INFINITY LONGBOARDS: "What do these models do anyways?" (1995)
WHAT DO THESE MODELS DO ANYWAY?
By Steve Boehne
So your thinking about getting a new surfboard and your trying to decide which Infinity model is best for you. Your decision is important; hopefully this article will help to clarify the different aspects of surfboard design. A surfboard is one of the last things made in America 100% by hand. The gassers and sanders are the most skilled artisans with their tools imaginable. The shaper gives the board birth; he controls the genes that will give it personality. That board will both flow with you and be there for you in the tight spots, or it will fight you every step of the way and toss you off like a mean old horse.
I have been shaping surfboards since the age of 13 in 1960. It has taken nearly this long to learn the “genealogy” of their design. The combination of length, thickness, tail rocker, nose rocker, center rocker, concaves, ”V” tail, rail contour, edges, outline, and fins used to make that board your best friend take years of surfing, shaping and analyzing to know. I have carefully, sometimes relentlessly, passed this knowledge and shaping techniques on to the privileged few who have shaped Infinity surfboards. We Infinity shapers feel so lucky to have made a career of creating a beautiful product, contributing to a great sport and making surfers happy. Talking with a surfer, figuring out the performance characteristics that he is looking for in a board and then tweaking, blending and shaping all the variables into his best board ever is intensely rewarding.
When talking to your shaper or the Infinity salesman, you need to clarify what you want out of a board especially if you plan to have only one board. A lot of guys really don’t get up on the nose, it wouldn’t matter if they had the best nose rider in the world. These guys usually prefer carving, turning and trimming from behind the center of the board, yet they often buy a nose rider when they would prefer a board with more kick (turn up) in the nose and a faster release in the tail. Luckily, today's surfers can usually afford several Infinity models in their quiver. One to match the waves or mood of the day. Once you get your board, every wave you catch is free. Did you know that since 1960, the price of a surfboard has only increased by a multiple of 10 while cars have gone up 20 times and homes 50 times.
Each Infinity longboard model is designed to maximize a different performance characteristic. (A custom shape can be further fine tuned to suit an individuals surfing needs.) Sometimes just a good all-around board is the objective. The Classic model for the younger guys and Competitor for the cross over short board guys does the job. The other three objectives in board design are usually: 1. speed with fast carving turns, 2. nose riding, and 3. paddleability for guys over 40.
The Cluster design has revolutionized our approach to achieving speed with carving turns. It is called the Cluster because the fins are grouped “clustered” nearly in a row across the board. The front of the center fin is aligned to the rear of the side fins. This is unlike the “thruster” where the center fin is the same size as the side fins and positioned about 5” behind. When fins are spread forward and back like a thruster, they actually fight against each other during a turn. I discovered the advantage of the Cluster by using a fin box in the center of a thruster. I found that as the fin was reduced in size and moved forward right up behind the side fins that the board’s turning was improved immensely. With our convertible version, you can switch back and forth to a single or Cluster and compare the difference yourself on the same board.
The Cluster model is the best turning board I have ever ridden. The design utilizes two 5 ½” rail fins plus a small 3” center fin. The concept: a surfboard is banked up and turned on its rail, but on a traditional single fin design, the fin is positioned in the center of the board, usually 7 1/2” from the rail. A tremendous loss of power occurs because the water can flow around and past the rail as you turn, especially as the single fin is angled over from vertical. That is also why single fins sometimes “spinout”. The Cluster side fins however, are installed right there out on the rail, right at the pivot point of your turn. The fins are canted out and maintain full bite through the turn. None of the wave energy is lost. Your turn is sharper, faster and easier.
The Cluster actually accelerates and projects you out of a bottom turn and up the wave face. You suddenly find yourself able to “draw vertical lines” up and down the wave like a shortboard surfer. A good surfer can ride more radically and a beginner can learn to turn easier. It’s like power steering, you just lean and the board follows.
Because the Cluster can do a more vertical style of surfing (instead of just right and left), we put more kick (turn up) in the nose so it won’t “catch” or “pearl” at the bottom of the wave. The kick also helps in late takeoffs and a beginner surfers errors in judgment. Because of a faster tail rocker and kicked nose, the Cluster catches waves easier and can be ridden in really large waves. It has a tremendous range in terms of wave size. The Cluster nose rides about the same as most boards, but was never meant to be a nose rider. I realized that a lot of guys wanted a Cluster nose rider, so the Rad Noserider was born. Rather than draw vertical lines, its’ designed to trim across a wave face and do quick right - left cutbacks.
The objective of the Rad Noserider is to actually have two boards in one. The front half is the fastest trimming, most stable nose rider imaginable and the back half is a carving, turning, cutback machine. I have found that by quantifying design, rather than “eyeballing”, measuring and placing rocker forward or behind center and blending nose concave into a “V” bottom tail that I can dial in performance characteristics very reliably. I can for example, place the fastest point of trim anywhere I want on a surfboard. In the Cluster, it’s behind center, in the Rad Noserider, its in front of center. A good nose rider will have less nose rocker to allow planning speed on the nose and extra tail rocker to suck the tail to the water surface.
This can be explained if you think of a nose rider like a seesaw: While standing on the nose, your weight is trying to make the board pearl. The tail rocker is lifting the water which in turn causes a downward suction. The mid section is actually supporting most of the surfers weight.
