Jed Done and the forward thrust of flex

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Swellnet Dispatch

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

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Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Sunday, 19 Feb 2017 at 11:18am


Did you ride one Stu?

Has anyone on here ridden one ?

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Sunday, 19 Feb 2017 at 1:34pm

Ditto...interesting...but what are the riding effect and characteristics is the question that immediately springs into my mind?
Lots of design theory but how does it ride??
I'd love to try one at the very least.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Sunday, 19 Feb 2017 at 2:10pm

Same would love to try one. But, as mentioned in a different thread, would like to ride them back to back with a 'normal' board in the same surf and feel for myself what the benefits are if any.

To be honest, I know my boards flex a bit but it's something I don't really notice and it's something I'm not conscious of.

For years and years, I've just gone on feel and what feels good for me- I can pretty much look at a board and know whether it will work for me. In most cases, I adjust my surfing to the board. It's only been recently that I've had boards that have been shaped specifically for me (and I love 'em).

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Sunday, 19 Feb 2017 at 2:32pm

I reckon the theory is sound, and I say that from the convincing position of never having ridden one.

Ha ha...

First things first though....I understand it, which is more than can be said for Greenough's edge board, Tomo's 'Golden Number' or a few other confounding principles currently on the market. So even though I've not ridden one I can imagine how it works. I'm not fighting to understand the principles but ready to accept what they do. Which is a good headspace when absorbing new ideas.

I've been admiring Jed's boards for a while and this is his most fascinating work yet. Reckon I'm gonna implement a new family tax system and send the proceeds south.

michael grau's picture
michael grau's picture
michael grau Sunday, 19 Feb 2017 at 11:13pm

Ryan Lovelace is also doing some interesting things in this space:

I'm convinced.

cjk's picture
cjk's picture
cjk Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 5:28pm

Awesome boards! I got one last year after agonising over whether it would work for ages. I wasn't disappointed. They feel different and take a bit to get used to, but seem to work for me, they feel like they smooth everything out and maintain speed through turns. Also feel like they get me into waves earlier, could be the reverse rocker through the tail. They are an amazing combination of rocker, rail and outline and workmanship is top shelf. If you are interested, talk to Jed. One of the most engaging and enthusiastic shapers that I have dealt with. I doubt anyone would be disappointed with a custom from him.

silentp's picture
silentp's picture
silentp Monday, 20 Feb 2017 at 11:56pm

Pretty well same as above, I seem to be attracted to the unconventional lately ( tomo ) and bought a flex tail on impulse ( half price too )
Board surfs smooth, is quick as, and no nasty surprises

surfari's picture
surfari's picture
surfari Wednesday, 22 Feb 2017 at 3:55pm

Jed is an original unlike others out there.

The progressive stringer flex combo works really good.

It feels god to have a board like this under your feet.

Get one and support the surfboard industry in its true form.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Sunday, 17 Jun 2018 at 5:28pm

I spent today with Jed Done talking about how he achieves controlled flex in his boards. He hauled a few from the back of his chariot, laid them down in my living room then talked me through the construction and characteristics of each board. Even left one of them with me to try next swell at the point.

Jed no longer shapes under Bush Rat, he's using his own name - "I'm cleaning up my image," he chuckled from under a mop of unkempt hair. The new boards look great and continue his adventures in flex using vanishing stringers, rail stringers, carbon flex tails, and carbon tape etc etc

Meanwhile, last week I had a number of conversations with Mitchell Rae about his history of flex. All this will go into a series of articles on flex. I hope to also chat with a fin maker who's focussing on flex in surfboard fins.

It seems to me that because flex can't be accurately quantified, and also because it's hard to build, that there's a great blank spot in surfboard design. People rightly credit Greenough as the architect of the Shortboard Revolution yet one of his key theories is largely ignored, explored by just a few shapers.

If anyone's got any suggestions or advice about fin makers or anything else to do with flex then feel free to comment or email.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Sunday, 17 Jun 2018 at 5:48pm

Pendoflex boards you heard of them ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Sunday, 17 Jun 2018 at 5:56pm

Nah, hadn't heard of 'em, but checking the site now.

Look good.

brainiac's picture
brainiac's picture
brainiac Sunday, 17 Jun 2018 at 8:03pm

I've ridden Jed's boards for many years and currently they are looking like boards from a shaper who is at one with planer! Beautiful lines, thoughtful curves and real craftmanship in the boards. They are looking and going as good as i have ever seen them. My new 6'9 "mid life crisis board" goes a treat!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Sunday, 17 Jun 2018 at 5:34pm

Jed's wagon. Plenny a space...

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Sunday, 17 Jun 2018 at 8:05pm

Awesome Stu...really looking forward to the article and some reports on how the board goes.
Maybe get in contact with Bryan Bates here in Byron. He handcrafts everything including fins himself and does a lot of work with stringerless, epoxy and alternative Eco-materials working on flex.

CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight Sunday, 17 Jun 2018 at 9:42pm

'If anyone's got any suggestions or advice about fin makers or anything else to do with flex then feel free to comment or email.'

Mick Mackie.