Computer aided channel bottoms?
If we look back upon board trends for 2016 the top two are arguably the rebirth (or re-rebirth depending upon how old you are) of channels, and the development of carbon inlays for flex control and strength.
On the latter, Daniel McDonald of DMS Shapes was the inventor, he called his the Carbon Wrap, but different versions have now been developed by a number of labels both large and small.
Both channels and carbon inlays involve laborious sanding of the blank if done by hand. To service this burgeoning area AKU Shaper are developing a router fitting that can finish a board in areas the cutting discs currently can't get into. It can also be used for finbox cutouts.
"We've seen consumer demand for this," says Jimmy Freese from AKU Shaper, "and this tool will give us the ability to finish even more of the board."
Both channels and carbon inlays are tricky features. Inlays are often curved and have to be a consistent, yet shallow, depth, while channels...well, what can you say? Those shapers who specialise in channels are the closest the surf world has to sculptors. Rodin's flecked in foam dust.
So how do they feel about the new tool?
Phil Myers from Free Flight in Ballina was aware of the router but, as yet, couldn't see how it would work for him. "I do customs and every board is different so it may not be for me."
Phil is noted for his multiple channels - numbering 6, 8, or even 10 across - with steep faces and sharp angles, and despite the potential to save labour his feeling is they would be beyond the scope of machinery. "Can't say for sure, but I don't think much will be changing for me in the near future."
Dale Wilson is head shaper at Byrning Spears and he shares a similar sentiment to Phil, however he can see how they would be a boon for some channel types. "There's been a resurgence in tail channels," says Dale, "and I can see how the tool can work to cut those. I've seen models from Mayhem and Tomo with shallower tail channels and it could easily work on those channel types."
Like Phil and Dale, Rod Dahlberg from Dahlberg Surfboards acknowledges the intricacy of channel bottoms, however he's very open-minded to the possibilities. "I haven't seen it yet," said Rod, "but I've been impressed by what they've created in the past."
Thinking out loud, Rod surmises that cutting channels into an unfinished board may present a problem. "It'd have to be cleaned up and that could change the depths of the channels." But that was playing devil's advocate to a tech he hadn't used yet. On the whole he was optimistic.
Meanwhile, the crew at DMS Surfboards are very keen to see, and where possible, use, the new AKU router tool for their Carbon Wraps. "Good design often involves good technology," was their take.
The new tool doesn't yet have a name, but says Jimmy Freese from AKU Shaper "We've still got a few months before it's launched, hopefully we have a cool name by then."