Jed Done and the forward thrust of flex
Ever wondered why we hear so much about sufboard flex these days? In years past it was barely mentioned yet now it's discussed in every reputable design forum. Why is that?
The simple answer is that high performance shortboards are being made lighter than ever, meaning the structure is less rigid so they're prone to bending. It's a side affect to the potato chip surfboard - an unintended reaction - yet for performance sake it has to be controlled. As a concept it's become fertile ground for shapers.
Yet flex control has always been fertile ground for Jed Done of Bushrat Surfboards. You know Jed, or at least you should know him, through his experiments with carbon flex tails. For fifteen years Jed has been making beautiful surfboards on the far south coast of NSW, many of them featuring material that deliberately flexes.
Jed Done's experiments in flex are distinguished from current trends by three crucial points.
Firstly, he's been doing it for an awfully long time. Secondly, rather than merely reacting to flex, Jed deliberately places it in his boards. And that leads to the last point, which is this, the flex in Bushrat Surfboads isn't due to deficient materials, on the contrary his boards are made to last, they flex because of Jed's shaping techniques and the way he uses materials.
Jed's latest development is the wedge stringer, or diminishing stringer, a cedar stringer that's thicker at the nose and gently reducing in width till the long edges meet. That point is sometimes at the tail but more recently he's been experimenting with wedge stringers ending a quarter of the way up from the tail.
Mixed with other developments such as carbon tails, diminishing rail stringers, and diminishing rail laps, Jed is not merely controlling flex, he's wilfully creating it. And that's before any mention of his beautiful craftwork is made.
Swellnet spoke to Jed about his latest boards.
Swellnet: So 'wedge stringer' or 'diminishing stringer', what's the difference?
Jed Done: They're sort of the same, the stringer is thicker at the nose and diminishes towards the tail. Some go all the way to the tail, but the more recent ones finish about a quarter of the way up from the tail.
Are these new wedge stringers a development of your carbon flex tails?
No, not really. Some of my wedge stringer boards also have carbon tail flex in them. I'm building one at the moment with diminishing wedge stringer plus dimishing carbon rail laps and it'll have a carbon tail.
Diminishing rail laps?
It'll have up to 100mm lap at the front and down to 20mm at the back.
What's the concept behind all this?
Functionally, it's to direct the flex towards the tail.
That's why you have a thicker stringer and larger rail laps at the front?
Yep, it'll have no choice but to go backwards. Out the back. You don't want a board to fold up in front of you. It'll bog and you'll stop. So you want to keep the front rigid, which will also help cut through the chop. A little bit of swing weight in longer boards can help in drive as well.
I started these ones, the ones that stop a quarter of the way to the tail, to alleviate the stiff spot which is just around where the fins are. It helps transfer that stiff spot, especially where the flex tail attaches to the board.
A 6'1" Bushrat quad with diminishing rail laps, wedge stringer, and carbon flex tail
How long have you been making these wedge stringers? Are they something new?
My first one was...gee whiz, it was at least five years ago. But it was sort of shelved when I was playing with other things. I did the triangular stringers and then I've been playing with the stringers wrapping around the rail line and also carbon rail laps – and that's what this next one is going to have.
Have you made any without the flex tail so it's just the wedge stringer?
Yeah I've got a little fish that I just made for myself. A 5'1 that's just got the diminishing stringer and it's not going to have a carbon flex tail, but it will be made of epoxy – epoxy has better memory and flexes better.
Playing Devil's Advocate here: Would it create a weak spot where the stringer ends?
Hmmm...possibly, though it diminishes away to nothing, there's no sudden stop so the load should be transferred along the board.
A 6'4" rail stringer quad. The stringers exit about 20mm in front of the fins leaving the tail to flex
It sounds like the technology is still evolving.
Yeah I've probably done about twenty of the wedge stringers that go all the way to the tail, and only maybe six or eight of the diminishing stringers that fade out about a quarter of the way up from the tail.
And the experiments are leading you toward the latter? Having the stringer fade out through the rear..?
Ohh...I'm thinking so. I'm currently riding a board with timber rail stringers and a wedge stringer in the centre but I'd like to build myself a little carbon rail one and try that out. To test that. All the other ones I've shaped have been for guys that have been riding my boards for a long time. This one I'm doing it's his sixth or seventh board.
Dean Dampney with his Bushrat flex machine replete with EPS foam, epoxy resin, rail stringers, wedge stringer, and carbon flex taill. With all the tech in place it becomes clear what Jed is driving at: backward flex = forward thrust