The movie “Endless Summer”, directed by Bruce Brown, made our hero and a great surfer a celebrity – Robert Augustus.
This classic surf-film was released in 1964 when Robert was young and pursued an acting career.
The movie was one of the first works that reflected the reality of the sport and showed real surfers and the surfing process.
In 1966, Augustus was attracted by the idea to create new forms for surfboards, and after 8 years he had already opened his store for surfers. Later, he noticed that his assortment consists mainly of shortboards.
This prompted Robert to join the return of the longboards which he actively engaged in in the 1990s.
SurfScience talked with Robert about the history, development, and prospects of surfing.
SS: What is your contribution to the creation of surfboards and what does it mean for you to create a new form?
Robert August: Everyone who has ever been fond of the sport is interested in what is needed to create his main equipment and helper on the water. The shaping of the surfboard is the most creative part of manufacturing.
How the surfer feels on the ride, how fast he will go and how easy it will be for the surfer to maneuver depends on the shape of his surfboard.
You can learn to glaze the surfboard to acquire a shape but it does not mean that you create a new surfboard. But the most interesting thing for a surfer is to create a board that he will use.
Real quality manufacturers never get bored and are constantly engaged in the development and search for suitable and brand-new forms.
They do different things to create something attractive for surfers all the time and therefore get interesting results.
There are several key factors that all surfboard makers seek to improve when they create their boards. Each surfer strives for two criteria: the necessary speed and ability to maneuver.
There are times when a surfer needs to slow down but sometimes the speed should be maximized. At the same time, the surfer needs to catch a good wave.
It all depends on the shape of the surfboard used. The key characteristics of the form to create are thickness, width, and rocker responsible for the balance.
To create a great surfboard, remember that a rocker requires special attention.
If you make the surfboard flat, it will go very quickly through the water. Because of it, the difficulty appears in the second criterion: it does not allow a surfer to make quick turns and contractions, and that reduces maneuverability.
High-performance surfboards have super rockers. Such surfboards lose their ability to develop high speed, as they work with a large volume of water, but they make it easier for surfers to turn increasing maneuverability.
Manufacturers and designers always face such a question when they create a surfboard.
My surfboard is different because there is the middle ground between these two criteria. Surfers try to paddle as well as possible and, if surfers find themselves in the right place, they can even catch a good wave.
In this case, the surfer will get the maximum speed. The surfer also seeks to ride as fast as possible but, at the same time, he wants to move on to the next section as soon as possible, reducing the ride in the previous one.
It is the most interesting thing about surfing. These two criteria manufacturers are striving for to create the most maneuverable surfboard are what all athletes in the field are striving for simultaneously.
To create great surfboards, shapers should also pay attention to the volume of a surfer and his experience in riding.
They must cope with the different weight and height of the surfers. In any case, you should give the surfer the opportunity to swim smoothly and stably as well as to create a chance for him to catch the wave.
In addition, the manufacturer must provide the surfer with the ability to perform maneuvers. It’s great if your client is able to catch the wave but sooner or later he will want to make a turn and get another wave.
To create forms for surfboards is a very exciting process. Some shapers create one type of surfboard but I prefer variety.
My surfboards vary in length (from 5 to 12 feet). The peculiarity of my work is to fulfill the wishes of all the surfers.
It is very important to be able to hear and understand what the surfer wants so that he becomes the happiest surfer on the beaches of California.
If we come to the consensus, the surfer gets his surfboard already glazed and goes happily to catch the waves.
There is nothing better and more exciting for a surfer than buying a new surfboard. You first apply wax to it.
Since then, the surfboard has begun to create special unique features. This is the first time you start paddling and catching waves on it.
There is nothing better than finally finding the very surfboard that was in your fantasies. This is an incredible joy.
SS: You could find a certain balance between speed and maneuverability. Is this what made you so successful in your field?
RA: I try to create surfboards with the perfect combination of speed, buoyancy, and the ability to make perfect maneuvers.
A successful combination of these characteristics makes an ordinary board the best one for the surfer.
If you are an owner of only one surfboard, you should carefully approach the capture of various types of waves.
For example, you have an 8-foot surfboard and, in general, you can accumulate strength and take a wave since it is quite possible. But if you were on the water at high tide, it would be better to go on a cruise and climb onto the nose of the thing.
