Sunova: A story in two parts

Stu Nettle
Design Outline

Last week we ran an interview with Bert Burger from Sunova about their latest surfboard technologies. It was a long conversation and covered many topics, including Sunova's two-piece surfboard.

The two-piece, or collapsible, surfboard was first patented in 1964 by Karl Pope of Morey Pope fame. Two-piece boards have appeared at various times since then, each new iteration was mechanically different though they always fell short in performance, hence they remained a convenience feature.

Yet the latest two-piece surfboards from Sunova are bucking the trend. Yeah, they're convenient, and with some airlines cracking down on baggage costs this may assume greater significance, but the Sunova boards - their SUPs to be exact - are bringing home a haul of medals for Sunova riders.

Bert chatted to Swellnet about the new two-piece technology.

Swellnet: Did you create the two-piece technology or are you licensing it?
Burt Burger: We're licensing it. We signed an exclusive deal with Mike Becker at Carbon Compact.

The performance demands of a shortboard are different than a longboard or SUP. Up to what size do you think the two-piece idea will work? 
I think the performance demands of a shortboard and longboard are pretty much the same; flex and the correct rate of power and speed in the spring back will always be the key factor. 

Now I will clarify that a bit more, 'cos you have two different schools of longboard surfing these days. Like you've got the crew who gravitate to a performance longboard and use it like a big shortboard, generally bigger guys who struggle to find a good shortboard, or older crew who were once shortboard rippers but now want that paddle power and to smash out some decent turns. So all of the aforementioned will basically be looking for shortboard performance characteristics in their longboards and that means dialing in the magic flex.

Now the crew in the Sunova sales and marketing department will have my balls for this, but I have to state my honest opinion. In both performance short and longboards the concept of the two-piece is a convenience feature, primarily aimed at ease of travel. It's not a performance enhancing feature because it does change the flex, full stop.

So it's not great for short and performance longboards?
No, only for convenience. But logging, SUP, and race SUP are different stories, and I'll explain each, starting with logs.

As someone who has worked with flex for a long time, I've experienced its positive and negative aspects. I've had performance longboards that were mind blowing; so loose and sensitive to pump for speed, you could smash out a vertical turn and bend it into the pocket of a three foot wave, but the very same board was impossible to nose ride, difficult to walk, and it had no glide. The extra flex killed its traditional performance aspects: as you tried to walk, it was bending and warbling, losing speed, then if you got to the nose, it was virtually impossible to get back.

If you want a longboard log that feels stable to walk, keeps its speed while walking and has great glide, it has to be stiffer. So here comes a light bulb moment for you guys. People say a good log has to be heavy, but they say that because a heavier log will be stiff. So it's the stiffness that's the key, not the weight. So the two-piece concept in traditional log-style longboards will have no negative performance aspects.

Better than an elephant's arse, here's Bert giving a demonstration on the convenience of a two-piece longboard, plus how to drain a beer in the tropics

In surf SUP...well, here you're talking about boards that are four to five inches thick and really wide, so you dont take advantage of flex the same as a performance shortboard. The sheer thickness and size of SUP makes flex a way harder area to dial in, yet what the pro SUP guys are using with crazy light and refined boards, they're taking advantage of what performance surfboards have, so I see no advantage in a two-piece for a pro SUP rider or a guy who rips at a SUP at pro level.

For every other surf SUP, or touring, or flat water board, there's no issue, no negative performance aspects with two-piece boards.

What about racing?
Race SUP?...surprise, surprise! I honestly cant believe how many podiums we have been getting with our two-piece race boards.

The generally accepted theory for a good race SUP is light and stiff. To achieve this every other brand goes for full carbon fiber, yet they lack one important feature: skin or panel flex. This is something unique to Sunova construction and one of the reasons both the surf SUP and surfboards go so well and have such a smooth ride. When you squeeze the bottom of a Sunova you can feel it depress under your thumb, but then spring back to its original position. This gives the board the ability to handle bumps and chop by absorbing and morphing to the chop, then springing back into position. 

Full carbon boards don't have this feature, they're rigid and every chop makes the board dance and get buffeted around, which ultimately slows you down. But you need the overall stiffness length-ways in the board as you crash through and over waves or even aggressively take paddle strokes pulling yourself into the board. Any length-ways flex and the rocker will change and slow you down.

So the generally accepted theory is correct, you want it light for faster acceleration, and you want it stiff for glide, but Sunova adds one more element: shock absorption from small chop and bumps via skin flex. And in an effort to get the race boards crazy light, at some point you're going to be dealing with flex issues again. We were already making the standing area stiffer so the rider didnt flex the board, but the two-piece components really add another level of stiffness where you want it. So while there is a subtle weight gain, it goes exactly where people normally add extra weight for stability.   

The stiff centre makes them feel solid under foot with great glide. I dare say they may possibly go even better as single piece SUPs, as I'm struggling to account for the amount or races that are getting won on our two-piece boards.

Considering you sponsor Sebastian Steudtner, have you considered, even in your wildest dreams, of making a two-piece Nazare gun? Reckon it could be a possibility somewhere down the track..?
Nah, I wouldn't even consider it. I'm not saying it cant be done, but it would require a total rethink. Even though big wave boards are way stiffer, they still need flex, and that flex needs to be evenly distributed while the two-piece system creates a stiff spot.

