60 Seconds With Allan Byrne

posted by / News / July 2, 2008

You remember the boards. Those sleek, six-channel pintail sculptures that look more like weaponry art than foam and fiberglass. But with mass production, pop-outs and eps becoming more the norm in recent years, the Deep Six has gone the way of the Polar Bear: a threatened species. Which is why the man who’s perfected the craft, Allan Byrne of Byrning Spears, decided to visit the States the past two weeks and remind surfers what they’ve been missing all these years. After he rode one all the way through at First Point {{{Malibu}}}, the Kiwi-turned-Queenslander and former Pipeline Masters runner-up – along with big-wave legend Darrick Doerner — paid SURFING a visit and filled us in on the new US campaign.

SURFING MAGAZINE: SO, YOU’RE BACK IN CALIFORNIA. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN?

ALLAN BYRNE: Originally, I came to the US in 1969 and lived in Pacific Beach, San Diego. I worked with Bill Caster a little bit in 1973, then I came up to Santa Barbara for a while. The two things I have always wanted to do with my boards is make them in America –– Hawaii in particular.

HOW HAVE YOU DEALT WITH THE DEMANDS OF THE INDUSTRY OVER THE YEARS?

It has always been difficult to produce the quantity to match the demand. It takes around two hours just to do one channel bottom. Sometimes I will do five in one day, but that’s like a fourteen-hour day. So the high production demands have always been hard to deal with.

HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO APPLY SHAPING MACHINES TO THE SIX CHANNELS?

I have always been a hands-on guy and been skeptical of the compromises that are necessary in order to make the computer shaped boards. You used to have to let some things just go when working with the computers. Computers are great nowadays though. The technology has finally caught up to the point that you can get reliable boards off the computer. You still have to be a good shaper to get a good board out of them though. I’m still doing more custom orders and have been coming to the States once or twice a year to hand shape custom orders.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE DIRECTION OF THE SURFBOARD INDUSTRY? THE HAND SHAPER IS A DYING BREED, NO?

My boards are specifically shaped for good waves. I don’t design boards for beachbreaks. My boards are designed for when the waves and conditions are pristine. When the conditions are going off, that’s when I want my equipment working best. Not many people are doing that. It’s a financial decision in most cases, and for most, it is purely about the demand of the majority market, which is smaller wave boards meant for all around conditions. I have identified the guys with the money who travel to Indo and Tahiti and Mexico. That’s the wave genre of most of my boards. Strictly good and critical waves. There are a lot of surfers who feel the same way and only want boards that are designed to go the sickest in good waves. The over-30-year-old market who do the once a year, two week trip. They want a reliable stick, one of my boards. I don’t want to compete with …lost, Rusty, and Al on a day-to-day basis for the small-wave beachbreak boards.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN MASS PRODUCTION AT ALL?

The whole world has overproduced surfboards in the last five or six years and this is resulting in a big drop of board sales of late. Specifically the mass-produced boards from Asia. They don’t go nearly as good as the grass roots stuff that we have been producing all this time. The fact of the matter is, they’re so much cheaper and are the boards that are filling up shops everywhere. Until that gets cleaned out there’s less and less room for us older shapers. To us, this is a major crisis. The fuel is making exporting boards even harder, too. Actually, it’s gone –– exporting is now an extinct business for us shapers.

HOW MANY BOARDS ARE YOU MAKING THESE DAYS?

In my factory only 10 to 15 boards a week. It is just three of us. We distribute our boards to two shops but mostly just do custom orders.

COMING OVER HERE, ARE YOU LOOKING AT CERTAIN SHOPS TO GET YOUR BOARDS IN?

I have key stores in mind that are known for carrying quality equipment. Maybe six on the East coast and six on the West coast at the moment. People are shopping online now too, so if they want to order online through the shop they can do it like that now. I’m doing some work with Stu Kenson in San Diego. I am going to base my production there.

