The edge fish and other throw-forwards

Stu Nettle
Design Outline

When looking back at the history of surfboard design, it’s tempting to think progression is neat and sequential. That one breakthrough leads to another and forever onwards as the months and years fly by. In the process, new ideas are tested, and used if they work, or discarded if they don’t - tossed into the skip bin o’ history.

But how then do we explain tri fins appearing over a decade before Simon got the formula right? Or twins at least three decades before MR? And concaves on boards for over half a century prior to Greg Webber nailing the equation?

Clearly, just because a design has been sidelined doesn’t mean it won’t have future relevance. Cometh the hour, cometh the design...

Heady stuff, no? What, you may ask, brought on this meditation. Of wondering, not what history is, but how history works.

The answer lies in the corner of my shed.

Two boards. A 5’6” and a 5’8”, Free Flights shaped by Phil Myers with his version of the edge design dropped into the bottom of each. The first, the 5’8”, was ordered in a whirlwind, all heat and flash, before the credits of Ank and Ellis’ film had even rolled up the screen - and if you haven’t seen ‘On the Edge of a Dream’, I urge you to do so.

United by a feeling

“In the future I believe every surfer on the planet will have some kind of edge element at play in what they’re riding,” wrote Ank in the accompanying book, and though he and Ellis reverted back to single fins, I had something else in mind.

Phil did too. We settled on a 5’8” x 19 ½ x 2 ⅜ , with a slightly more generous planshape than what you’d find on an equivalent shortboard. “The edges make a wide board feel narrow,” said Phil, so we went shorter and wider. Quad fin with Phil’s vent system for lift and that centre line feel you also get from single to doubles.

It may make a wide board feel narrow, but the central theory, the reason edge boards were first conceived, was to reduce the planing area and hence the wetted surface area. The result is less drag, more top end speed, and for longer too as it didn’t require constant pumping.

The 5’8” edge got ridden for a solid six months, whenever the waves were small and sucky. With volume removed from the rail its natural inclination was to turn, which it did so easily off its planshape curves, yet the best feelings came during the moments in between - during those longer glides when it’d hold the speed. The 5’8” delivered enough feedback to know there was something going on underneath. It was a mighty claim, but perhaps Ank’s prophecy was right.

However, it wasn’t until I saw a picture on Phil’s Instagram account that I had a Eureka moment about the edge concept. The image? A short and wide fish with edges dropped into the bottom.

5'5" x 20½ x 2⅝ for Keenan Roxburgh - the departure point for Phil's latest application of the edge

“The edges make a wide board feel narrow,” Phil told me. So of course, put them into a wider board! Apples fell, light bulbs flashed. Make it a double, Phil.

But hold on a second...

You see, I’ve never had a great deal of luck with fish. Flat rocker and rear-mounted twins don’t suit my style, but fortunately for me Phil wasn’t keen to lean on tradition. The board we decided on was wide and short, and it had a swallow tail, but that’s where the lineage ended as it was a quad, with the tail pulled in and a fair kick of lift to take it vertical.

Phil was picking through the skip bin o’ history, grabbing various design elements and reconfiguring them into a modern board. “I can’t do production shaping anymore,” Phil told me while the board was being made. “You know, just making the same boards as everyone else. I need to be working on new ideas to keep me interested.”

Of course those new ideas can be old ideas revisited and given a modern spin.

In a recent film for Surfer magazine, Mark Richards said the twin fin never reached its potential as it was so quickly superseded by the Thruster, hence progress is still being made on the twin fin as shapers revisit it.

How many other board designs have had an arrested development? Especially when so many of them came during times of mad invention, either pushed to the extremes until they did reputational damage, or pushed aside like the twin fin was.

My reverie for a new theory of history was interrupted by an ominous text message from Phil: “Give George G a call. He wants to talk to you.”