The Rad Noserider has a very long, concave that goes all the way back to the center of the board. It redirects the water to the center of the board instead of towards each rail as a belly would do. This concave is designed so that as the water first encounters the nose of the board (while you’re nose riding) it feels no resistance until after it’s passed under you. This is to prevent the board from “pushing” water and slowing down. Have you noticed when you bodysurf, that if you put your arms at your side and make a concave by keeping your head down in the water that you can stay in the wave longer? As soon as you lift your head up to get a breath of air, you slow down and loose the wave. That’s because you loose the planning effect of your concave chest and you increase your body’s rocker and stall out of the wave.
The Rad Noserider has a bevel under the rails, on each side of the concave. They make the board “forgiving” and allow you to “climb and drop” up and down the wave face while trimming on the nose. The bevels flow gracefully from each side of the concave into the “V” bottom-tail. To make the board nose ride, the Cluster “V” bottom is reshaped into “sweet spot rocker”. The “V” and rocker are focused on a spot about 22 1/2” from the tail. This spot is placed between your feet directly under where you stand when turning. It makes the board turn and cutback incredibly well, for fast zig-zag turns, almost like turning on a ball bearing.
This sounds funny, but you can “fool the water” by blending a straighter speed rocker and then suddenly adding 3/4” of tail rocker in the last 22” of the board to make it ride the nose. If you combine this trick rocker with a hard rail, the board can be fast and still ride the nose. The
Rad Noserider model, with 4 ½” of tail rocker, is the perfect speed for making fast sections, and you can ride the nose with confidence that the tail won’t pop out
Not everyone wants a hot, fast paced surfboard. In fact, the smoother stylist all know that the classic body positions and smooth graceful turns are performed best on a classic shape with a big single fin and 60/40 rails. Craig Angel, a stylist with an awesome contest record told me once that he did his turns as “big and slow” as possible so that the vision of the maneuver stuck in the judges heads. The Classic, Stylemaster, and Retro all slow down the pace, glide down the line and turn like a Mercedes. I learned to shape professionally in the 60’s, at Gordie Surfboards. Gordie was a meticulous craftsman and master of the egg rail. I have maintained the graceful outlines and rails of the 60’s, but stepped up performance slightly through improvements in “V” and rocker. These classic models feel light and responsive, but smooth and predictable.
Rocker is the most important aspect of performance. It determines where the “sweet spot” is, what size waves the board will work best in, how fast the board will be, and how heavy a surfer it will work best for. The bigger and faster the wave, the less rocker you should have in order to insure that a boards’ maximum speed would be adequate. For the 160 - 180 pound surfer, I have found that a 9’ board works best with these tail rockers. Big fast waves, 2 3/4”, medium waves, 3 3/8”, and slower reef breaks, 3 7/8”. For an 8’6” board, you can subtract 1/4” and add 1/4” for a 9’6” board. Really big guys need less rocker to keep their boards from tracking too deep in the water. I use about 1/2” less tail rocker in a big guy floater. All the US Blanks I use are glued to “private” Infinity rockers. Each rocker bends the blank to the bottom contour needed in each Infinity model.
With all this in mind, you still have to decide which model to buy. If you are an experienced surfer and want to improve your nose riding, get a Rad Noserider. The Competitor is excellent for young, strong guys who like a good all around performance board. If you like the classic style, get one of our classic models: Style Master, Classic, and Retro. If you really don’t ride the nose or you are a beginner, then you’re better off with a model like the Cluster that has more kick in the nose. (We can make the other models with more kick in the nose when requested) If you’re not sure about 3 fins, then you can get a Cluster convertible. It can be converted to a single fin so that you can ride it both ways and decide what you like for yourself. Remember that what you’re really trying to do is have fun. Your boards’ length and thickness must be matched to your weight and ability. If your board is so hard to paddle out and catch a wave on that the effort is not worth the fun you get from the ride in then what’s the point anyway? That’s why we do the Cluster and Rad Noserider in thickness of from 3.75” up to 4.5” thick and call it the Secret Weapon. If you’re not sure what thickness you need for easy paddling, get a recommendation from the salesmen in the shop (keep in mind that board length and thickness determine buoyancy)
Steve Boehne started surfing in 1959 on a balsa Velzy Jacobs. In 1960, he bought a foam blank (they only came in red or green at the time) hand cut it down the center and glued in a 1” redwood stringer. He shaped and glassed the board in his garage. Through high school, he bought Walker blanks and would make a board for anyone - as long as it was in their garage.
While attending Cal State Fullerton in 1968, Steve got a job shaping for Gordie Surfboards in Huntington Beach. Gordie was a real craftsman and spent many hours teaching Steve technique in quality and accuracy. By 1970, Steve was shaping for four different surfshops in Huntington Beach, all at the same time. Steve is noted as saying, “I shaped 50 boards a week in summer of 1970, probably half of all the boards sold in Huntington Beach that year”.
Steve has also been involved in tandem surfing competition. In 1962, Steve bought Hobie’s personal tandem board and started surfing tandem at age 15. Since then, he and his wife Barrie have won the United States Championships in 1969 and 1982, the World Contest in 1971 and 1994, the prestigious Makaha International Tandem Championships in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979, 1982, 1983, and the European Championships at Biarritz, France in 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001.
Steve and Barrie started Infinity Surfboards in 1970. They have shared their love of tandem surfing with their friends and their love of surfing with everyone who has owned an Infinity Surfboards. Their sons, Dave and Dan both shape Infinity surfboards as well.