A new 2018 range of whips from those gents at Fourth Surfboards have just dropped on the MSW Store (see HERE) - and this may just be the most eclectic set of foam they've delivered yet, featuring a whole dynamic of different set ups for any ability level.
And that's not a phrase we say lightly. But after adding a few new shapes to the range, including the Weekend Rockstar, the Fivenine, a revamped Shank (MSW HQ fave) and even a twinnie, there's bound to be something for the most experienced of rippers, down to those wanting to test the water on a shape with a little less foam under feet.
We checked in with head shaper Luke Hart to talk about the new range, the inspiration behind those shapes and placing the right board for the right shaper – from novice to pro. Dig in.
MSW: First up, there seems to have been one of the biggest shifts to Fourth’s lineups in the past few years – what’s the vibe in the factory and the reasons for the shake up?
Luke Hart: It's really about getting surfers on the right board and having a very clear message about that. Our range is really well thought out, from top to bottom, to offer something for everyone, based on our board shaping style and design ethos.
We went through everything - custom sales, team requests, gaps we may have had previously and even blurred lines between models we really liked.
We came to the conclusion that we have to offer a story board of shapes through waves, aspirations and ability levels of surfers
We came to the conclusion that we have to offer a story board of shapes through waves, aspirations and ability levels of surfers. Every little detail from fin set up to volume to flex; it's all been done to create a range we totally believe in, to offer something for everyone that can fit their need for the perfect board.
We can also customise every little detail from design, to weight, to flex to volume to fin set up – in order to get it right if stock options aren't quite perfect. I cant tell you how proud of this range I am. It is everything I wanted it to be. This isn't the quick sale to jump on with a shaping trend.... it's so much more than that.
Who’s been testing the boards and where? It’s ok to head out to Indo and score a few barrels but how’re they going in 2-3ft sloppy Fistral?
Well we've had all the team on the boards but everyone has their unique little inputs, which really is invaluable. Also what we do, and something I think is overlooked in the industry, is work with all levels of surfers on this new range.
From factory staff to local legends, we built this range as a base for everyone. I've actually learned a lot about myself as a surfer from it. Being honest about who I am as a surfer and what I want from my boards has really helped hone the hybrids and sizing options for these boards.
Equally, getting pros on the same boards gives you a clear understanding of their respective limitations so we can then relay that honestly with our customers. So, in short, the right boards in our range go in sloppy fistral.
My pick is the weekend rockstar flexlite for 2-3ft Fistrall. I've been using it as a performance board and it is ridiculous at keeping the speed through dogdy wave picks and badly timed surfs between banks.
What sort of feedback are you getting?
Well, it's been amazing. During 2017 we were working on what this range will end up like and the feedback along the process has been brutally honest and eye-opening.
We tried tonnes of different stuff. I loved the whole experience to be honest. It's really been a huge team of people that have moulded the range and, without their feedback, these boards wouldn't have been as good as they are.
The feedback has been just so overwhelming
Then, since testing the new range, the feedback has been just so overwhelming, we have really hit the ground running with it. People are loving the boards and the range of options and we have a lot of confidence in what to advise any surfer based on the options available - so it almost feels easy when helping people to the right board.
But it’s not just new models on the roster, MSW HQ fave the Shank’s had an upgrade, talk us through what’s going on here?
Well, it's about the best all-rounder we have ever done, we did so many on custom last year and the team are all still on it as well.
The one thing we wanted to work on was the drive it had when the waves were good. It had lift and speed, due to the single concaves, but could get a little drifty when it pumped given that it is slightly forgiving.
So Barter's [shaper Lee Bartlett] started working with channels on the Shank in early 2016, just to give it some grind. It's brought out an extra dimension when you put the board on rail at speed.
The curves of the outline contradicts the cut of the channels so nicely, you end up with a really smooth rail-to-rail transition board - even with the extra foam through the deck and extra width through the template, the channels just essentially make it easier to surf. Or easier to trust would be a better way of looking at it. I mean, even I love the shank and I never surf shortboards [laughs].
Talk us through the three new models, Weekend Rockstar, Fivenine and ET Fresh? What’s the inspiration behind them and what kind of waves are they built for?
Ok, the Weekend Rockstar - this is a performance bullet-shaped fish, so speed is never gonna be an issue. It really shines in waves that are flatter or weaker, it is a bit of an all-rounder. It holds a pretty high line, but is actually super sensitive when you get it on rail, a solid option for your 'everyday' surfer and a super, easy-going performer for those with a bit more experience. The airs and carves the team are doing on it in shitty waves kind of show you what it is all about.