Deep breaths and beta blockers are in order for how often do you get the chance to speak to a titan like Greenough? But that wasn’t my only misgiving, I also had it in my head that George would be against meddling with the edge - a design he popularised. It was a judgement formed without any evidence whatsoever, more a paranoid hunch, but it turned out I needn’t have worried.

“Hell no,” said George in his mid-Pacific accent, when I asked, “you know we always have to keep moving, we have to keep swimming.” Which I took as a metaphor for design progression. He wasn’t precious about the edge design being tweaked with.

“I was first messing about with edges up in Santa Barbara,” explained George, “at around the same time Steve Lis was working on fish down in San Diego. We were trying to do a similar thing: get as fast and lively as we could in the waves we had.”

“I needed to pull the tail in when I came here [to northern NSW],” continued George, “and then we did the stubby double-enders, but the waves in Diego are slow and they slope and Steve used that wide tail to ride them.”

These designs - the edge, and the fish - arose separately by creating boards that suited local conditions. The same rules don’t quite apply anymore; advances in materials and rocker mean boards can be ridden across all manner of conditions. But what about mixing those designs together, was there a rule against that? I put the question to George.

“No, no, no," implored George. "Do it, it’s gonna be interesting to ride, fins are gonna be touchy, and I don’t know what waves you ride but I’d be looking at the tail very closely…” the digressions from George went on for many minutes more, but the bottom line was that he thought it was a good idea. George was happy. I was too.

The 5’6” fish arrived late winter and it was a marvellous board to ogle. Even better to hold and stroke. It looked like Thunderbird 2 in outline, bulbous at 21” wide, yet sleek in profile, just 2¾ and beautifully foiled. Classic curves met unexpected angles. For one, the edges created two rocker lines: the rail line which was straighter and the edge line which carried the curve.

Where the edge faded near the fins, the rocker curve was subtly transferred to the rail line making for a shallow vee out the tail. It was a sublime blend of curves.

Late winter and early spring provided a long run of south swell on the NSW coast, which allowed ample time to run the 5’6” through its gears. First impressions were that it felt narrower than its 21” width. Not quite as ready to go on rail as the 5’8”, but more so than a usual fish - there was little lag in a fast heel/toe pump. As you’d expect it loved a lateral run, however the quad set up and tail lift increased the turning range. That versatility included the vertical axis, from which it wasn't shy. And, just like the 5’8”, the best feelings came in between moments, when the board was running flat holding its speed between turns.

The board got ridden in everything from 8’ point surf to 2’ beachies, with a sweet spot in the 2'-4' range.

(Photo Clarrie Bouma)

I gave regular updates to Phil on how the board was going, but the conversation flowed both ways. While I was dialling in the fish, Phil was giving in to curiousity. First he dropped edges into a longboard, and with great success - it makes a wide board feel narrower, remember - then he took up an offer from George to copy some of his templates from the late-60s.

Since then, Phil's made a few boards from those templates, stubby little things with subtle edges, yet rather than following tradition with a single fin he’s dropping quads in with his vent system too. It may be sacrilege to some, but George is cool, and who knows what will result from them? We have to keep swimming...

Phil isn't the only one curious to see where these experiments will lead. He's taken a bunch of orders for edge mals, while Troy Hirst from PSI Laminating persuaded Phil to make a run of edge fish - twin fins - that'll be sold through Sideways Surf, and David Portch from Sothis Glassing in the states is also keen to make and distribute them.

The US connection came about when Keenan Roxburgh bought the first edge fish from Phil, then, in his job as WSL longboard judge, Keenan travelled to the US where a local rode it.

The local, of course, was David Portch.

An array of edges

Shortly after Phil explained the connection, a picture came through on my email. Not a photo, a sketch, blue pen on paper. It was the outline of a surfboard with six lines running from around the mid-point to the tail, and two curved lines following the rails through the central section.

