato "is a pinch of Gibson Guitar influence") and it's that design I had under my arm as I left Pato's factory.

I knew none of this history when I first laid eyes on the 5'10 x 20" Junior Diver. With its generously dimensioned planshape my first impressions were of an 80's-era thruster. It paddles much like a board of that era, too; better than a standard high performance thruster, not as good as a high volume fish, the Diver sits somewhere in the middle. Which is to say that despite its sub-six foot length it paddles well.

That's where the similarities end though. 80's-era thrusters were known for being clunky and crude while the Junior Diver is a board of subtle nuances.

The rails, for instance, are low and thin making them especially sensitive in the water. This is in contrast to its distant cousin – the classic mini-Simmons. It also sets it apart from most sub-six foot boards that make up for a short rail line and tight turning arc by using blockier rails. The Diver's rails are soft up front, low-ish through the middle and sharp down back. They work because of a confluence between rail, rocker and fin configuration.

Due to its 20 inch girth the fins are set wider than a normal shortboard. They're also set further back in keeping with Simmons' theory. Having a fin cluster both spread out and set back helps increase the turning arc when putting the board on rail, something immediately noticeable and which again sets it apart from the modern hyper shortboard. Combined with a lowish rocker and minimal tail lift and the Diver can maintain an arc longer than its sub-six peers. It's the planing hull in full effect.

Pump and glide is the best way to exploit the planing hull and get the Diver working up a head of steam. A deep double concave runs out the rear to supply lift through the pump but the second part of the equation requires some attention – keep pumping madly and you won't get out of third. You've gotta take time to glide.

Meanwhile, sharp turns, or those placed in critical parts of the wave, are instructed by the Diver's 8-inch snub tail. Plant your back foot and it's very loose with so much foam in the rear. Is that an advantage or a hindrance? Well, that depends on your age of course! Me, I'll call it an advantage and take another swig from the fountain of youth.

The Diver performed better with stiffer fins which made it more reactive and predictable throughout turns. Stiffer fins also reduced the need to double pump when setting the rail. Pump and glide remember.

Although it's made for small waves I took it out in six foot surf, yet with only five feet (at best) of wet rail it had to be nursed through a few turns. The Junior Diver is an unashamed small wave performance board and I had my best sessions in one to four foot surf, including an out-of-the-box session on an unremarkable bank at Long Reef. It was the sort of session that stood out, not for the quality of the waves, but for how I surfed - except I don't usually surf like that.

This is a rich time in surfboard design with concepts multiplying like culture in a Petri dish. Old ideas are being cross-pollinated to form new designs which expand the whole body of knowledge and add to our surfing experience. The Junior Diver is one such example: a design that is unique yet owes much to its distant cousins – Bob Simmons, and Captain Beefheart too.

:PCC Surfboards recently relocated to 34b Kareena Road North, Miranda. Pato has got a new website, check it out for board porn and contact information.