The fivenine is Oli Adams' baby. A little bit of story here, it all started when he asked for a 5'9” to be up scaled to a 5'11” - he loved the feel of it but wanted an extension of the rail line, so he could use it as a shortboard in weaker waves. So, after a few attempts, we got it right and started giving it to other team riders to have a wiggle on. And the feedback was the same - it became a Cornish shortboard, essentially
It doesn't feel like a groveller, you know? It feels like a forgiving shortboard. The emphasis is on surfing it on rail - like a proper shortboard - but the extra foam, more board engaged through the middle and extra lift in the tail, means it can tackle flatter waves. For the factory staff, it's been a go-to shortboard, and for the team, it's been a weaker wave shortboard with the added trust on rail so you can get away with it in better surf.
Then, there's the ET Fresh - this is the shortboard template we have been working on for good waves. It is Ellie Turner's file that has really been utilised and it's kind of a testament to her as a surfer that all the other team use it too.
It is a proper shortboard, not built for anything other than performance surfing. One thing I realised with this board is that it isn't so much the waves, but the approach to waves that you are designing for. It's not a forgiving board by an average surfer's standard, so I wouldn't recommend surfing it in weaker waves.Bbut if you are of a competent level and you want something you can push and depend on, then it's worked out to be a competition winning template.
I think those looking to progress onto a shortboard, it’s going to be a choice between the Chilli Bean, Doofer, Weekend Rockstar and the Reload 2.0, what are some of the differences here?
Chilli Bean is the easiest board in our range to improve on. It is stable, forgiving and easy to catch waves on. The Reload then comes into play if you are pushing your rail work further as it adds more off-the-tail mobility and a little more sensitivity -while still being a wave magnet.
The Doofer is what it has always been, an all-rounder that seems to defy the odds when it comes to ability levels and wave style. But I would always advise people to go for it once they are comfortable with their ability in waves up to head-and-a-half high.
The Weekend Rockstar is a performance fish that is exciting to ride, very fast and extremely agile. You don't have to be a good surfer to really love this board but you do have to have some experience to really appreciate how much easier it can make your life. So for me it's an obvious choice, depending on exactly where you are at.
The Charge has been revamped as well, what’s new in the 2.0 for those looking to tackle meatier, heavier waves?
Refinements. It's more of a step-up performer now. If there is one thing I really took from the team when working on the Charge is that length on this kind of board should never be something to be scared of.
It's better to go longer and have something easy to control than it is to have something packed with volume and shorter, in the attempt to make it fast and surf that critical line. The critical line should be chosen by the surfer, not dictated by your equipment.
This is down to the speed of the wave and the flattening of the curves as waves get more powerful. The guys never go too small on these types of boards, they would much rather go too big. So we have taken that on board and started to refine to the bigger versions in order to give them sensitivity when they are going really fast.
We obviously always have performance at our core, that's what we are as a brand and what we are known for
This gives them confidence when picking the entry point to the wave and the ability to make slight adjustments in critical parts of the wave, instead of just surviving the wave, they are surfing the wave. This is exactly the same for lesser ability surfers - to get as deep as possible. Put simply; 8ft Fistral... what would you feel more comfortable on? A 6'2” or a 6'6? OK, great, now let's make that 6'6” easy to control, so you feel more confident in bigger waves... that's the new charge.
The Doofer’s been a Fourth staple for some time, what makes it so popular?
It's just so flipping good for so many waves and so many surfers. Now, we have it in different tech options, it's just opened the possibilities even further. ESE tech Doofer at my local when it's pumping is my idea of heaven. I can catch anything I want and surf it with total control, my ability being the only hindrance. [laughs].
What are you riding right now?
Weekend Rockstar ESE - makes me feel like I can surf better than I can. FX1 Chilli Bean, I've been using the 6'0” in weaker waves and been really enjoying the constant flow I have, even though on paper the 6'0 is a little big for me - it just seems to be working. And obviously I always have the trusty old faithful Doofer, and I'm not ashamed to say I have it in three tech options [laughs].
Can you talk us through the different tech options, what’s the difference between them all and what are their strengths?
Well it's a big deal for us to offer four different technologies across our range. I honesty don't think any other brand in the world can offer the diversity we can with the tech and models we are offering.
It makes me really proud to be a part of it. We obviously always have performance at our core, that's what we are as a brand and what we are known for. Optimum performance is personal, however. Everyone can be at their best with the right equipment. Having four different tech types gives everyone the options they need in order to get the perfect board under their feet. This starts with (in terms of construction) weight, flex, response, and then filters down to diversity, longevity, and finally, budget.
Base construction is our version of the industry standard, everyone knows it and loves it. It is home. ESE gives you the performance edge in terms of flex and weight.
Flexlite is a step up in performance from ESE that also offers diversity, being hybrid foam, it is better as a complete all-round option. and F1X is a performance option that lends itself to longevity.
Summer’s creeping up, what would you recommend as a decent two-board summer quiver?
Tricky one. For a bit of diversity, I think an ESE Fivenine for the better days and a Flexlite Weekend Rockstar for the weaker days would be a great little performance mix up.
Like what you see? Shop all the range by going right HERE.