If we discount wave pools, which are a conversation unto themselves, there hasn’t really been any far-reaching and widely accepted technological advances in surfing over the last decades.
Put more accurately – there haven’t been any that’ve improved the experience of your average surfer unequivocally bar a few notable exceptions such as epoxy foam cores and carbon strips… although the latter is up for debate.
There was Paul Fishers dick surfboard, which briefly lit up social media, but that was probably due to the fact that he was catching waves on a fibreglass dong rather than its popularity being the result of a major design breakthrough.
The flip side of the coin here is that the last 10 years has seen plenty of niche technologies introduced to the surfing world with modern to almost zero success. Most of which are developed in the hope that they make surfing more accessible (see: safer and easier) to the masses.
Battery powered wetsuit hangers and dryers, fin pullers and even changing ponchos are a few examples of innovations that’ve become popular with surfers the world over. But what other weird, wild and wonderful surf technologies currently exist?
Sharks don’t scare me, but shark attacks are the absolute pinnacle of terror. I listened to a podcast not that long ago about a guy who was attacked at a beach near where I grew up.
He said the thing that stood out to him the most, beyond their incredible power, is that the attack happens in complete silence. No splintering of fibreglass, no primal shrieks. Just the abrupt impact of the initial hit, a violent splash and it’s over. Hearing that had me contemplating whether or not I was ever going to enter the water again.
If you want peace of mind though, anti-shark wearables such as Sharkbanz offer some defence by emitting an electromagnetic pulse design to deter curious sharks. At the end of the day though if a shark is hungry, there’s not much stopping them having a nibble.
If you’re a beginner then you’ll know that standing up on a surfboard is only half the battle. