Archive for February, 2010

Air Boards!

February 28, 2010

I saw a report on the “Chunnel” that Slater is experimenting with. Sorta takes me back to the early 70’s when Vinny Bryan started making “Air Boards”; similar idea although Vinny didn’t use a channel. Vinny had a hole or holes going through the deck to bleed air to the bottom of the board. I believe this was Vinny’s original idea, although Tom Morey started working with him on this a bit later. There are some photos in one of the surf mags but the copy is slanted toward Morey, a bit incorrectly, I believe.

 I never tried an “air board” because it’s easy to see they will hurt you at low speed (because of the extra motion the water is forced to do to move past the extra curves, corners, etc.) Done right there is a possibility that they could work at very high speed but it will take special conditions and you’ll be slow the rest of the time.

 I rode with Vinny on Kauai (early 70’s) when he was on one of his air boards; it was real slow. He did say that when everything was right “it went really fast” and, while I don’t disbelieve him; I never saw evidence of this.

 I’m sure that the best air board ever made was designed by Bunker Spreckles; Vinny shaped it and I glassed it (early 70’s). There is no way that board was going to be ride-able, but it was a wild work of art. It should be in a museum (not a surf museum – an art museum!) I never did hear how it rode, I’m sure Bunker discovered right away that it didn’t work the way he thought it would. It probably got tossed and not discussed further.

 Comment on Slater’s Chunnel? If the objective is to pressurize the air under the board, it would take a big ram air-intake on the deck which would add too much aero drag. Air won’t go under the board unless the pressure in the tunnel is low, or unless it is forced under, which takes energy, defeating the purpose. However I am TOTALLY for this kind of experimentation and something will be learned by it.



Patent a surfboard shape?

February 21, 2010

I’ve had some interesting search questions show up in my website statistics, but since they don’t get asked of me, I don’t get to chat with the person who searched. One was: “Can surfboard shapers patent their designs”. To get legal advice you would need to consult with a patent attorney or the patent office, however I have two patents and done some study so I may be able to help.

 Generally the answer will be: No, a shaper cannot patent his design. The test for patentability includes: Is it novel? (Something new and different) Is it unobvious? (Does the novelty produce new and unexpected results?) For the most part shapers are making minor changes to the lines that comprise a surfboard’s shape; most are not novel and most are quite obvious as to result.

 You would have to do something unusual like make a surfboard that started long, then after catching the wave, shrunk to a short board, expanded again to glide over a flat section, etc. That would probably be patentable, but the novel aspect is not the shape but the lengthening/shortening while riding.

 There is also a design patent which is for a new, original, and ornamental design. (Note that Meyerhoffer has US design patent 604,785 for his surfboard. Of course Tom Morey with his “Swizzle” surfboard might contest the originality of Meyerhoffer’s design…)

 I used the book “Patent it Yourself” by David Pressman from for my reference and if you are serious about a patent, read that book first.


Power(ed) surfing

February 7, 2010

One of the most common problems surfers complain of is overcrowded waves. I have long wanted to build surf-spots (see my earlier posts on this) but this requires serious amounts of organization, engineering and money. Currently the most common way to escape crowds and ride good waves is to travel to some remote locale and surf camps have proliferated as a result. Could there be another way?

There is another way to get un-crowded waves; ride waves that others can’t ride. I have long specialized in doing this but my greatest success was in the late 60’s when I was developing my own version of short boards. At that time in Hawaii, I was making the fastest boards (some might take exception, but there’s still enough evidence to prove it). Because my boards were faster and shorter (than almost anyone else’s at that time) I could ride further back; there was lots of room behind almost any other surfer. Even in crowds, I had the part of the wave I was riding all to myself; I was also able to ride waves that others considered unrideable. Well those days are mostly gone as most surfers are now on short boards and short or fast, a short board puts you way back on the wave (explained in “The Basics of Surfboard Design” ). I still have some success in riding waves that many others can’t make and I’ve continued to design in that direction so I could have some “solitubes” (I describe one case of this in an earlier post: “Slow or Fast” March 24 2009).

Is there another way to get waves that others and even I can’t currently ride? Well, yes there is: powered surfboards. There are a couple of variations: One is the surfboard contains some sort of engine, and the other is to use a powered craft to launch you into otherwise uncatchable waves. Tow-surfing is the latter variation, but I have little interest in that because the tow vehicle is stinky, noisy, and requires a tow operator. A surfboard with a self-contained motor would be the way to go and this has been done (I saw an early version of this at Ala Moana years ago). Unfortunately, those surfboards are too large, heavy, stinky, etc. to be of any interest to me. I would require a powered board that was no more than 7’ long and weighed less than 20#, did not make noise, and did not stink. A recent search did not reveal any promising boards although there are powered boards being developed and made. If any of you know of anything close to what I describe let me know.

The solution to a lightweight powered surfboard is in the motive power. I don’t see that earth technology is advanced enough yet but it will be at some point. I know what needs to be done and if I can figure it out I will, although my spare time is currently being spent working on my high-speed sailboat.