Daniel Thomson (Tomo) is a young surfboard shaper from Australia who is at the forefront of modern surfboard design. The man behind the Modern Planing Hull (MPH) concept, his designs have been embraced by Firewire Surfboards which are believed to be especially beneficial for kitesurfing. Although Firewire can custom make any of their boards to take the rigors of kiting, the company believes so strongly in the MPH design that for 2016, it is offering three kitesurf-specific boards with this shape only. Firewire’s Brian Friedmann talks about the company’s kitesurf program and why the MPH matches so well with kitesurfing.
Kelly Slater became a majority shareholder in FireWire at the beginning of the year. What affect has this had on the company so far and has he influenced the brand’s mission/vision?
Firewire is one of the most environmentally conscious and technically advanced board manufacturing companies in the industry. This aligns well with Kelly’s vision and he’s working closely with our designers to continue the evolution of next level, high performance boards.
Firewire is dropping the Hellfire, HellRazor and Profile V1 boards. Why and what are the alternatives for riders who were fans of these shapes?
We have seen significant performance gains from Daniel “Tomo” Thomson’s Modern Planing Hull (MPH) shapes for kiting. These latest cutting edge board designs incorporate many of the great characteristics of our earlier models and provide the extra benefits of unmatched upwind capability, speed, lift and tight fluid turning. They are high performance boards but still extremely stable for newer directional riders due to their unique but essential parallel rail outline. We do offer the ability to custom order any of our previous kite models with a 12-14 week build time so if someone is a fan of a particular model that’s a great option.
The Sweet Potato, which was a surprisingly great light wind board, was also discontinued in early 2015. Which board would you suggest a rider check out instead?
Definitely the Vanguard or Evo. It’s amazing to have these new, smaller boards produce so much light wind performance, which is what the Sweet Potato was known for. A number of our larger riders/customers have switched to the Vanguard for light wind conditions where, previously, they were left on the beach even with big kites. With a Tomo MPH, as an average weight rider, you can decrease your kite size significantly and, as a larger rider, get out there on the light days.
Firewire’s focus over the last two years has been on the modern planing hull (MPH) design. Why and what makes this board so beneficial for kiting?
As mentioned, we see only performance gains from these designs, no drawbacks. The Modern Planing Hull is just that, a planing hull versus a traditional surfboard which is technically a displacement hull, similar to a boat which sits down in the water instead of generating lift, less resistance and more fluid directional freedom. Think of it as somewhere between a traditional surfboard and a foilboard.
The symmetrical outline and broadened surface area lends itself well to aerial attacks and transitional tricks. It’s extremely efficient going upwind and for overall performance. An MPH will glide, is very fast, carves with little rider input and creates a tight, controllable turning radius with minimal swing weight. The smaller sizes allow the board to fit into the wave better and access turns and angles that are much more challenging on a traditional board. Tomo spent several years researching fluid dynamics and mathematical principals which he applied towards these award winning designs. Rare in board designers, Tomo himself is a top level surfer, and as a shaper, he eliminates any potential design input to be lost in translation due to pro rider interpretation. All of this has contributed to the modern planing hulls explosive growth, a revolution in contemporary board design in both the surf and kite industries and is why so many brands have tried to duplicate it. Contrary to these attempts, it is not simply cutting the nose off of a board; it’s the application of mathematical principles, fluid dynamics in the form of bottom contours, volume placement, rail configurations and construction technology that makes our boards such a success.
Both boards have really great high performance attributes. The Vader has more tail and entry rocker translating to tighter, quicker, rail-to-rail transitions and turning. In comparison, the Vanguard will draw out the same turns and feel a bit more stable and predictable. The Vader’s bottom has deep channels allowing it to hold and grip on big turns or you can activate a little tail pressure for a super tight top or bottom turn. The Vader should be ridden 1”-2” shorter than the Vanguard. Both boards have a ton of forward drive for racing down the line, but the Vader allows more vertical attack and tighter turning. For this reason, we typically recommend beginner/intermediates start on a Vanguard and intermediate/advanced riders go with the Vader. Either board will grow with you for years, will provide that fluid feel and is guaranteed to get you instantly back upwind.
For 2016, Firewire will be releasing the new Evo model. Where does it fit in your kiteboard line up and what kind of rider, in what conditions, is the Evo best suited for?
The Evo is a new take on our original MPH designs like the Vanguard and Vader. It’s nearly symmetrical and wider overall outline creates smoother bottom and off the top turns on a wave. The innovative bottom design consists of a deep double inside concave that splits into a quad concave in the tail channels. The Evo generates tons of lift and water flow under the board and is extremely efficient which is immediately noticeable once the board gets on a plane. The Evo draws out long effortless lines and connects them seamlessly when turning. The aggressive concave bottom creates a buttery feeling. Astonishingly, with the wider outline and fluid dynamic efficiency, the Evo can be ridden even smaller than the Vanguard and Vader. The Evo is great for any level rider and we found that it works well as a one board solution for the intermediate/advanced surfer who wants a single board for paddling and kiting. It also rivals the Vanguard for superior light wind performance.
Firewire boards don’t come with fins but the company also offers their own branded fins, designed by legendary shaper Nev Hyman. Why are fins not included and what differentiates your fins from your competitors?
At one time, we did ship fins, but we’ve determined that riders have a very personal preference when it comes to fins, and many of our customers were simply not using the provided plastic stock fins. Our typical customers wanted to put their favorite fins on the boards, so we decided to save riders some additional money and removed them from the board offering. The FireWire branded fin is a great all-around performance and durable fin set. With so many fin options on the market, we aren’t necessarily trying to compete, but moreso offer our customers an optimized performance 5-fin set that supports either a quad or tri-fin configuration. All of our kiteboards come with Futures boxes for a quad or tri-fin setup, but FCS II fin boxes can be specified through 12-14 week delivery custom board order. You can find the FireWire branded fins along with some great hats, tees and other accessories on our surfboard website.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We at Firewire are really excited to bring our next generation design concepts to the kiting market. A couple of years ago we revolutionized the kiting world with the introduction of the Vanguard modern planing hull. Never content with the status quo, we have continued our search for surf performance nirvana with the Vader and the soon-to-be released Evo MPH shape. We tap into the surfing world’s top design talent and our boards are ridden by some of surfing’s best professional athletes. These designs are available in our durable kiteboard offerings providing you an opportunity to ride the same high performance boards as top surf athletes and guaranteeing you won’t get stuck with a dud. Firewire owns its own board factory and our stringent quality control ensures you’ll get a superior product at a great industry price. With building materials such as Entropy bio-resin and every board eco-certified by SustainableSurf.org, Firewire is committed to making the most environmentally friendly boards on the market. Our Futures Shapes Technology (FST) construction has a proven track record for being extremely durable while still lending itself to our high performance shapes. We stand by every product we build. If you’re kiting in the surf, doesn’t it make sense to do it with the brand that has the most surf experience? We hope you’ll take one of our boards for a ride and feel the Firewire difference.