Tom Wegener and a custom for Curren
Never shy of riding unique equipment, three-time World Champion Tom Curren has recently been experimenting with a hybrid skimboard; a thin disc fitted with three fins.
Last week Curren met up with Tom Wegener, one-time Surfer magazine's Shaper of the Year and wooden board afficianado, to collaborate on some new designs. The boards were similar to those Curren had been riding yet built from Wegener's favoured materials.
The timing was fortunate: Wegener has been running his own experiements in flex, using cork and other woods, while a strong east swell showed just as the oil in the boards was drying.
Swellnet recently spoke to Tom Wegener about the collaboration.
Swellnet: How long have you known Tom Curren?
Tom Wegener: Well, he was out here in 2007, hanging with Tom Carroll during the Noosa Festival of Surfing. Tom Carroll said, "Look Tom, you've got to try one of these Alaia things." And so he jumped on it and he just went berserk. He had a great time on it.
One of your Alaias, was it?
How did the recent visit take shape?
I have a friend named Buggs [Mark Arico] who grew up in the same hometown as me. Buggs makes a lot of money in real estate and he loves to hang out with great surfers, and one of the surfers is Tom Curren, so the two came out here.
Tom is really into these skimboards, so Buggs said, "Why don't I take you to Tom Wegener's house? Let's see what he can do with your skimboard ideas"
So Tom came here, not so much so I could design his board, but just help him make his board. You know he has an image in his mind of how he wants it to ride and I can make that board he wants to ride.
Sawdust and shavings in Wegener's shaping bay (Andy Potts)
Tom's really committed himself to the skimboard design.
Yeah, he just loves it, though he's a bit frustrated with the response of many surfers. People think he's drifting off into the netherworld. You know, like, "Oh he's just another surfer that's gone off the deep end." And he's saying, "No! I'm not! Like this is a real advancement here."
Trust me, I know what it's like to show up with a weird board day-in and day-out and face all those reactions. "Is that a dunny door?" or "Can I iron my clothes on that?"
Yeah maybe three years ago. Anyway Tom is very serious about his boards.
What could you do for him? Did you improve upon his skimboard somehow?
My job was to listen to him and then incorporate that into the board. For example, he said he wanted a certain amount of floatation yet the rail had to be three-quarters of an inch thick at the base. So it had to be a very, very thin rail while the middle of the board had to be two and a half inches thick.
So you end up with a big lump in the middle of the board?
Yeah, kinda funny.
And you made one like that?
No, I actually made three, each with slight differences. They had different various flex patterns, with three different rail configurations, and even though they were only seven-tenths of the way finished he surfed them.
How'd they go?
The first board, he comes in, and he says, "Yep, this is good. No hiccups."
The next board he comes in and says, "Oh no, there's something wrong with the rail. The rail was pulling me." You look at the rail and there's two millimetres lift where the rails kinda lift... rounded up from the bottom.
Then the third board, he also catches one wave, comes in, "Oh no, nope, nope, nope. It's too flexible in the nose." So he's that into it. By just one wave on the boards he immediately identifies the issues that he cannot cope with.
Anyway, he came in again and grabbed the first board, paddled out and said, "Yep. This is the one, but I need to surf it some more."
Tom's Curren and Wegener, cut from the same cloth (Andy Potts)
Let's talk about those fins. Unusual looking things.
They're the S-Wing fins. I called up my friend Xabi Lafitte who is involved in those fins and I said, "I want one. Please, please send me one." He sent me one of those fins and it actually correlates with flex: you get a flex in the fin and you get a flex in the board. The two actually work kinda similarly believe it or not.
Tom's boards are actually stiffer than I thought they'd be, but the fins are very flexible. Like I can't believe how flexible those fins are. But they're not a dead flex, it's a very lively quality flex, you get that burst of speed going down the line.
Also, what Tom did after every session, he had a different centre fin and he was sanding the fins down. The very first thing he said when he came to the house was, "Can you sand this fin down?" Because he's always screwing with his fins.
Like George Greenough then, always tuning his fins?
He's such a George Greenough, yeah. Both of us have had those George Greenough experiences, so we were able to kinda bond on that.
How did Tom surf?
I only saw him get a few waves, and he surfed great. I mean, gosh, I thought he surfed just awesome. But they went to XXXX and it was just firing, and very fast. And they say the speed that he was getting was unbelievable.
Tom arcing off the top...
...and planing across the flats.
What have you learned from working with Tom then?
His rails are super down all the way through the front of the board. He said, "I get so much more control out of that really hard downrail." With my Alaias I've sorta done that but I've always kinda hinged it away because I don't want it to dig into the wave too much. But after watching him really use the front of his board, that really hard downrail, I think he may be right.
So did Tom take board number one home with him?
He took all three of them. So right now he's in New Zealand surfing all the three boards. When he really feels them out I told him to call me and we'll make another one and I'll put everything that he wants into it and then I'll send it to him.
(All photo by Andy Potts)