SS: What do you think of modern production? Some believe that the development of design in the surfing industry is moving very slowly and it is difficult to create something new. How do you contribute to the progress in the ability to create new forms?
RA: A very big contribution to the development in the production of surfboards is made by surfers themselves. Now, surfers are improving their skills faster and reaching greater heights than 25 years ago.
Therefore, we, manufacturers and designers, cannot keep up with those surfers.
Many surfers finish the professional activity and begin to create surfboards themselves as they know better than others what surfboard they would need to create.
If the surfboard the surfers create does not rotate fast enough, they can solve this problem. Perhaps, the surfers will simply add speed and power to balance the combinations.
Sometimes, progress keeps pace with the fact of how skillful the surfer is. And as a manufacturer, later I will get to this surfboard and say that the design is good enough to create but it would go better if I had a hand in it to create some new features.
To create any of your own characteristics to create the new design or improve it, you must be sure that the consequences will be positive.
If the shaper who creates it knows the industry well, he will agree that the result is much better than he has originally intended.
It means that you have improved not only the surfboard but also its surfing style to create the more perfect performance.
Being a producer and shaper to create a new form is a very big responsibility.
I know designers who say they won’t create a certain shape of the surfboard because the surfer is already riding what he has produced.
Such shapers believe that there is nothing more to create because they have already made the best surfboard for the surfer.
I’m not sure whether to be a designer is actually my job.
Each individual surfer does the sport in his own way. Personal preferences make surfing diverse and exciting.
SS: What can you say to those people who are looking for the right and suitable surfboard for themselves?
RA: The best thing that has happened in the history of surfing is the acquisition of diversity in surfboards which now can be found in many different forms.
Before you go to buy a surfboard or ask a shape to create it, you need to imagine clearly what you need.
First, you should try to ride one type of surfboard. Then, you need to ride on a few surfboards of your friends.
When choosing what kind of surfboard to create, the surfer has to focus on the difficulties that he encounters while riding.
If in the future the surfer wants to work on a specific task or type of rotation, he should consider it when choosing a new surfboard. The right board will help you solve the problem.
In any case, try a lot of surfboards, create a priority, and then decide in which direction you would like to develop on the waves.
SS: What misconceptions do you face most often when you try to create something new?
RA: Sometimes, when I create a surfboard, I get the thought that it may be interesting to create the solution but in practice, it may not work correctly. This is an artistic vision of the product you want to create.
We have no rules that should be followed when we create and produce the boards. There is no single version of how to create a surfboard.
The main thing is to create a quality shape. Yes, I do my business professionally but various manufacturers create the product in a different way.
Thus, I cannot assume that the surfboards that Bill Stewart creates are worse than mine simply because they are different.
There are some things I consider unfinished or unsuccessful when I create something. They have nothing to do with how the surfboard should move.
Recently, the tails in the board started to be made square while the rails preserve their ordinary shape.
Obviously, this move was not thought out. The shaper expected to create a sharp edge in the tail zone.
After covering the upper and lower parts with hot material, these have still remained round. In this case, the rails are longer by a centimeter but they aren’t square.
It looks like someone was too lazy to create a new version by polishing the tail which would give the surfboard an advantage.
In surfing, you will not find the rules of conduct on the water. You go out onto the water, stand on the surfboard and begin to balance so as not to fall off.
The surfer who enjoys more than the others wins.
These people may turn out to be random surfers but when coming ashore they will already be different personalities with passion in their eyes. Such a surfer will remember this triumph all his life.
You may notice that the surfer is not very good at what he creates but he wins only because of his patience and resourcefulness.
Styling is a hallmark of surfing. Surfers are free to do it as they wish if it brings pleasure and success.
SS: What do you plan to do in your production in the future?
RA: My company does so many things. Our main goal is to give surfers happiness.
So far, I do not plan revolutions in the industry. I have no thoughts on how to create a new form or a new production process that would change the position of surfing in the world.
You never know where this sport will turn because surfers are very professional nowadays.
When you think that it could not be improved anymore, a new surfer comes who beats the previous one.
In a few years, new surfers will appear and we will admire them and wonder how these surfers manage to drive like that.
And it will be a great time.