I didn't need the sketch explained to me, I knew straight away. It was Phil's interpretation of a six channel surfboard - a design he's mastered over almost fifty years of shaping - mixed with the edge. I don't know if he's serious or not but I like where his head is at - a long way from production shaping, just making the same boards as everyone else.

Comments

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 5:37pm

Unreal..5'10 Edge twin...gonna have to drop $549 at Sideways for one..

Made in Indonesia ?

kaki bibaita

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 5:37pm

Yep. The Sideways ones are made at PSI.

mugofsunshine's picture
mugofsunshine's picture
mugofsunshine commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 9:17am

I have so many questions re: Sideways and established shapers... Maybe a stand alone piece; but to start..
Do said shapers consider PSI to make boards of equal quality to the ones they charge a third more for?
If yes, what justifies a third more?
If no, what are the downfalls of buying from PSI?
I can't help thinking that they devalue their own product just by seeking to increase their margin/unit sales.

kooklife's picture
kooklife's picture
kooklife commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 7:05am

Don't do it... soft weak glassing and extremely poor customer service (my experience). Spend a little extra and order it directly from the man himself and you will not be sorry!! He is a super nice guy and you'll get a board that will last.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 8:50am

What board did you buy...did you tell the super nice guy he had a quality problem?

kaki bibaita

kooklife's picture
kooklife's picture
kooklife commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 12:56pm

Udo, the tone in your question is unnecessary. I first attempted to resolve the issue with sideways ( as it was their board so their problem) but was told that the soft glass was totally normal. I then attempted to contact sideways several times to let them know of my disappointment and was ignored. Then...Yeah I let him know and he was really good about it. He even offered to fix it for me. So yeah he is a super nice guy and next time I need a board he'll get my money directly.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 2:03pm

No tone intended ..what model board did you buy ?

kaki bibaita

kooklife's picture
kooklife's picture
kooklife commented Thursday, 28 Nov 2019 at 7:05pm

"Jamie" channel bottom

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 5:57pm

1st Pic C -drives quad set from NVS ?

kaki bibaita

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 6:07pm

I think that's the last set Troy had left from a run a few years back.

So not from the new run, though they look the same.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 6:09pm

Been waiting for this report and well worth it....glad Phils found his niche and whats old is new again ...sort of.........so by my reckoning it has a planning area of a 17 inch wide board ?...Stoked you have an open mind Stunet,cause we get a glimpse of possible designs....swellnets own test pilot. yew

simba

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 6:40pm

For sale, 7"6 PHIL Myers. Being kind and friendly gives you a head start. Thank you swell net, it's easy to control. But harder to evolve. Swellnet, thank you for being you,blessed to be a swellnet family member.

davetherave

bipola's picture
bipola's picture
bipola commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 5:44pm

surfboard design moves on i look forward to the future
soft glassing is never normal for general surfers
only contest surfers use it as they have back up boards with there caddies in the water.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 7:57pm

How does it hold on deep/hard carves and cutbacks? I remember seeing something with Rasta saying his GG edge board had a tendency to grab so hard he blew his knee out - I think it was on much bigger boards though.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 8:15pm

Bigger board, and bigger edge too.

You'll notice the ones Phil does are shorter and more subtle. I had no problems with hold.

One thing I didn't mention, however, was it's ability to flow. One of the other sticking points I've had with fish is the...well, stickiness. The old style keel fish with no fin toe could be like riding on train tracks, especially when mixed with concave. Toeing the fins will help, but it's still been a bugbear for me on flat-rockered boards.

Anyway, the vee bottom tippiness gave it a preponderence to be on rail, and stopped that stickiness.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 8:53pm

"...like riding on train tracks..."
Good analogy, probably my major dislike of fishy boards too. So good to see these "old" ideas explored further.
Thanks Stu and Phil !

