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Posted November 23, 2009
I gotta admit right off the bat - the closest I've ever come to surfing was on a $10 foam boogie board at Coquina Beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I live in the land-locked state of Pennsylvania and trips to the beach are few and far between. But when author Bob Smith asked me to review his book The Basics of Surfboard Design, he said, "I'm always interested in how well it communicates, so I can improve." Bob, himself, is a pioneer in the surfing community having been "at the forefront of the short-board revolution in Hawaii during the late '60s" with examples of his surfboards appearing on the December 1968 cover of Master of Surf Photography: Art Brewer.
What I like about Bob's approach is that he debunks many "established" truths that I think would be of interest to surfers, such as:
#1: Many surfers have a lack of interest about how and why a surfboard works.
#2: Surfers ride shorter boards than necessary because shortening the board helps make up for an inferior design.
#3: How many fins should a surfboard have? Ask instead - Where should the fin(s) be placed?
#4: Adding a fin will not increase thrust - it will in fact increase drag, slowing the board.
#5: A vertical fin is more stable and more powerful (size for size) than a swept fin.
#6: To get a good bottom, it is necessary to wet sand the surface with progressively finer paper.
#7: The pointy ends on surfboards should all be cut off - they serve no useful function.
#8: Make sure to tell a shaper: (A) what board you're currently riding (B) what you like & dislike about it (C) your favorite surf spot and (D) what size of waves you like to ride.
Overall, the book is primarily for those who are heavily into surfing and wish to have a custom-designed surfboard. The book is mainly text accompanied by rudimentary drawings. Professional artwork would have more fully illustrated the concepts for better comprehension.
I wish Bob had included photos of surfboards that he designed and comments from surfers who use them. Attributed quotes from those who utilize Bob's knowledge in the field would also have added credibility to his theories.