Surfboard talk with Sky Solbach

Part 1

In this instalment of Behind the Design, we take an in-depth look at the SURFBOARD shapes, sizes and designs within the Duotone range with designer Sky Solbach.

Hi Sky, let’s start with the Whip, tell us more about the shape design, what sizes and which constructions it’s available in.
The Whip comes in three different constructions for 2023. It comes in the Original in three sizes, in the SLS in three sizes and the D/LAB in four sizes. The Whip is the most popular shape in our range. It's an amazing small to a medium-wave surfboard and is great for strapless Freestyle. It's the board of choice for our team riders competing around the world.

They use it in the surf and for doing Freestyle. It can be used in knee-high all the way up to well overhead waves. It's a board that I think anyone can jump on and immediately feel comfortable with, it's very balanced in the water. It's very reactive and with the changes that we did last season, incorporating more nose rocker and more curve into the tail, it's even more manoeuvrable than ever. It still keeps a lot of that user-friendliness that it had in the past. But just gives it that extra high-performance touch that allows you to surf top to bottom as if you were riding a really high-performance short-board. The Whip has a very compact shape. It has a relatively straight section through the centre and a pulled-in square nose.

The tail of the board has a really defined bump squash outline. This bump in the outline, situated just at the back of the front fins creates a pivot point for when you're turning. When you really lay into a turn and put the weight on your back foot, the board wants to pivot around that point, which allows you to turn really sharply and do almost a square bottom turn and really tight pivot on the top turns. It's a great board for small waves because it has quite a wide tail block. You have a lot of surface area under your back foot giving you the benefit of lift, it generates speed very easily and when you get it over on the rail and stomp on your back foot, you can really turn the board really tight and then do a really tight radius turn with the board on rail.

The short nose lends itself really well to not catching and being able to transition in a really tight pocket of the wave. The Whip is a great all-rounder from small to medium waves, it's a high-performance board, it will work when the waves are softer and will also hold its own when the waves get a little bit more powerful and have a little bit tighter transition, the board can turn really tight in the pocket of a steep wave as well. So for someone looking for a great all-around surfboard, that also has the benefit of having a short compact design that's great for strapless Freestyle, then the Whip is an amazing choice.

We have a new model in the range, designed especially for the younger generation, could you tell us more about this new model?
The Slash comes in just one size of four-four and is a scaled-down version of our Whip shape. This is a Grom-specific board. So if you're a small rider looking for an amazing all-around small to medium wave surfboard, that is also great for strapless Freestyle then the Slash is the perfect board for you. Being a scaled-down version of its bigger brother, the Slash has a compact shape with a squared-off nose and a wide squash tail.

If you look at the tail shape of the Slash, it has a really defined bump just behind the back of the front fins. This really allows the board to pivot really well when it's on the rail. When you engage in a turn and lean onto your back foot, you can really make the board go tight and square off the bottom and also square off the top of the wave, so it's really snappy, lively and reactive. It has quite a wide tail with a lot of surface area and quite a straight outline to the centre. All of these things make it great for generating speed and small waves. The compact shape is also great for strapless Freestyle. So if you're a small rider and you're into strapless Freestyle and surfing small to medium waves, then the Slash is an excellent choice for you. 

Moving onto the Fish, which sits in the small to medium category alongside the Whip, talk us through this shape, the constructions and sizes available and how it differs.
The Fish comes in two different constructions in three different sizes. It comes in 5’1”, 5’3” and 5’5" in both the SLS and D/LAB construction for 2023. Performance wise the Fish is our high-performance small wave board. This is a board that really excels in small to medium waves and it will hold its own when the waves are overhead, it has a lot of control. The really magic thing about this board is how it performs when the waves are small and you don't have a lot of wave power behind you to generate speed.

The Fish with its wide tail, outline and nose gives you a lot of surface area to be able to generate speed and pump to get down the line. It's a very balanced board and very easy to ride. It allows you to make mistakes and recover very easily. It's a high performance but also very user-friendly at the same time. Something that an intermediate rider and even a pro rider can appreciate about this board is just the ease of use that you have with the Fish, if you mess up your bottom turn it will give you a second chance to reconnect, pump and generate speed.

