Greg Webber and his concaved Creature
Now that Instagram has replaced the product catalogue, shapers have become adept at presenting their latest creations online. See the artistic photographs with shaper holding the board just so, the light falling across the bottom of the board so the shadows accentuate the concaves or channels. All those lovely curves running through the engine room of the board.
Recently, Greg Webber has taken to photographing the top of his boards in the same manner, and the reason is because he’s begun dropping deck concaves into select boards. A double concave runs down the bottom of the board, and yep, a double concave runs down the top too. He’s worked the idea into a new model: The Creature.
Greg has played his part in developing bottom concaves, we all know the backstory to his banana boards, but concaves in the deck have a more obscure history. Greenough’s Velo design from the 60s had a scooped deck, while kneeboards from the 70s had gentler version of the same, and they were all made to get the rider closer to the water. Where concave decks have been used on surfboards the thinking has been similar. Todd Proctor of Proctor Surfboards says his deck concaves give the rider an “in the wave” feel.
Not surprisingly considering his impulse to experiment, deck concaves aren’t new to Greg. “My first ones were in August 2011,” says Greg. “I did a 10’6” SUP that Tom Carroll tried out...but I began working on performance boards with Beau Edwards in November 2012.”
Beau is an ex-Newport surfer now working as an osteopath at Thirroul and surfing Sandon Point whenever he can. I’ve watched him surf on Greg’s boards and also picked up a number of his prototypes marvelling at the unlikely curves.
The first impression of The Creature’s deck concaves is that they don’t match the concave underneath. Viewed in cross section, the centre line is more bulbous with the concave dipping and rising over a shorter space than the long, continuous concave underneath the board.
Like those who’ve experimented before them, Greg and Beau have found the deck concave allows the rider greater sensitivity, yet this is not just because the feet are closer to the water but also because, once the rail is engaged, there’s less foam to displace. “The board wants to go into the water through a turn,” explains Beau.
To retain overall volume, Greg has done a bit of foam shuffling making the centre line a bit thicker than usual and the edges of the rails too. For a similar length board “the volume is exactly the same,” says Greg.
Beyond the feel, the deck concave effects the way the board flexes. “The nose to tail flex is decreased while the rail to rail twist flex is increased,” says Greg. As anyone who was reading Swellnet during Flexy Week would know, twist (or torsion) is the movement that matters most on a surfboard. Greg reckons his mix of longitudinal stiffness and lateral flex works well.
Another thing Greg and Beau have discovered about deck concaves is their ergonomic quality - how it fits the body - something that Beau is attentive to through his work as an osteopath. “The concaves provide lateral grip during big turns,” says Beau. “It feels great under the arch of your foot.” But there’s also something more subtle going on.
“Because your arch is supported it allows you to drop your back knee a bit,” explains Beau as I cue up a mental image of Craig Anderson running a smooth highline at Kandui. Beau, however, is taken more by practicalities than aesthetics. “What this means is that, as you use the muscles in your lower leg, your knee is stabilised. It protects you from medial knee strain.” Good news for hipsters and old blokes alike. And no, Beau assures me the raised centre line causes no problems when laying and paddling.
Beau at the local: “The board wants to go into the water through a turn." (Clarrie Bouma)
It’s been four years since Greg last released a high performance model. Back them it was the ill-fated Banana redux. “The poor old Banana got squashed twice, and unfairly,” says Greg. “Kelly did some of the best turns he’d done on it too.” Excess rocker was the culprit so I ask Greg how The Creature compares. “The rocker is quite moderate,” is his straightforward reply.
Just like four years ago, this board has caught the eye of Kelly, who was recently seen telegraphing the future at solid Haleiwa. A sequence of a carving 360 won the internet for a day. It was a bold statement. So to was Kelly ordering three more Creatures from Greg in varying lengths. Curiously, it's not the first time Kelly has experimented with deck contours, he made a few experimental boards with deck grooves, asymmetrical planshape, and bevelled rails back in his Channel Island days.
Kelly and a carving 360. The third photo of a sequence.
“So far I’ve had three very good surfers say it’s on another level,” says Greg of the unconventional design. In the past he’s been both celebrated and chastened for his eccentricities, yet Greg's never stopped progressing. “I’ll just start making these Creatures and let surfers decide.”