Above: TransWorld SURF’s Chris and Justin Coté (yeah that’s us not a couple bums we found on the beach) test drive the much-talked about Thomas Meyerhoffer designed longboards at our secret surfboard training facility near TW headquarters in Carlsbad, CA.
The Ugly Duckling: How Can We Benefit From A Sperm-Shaped Surf Craft?
The first time I saw Thomas Meyerhoffer's version of a "high performance surfboard," I gagged. It appeared in mainstream magazines Men's Journal and Outside under the banner of "The Future Of The Surfboard" or something like that. Then it appeared in the New York Times with the tag, "The Reshaping Of The Surfboard." Then the board started winning design awards and got more press than any board Merrick ever shaped—all of this with little or no notice from anyone in the surf industry (even with a big PR effort from the Meyerhoffer camp). Most surfers ignored this strange craft until it showed up in Surfer's Journal and on various surf Web sites, where it was oddly to us, met with praise.
At first grab of “The Hoff” as we came to call it, you think to yourself, "No way." Then you walk with it under your arm to the beach and everyone gives you strange looks, even snarky catcalls, "Cool board." I'm not gonna lie, most of the general population was not ready to see this board in broad daylight. I didn't even want to paddle it out, but when I did and finally caught a wave, the thing actually ripped. I wanted it to suck so bad, but it turned right off the bottom, sped down the line, carved right into a cutback, and basically did everything I commanded—I was shocked. This board was not supposed to work. So why does it?
"A lot of people think the board works because of the parabolic cuts on the rails," says Meyerhoffer. "There are deep complex concaves on the bottom. The middle of the board is convex, kind of like a hull. The pivot points are pushed back around the fins, that shortens the amount of rail in the water helping the board transition from rail to rail."
My preconceived notion about Meyerhoffer was that he was going to be a snobby Sprockets-type character who didn't surf. It turned out to be quite the opposite. "It was unfortunate that I won all those awards and was featured in mainstream magazines before I got my design in actual surf magazines," says Meyerhoffer. "I'm a surfer before a designer. I made this board because I want to have fun surfing."
Met with harsh criticism in the surf world, the Meyerhoffer shape was nearly blacklisted before even hitting the waves. "It's been called every name in the book," laughs Meyerhoffer. "That's fine, but when I have people like Kelly Slater and Peter Mel, two guys who really get surfboard design, telling me the concept is cool, all the nicknames in the world can't take that away."
"It's an old concept with a good PR push," says Rusty Preisendorfer. "I've seen old Mirandon's with that vibe, Greg Noll did some boards like that back in the day—show me some video of someone ripping on it and I'll take it seriously."
Coupled with the fact that these boards are "performance longboards" in a genre that is looking back to logs as the board of choice, and Meyerhoffer has some work to do. "I'm working on shortboards now," whispers Meyerhoffer. "I can't talk about it much, but the new boards are more refined, toned down in their shape, and hopefully more digestible to the public," he laughs.
Final Thoughts On The Future
TransWorld SURF is known as being as stubborn about our boards as we are about our Broisms. We like shortboards that rip. So why are we talking about odd-shaped performance longboards? Well, after going to the latest Sacred Craft Surfboard Expo, the future of surfboards seems to be getting weirder and weirder. We've opened our eyes and accepted this. If these sperm-shaped boards are part of the greater destiny, we don't want to be left off the mothership. If they become just another winged keel or twinzer, then at least we can say we tried it, just like the time we tried putting our wieners in sea anemone—some things work, some don't.—Chris Coté