Firewire is known for its innovative board construction and ground-breaking introduction of the cut-off Tomo-style boards. While many cut-off nose shapes may look similar, each shape stands out in its own distinctive way and the best way to discover that is to ride them. Firewire’s Brian Friedmann sheds some light on how to best choose a Tomo-shaped board and Firewire’s other traditional surf shapes liked by kitesurfers.
AUSTRALIAN SURFBOARD SHAPER DANIEL THOMSON (TOMO) IS RECOGNIZED AS THE ORIGINAL SHAPER OF THE MODERN, BLUNTNOSED SURFBOARDS. WHAT CONDITIONS DOES THIS SHAPE EXCEL IN AND WHEN MIGHT A RIDER WANT TO REACH FOR A TRADITIONALSHAPED BOARD INSTEAD?
Our experience and feedback from team riders and customers is that the modern planing hull designs work well in all conditions for a variety of surf style disciplines. We have many riders that prefer the outline and benefits of these shapes for everything from flat water freestyle tricks to triple overhead carving turns down a mountain of saltwater and just about everything in between. The bottom contour design combined with a parallel rail outline allow the boards to plane and increase upwind performance more so than a traditional outline. This is due to a progressive shaping approach that Daniel came up with on his innovative double inside single concave into a quad concave channel bottom that can be found on the Evo which directs water in a way that creates lift and reduces areas of pressure (resistance). The Evo provides a feeling that it’s levitating on the water’s surface and we’ve found it to work exceptionally well at both light and heavy wind speeds. Heavier riders have a way to get out on the water on lighter wind days where it simply wasn’t possible with the rocker found in most traditional shaped boards in light wind conditions.
The Vader and Vanguard utilize similar design concepts to create lift and each has their own positive attributes. All three of the boards carry a parallel outline which work well to catch the wind under the board due to the extra surface area when performing freestyle tricks. Because the shapes are ridden much smaller than traditional boards they fit into the wave face differently and are beneficial in areas with river surf or for attacking waves in a new way.
RIDERS OFTEN CAN’T BELIEVE THAT THE SHORTER LENGTH OF BLUNT-NOSED SHAPED BOARDS WILL GET THEM PLANING AND RIDING. WHILE FIREWIRE HAS SET A BENCHMARK FOR RIDERS WHEN CHOOSING THEIR EVERYDAY BOARD FOR THEIR TYPICAL CONDITIONS, HOW SHOULD A RIDER GO ABOUT CHOOSING A LIGHT WIND BOARD MODEL?
With their significantly shorter length and parallel broad outline the Tomo modern planing hull shapes can be tough to understand how to approach when sizing your board. We like to use 185lb/84kg as a general guideline for board sizing. The key with these designs is to not oversize them and it’s often hard for people to wrap their head around riding such a small board when coming from a traditional shape. When properly sized, the boards are fantastic and allow you to control them with minimal rider input. They provide a very responsive and fun almost skateboard feel but still offer plenty of stability and predictability. If you ride them too big for your weight then it can become harder to sink the rail or turn as quickly. The performance is very good even when oversized but it’s often not until a skeptical rider tries the next size down that it really clicks. For a rider 185lb/84kg and under, the Vader 4’10’ or 5’1” is great. Over that weight, the 5’3” or 5’5” works better. In the Evo, the board produces a ton of float and a rider at the 185lb/84kg mark and under can ride a 4’10” or 5’1” again. When rider weight is over the 185lb/84kg size the Evo 5’3” feels like a much bigger board and supports rides upwards of 250lb/113kg. When considering board size, you also should take conditions into account. If you typically ride in high winds, go a little shorter; while in lighter winds, a little longer. The exception to this is the Evo where even if you’re riding it on the small size it still produces enough lift that riders on the top-end of the recommended weight range could still get away with a smaller size for light wind days. We have a number of riders over 200 pounds that swear by the 5’1” Evo. THE VANGUARD IS FIREWIRE’S ORIGINAL BLUNT-NOSED BOARD, FOLLOWED BY THE VADER AND EVO. WHAT CONDITIONS AND TYPE OF RIDER IS EACH MODEL BEST SUITED FOR?
