Firewire has some of the most experienced shapers and surfers alike designing and producing their boards. Legends like Daniel “Tomo” Thomson, Dan Mann, Kelly Slater, and Rob Machado all have created quivers using Firewire board technology. As the originator of the “Tomo” blunt-nosed surfboard concept, Firewire’s Brian Friedmann explains what makes Firewire boards stand apart from the competition, what’s in development and Firewire’s impressive environmental initiatives and company practices.
FIREWIRE INTRODUCED HELIUM CONSTRUCTION TO THE BOARD LINE IN 2018. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS NEW COMPOSITE, WHAT HAS BEEN THE FEEDBACK AND IS THIS THE ONLY CONSTRUCTION NOW OFFERED BY THE BRAND?
Our Helium construction was developed over multiple years of testing and R&D. It’s the lightest and strongest build we’ve made to date for our kiteboard lineup and was found to be superior to our prior kiteboard FST construction. Utilizing an ultralight EPS core wrapped in aerospace composite deckskin with integrated balsa/paulownia wood rails, Firewire’s Helium build surpasses traditional PU surfboard longevity and is one of the most durable boards on the market today. When coupled with Tomo’s advanced board designs, Helium construction from Firewire allows for a much livelier feel by producing the right flex characteristics and response which have made our Tomo models a go-to board for strapless surf style riders. The lighter weight of our Helium build offers more hangtime and riders benefit from a higher success rate on completing aerial transitions and freestyle tricks. Every customer will appreciate the new construction’s lifespan allowing their Helium boards to last much longer with fewer issues such as dings or heel dents than other types of board construction. The feedback we’ve received is that these boards are light, really light, exceptionally strong and have a very responsive feel. One other note regarding our Helium kiteboard construction is that Firewire is one of the largest surfboard producers on the planet and we have standard surfboard shapes in addition to our kiteboard lineup. While we strongly recommend people who are kiting on our boards select the kite specific models (Evo, Vader and Vanguard), there are some riders who prefer one of our standard surf shapes. These shapes are built lighter with less reinforcement than our kiteboard construction but are an option for someone looking to surf and kite their board who won’t be jumping or riding hard when kiting.
HOW DO YOU STEER RIDERS IN CHOOSING THE FIREWIRE MODEL AND SIZE THAT WILL BEST WORK FOR THEIR CONDITIONS AND SKILL LEVEL? HOW CAN RIDERS BEST MATCH FINS TO THEIR BOARD CHOICE?
We typically use 185lbs or 84kg rider size combined with wind velocity as a benchmark for providing the proper size board to a rider. In general, if you’re under 185lb/84kg the Evo 4’10”/5’1”, Vader 4’10”/5’1” or Vanguard 5’0”/5’2” are the more appropriate choices. Riders over the 185lbs/84kg mark would go with the larger sizes in these models. In all cases, it’s good to take into account the type of conditions you’re riding in at your local spot. For windier locations, you can scale down on the sizes and for lighter conditions scale up. For example, a 185lb rider at a spot averaging above 20 knots would be fine with an Evo 4’10”. It comes down to personal preference. It’s more important to take volume and board design into account than the length of the board when looking at Tomo models and we often find people moving to smaller lengths eventually. The combination of board outline, bottom contour, flex, construction and weight allows you to stay upwind with much smaller sized boards. Many larger riders are out on light days that simply wouldn’t be possible with their previous boards and smaller riders have reduced their kite quivers to just two kites in single-digit sizes.
Regarding fins, this is another personal preference but in general, the Tomo designs create so much lift you don’t need to use a large fin size to create more drive and speed for the boards. Small and medium-sized riders can typically use small-sized fins. Larger riders throwing more weight into their turns will do well with larger fins to help control the refined outline of the Tomo kiteboards. Another personal preference is fin construction. Standard thermotech fins can work for the budget-conscious. Carbon construction lends itself well to the extra force that kiting can place on a fin. Speed is less of an issue since that can be obtained easily by the kite and fins that allow for more control benefit the rider. Firewire has worked with both Futures and FCS to produce a well-balanced Firewire-branded medium fin template that provides control and flow for the Tomo kiteboards and other high performance models. Aside from that, Futures fins TechFlex construction (John John Florence, EA or Merrick II’s) and Control Series (F4, EA or Pzel’s) work well for kiting and have fewer issues such as splintering that can happen with a honeycomb constructed fin. In the FCS II’s, the FCS II PC Carbon construction (Accelerator, Carver and Ben Wilson models) are targeted for kitesurfing where control is beneficial and speed is less of a requirement. Again, fin selection can be a very personal decision and the right fin can make or break your ride. There are tons of fins out there to choose from so experiment a bit, try a buddy’s fins or talk to others at your local spot about what’s working for them.
FIREWIRE NOW HAS A NEW DISTRIBUTION MODEL FOR ITS KITEBOARDS. WHAT PREDICATED THIS CHANGE?
Firewire is consistently looking for ways to improve and we feel by consolidating our partnerships for our US sales through two kiting epicenters, Real Watersports on the East Coast and Big Winds on the West Coast, our customers ultimately benefit. These businesses maintain larger inventories of boards, can ship throughout the US at reasonable rates, often have discounts on boards or accessory packages and provide excellent customer support. At the same time, our European distribution has been completely revamped to get more products to more countries with fewer hassles at a competitive price.
ARE ANY NEW SHAPES IN DEVELOPMENT?
We are constantly looking at new designs for kiteboarding and are anticipating some new shapes later in 2020. Our Tomo designs have the right makeup for the unique demands of kiting such as upwind performance, fast response, and higher speeds, and we are working on another Tomo board to be released. After collecting a lot of rider feedback we also are working on a more traditional pointed-nose-style board that maintains all of the features and performance our customers have come to expect. Keep an eye out on our website for more information about new kite models for 2020.
FIREWIRE HAS A STRONG COMMITMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PRACTICES THE COMPANY HAS IMPLEMENTED TO SUPPORT THIS INITIATIVE?
Every product we develop at Firewire is created with one goal in mind—to improve the surfing experience while impacting the environment as little as possible. Our products deliver on that goal with items like our Bloom foam Slater Designs and Firewire traction pads which use algae from waterways at risk of toxic algae blooms as a key component for the pad foam. The creation of each traction pad removes harmful algae and returns 28 gallons of clean water to the source. Additionally, by not building our traction pads from petroleum-based products we reduce 22 balloons worth of CO2 (per pad) from entering the atmosphere. Our traction pads won’t break down over time and won’t get heavy when wet like many other pads on the market today. Our front traction pad is fantastic for forward traction on your board, allowing your feet to stick like glue without wax while keeping the overall board weight much lower than a full-length pad. Our leashes have a lower carbon footprint of 80% when compared to a traditional leash by using plastic bottles and partially recycled urethane and Yulex. Firewire also turns excess EPS foam dust which would typically be thrown in the trash into recycled paving stones that are used at facilities like the Surf Ranch, for our partners and community projects. We’ve qualified 100% of our surfboard production and met either Level One or Gold Level ECOBOARD certification verified by SustainableSurf.Org who audits our factory manufacturing process and materials annually. At Firewire, we believe that we should do everything possible to reduce impacts on the environment today to ensure the livelihood of our oceans and planet tomorrow.