Smoke and foam dust: Stretch Riedel, Part 2
Yesterday, Swellnet spoke to Stretch Riedel about developments in big wave boards, yet despite being a leader in gun design the cigar-chomping shaper from Santa Cruz was more eager to talk about small wave boards.
As you'll soon read, the waters in his small board pool are far from stagnant. Not only is he progressing with construction - Stretch has been doing epoxies long before Clark Foam closed down - but he also sees plenty of green fields for design.
Swellnet: You said shortboards are where all your progression is happening, so let's talk about that.
Stretch: Yeah, there's more happening in short boards than big wave boards.
Like, everyone talks about flex, right? I'm currently making stringerless epoxies where I can control the flex, slow it down, yet keep the board strong.
How do you control the flex?
With any material there is a cyclical rate. It's pretty easy to tell if it's fast or if it's slow. Like a piece of steel is really fast. PU is kinda spongey while EPS is kinda fast. A stringerless PU will break all day long unless you glass the heck out of it in which case you've taken all the flex out.
You can do stringerless with EPS, but the problem is that its cyclical rate, its flex, is really fast. The human body can't react fast enough to utilise the flex, so you go into a turn and the board flexes and returns before you're ready to utilise that spring. And that's what people don't like about epoxy.
So, I'm integrating other materials, such as bamboo, that effect the cyclical rate of the whole board to slow that flex down.
The biggest thing we've done lately is take that and put it into a design that is almost a pure flat-bottomed board. No concave. And no tail rocker on the centre line, but some on the rail line.
But if your board has no tail rocker, yet it has rail rocker then it isn't a flat bottom.
Well...years ago Xanadu found out that by putting concave in you can have two different rockers: a flatter centre line rocker and curvier rail rocker, which is a huge advantage. So I was messing around with [Santa Cruz surfer] Darshan Gooch and he said, "I want to do something totally different in a board. What can we do?" And I said, "Well if you want weird then I'll put reverse channels in a board."
One set, so two channels, that go up from the rail to the centre line. And by doing that I can add a half-inch more rail rocker on either side while keeping the tail flat.
Reverse channels for down the line drive - owing to a straight centre-line rocker - that can still turn off it's rail rocker
Coincidentally, I've been riding a Greenough-style edge board lately that has something similar.
That's what we're going for! It's from his edge. George's edge board comes from the Chopper Spoon - that's George's windsurfer board.
The Chopper Spoon probably comes from his boat, but the idea was to put chimed rails in to reduce the amount of wetted surface all at one time but still have surface area and displacement.
And you've worked the concept into the reverse channels?
Yeah, it's this new board that we call the 5150. It's got a concave deck, nose cut off, the flat bottom with reverse rails. I shaped one for William Aliotti, but William didn't get it, so I sent it to Nathan and he said it's the best board he's had in his life. Do you know what 5150 means?
I know it's the name of a Van Halen album.
[Stretch gives me a long, inscrutable stare]
5150 is the police code for a danger to yourself and others.
How's the response been?
Well there's been others now who have gotten it and say the same as Nathan. It's really hard to get the volume right on it but if you do, it's something really new.
Is that because of the cut off nose?
Yeah, you can't match the volume. Like, if you're riding 29 litres, a 5150 with 29 litres doesn't work. You have to get the 5150 with 28 to balance it. It's the only way it goes.
When did you shape the first one of those?
First batch. November last year.
Three new 5150s, with bamboo inlay, cut off nose, deck channels to the nose, and reverse channels out the rear
Okay, are they going to be available here in Australia?
We're putting the vacuum pump in now [the 5150 uses vacuum bagging to fix the bamboo inlay]. It's the only way it works is with this construction. With the DFT.
Dampening Flex Technolgy. CFT is epoxy with the deck channels and stringers and stuff, to control the flex. DFT is stringerless with those bamboo plates on top and bottom. That bamboo plate is what dampens it and really slows down the cyclical rate of the stringer.
Anyway, the vacuum pump is literally going in right now so they can do them soon.
I can see now why you'd say that shortboard design is moving ahead. Do you think designs such as that may get tested in competition? Do you care much for that anyway?
No. It's funny because all the people who own it all ride my boards. The Ziffs all ride my boards, but the WSL...why would you?
[Conversation veers off to what sort of boards their eminences ride]
Do you put any currency in the CT as being a testbed of board design?
A firm answer.
They're like stock cars. It's 5'10" x 18-and-a-half x 2.3. Squash tail, tri-fin, full rails, and put in as much volume as you possibly can into those dimensions.
Yeah. They're locked in. And you know, those guys surf unbelievable. But the way that that whole thing is designed, the judging criteria, the waves that they're surfing, the waiting periods....it's all the same. I have really disavowed myself of the whole thing. I don't want anything to do with it anymore.
I make boards for a bunch of those guys for when they go to places off the tour. When they go surf good waves, I make those boards for them. But for the contests, no.
Do you feel its disproportionate the coverage they get?
It's not surfing. Surfing is an adventure. You get in the car with a couple of mates and go explore and go have a good time. It's not go see who can do the highest air. I mean, between you and your mate, you go, "Wow, that was an insane air." But are you the kind of person who keeps wanting to beat your mates? Like, really? Those are your mates? No, go and surf your own game. Bunch of little...
You have very few conventional boards in your range, and even fewer retro boards, Are you the kind of shaper who needs to keep moving forward?
Moving forward. If they [other shapers] want to stay where they are, then stay there. Good on them for wanting to stay there. I mean, I like repetition in my life so I understand that, but when it comes to shaping I'm going somewhere else.