Surf Science: What’s In A Deck?

What's In A Deck?
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Words: Mike Cianciulli
Photo: Straley

Foot dwells, tail cancer, delamination … it's safe to say that the deck of a surfboard gets more punishment than its double-concave counterpart. While your average Joe tends to stick with standard dome decks and pinched rails or flat decks with boxy rails, shapers have been experimenting with alternative deck styles for years. Thanks to feedback from top pros, these ideas not only allow surfers to ride thinner, lighter boards, but some shapers suggest they're stronger and more responsive.

There are a few different theories, but all seem to point toward methods of displacing foam through the deck, which, surprisingly, don't sacrifice a board's overall volume. The most visually apparent departure from drone-like dome decks is the brainchild of Santa Cruz Surfboards' shaper Chris Gallagher. The "step deck" (a.k.a. G-deck) is almost like standing on a skateboard. It has a platform deck with thinner rails—you can actually see where the foam forms a sort of platform and bumps up on the outsides of your feet. "The G-deck structure creates a stronger board that paddles better, doesn't lose speed through the flats, and lands airs more solidly," says Gallagher, who spawned the concept five years ago. "The boards are the same average thickness at center, but the solidness is amazing. There's no flex. The board just hits and reacts."

But for those looking more for the feel of a traditional board, the search for increased flex leads them down a different, subtler path. Steve Boysen of SB Surfboards says his teamriders Mike Todd and Gabe Kling switched to his "D-flat" shape and haven't looked back. "We're taking a football-shaped filet out of the center and moving that volume to the rails," Boysen says. "The boards are thinner, the rails are boxier, and they flex more, making it livelier and snappier."

Kling, a WCT rookie, weighs in at 170 pounds and is currently riding a board that's 2 1/8" thick, while the 150-pound Todd's shorties are less than two inches. Boysen claims this is his "mellower" version of Jeff "Doc" Lausch's Y2RSQ—the preliminary concept behind Doc's current RSQ (Rails Squared) model. The Y2RSQ's strength was in its fuller rails, but the thin stringer gave way to higher-than-normal breakage. But after reverting to a slightly crowned deck, Doc recently reintroduced the flat deck again. "Gerr [Brad Gerlach] really drove me to make them flatter and thinner," Doc recalls.  "A full-size man can now ride a 1 7/8" thick board."

On the retail front, "Most consumers simply look at rail thickness when trying to decide which board to ride," Rip Curl Surf Center Store Manager Corey Fowler observed. Surf shops have also seen sales spike on boards with rail channels, like Stretch's quads or Cole's shortboards. The concept here? Less foam with more resin equates to a stronger overall board.

But seeing the variety of options, Doc sums up surfboard volume best. "It's not 'this works' or 'this doesn't,' it's all about what feels good," he says. "Everybody is different and everyone is unique."

Originally published in May, 2007 issue of Transworld SURF.