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 8:22pm

Are we biased though? When I blew my 6'4 apart and Billy rack sold me a 5'11 belly channel Ben Aida, I was very sceptical. But he promised me it would work. Best board ever. It was only through many hours of talking with Wayne Deane that i became aware that a surfboard was more than what i thought. Now i know that a surfboard is a physical representation of a a human that has connected fully to the vibrant energy system of the ocean and connectiveness of planet earth and all its inhabitants. Yes, we seem like we are all lost, but loving the lost means we embrace all of ourselves.

davetherave

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 8:28pm

For sale means, you will surf it. Sitting in my shed, not how she was meant to be. I would really love her to be back in the water again.

davetherave

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 9:19pm

Please tell us more about it Dave.
7'6?
What sort of board?

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 1:43pm

Gday lostdoggy. Mate now taking board back to west Oz then Bali. She's a beautiful 7"6, bit skinny in the nose but good for bigger waves. We were all on the piss last night celebrating and we all love surfboard design commentaries. So thanks again, stunet, we love those articles and pictures. Living here we are lucky to be around so many surfboard craftspeople and like Neal Snr and the late great Deany, all are wonderful interesting human beings.

davetherave

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 8:42pm

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5Rs_FzJ_jG/?igshid=13scy8yiv5ne6

Ellis looks like his hand shaped edge board catches on rail a bit?

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 9:53pm

Great tube sense, but I can see that too.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 8:46pm

But the high points are outta sight...

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 11:01pm

Jesus, what a turn.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 8:49pm

Yep, still surfing amazingly well no doubt about it.

If I could do one of those turns in my life I’d be very happy

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 9:21pm

Wow, that Is a beautiful turn. One frame grab don't mean a wave surfed good though. I am always overwhelmed when in the company of surf wizards though. Neal purchase senior one of my good mates and just a true gentleman plus a genius. Listening to him makes me realize that I am so lucky to be around someone who really understands what it truly means to be a human being experiencing being a surfer. Thanks Neal, you are a role model that I would love to emulate.

davetherave

nozawaman's picture
nozawaman's picture
nozawaman commented Monday, 2 Dec 2019 at 6:28pm

Dave I reckon we must have surfed together back in the day ????
Billy Rack had the. beach hire at Greenmount , Woody was pumping out the twin fins and living top of the hill at Rainbow behind the Cafe ( can't remember the name ) Healthy Bee was the go for a Vege Burger and banana smoothie after surfs . You could never get a wave when Rabbit was in the water . The inside section at Greenmount in front of the shed used to barrell insane at low tide .

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 2 Dec 2019 at 6:56pm

Bamboo Flute ?
And little Groyne Kirra was better than Maalaea.

kaki bibaita

nozawaman's picture
nozawaman's picture
nozawaman commented Monday, 2 Dec 2019 at 8:14pm

Something like that , it was a vego place . Rabbit bought it later .

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Monday, 2 Dec 2019 at 8:21pm

Yep... Hare Krishna

kaki bibaita

nozawaman's picture
nozawaman's picture
nozawaman commented Tuesday, 3 Dec 2019 at 7:54am

We might also have travelled in similar circles udo ?
It was a very close knit community way back when .

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Tuesday, 26 Nov 2019 at 11:01pm

Great post, Stu.

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 10:07am

Stu > i cant believe you can ride a 5'8" @ 3/8 > i'd need one for each leg > RR

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 12:08pm

Great article Stu, the analyses of design and construction are by far my favourite area that you cover and you do it exceedingly well. Thanks to Phil for his ongoing contribution too, he's a great source of inspiration for many of us and I'm very happy you've gone into this partnership with him Stu.
I'm actually in the process of testing my own take on the fish and it's been a very interesting ride so far. Rather than the parallel twin, it's got a glassed-on quad set-up, toed-in and canted to 6 degrees (front) and 2 degrees (rear). Theoretically it shouldn't be nearly as tracky as the twin, but I had all sorts of trouble getting it out of its rut until I realised that the position of my back foot made all the difference. I found that if I had back foot above or in front of the leading edge of the front fins, the board loosened right up and I had a whole lot more control over the turns, which got tighter and tighter the harder I pushed it.
I still haven't found its limits (I think my own limits will be reached long before I find the board's). It has a single to double concave bottom, with a bit of V in the tail, but ever since seeing the Kidman/Ellis film I've wished that I'd had a go at the edge design. That'll have to be the next experiment.

