Firewire started working with Australian surfboard shaper Daniel Thomson (Tomo) in 2012. The man behind the Modern Planing Hull (MPH) concept, Daniel’s designs were embraced early by Firewire Surfboards, which they believe are 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 2016/17, 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 up so well with our sport.
Give us the short and sweet on Tomo style boards, the Modern Planing Hull (MPH) concept and why it works for kitesurfing?
Boards like the Vanguard, Vader and the new Evo kitesurf models are designed to be planing hulls and not displacement hulls. The simplest way to think of it is to use a boats hull as an example. Most boats are displacement hulls, designed to sit down in the water as opposed to a Modern Planing Hull (MPH) which creates hydrodynamic lift somewhat like a foil. The benefit is a very efficient design that requires much less rail line in the water to get the same or better performance than you would experience with a traditional shaped board. Additionally, one of the MPH’s best attributes is derived from the bottom design which catapults the board upwind. Contrary to the myths that these boards are just a surfboard with a cutoff nose, FireWire’s Tomo-designed board performance is the result of the combination of rail, tail, nose and most importantly bottom design which all work together to create the final feel and outcome. For those who are really interested, there’s a lot of great information out there on Daniel (Tomo) Thomson and his mathematical design principles. Ironically, the planning hull design is nothing new and has been around for over 60 years and only recently has it made mainstream surf (and now kite) media in most part due to Tomo and Firewire’s partnership.
When choosing the right size in the Vanguard, Vader or Evo, how do you determine which size is correct for the various riders and type of surfing?
We get this question a lot and use 185 lbs as a benchmark to set the general sizing. Of course windier conditions or smaller riders can drive the sizing decision slightly smaller than the recommendation or larger if someone is leaning more towards light wind or heavier riders. You can align the 185 lb weight with the middle of our sizing. So for example, the Vader comes in a 4’10”, 5’1”, 5’3 and 5’5”. For riders over 185lbs the recommendation would be a 5’3” or 5’5” and under 185lb the 4’10” or 5’1” would be a better choice. This is similar for the Vanguard and Evo as well.
To reiterate, these are guidelines but work well for most riders. On a related note, don’t shy away from going shorter. Many people simply believe they can’t ride that short of a board. There is an optimum performance to weight ratio and if you size the board too big you definitely won’t get all of the performance you should out of it. All of the MPH designs are well suited for handling a variety of surf including the really big days as they give the rider tons of control. The MPH boards really spark when the riders foot is placed back, far back. We recommend the tail pad be placed around 1” or less in front of the leash plug.
What are the trade secrets behind Firewire’s legendary construction and how do you balance the durability required of a board that has to smash through chop upwind and then deliver high performance when riding a wave?
Firewire has spent a lot of time delving into this topic and leans towards durability versus light weight. When you’re shelling out your hard earned money for a board you want to know you will get at least a couple of seasons out of it. While a board may feel more alive or snappier with lighter weight, that only goes so far.
Fortunately, all of our boards come from shapers that design for some of the world’s top professional surfing athletes so you never have to worry about getting a board that won’t perform well. We feel we have the right balance of weight versus durability in our Futures Shapes Technology which utilizes parabolic 3mm x 4mm balsa rails to act as a stringer and maintain torsional twist while delivering responsiveness. That’s not to say we are set in our ways — on the contrary, we are constantly looking at new ways to reduce weight as long as it’s not at the expense of durability. All of our boards are designed for strapless riding and come with a five fin setup so you can ride quad or tri, whichever you prefer.
For those that want a conventional rocker surfboard in Firewire’s unique construction, what are the options?
The Tomo MPH designs have had a huge impact on the industry and have had overwhelming interest by riders looking for great upwind performance, durability and high performance surfing with a kite. We still do have customers looking for standard shaped boards and are happy to announce we are adding the Slab to this year’s kiteboard lineup. The Slab is a traditional shaped outline with adequate rocker to turn tightly in the pocket and give you that thrill of carving the wave apart. The 5’6” is great as a high wind board or daily ride for a smaller rider while the 5’10” gives a little more board for average to larger riders and bigger surf. Designed by Jon Pyzel, the shaper that shapes for the current number one surfer in the world, John John Florence, the Slab is based on one of John’s free surfing boards and delivers the goods in high performance.
Are there any other announcements coming from Firewire?
The Evo and Slab are great new additions to our board lineup. The Evo, our latest MPH offering, has a ton of float and feels like its levitating on top of the water. It’s extremely fluid and smooth and responds immediately to rider input yet is still really stable so it’s a good fit for all rider levels. The Slab is designed for the rider looking for a more traditional outline and wants a guaranteed high performance electric turn. Aside from that, we are really proud to put so much focus on environmental stewardship. The EcoBoard project symbol exists on every one of our production models which utilize Entropy Super Sap bio-resin to reduce the carbon footprint of our boards by 30% compared to standard PU boards. That includes the entire board recipe, built and delivered to a shop or you. We partner with Bast Surf to provide 100% post-consumer packaging system; no more bubble wrap or packing tape and you can reuse the system when you pack your stick for a trip. We allocate 5% of our net profit to non-profit organizations like Surfrider, SurfAid, Share the Stoke, Parley and Surfers Against Sewage, all of which are focused on making our oceans a better place to be and giving those in need a chance to share the ride.
With environmental focus in mind, Slater Designs has recently released the most eco-friendly traction pad on the market today with its collaboration with BLOOM Foam. These new rear traction pads are derived from plant-based algae that aids in rebalancing the natural ecology of ponds, reducing dependence on nonrenewable oil and giving you a super lightweight deck pad! More information regarding this new traction system, our latest boards and environmental outreach can be found on the Firewire website.