Daniel Thomson On The Aesthetics Of A Surfboard

IMG_4833Photo: Sherman

We all have a predisposed outline that pops into our head when we imagine a surfboard. For most of us, it’s a symmetrical, pointy-nosed, square-tailed little number. But Daniel Tomo Thomson is out to break this mold with his own unique idea of how a surfboard should look and ride. And you know who’s beginning to catch on? Mr. eleven-time world champ Kelly Slater himself. So we sat down with Daniel and had a chat about what it’s been like to be experimenting with the world’s best, and the evolution of his aesthetically atypical designs.

What’s it been like working with Slater?

Incredible. It is a crazy opportunity and I’ve been focusing all my energy into creating something special for him. He’s really amped on design, so we’ve been having fun flaring up all sorts of wild ideas for the future. Our first mission was to find a middle ground from where I’m at with the design of the modern planing hull, and splicing that DNA together with the best of what he loves about a shortboard. Basically, coming up with a fresh perspective on the modern high-performance surfboard.

Elaborate on the concept of your modern planing hull.

The MPH has a straighter rail line, which allows you to ride a much shorter board that still maintains effective edge and volume, and you can lose much of the nose, as it just becomes unnecessary swing weight. And because these designs are short, they’re radically maneuverable, yet they still have enough rail line to draw out power turns. Lastly, the rectangular geometry of the board allows it to behave more like a skateboard with increased pop out of the lip and tighter rotations in the air. When you begin to understand fluid dynamics, the nature of lift, drag and foil ratios, you realize the ideal performance surfboard may start looking a bit different.

2015_08_11_0236540Photo: U-Ske

Do you think people will have a hard time adjusting to what a surfboard should “look” like?

Honestly, the look of the board isn’t what I’m interested in; the feeling of it is my driving force. But, like with all good designs, an element of aesthetic needs to be balanced in order to capture people’s attention. So I do take “look” into consideration. But what I’ve noticed is, once someone gets on one of my modern planing hulls and actually feels it, they don’t care if it looks a bit different. 

How about on the CT level? Will the judges be able to respond to a “different-looking” surfboard?

I’m not sure; you’d have to ask a judge. Right now they’re used to seeing certain lines that they feel represent good surfing, so it’s understandable that it’s something to get used to, especially the no-nose designs. 
However, the bottom line is that the WSL rulebook is the judges’ bible. If they focus purely on the official criteria of speed, power, flow, variety of maneuvers and innovation, then if the surfer is doing all of that, they should be rewarded regardless of their equipment. 

If anything, an athlete riding an alternative board should be viewed with a slight degree of favor. After all, he or she is bringing more innovation to the table simply by the lines they are drawing. I think equipment diversity at the CT level can only help stimulate more interest in the sport in general.