Dave Wood and the Railution
Since COVID struck, surfboard shapers have been doing all they can to keep up with the increased demand. Whether it be new surfers, or existing surfers with time and money to spare, they've all called upon foam mowers who've been one of the few beneficiaries from the pandemic.
The increased workload, however, meant that research and development has been shelved in favour of meeting orders. Great for the industry, not so interesting to write about.
So it was with some measure of excitement that I spoke to Dave Wood about a new rail shape he's been working on, dubbed the 'Railution'.
Wood, for those who don't know, is a shaper from Sydney's Northern Beaches, with 33 years experience. Late last year, once he'd finished his Christmas orders he set to work creating an idea he's had for a while.
"I've seen some shapers reduce rail volume with a bevelled edge," says Dave, and Garry Loveridge's 7S Superfish would be a popular example of that, "yet with a bevel the water's still wrapping around a rail with some volume."
"This rail is very low profile," continues Dave, "like an inch thick down in the water, and then it scoops up."
So as opposed to a straight line from rail to deck, Dave's solution to rail shape is what's called an 'ogee' in woodworking or architectural circles - an 'S' shape that links two curves. What results is a rail that's as thin as some tow boards, yet on a shortboard with standard volume. "The key," says Dave, "is that you've got to put the volume back in."
The first board he made created a lightbulb moment. "It was one of the best sensations I've ever felt," Dave effused. "It was fast across flat sections - there's enough foam for that - and barely any drag when burying the rail. Guys down the beach saw it and went 'Shivers, that's exactly what I'm after: All the foam but without the boggy rail.'"
The first board Dave made was a 5'8", and he's since put the same rail design into a 6'0" with similar results - each of them dead ahead performance boards. "I like high performance boards," says Dave.
So excited by the idea is Dave that he recently registered the design through IP Australia. "There's nothing much to it," says Dave about the design rego. "I've got no idea where things can go and it only cost $250, so I figured I'd do it."
The talk about design registration causes Dave to qualify his position. Many shapers have played with convex rail shapes. Greg Loehr, Cole Simler, and Stretch Riedel are a few of the bigger names, though for those three it was as much about strength as performance - a rail bending through two planes gives increased rigidity and strength - while the aforementioned Garry Loveridge used a bevelled rail for performance.
"I'm not trying to poach anyone's ideas," says Dave. "There's always someone saying, 'I've seen that, I've done that'. But actually, in all my time I haven't seen this exact design before."
The positive feedback - both from the boards and the crew at the beach - have launched Dave into experimentation mode. The first two boards were a groveller and a standard shorty, but, says Dave, "I think the design can go into anything - I really do. As long as you re-input the volume."
Yet he's already wondering if maybe the volume can stay stripped out, though he's yet to test that theory.
The last two years have been lucrative for the surfboard industry, yet shapers are creative at heart. Filling orders, working to customer specifications, can dull the imagination required to keep pushing design slowly yet interminably forward.
Fair to say Dave has sharpened his edge.