One of the most important parts of the design cycle is evaluating the final product: does it meet the original design brief and how well does it work? Could we possibly do anything to improve it further? Because it invariably involves spending some time catching waves the evaluation our products is one of our favourite parts of the process, but we also find it immeasurably valuable when our designs are tested by independent, skilled and committed wave-riders.
We first met Leigh three years ago at the World Bellyboard Championships. He is a dedicated bodysurfer (and occasional paipo rider) and he joined us to put on a demonstration of bodysurfing using handplanes amidst the four foot high tide wedges. We were wearing wetsuits whilst Leigh was swimming around in a pair of leopard-print speedos as part of his “fancy dress” for the event, and yet his infectious enthusiasm for bodysurfing resulted in him staying in the sea for about four hours longer than us on that overcast Sunday in September. Therefore, when it came time to test out our two new handplane shapes (and following them, our refined rocker curve), we got in touch with Leigh and asked if we could send a range of prototypes to South Wales for him to test out and review. Below you’ll find Leigh’s feedback on each variation of our two new bodysurfing handplane models, the “Bob” and the “Pebble”, and then a hot-off-the-press review of his favourite (the “Pebble”) with our new and improved rocker curve. We hope that you find his feedback as interesting and useful as we did.
“Well some swell finally hit and it was a good swell too! I managed to get your designs out in some punchy waves and what more can I say other than that I have been riding handboards/planes for over 21 years, have had them made from me or have bought them everywhere I saw them, from California to Australia and mate I have honestly not ridden a better board. As simplistic as these little boards seem I have had all sorts of designs in the past – some work, some don’t, some look good,other are ugly and plastic – it’s a rare thing to get both so double well done!”
Handplane #1: The Pebble (strap)
Both convex down the length and slightly concave width ways. I found this plane to be loose and extremely fast. Though the waves were punchy, I feel this board would go better in bigger surf where the drop in is critical.
Handplane #2: The Bob (strap)
Short with square tail, large concave channel 3/4 of the board length. Again, a fast board that bit hard into the wave face giving it loads of control, enough for me to pull off a barrel roll (sadly no pic). I also got a few good long barrel rides on this board and had so much speed that I actually out ran the white water after one pinched shut on me and I got back into the wave.
Handplane #3: The Bob (hand-hole)
Again a short board with a square tail. This board has a slight concave for the length of it and a deeper channel for 2/3 overall length. As you can see from the pic this board had huge lift and kept providing lift (which equals speed) no matter how much pressure I applied. The board just lifted me higher and also had awesome control. I did a massive bottom turn on this wave and tucked straight back into the barrel.
Handplane #4: The Pebble (hand-hole)
A pin-tail board, reasonably long for a handplane with full length concave – more so than Board 1. Well, I seem to have saved the best until last! This board seemed to have everything: lift, speed and some loose qualities without sacrificing control. I do admittedly prefer the hand hole than the strap, so I rode this board as the tide got higher and the waves bigger as the beach gets steeper. I put a huge amount of pressure on this board, taking off late in the barrels (shown) and still flying out with enough speed to make it.
Following his amazingly comprehensive assessments we recently sent Leigh the latest refinement, a Pebble (hand-hole) with a new rocker curve, to ask his opinion on it:
“Well you said it was designed for the later take off, so take off late I did and to make it more interesting I took off over some shallow rock! The new Pebble gives great lift, control and awesome down the line speed, allowing me to make it out of the barrel. Awesome! Two of your other boards have just got to Bali so will be getting put through their paces in some Indonesian surf.”
We can’t thank Leigh enough for putting our latest bodysurfing handplanes through their paces. Having a commited bodysurfer as experienced as Leigh provide constructive feedback allows us to continue to refine our designs and produce the best product possible. We would also like to thank VixenPix for capturing such great images to accompany his reviews.