Champagne Glass: The Desert Storm
Since the rise of the shaping machines and the acceptance of surfboard models, the focus for replication has largely been on small wave boards. Think Ducks Nuts and Dumpster Divers and Hypto Kryptos and the like, with the odd excursion into fish and step ups. There are, of course, models for big wave boards but for various reason they get less play in the media.
For the last 20 years Wayne Webster has been shaping guns out of his NSW North Coast factory. Around 10 years ago, while working with Twiggy Baker, the two developed the Black Hula, a high-volume gun. More recently Webby has been working with Camel, further developing the Black Hula concept into the forward-weighted, full-outline Desert Storm.
The Desert Storm is a design that's proving both versatile and popular. For a board originally designed to ride the largest waves possible it's found various uses and is now one of the most sought after big wave models.
Swellnet recently chatted with Webby about the Desert Storm.
Tell us a bit about the history of the DS?
Hmmm...it goes way back. I’d been passionate about shaping boards for bigger waves and I’d done a high-volume step-up board, like for six-to-eight foot waves, and also at the time I was shaping for Twiggy [Grant Baker]. This was in the early days of the Big Wave World Tour, like when Twig won it. At the time standard guns were still needle-like, yet Twiggy was right into high volume guns. Every big wave surfer rides them now but he was one of the first guys to recognise the advantages in really big waves.
That work led to the Black Hula. It’s a high volume gun but it still has a lot of rocker in the board, a lot of curve, it just gives you a bit more push when you want the board to push back in bigger waves.
Is the Desert Storm a progression of that?
In a way. The original idea came from working with Camel. He started riding what Twiggy was riding but then through all the conversations we were having the design morphed into something else, which became the Desert Storm. Generally speaking, the idea was to create something that would let surfers catch the largest wave of their life. Or even just to catch the biggest wave that breaks at any serious spot on any day. That’s what it’s made for.
It has more volume in the outline [than the Black Hula] and a flatter deck which hides a lot of the volume.
It’s for guys who are pushing out into 15 foot waves, 20 foot waves, who are thinking to themselves: “Hey, you know what? I want to try and get a really big wave and not be taking off in the lip.” It gives them that extra paddle power, letting them get to the bottom of a very big wave, and sort of get away from that falling lip.
7'6", 8'6", and 9'6" Desert Storms with Webby's old logo
How’s it been working with Camel?
We have chats all the time, where you know, you look at your watch and it's like, "Fuck, we've been talking for an hour and a half!" A lot of people think he's the mad scientist when it comes to boards. I've learned a lot about his ideas and how he views surfboards. You know, you hear all those old stories, Camel and the jungle, getting new boards and cutting tails off and doing things so they work right for him. He's like, "Man, like I used to ride these old 80's-style boards back in the day and I've just been trying to find that feeling again."
So that's sort of what we worked on with the Desert Storms: just healthier outlines, more paddle power, flatter decks, and getting the rockers right.
The Desert Storm has a huge influence from him.
Have you incorporated any design elements to loosen the board up?
Only really the vee. The vee bottom does that. The big Desert Storms are a straight vee, the smaller ones are a vee with a double concave inside that. I find vee is quite underrated. Like, especially when a board gets wide, it tends to want to sit flatter in the water and so it’s harder to get on the rail. Some designs, they're kind of wide and flat, or maybe they have concave, but they get a real slappy rail-to-rail transition, like it doesn't have any sort of smoothness in the rail-to-rail transition.
The vee just gives it that edge to go over. It doesn’t want to fight the movement. You’re already on a big wave, you’ve got speed, all you want now is a board that’ll facilitate a turn.
6'8" and 7'4" DS with new logos - and what an improvement, eh?
Where’s the Desert Storm been surfed?
It's been surfed pretty much all around the world. The guys that really embraced it at the start were in the colder climates. The South Oz and West Oz guys, so it was surfed across the bottom of Australia. You know, thicker waves, thicker wetsuits, colder water, a lot of paddling. But also San Francisco, Hawaii, NZ, Portugal.
And the design has proved versatile in that it can come right down in size?
Yeah, some guys started with, say, an eight-footer, and they were like: "Well, I really like that but I’ve got a wave close to home that I need the same sort of board yet shorter.” So I’ll do a 6’10” Desert Storm that reduces the length while keeping as much paddle power in the board as possible. People are just stretching the idea out depending upon the waves they want to surf.
But it’s still the same concept?
Yeah. Like those aren’t built to catch the biggest waves of your life, obviously, but it just ticks all those other boxes. It paddles well, captures waves, still surfs well. Like it seems to cover everything.
You’ve even shaped one that’s just 6’2”.
What other dimensions did that board have? How thick was it?
It’s 6’2” by 19 ¾ by 2 ⅞.
So it’s pretty thick.
That’s 39 litres of volume. So even though it's short, it's not super tanky in the outline. Just has a little bit of hidden volume in the outline and the flatness in the deck. Like, I'm looking at the board right now, and it actually feels really good under the arm because the rail isn't super chunky. It's just all that hidden volume in the deck.
6’2” x 19 ¾ x 2 ⅞. - different size, same concept
What waves will it be ridden in?
The little 6’2”? He'll probably surf that as a bit more of an all-around short board for himself around home.
But in general, it could be the sort of board that would fit into under sucking slabs and the like?
Yeah. Like the high volume idea started in big boards for really big waves, but now guys are going with the shorter length for slabbier style waves. Just like big waves, you still need to get into slabs real early.
There are hundreds of surfboard models on the market nowadays but most are small wave boards, the Desert Storm isn’t the only big wave model but it’s arguably the most popular big wave model.
Yeah, I don't know if I'd really sort of say that...
You just being modest?
Well...in the last five or six years gun design has probably changed more than any other surfboard type. People used to think a gun is a gun and it’ll never change, but through the feedback with Camel and other great surfers we’re progressing them. All guns are progressing.
Though that’s kinda funny ‘cos when I go to Hawaii and I look at old Hawaiian guns from the 80s I see lots of ideas that are in the Desert Storm. To me, I love the Desert Storm, but it kind of looks like a progressed, modern version of those boards.