Freeline 5-11 GhostBuster2 mini-Simmons
Length: 5' 11"
Dimensions: 18 3/4 X 23 X 19 1/4 X 2 5/8
Fins: RFC Glassed on, fully foiled twins
Rocker: Nose (5.25") (approx.) Tail 1.5" (approx.)
Blank: Marko EPS Foam 6-6 Halibut
Glassing Schedule: Epoxy resin. Deck two 6 oz. e-cloth - Bottom one 6 oz. and one 4 oz. e-cloth. Fins two 4oz./side each fin. Sanded finish.
I was intrigued by the mini-Simmons design after reading the article by Richard Kenvin in the Dec-Jan (2008/09) issue of TSJ. I searched around for more info and found Kenvin's blog and website which made the whole prospect of the mini-Simmons even more interesting and enticing. Finally, I was able to put my eyes and hands on one when Kenvin associate and friend Kirk G. was in my neighborhood on a book promoting tour.
One of the most fun things about surfing is that it is not static. Surfing a wave is an ever changing dance replete with hundreds of adjustments. Change is the essence of surfing. Rigidity and inflexibility will just get you wet. Wave crafts, built for surfing, are the same. Rigidity and inflexibility makes you all wet, boring, stuck in your ways, never changing, stiff and dead to the joys of new life and new worlds to explore. But while all that is waxing full of debatable and dubious philosophical hot air, the reality remained whether or not at 62 years old, I could even surf one standing up. After all, my first board in my home waters over 30 years ago, was a Freeline kneeboard which was longer than the mini-Simmons board I was now contemplating!
Transitions. Could I even stand up surf one of these boards? I needed a new boogie board for the family. Killing two birds with one stone, I opted for a six foot foam "surfboard," thinking, "if I can stand up and surf this narrow, foam six-footer, I can probably surf a six-foot (or less depending upon the overall dimensions) mini-Simmons". Long story short, I had a blast standup surfing the six foot foamie.
But still, was this really going to work well enough to justify a five or six hundred dollar outlay of cash for an interesting but very unconventional (not to mention idiosyncratic) addition to my little quiver? I called up John Mel from Freeline Design who recommends that I contact Christian who just picked up the first generation mini-Simmons out of John's shaping bay. That sealed the deal, but I wanted to make some design changes that were more contiguous with my understanding of the mini-Simmons fundamental design concepts and elements.
John's been shaping boards for me since the early 70's, so of course, he got the call. John's surfboards and surf shop, Freeline Design, are a foundational mainstay of the surfing culture in Santa Cruz CA. An integral part of the surfing community for over 30 years, John is the man...although you'd never know it from his humble demeanor and presence. When it comes to shaping, John knows what works and does not like to let anything get out of his shaping bay that doesn't meet his seal of approval, and that he KNOWS won't work. I, on the other hand, am a bit more of a gambler. In the end though, our collaboration was 100% effective and 110% successful. GhostBuster2 was born.
Over the last 10 years or so I've been in the shaping bay with John for every custom he has shaped for me (at least one or two a year)...but never took pictures. With his permission I documented the entire process for the making of GhostBuster2. I will follow up with a future "The Making of GhostBuster2" blog story at a later date, including glassing, fin installation and the final sanding.
I've had a chance to ride GB2 only three times since I picked it up last week. Twice I had it out in glassy beach break closeouts, and once in reef point break where I really started to get a feel for the board. The adventure is just beginning so it's impossible to entirely evaluate or review the board on it's own merits at this time. But there are a few things I can say in the context of the mini-Simmons design and in comparison with GB1, the first Freeline mini-Simmons I demoed.
The design (as I understand it, envision it and as translated through our collaboration) delivers everything I expected, needed and wanted. Above all it is a fast planing, quick starting stable platform for wave riding with surprising glide and speed for a short board. It is NOT a radical turning machine. It was not designed with that intention or desire, i.e. slashing turns off the top and bottom was NOT what I was looking for. But a 5-11 surfboard has a short radius for turning and this one's not tracky. What I've got is a fast, stable and responsive board that I can easily place on the wave face. This allows the rider to both lose speed and gain it back, by making precise, non-radical changes in direction efficiently and with little effort, moving the board in and out of the power pocket at will. All this is accomplished on a very stable and smooth surfing platform or wavecraft. You can watch an expert surfer do this by observing Kenvin surf the Baugess collaboration mini-Simmons on RK's blog. (There are numerous video clips of RK surfing several types of minis.) There's also a good video piece located in the TSJ website.