For years the Vanguard has been our flagship model and it was the pioneer that introduced the modern planing hull shape to the world. Many people have found value in the design and it changed the way kiting, as well as surfing, viewed the possibility of what a great kiteboard could be. The Vanguard likes to be ridden off the back foot with foot placement very far back (about 1” forward of the leash plug) on the tail pad. While the Vanguard is still an excellent board, we continued to progress the concept with the Vader which maintains the same speed, lift and maneuverability, yet is outstanding in the pocket and a better choice when you want to go more vertical in waves. The Vader will release when carving off the top a bit easier than the Vanguard and really hooks when you want it to and it also likes rear foot input. The Evo has one of the most complex bottom designs with its double inside single concave into a split quad concave. The Evo shines more as an all-around board, creating the most lift of the three (upwind capability) and has that unique levitating feeling as if it’s hovering over the water. The Evo is also the most stable and easy to adapt to as its wider outline and more full shape is forgiving and allows a larger ‘sweet spot’ on the board. The Evo responds well for heavy front or rear-footed riders and is very well balanced. If freestyle aerial tricks are your passion then this board is simply incredible; its wider outline grabs the wind allowing for a much higher probability of successful landings when performing tricks. The Evo also possesses a very smooth feeling when carving turns and changing direction.
Firewire offers dozens of different shapes in a large array of sizes in our surfboard offerings. We typically don’t recommend using these for kiting and that riders stick to our kite-specific models that have been engineered to handle the extra loads and stress that kiting places on a board. We select shapes from our standard surfboard lineup that work really well for kiting. That’s why the Tomo shapes have been so popular for kiting as they provide all the benefits of traditional boards but with the bottom hull design that allows for better upwind capability than most of our other surf construction models. We do have some customers that like to ride the non-kiting versions of our boards, however they aren’t jumping or pushing the boards hard. These riders often come from a strong surf background where they want to surf and kite the same model.
Some of the boards from the surf side that we see people gravitating towards are the Slater Designs Omni and Sci-Fi—two very different feeling boards with the Omni being more down the line and the Sci-Fi a pocket performer. The Pyzel Amigo and Pyzalien are both strong all-around shapes that mimic a more traditional outline and standard shape. And the new Tomo SKX is a mix of traditional outline with a quad inside single concave bottom that works well in many conditions. The Sweet Potato is another one of our older models that has a strong light wind rider following. While you can custom order older models we simply can’t support building every shape and size in kite-specific construction—we try to provide our consumers with what we believe are the best boards for kiting with the Vanguard, Vader and Evo in our kite construction.
IS THERE ANYTHING COMING DOWN THE LINE YOU CAN TELL US ABOUT?
Firewire is continuously looking to improve board construction and performance in our surf and kiteboards. We have utilized our Future Shapes Technology for several years and this proven tech has held up great for kiting. Always striving to offer the lightest and strongest boards available and after much trial and error, we are ecstatic to announce our latest advancement in board construction with our new Helium composite design. The new Helium deck skin combined with a redesign of our parabolic wood rails that now includes the use of Balsa and Paulownia wood creates simply one of the lightest and strongest boards on the market. We’ve been testing the Helium build over the past year with our team riders and the results have been outstanding. The boards are significantly lighter than anything we’ve ever offered but are extremely strong and maintain more flex and liveliness than we could do with previous construction designs. Some of the comments from our riders and others regarding Helium construction are a faster, more rapid responsive feel, way more hangtime in the air and noticeably lighter and stronger build. The new Helium aerospace composite deck skin with Balsa and Paulownia wood rails wrapped in Entropy Bio Resin will be offered on all new kiteboards in the upcoming season. For more details regarding Helium construction, our technologies, board shapes, design philosophy, podcasts and more, come visit us on the web at www.firewiresurfboards.com.