DO YOU HAVE ANY GOALS IN TERMS OF HOW MUCH YOU SELL DURING THE FIRST YEAR OF BEING OUT HERE?

No, not really. If I sell 10 boards, that’s 10 I’ve never sold before. If I sell fifty then I’m stoked. A thousand boards a year, that’s not going to happen and that’s not what Im trying to do. I believe my equipment is unique in its performance and that it is the best for those sort of waves.

YOU DON’T SEE TOO MANY SIX-CHANNEL BOARDS IN PEOPLE’S QUIVERS THESE DAYS. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

That’s true. Because nobody knows how to make them, still. Shapers are scared off of them because they are very labor intensive. I was with Bob Hurley not long ago and I walked into a glass shop and I was told to get out of the shop with those boards. That’s how it is these days. I couldn’t believe it and he was like ‘Get the f–k out of my shop! I don’t want you and I don’t want your boards. Don’t you dare try to get us to do that much work.’ I just shook my head. I’m a purist and I will do anything to get the board to perform better.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE PERFORMANCE BENEFITS OF A SIX CHANNEL VERSUS WHAT IS TYPICALLY OUT THERE IN THE MAJORITY?

The greatest thing about the six channels is that there is no top end speed. There’s no limit to the top end speed. They just continually build speed. You’re taking the water that would normally run across the board and down the rail and catching it and storing the energy, releasing it at planned locations along the deck, more so the tail though, as opposed to the rail. The only negatives that I have heard from six channels is that they’re too fast, I can’t get in the barrel. I just tell surfers to deal with the speed and surf accordingly. They also hold on the face better because they’ve got like fingers on the wall. They sit and hold better. Run higher and hold longer in the barrel once the speed is controlled and understood. If you don’t outrun it you can stay in it longer. On the flat face of the shoulder on a normal board you might have to do a three-stage cutback where as on the six channel board it drives itself through really big arcs like it’s in another gear.Darrick (Doerner) says they feel friction free, like a watermelon seed. I guarantee that once you get on one and learn it you will always have one in your quiver for the rest of your life.

DARRICK DOERNER: Have you ever gotten on a surfboard and you just had a never before felt moment of magic? That happens all the time on these boards.

ALLAN: I have seen it happen, where you just take off and all of sudden your just going WOW…I have seen it happen where surfers just look down and ask themselves what’s going on down there. If you were to ask me how well do they go in California, I would tell you it’s a false assumption that they only go good in sick waves. They really go in anything even though they are designed for sick waves. As a design concept you might be able to build the same speed on a basic concave board but you won’t be able to do the same turns once you’ve gotten the speed. I love going fast through all my turns.

WHY AREN’T THEY MORE WIDESPREAD?

Well, they’re a difficult board to get right. A lot of guys have attempted but failed and been scared off. It’s simple. If you put in the time you will get it. There are a few who have it. It’s a learned formula just like everything else. It’s not like it’s only my thing, it’s just that I have perfected it.

DARRICK: The first one he gave me I instantly saw the potential. Not to mention I got a cover shot with it. There were a few cavitation problems with the first few and all of a sudden they were gone. We’d break five boards in one day, I’m dead serious. It was a tedious process at first. I believe that equipment is everything and that you are only as good as your equipment. Bottom line. You are only as good as what you get and these boards make you a better surfer on the whole.

Allan: When someone’s riding one you don’t necessarily notice it, but to the person on the board it is entirely different. You don’t know what you surf like, but you do know what your surfing feels like. They make you look down at your feet. They change their nature depending on what you do on them and what the conditions are doing. You get one of these boards and you instantly start analyzing what is going on below your feet. For the most part with surfing we believe it to be an unthinking sport. Not on these, though. You are constantly thinking about the feel and how to ride them better.

[For more on Allan Byrne's shapes, go to www.byrningspears.com]

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One Response to “60 Seconds With Allan Byrne”

  1. Mike says:

    How would a six channel go with a flex tail? or would they be counter productive together?

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