If I had to quickly have a thought out loud, it would be to reduce the diameter of the carbon tubes so they flexed then increase their length to distribute that flex. But at this point why do I want to complicate things? It's hard enough as it is getting them right as it is!

Comments

dinnerdish's picture
dinnerdish's picture
dinnerdish commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 11:57am

Ive heard of sunovas coming in 2 parts after a slightly heavy drop in 4 ft surf...

arohabro

jordan-evans's picture
jordan-evans's picture
jordan-evans commented Saturday, 9 Mar 2019 at 8:34pm

I highly doubt this comment. Maybe when firewire we’re using the technology in a cheap manner. I have 2 longboards and 2 short boards and I have not been able to even put a ding in any of them. I used to go through 10+ boards a year and I can’t speak highly enough of the strength and quality of construction in these boards. Worth every cent

The truth

atticus's picture
atticus's picture
atticus commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 12:10pm

An old compatriot, Dr Porter Turnbull, wrote a story in the Surfers Journal about stowing away a surfboard on a research ship headed for the Antarctic. The board was a two-piece, it may have even been made by Mike Becker. It served its purpose then.

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 12:38pm

If the choice is between an elephant's arse or Bert's face, I'll take the former.

dewhurst's picture
dewhurst's picture
dewhurst commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 12:41pm

A longboard that packs into a boogie board bag will keep everyone guessing.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 12:53pm

For those interested, here's a video that goes into greater detail about history etc of the two-piece tech:

adam12's picture
adam12's picture
adam12 commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 1:45pm

There's a photo of Tom Blake and Johnny Weissmuller taken at Santa Monica in 1932 and Johnny's holding a two piece Blake.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 4:32pm

They should make it so in one piece its a mal or sup and in two pieces it's two different belly boards.

Would be the ultimate hipster quiver.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 5:11pm

Ha Ha!

mattlock's picture
mattlock's picture
mattlock commented Friday, 8 Mar 2019 at 5:26pm

Digging the various design articles over the years. Thanks Ben and crew.

Stupot's picture
Stupot's picture
Stupot commented Saturday, 9 Mar 2019 at 3:43pm

I surfed with a pilot in Tonga who travelled with a 2 piece mini mal because he could carry it into the cockpit. I swear he spent more time in the boat fixing the bloody thing than he did surfing.

Unemployment isn't working...

PeteWebb's picture
PeteWebb's picture
PeteWebb commented Saturday, 9 Mar 2019 at 4:33pm

Bert seems to have developed quite a good appetite for Thai food and beer!

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley commented Sunday, 10 Mar 2019 at 3:32pm

Bert's talk of podium finishes got me thinking would that mean they would have to employ 2 logo fluffers?

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bt_2DaNFhOC/

fad's picture
fad's picture
fad commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 4:45pm

I've had a bisect 8'2" mal with the old Pope technology (one carbon fibre tube and two stainless steel clips to hold the halves together) for about 9 years. Surfed and travelled with it a LOT and no problems. That it fits in the boot of a small car is heaven.

Last year I picked up a Carbon Compact shortboard from Mike Becker in NY state. The two piece technology he patented and then licensed to Sunova is way superior (two carbon fibre tubes and 4 stainless bolts). It is simple but solid. It probably has less flex than a one piece, but it is a cinch to haul around in its custom backpack. This shortboard has already been to Oregon and New Zealand with no excess baggage charges and no roof racks required on arrival :-) Surfs good and now I ALWAYS take a board whereas I often wimped out because of the hassle then ended up hiring a sad piece of shit when it was on somewhere. Becker will make any shortie you ask for. Check it out http://thecarboncompact.com

factotum's picture
factotum's picture
factotum commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 7:43pm

There was a bloke up the Bluff in 96 with a foldable board. Strapped it to his back when getting around on his motor bike. Spent a lot of time on certain islands in SA, as I recall. He was a good surfer and a good egg.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 11:00pm

The last time I heard of Sunova, was in Mandurah. more power.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 11:02pm

Burt Burger, Godsakes, Flash Gordon.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 11:04pm

Great! I can paddle into the middle of nowhere and be comfortable in the fact that I am strong?

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 11:07pm

I will go on an adventuring adventure. I have always liked South America, I could write shit.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 11:08pm

It would be in three parts.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Tuesday, 12 Mar 2019 at 11:09pm

I would need support.

milesp's picture
milesp's picture
milesp commented Thursday, 14 Mar 2019 at 10:18am

My son's design + tech school project was a 2-part travel surfboard. He discovered an interesting history of various attempts. For his project he tackled a 2-part shortboard, but I'd agree it makes more sense for a longboard or SUP. He did manage to make a functional prototype. His design included a telescopic carbon tubes and 3D printed 'dog-bone' connectors. A key finding was that strength and flex could be better managed by avoiding straight / flat joining faces. Best of all, I got to surfed it and it worked!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/3CLqqEx1j6an6DNW9

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 14 Mar 2019 at 10:44am

That's fantastic, mate. Well done to your son.