Sometimes, I think of GB2 as "60% of a longboard." When you look at the outline, it is easy to imagine the "rest of the board" in an imaginary plan shape. This is a useful analogy in that the GB2 has several foundational characteristics of a longboard. 1) It is easy and fast to paddle. Catching waves is no problem, although head to head with a "real" longboard the GB2 rider is going to have to work a little harder and perhaps take off a bit later. 2) Like a longboard, the GB2 is remarkably stable for a board that measures only 5-11. It is the most stable and unpretentiously functional short surfboard I have ever surfed.
Stability was an extremely important consideration for me. (That's why custom boards rule. You can have them made specifically for YOU: your skills, abilities and physical limitations or lack thereof.) All that width allows me to pop-up with no problem, even though I don't have the flexibility to ride the same size contemporary thruster type chip. The board is very forgiving and allows for the fun and stoke of riding a short board that feels a lot like a skateboard.
The EPS foam blank gave us the option of going thinner (2 5/8" instead of 2 3/4 or 3") on thickness without losing any float or stability. Going thinner also allowed us to increase or maintain maneuverability without having to deal with slowness or a board that would just plod along or bog down. It also eliminated any corkiness that people often complain of with the more air filled styrofoam cores.
Neither John nor I could think of any really good reasons to scoop the deck on such a short board. As I understand it s-decks, step decks, aka scooped decks were originally used on longboards to save weight. Then came the notion that s-decks would work on longboard noseriders to create flex (downward deformation, flattening rocker) that would allow the rider to increase tip time. (For more on that see the current issue of TSJ (Vol. 18 #4), Soundings VI: The Question of Flex, pages 66-67, Renny Yater.) In my research I could find no reason to take away foam on the mini-Simmons, even though it appears to be a design element of the genre. For me having a little bit of additional volume was more important than taking it away, especially since I could find no compelling reason to do so. But the bottom of the board was a different story.
John shaped a small, but clearly defined section of beveled, double barrel concave into GB1. We both agreed that more was needed in GB2 so he added a perfectly placed section of double barrel concave with vee out the back which enhances lift, speed and maneuverability. The double concave with bevel isn't anything new. John likes many of Steve Walden's boards and ideas. For a quick video overview and partial history of this design element check this video.
Rocker was important in that a short board without much rocker will be fast, but tough to turn, wanting to track in a straight line. Too much rocker will take away from an element that was primary to me, i.e. speed. Because turning wasn't my highest priority we went with flatter than not. But I wanted enough rocker in the nose so that I wasn't burying it on steep take-offs which would be easy to do with such a wide tail with so much float.
I liked the fin set-up on GB1 but was looking for fins that were more aesthetically tasteful and a bit more eco-friendly. I opted for a set of the fully foiled, bamboo RFC twin fins. We both thought that this fin shape, foil and configuration would provide the necessary drive and release that would enhance the boards surf-ability.
Finally, I added a half board length sheet of clear grip non-skid deck covering to provide better traction and adhesion for cold water barefoot surfing. I'd rather surf barefoot but when the water is cold, for some reason my feet too easily slip off a normally waxed surface. Rather than add SUP-like traction padding, or a conventional shortboard traction pad, I opted for waxing the clear grip. This does in fact add to the adhesive quality of the surface and the wax does not rub off the surface of the clear grip as easily as the plastic surface of the deck.
So now I think I have a very well rounded (albeit unconventional bordering on the weird) three-board quiver that should be a complete "all season" equipment cache for surfing any kind of waves that might come my way, and which I should choose to surf. 1) The 10' Custom Angulo SUP 2) The 6-10 Custom Ward Coffey Power Biscuit 3) The Custom Freeline 5-11 GhostBuster2 mini-Simmons. How do you spell e-c-l-e-c-t-i-c?
Postscript: John has a longer GhostBuster in the shop available for demo if you're interested in trying one out.