It's very loose and very manoeuvrable and you can ride the Fish in a shorter size than your average surfboard sizing. So for example, I usually ride the Wam 5’11” and I'm riding a 5’5” Fish so I'm able to knock six inches off the nose of my board and essentially have just as big a board. The Fish is an amazing high-performance small wave board with its wide tail and flat rocker. It's a great light wind board and a great all-around board for small to medium waves for any level of rider.

Moving onto the boards suited to medium and larger waves, talk us through the Wam.
We're offering the Wam in three different construction types. We have the Original construction in three sizes, the SLS construction also in three sizes, and the D/LAB construction in four sizes. The shape of the Wam is no compromise high-performance shortboard surfboard. It is an all-rounder that you can use in medium to well overhead waves. It has a medium-wide squash tail, which has a great balance of speed generation and control.

It has the most manoeuvrability of any board in our range. The Wam has a great balance of reactivity and manoeuvrability, which you need when the waves are smaller and you need to do really tight turns in the pocket. It's very reactive and very manoeuvrable in small waves but has a really nice balance of control when the waves get bigger. This is a board that you can pretty much take anywhere in the world and it will work in all different types of waves. This is a staple in any of our team rider's quivers when they're travelling around the world competing on the World Tour. They always have a Wam with them because it's the one board that you can ride from small to large surf and always have what you need under your feet. 

The big wave board in the range is the Session, tell us more about the shape and what makes this board unique.
The session SLS for 2023 comes in two sizes, 5’8” and 5’10”. This board is unique in the SLS range as it has foot-strap inserts. Because this is a big wave-oriented board, we wanted to keep the option. You can tell by looking at it right away with its pulled-in rounded pin tail that you can charge some serious waves with this board, it has a lot of drive, grip and a lot of hold.

It works really well when the waves are pumping and when you're going really fast. Of course, it works great in big waves, but it also works well for riders who want to ride really fast, not necessarily only in big waves, but also in choppy water or challenging conditions in general. The board is really balanced and the tail sits really low in the water, so it gives you a lot of control to go really fast and carry a lot of speed. All of these attributes make it great for when the waves get bigger.

The Session SLS can hold its own in really challenging conditions and it's a very confidence-inspiring design, where you can ride really fast and always have the benefit of being in control at all times. This board really likes to stay connected to the face of the wave. So it's great for doing big open-face carves. So if you're looking for a board with a lot of control, something you can ride in really windy conditions and have the option of having foot straps and a board in your quiver that's capable of tackling some really big waves, then the Session SLS is the board for you.

"This board really likes to stay connected to the face of the wave. So it's great for doing big open-face carves."

Moving back to Strapless freestyle, talk us through the design and shape of the Voke SLS.
The Voke SLS comes in one size of 5’1” and is our dedicated strapless Freestyle board. I developed this board together with our team riders, specifically Airton Cozzolino a few seasons back. This has become one of the favourite boards for our team riders competing on the GKA World Tour. It has some features that make it really good for fast, hard landings. It has a very straight parallel outline which makes it very stable in the water. It's really easy to go fast even in choppy water and load up to get really good pop.

For jumps, it has a really wide tail which gives you explosive pop off the water. The deep channels with a defined spine running down the centre of the board is really good for fast landings where you are coming down without a lot of kite power, these help in those situations to be able to actually stick the landing and ride out without the board bouncing off the water. That's one of the features that the team riders really love about this board when they're coming down from a giant kite loop or a handle pass and they can land almost like a wakeboard, with the board splitting the water without bouncing up. So if you're looking for a dedicated strapless Freestyle machine, then the Voke SLS is for you.

The final board in the range is the Hybrid SLS, could you tell us about the shape and sizes available?
This board comes in three sizes 5’0”, 5’2” and 5’5”. As the name suggests, it’s a Hybrid so it can be used as both a surfboard and also a foil board. The Hybrid SLS shape is the same shape as the Whip except we removed the bottom channel to accommodate the foil mount.

In surfboard mode, the Hybrid SLS is a great small to medium wave board and even great for strapless freestyle. It has great stability and it’s very easy to ride, from knee-high waves all the way up to anything overhead. In foil mode, it’s a great all-rounder. The Hybrid SLS is a great option for people who want to travel with one board and be able to have a surfboard when it's windy with waves and be able to strap on a foil and go have fun in the light wind when the waves are not optimal.