Don't let the bastards grind you down

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 2:31pm

Stu why the C Drives?.....Tried any other fins?

simba

farquarson's picture
farquarson's picture
farquarson commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 2:42pm

I made a quad fin fish with a dome bottom -like mccoy does. Totally loose, fast & free , no drag or tracking . Brilliant combo.

http://wollumbin-woodsticks.blogspot.com/

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Monday, 2 Dec 2019 at 9:57am

Love the look of your boards farquarson. Where are you sourcing your paulownia from?

Don't let the bastards grind you down

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 2 Dec 2019 at 6:51pm

Beautiful. Nice work.

Rick Snowden's picture
Rick Snowden's picture
Rick Snowden commented Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019 at 3:28pm

Agree with the stickiness of the keeled twin (and quad), particularly those with a girthy booty – rear foot placement is paramount to opening it up.
How about I whip down your way and give these edge designs a spin, Stu? Perhaps then I'll have a morsel of credible commentary input. After watching Ellis in Surfer's 'Handmade2' I'm super curious...

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Thursday, 28 Nov 2019 at 9:33am

In boating, the edges are called "chines"

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 6:39am

I don't actually understand what the concept of the edge fish is. Are the rails super thin or something? Sorry if this is a stupid question, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed aye.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 6:54am

Me neither, but I think the idea is to reduce wetted surface, and therefore drag.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 9:02am

From what I see, there it's not a reduction in wetted (planning) surface area, but a re-shaping of it. According to that marine engineer Simmons, aspect ratio is equal to Length/Width. If we increase the length relative to the width then the result is a more stable foil at higher top speeds. What I see with the edge board is basically, a boat.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 11:08am

There was also the subshoot of 'hull's or 'displacement hulls' of the late 60's - I'd love to learn more about that - speaking of boats :)

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 11:46am

Nice one, that’s what I thought. It’s a bit confusing naming a feature of the bottom of your board “edge” Thought I’d missed something.
As for me I’m all about flat bottoms. Pretty much the complete opposite theory.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 12:16pm

There's a very distinct edge, Spud. Hard one.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 3:35pm

Awesome boards Stu the plan shape remind me of the Larry Bertleman Town and Country twinnies back in the day. I thought you would have added the extra touch of asymmetry to them?

Fliplid's picture
Fliplid's picture
Fliplid commented Friday, 29 Nov 2019 at 6:21pm

These photos give a pretty good idea of what the edge design is all about

http://mandalacustomshapes.com/boards/arctail-edge-boards/

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Saturday, 30 Nov 2019 at 10:24am

Need a name for them how about the mullet?

ruckus's picture
ruckus's picture
ruckus commented Sunday, 1 Dec 2019 at 6:31am

Two words; Terminal Velocity
Another two words; Terminal Swoopocity. The first flows into the second. Have a number of edge boards across a varied number of shapes with more on the way. If you wanna go fast get one under your feet. Current favourite is a 6’4 flextail edge. Melding of a few concepts. The thing is bananas and damn it’s quick but still a great deal to learn on it. Always dug Phil’s boards, seems to have nailed the blend of crossover from non edge board to edge board. Edges lines are spot on and super clean. Very nice examples. Hats off to the legend. Plenty of shaping wizards out there and Phil is one of them

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 2 Dec 2019 at 6:53pm

These are intriguing. Do we have any links to people surfing them, especially single/2+1 versions?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 7:54pm

Edge board..wild fish twin.. ?
bobbers and sinkers insta

kaki bibaita