by Dane Hantz of Vulcan Surfboards
Unidirectional, tband, parallel, parabolic. This is the Dane Hantz’s take on the Tremendous Benefits of Stringerless Surfboard Design
Redwood, basswood, plywood, I’ve even worked on an inch thick knotty pine stringer for a Peahi Gun.
Wooden stringers have been the most identifiable element of surfboard construction for ages. A reference for symmetry, a marker for fin placement, an expression of style. Rightly the stringer has earned it’s regard as the proverbial backbone of the board it strengthens and much like the natural worlds course of evolution, the vertebrate form has emerged as the dominate species over the invertebrate organism or the stringerless board as it were.
Then again, evolution is an ever changing thing; random mutations, challenging the circumstances sometimes changing the course of evolution altogether. Sometimes the results are disastrous. Dispassionately and often immediately, elected for extinction. Yet every now and again there is an aberration from the norm, something uniquely effective that proves itself advantageous enough to excel beyond the predecessor and competitor alike.
I believe this to be the case with Convex constructed boards a unique variation of the stringerless genus. But what happens when a board has no stringer? Is it ‘spineless’?
Stringerless Surfboard Designs – What They Are, What They Are Not
In all honesty, there have been some rather dubious stringerless constructions out there, making bold claims of technological prowess. Some were flimsy, some we’re popped out overseas, some were overly complex and costly to build…all discovered that surfboards and technology go together like cats and bubble baths when presented to the surfing community’s often fickle and judgmental court of public opinion.
I can clearly remember one persons visceral reaction when shown a stringerless board for the first time. You could have put two mating slugs in their hand and gotten greater approval.
Nevertheless, I’ve been an advocate of stringerless board construction for quite some time. In my own path of experience and discovery, I’ve come to realize some important features of the ideal stringerless board and where this construction performs to it’s fullest intended potential. But first let’s look at what, in my opinion, is not a good stringerless construction.
First of all, simply deleting the stringer from an eps or XPS blank, slapping a strip of unidirectional carbon on there or a sheathing of vectornet and calling it good just isn’t worthwhile unless the board is equivalent to an sup in thickness.
These boards have a tendency to hyper flex and do so at the most critical moments of your ride – say, at the apex of a bottom turn where the issue of hyper flex accelerates the entry rocker causing the board to bog. A good stringerless board needs to function every bit as dependably as it’s stringered counterpart and deforming under load is an absolute design failure destined for extinction in my book.
Moreover, a good stringerless design needs to work dynamically with the forces applied to it, flexing and reacting. Poor stringerless designs seem to absorb energy rather than transmitting it into anything useful in the performance category. Boards such as this tend to feel numb and exhibit a lack of character underfoot. This is because the construction is only absorbing energy through flexing. I often hear surfers claim their board needs to “flex, flex, flex” (coincidentally, epoxy is far more flexible than polyester resin, which when cured has a flex and tensile strength very similar to plate glass, but that’s an argument for another article, onward…). Yes, flexion is important but while a rubber chicken is plenty flexible, it simply won’t make a good board.
A dynamic stringerless board needs to flex, spring and recoil to it’s original shape in order to work to it’s fullest potential, creating a lively feel in the water. A good stringerless board won’t absorb energy but rather will momentarily store the energy then reflect it.
Weight. This is a very personalized thing. Some people like ultra light, others like a little more ballast for choppy or offshore conditions. I’ve handled many pros boards and the same likes and dislikes applied. As it were, I worked with my former boss to create a stringerless board which he surfed in thumping, hollow, overhead conditions to win an ISA world masters title.
The great thing about a properly designed stringerless board is that it can be made ultra light or heavier as the circumstance may require but here’s the catch, there’s a corresponding relationship between weight and strength. A decrease in material weight normally equates to a decrease in strength. I’ve surfed stringerless boards I knew I could buckle at will, sadly some were great shapes but the construction was the weak link. This is a challenge because while anyone can make a board heavy and overbuilt it’s very tricky to make the same board very light yet just as strong.
Essentially all these considerations caused me to develop Convex (Dane Hantz and Vulcan Surfboards patented system), which doesn’t just address the issues identified here it also surpasses the performance of stringered boards in many ways. That isn’t to say I dislike one over the other, it’s asserting that one has key advantages in certain situations. This is great for the progressive minded individual not limited by convention. Let’s have a look at my assertions and you decide for yourself.
Benefits of Stringerless Surfboard Design
Dynamic corrugation is at the heart of Convex engineering, but what exactly is that and why is it good for stringer less boards?
Have you ever seen corrugated metal roofing? It’s made of a very flimsy 26 gauge steel. Nevertheless when the corrugation is added the strength of the steel panel is increased exponentially. There is no more efficient way to increase the strength of a material without adding other materials. Read this again. This principal was not invented by man, it is a natural phenomenon occurring with striking regularity in all animals including insects, shellfish and even mammals. Have a look at your fingernails; they’re filthy. They’re also corrugated.
Convex benefits from this design and when applied to surfboard construction, the result is as naturally efficient in creating strength and performance in a surfboard as it is in a living organism.
Not only is the strength of the board alarmingly high but the strength to weight ratio as well. The boards are not only very light they’re just as strong. So strong in fact I have yet to see one break, which includes the Convex built boards which went to the Maldives, Snapper Rocks, the North Shore, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bali and on and on. The secret is all in the dynamic corrugation of Convex.
If you look at the Convex feature, it’s shaped like a crescent whereas the feature is widest and deepest at the point load area of the board where the majority of the stress is, then tapered at the nose and tail to allow those areas to flex, recoil and spring more independently. The design not only creates strength it allows the board to load up with potential energy when flexed, which it then transmits into propulsion when it springs back to it’s original shape. The result is a very lively feel and the one comment I repeatedly hear is “that’s the fastest board I’ve surfed”.
All of this adds up to a very high performance board. Here’s where you should expect Convex boards to excel.
Rippable surf. If you’re a snappy top to bottom surfer you are going to love this board. Convex boards are fast, ultra responsive and have a positive lock when setting rail. No hyper flexing, no numbness, all performance.
Higher volume performance boards. If you are a bigger guy, your proportionately riding a bigger board which can also mean heavier. Not with Convex. We’ve built 6’6 performance shapes for naturally big guys that weighed as little as a traditional 5’8. This is a big plus if your a large human who wants a performance board to match your ambition.
High tide, weak surf. It takes more energy to push a heavier boat than it does a lighter boat. Likewise it takes far less energy to push a light board than it does a heavy one of the same size. If you live in California and you surf in the morning through the winter it’s guaranteed you’ll be surfing a lot of high tide conditions. A light shortboard with smooth a.m. conditions will paddle like lightning.
I’m 5’10 195 pounds and my usual performance boards are 5’9 x 19.75″ x 2.5″. I’m 45, graying, arthritic and routinely out paddle longboarders, kids and friends alike on a board that’s fairly small for my size. No, old guys don’t rule, but the right construction can compensate for a lot!
Hopefully, you’ll see the distinctions and benefits of a properly designed stringerless board. In the end will the stringerless surfboard design supplant the stringered board in an upheaval of evolution? Who knows, as the process is a continual work in progress. But the beauty of evolution, is that it goes with what works.