Behind the design Surfboards D/LAB

Welcome to behind the design, today we catch up with Sky Solbach about the newly released Duotone D/Lab surfboard range.

Hear the Full interview

Hear the Full interview

Welcome Sky, tell us about what is changed with the new D/Lab construction?

This is a brand new construction for 2022, it’s a construction we have been working on for over four years now. We are really excited to now finally be able to launch it for 2022. Last year we introduced our SLS construction which has been really successful for us for warranties when compared to the previous pro constructions, so it's proven itself in terms of construction that feels much better in terms of flex and liveliness and it's also been a durable board too. The D/Lab is the next evolution in surfboard construction. What makes the SLS construction really magic is the Innegra cloth, we can make the board lighter more durable and have better dampening and flex, the D/Lab takes it to the next level.

The main difference between the D lab and the SLS construction is that instead of using a cork shock absorber is we are using an RMF shock absorber on the D/Lab. RMF stands for Reflex Memory Foam, the raw material almost feels like EVA foam, but you can sort of see some beads in the foam. The big improvement with the RMF is its memory properties, it springs back to its original shape over and over. You can't compact it and it always returns to its original shape and it returns to that original shape quickly. So unlike some other materials that have some memory that might lose that memory effect and stop returning to its original form the RMF keeps that ability to bounce back and maintain that memory over a long period of time. The result of that is fewer heel dents in your board which you will still get some over time, It's not that it eliminates heel dents, but the heel dents will tend to come back out. It is also about the feel of the material, so when you're riding the board if you ride the D lab surfboards compared to the SLS it has another level of dampening and flex that makes it feel really similar to a brand new PU when it is new and fresh before it loses all its life! This board will give you that feeling over and over, it absorbs the bumps really well and it takes out the high-frequency chattering, it’s really durable and has that magic feel that lasts for a very long time.

On our recent photoshoot with team rider Matchu, he did the weight test and mentioned not feeling a huge difference in weight but when he rode it, he commented on what a difference it made. Does the RMF change the performance of the shapes, is it that the material absorbs less resin that keeps its performance?

Starting with the feedback I’ve been getting from the riders, they have been loving it. I received a really long message from Matchu after his first ride on the board and I recently chatted with Airton and James and they were really freaking out about how good the boards felt. The feedback from those guys is that the boards feel really responsive and lively and the boards are encouraging them to go for bigger moves because the boards absorb the shock so well.

As far as the structural properties of the material concerning resin absorption, that's really interesting, we've been using cork on the SLS and have been really happy with the performance, but cork being a natural material, it can vary by very small amounts. You can get one batch of cork that will be different slightly from the next which is just the way it goes with using a natural material. The RMF since it's a synthetic material means it's really well controlled and we can control the weight of the boards much better and we always know exactly how much resin absorption will happen and overall it's less than the cork. We can control that amount of resin and get improved consistency across the production and the weights don't vary much.

We covered the construction there, let's talk a little bit about the shapes and sizes available in the D/Lab range for 2022.

In the D/Lab range, we have three models in limited sizes. The Fish D/Lab in 5'1" and 5'3" and then the 5'7" and 5'9" of the Wam and then 5'1" and 5'3" of the whip which is our most popular sizes.


Tell us about the changes in shapes for 2022, let's start with the Wam.

This is the board where I did so many prototypes and worked a lot with Patri and Olivia, two local riders who helped me a lot during testing. Those guys were awesome for meeting me at the beach and trying a bunch of different prototypes and giving me great feedback.

The Wam is the high-performance all-rounder of our range so we are always trying to improve it. It's the one board that needs to be able to do everything for our team riders from competing in a contest to riding in small waves and big waves. We have so many boards in our range and a lot of crossovers so we wanted to make this year's Wam a super high-performance team rider board with no compromise, an all-out performance shortboard. We went through a lot of prototypes, eventually finding a board that was really exciting to ride, really explosive in the top turns and all the things that the team riders wanted to have in a high-performance board. But saying that I think the new Wam is still a really user-friendly board, it has a lot of control. We had a few other prototypes which we liked which maybe didn't have the same kind of control and we went back and forth a lot with those and we ended up settling on this design which we feel is an amazing all-rounder and a really exciting board to ride. Super explosive top turns really composed on the bottom turns and just a really fun board to ride.

For those people who might be more into the technicalities what were the actual changes to the shape to achieve these new attributes?

It's basically a total redesign but if you were to compare it to the Wam from last year, it has quite a bit more nose rocker, it has lower rails, the rails are not quite as blocky as last year. You eliminated the grab rail also, right?Yes, that's another thing we did, we took out the grab rail. The grab rail idea started as we were trying to take out a little bit of volume underneath your heel which sort of gives you more leverage over the board and control as it takes out a little bit of volume. When we were starting with that design it was all about giving you more leverage and control over the board but we found it sometimes takes a little of the liveliness out of the board so by removing the grab rail it actually made the board more agile, the transition is more direct and the board feels more lively in general.

We also thinned out the tail and made a different outline moving the wide point back and put a little more curve in the outline of the tail. It still got a pretty wide squash tail but when you look at it, it actually has a defined hip squash, with a break in the curve of the outline at the back of the front fins and that allows the board to pivot really tight and do a square turn in the pocket.

The guys were definitely loving it on the photoshoot earlier this year. Okay, let's move on to the whip. Talk us through the shape on that, has that changed for 2022?

The whip is a shape that has been really difficult to try and make an improvement on. I've been working on it for the last 2 years to try and make something better. It always seems to end up in a compromise where I'm between control and maneuverability and in the previous prototypes the trade-offs don't seem worth it. This year we finally found a middle ground that we were happy with. I think the thing people like most about the whip is that it is a board you can jump on and immediately feel comfortable, it's balanced and easy to ride. I wanted to keep these aspects of the design while increasing the performance, I wanted it to turn tighter in the pocket of the wave.

One of the things I wanted to change about the old whip was when you do a really tight top turn in a steep wave the nose had a tendency to bog a little bit and I really wanted to improve that aspect of the performance. So I did quite a few prototypes where I was trying different widths and rockers in the nose and I ended up settling on a slightly narrower nose than last year's whip and more nose scoop and those changes definitely helped in that regard, making the board turn tighter in the steeper part of the wave. Also with the work, we did on the Wam and the change of the rail shape, I incorporated some of the same changes into the whip, the whip has a totally new rail shape if you look at it, it's lower, rounder and less blocky in shape than last year's whip. That has made the board feel even more lively, agile and exciting to ride. Also, the tail shape has changed it no longer has the winger shape in the tail, it has a really wide bump squash kind of similar to the work we did on the Wam. Those two boards were developed in tandem and even though they are designed for different conditions, some of the changes I made on one board translated well to the other. With the Whip, I still think it's a really easy user-friendly board that is really exciting to ride, really agile and playful. It's a board that will work in every condition from small waves to well overhead conditions and freestyle too.

The Fish is the final D/Lab board in the range. That hasn't received a shape update for this year. Is that correct?

Yes, the shape has stayed the same for 2022, we are just offering it in the D/Lab construction in 5'1" and 5’3".


For those who are not familiar, give us a little rundown of the shape of the Fish.

The Fish has been an interesting board for us. When we first introduced it two years ago a lot of people weren't interested to ride a fish and they categorized it as a small wave board. I think over time and especially the team riders have adapted to it and we have started to sell a lot more Fish boards and it's become one of our most popular models now.

I think this is down to it is such an easy and fun board to ride. Most people associate a Fish as a retro fun playful board, but not necessarily a high-performance board, but I would call this board a small to medium wave, high-performance board. It doesn't feel like you would think a fish would feel, it feels really positive through the bottom turns, it’s a really predictable positive board. It's designed to work in small waves but actually, you can ride it with quite big surf and overhead waves. Most people who have ridden it have been really surprised by the performance. It's a really easy board to ride, it's really forgiving, it's not really sensitive to where you stand on it as some other boards might be for example the Wam. So I think it is a really great all-rounder and easy to use board.

So, would you say it bridges the gap from the Whip to the Wam?

Yeah, there is a lot of crossovers I think between all the models, but yes, it's a good in-between board between the Whip and the Wam. I think the Whip and the Fish both work great in small waves. I think the fish with the wider tail and more surface area gives you a little bit more zip and speed when you're on a smaller kite in bigger waves you're going to be able to generate more speed and the Whip is great when you're going to be riding a little bit faster and it's a little quicker than the fish, a little faster to transition from rail to rail. I go back and forth personally, I was riding the fish for the longest time and I didn't really want to ride anything else, then when developing the Wam and Whip I've been riding those more recently and then I jumped back again on the Fish this summer and I thought this thing is pretty nice!

There is a lot of crossover in all of our models and I think there is a board for everyone depending on the kind of style of board that you are after. Some people like to ride a traditional pointed nose and others prefer a square nose and it is cool that we can offer many different models to see everyone.

For those people that have not had the chance to try all the models could you categorize what conditions and what type of riding is each model is best suited?

Starting with the fish, if you are generally riding in smaller waves on a bigger kite and lighter winds and are looking for an easy all-round board that works in every condition, the Fish is great for that. Also, the guys are doing strapless freestyle with the Fish as well. It's a nice big platform, so even if you're not an advanced rider it's a great board to learn how to tack and jibe, the fish is great for that as it's a really easy board to maneuver and switch your feet around. If you are a more high performance, intermediate rider and you're going to be doing some strapless freestyle and riding some waves, I think the Whip is great for that.

I think that's why the whip has been our most popular board in the range for the last few years as it is such a universal design. It's a board you can ride on flat, choppy water and do freestyle or when there is swell you can go out into the waves with it. It's the do-everything board.With the Wam, it comes into the high-performance category, for guys who are more dedicated to surfing waves and looking to have a high-performance board that will do everything from small up to overhead waves. The Wam is a dedicated high-performance all-rounder.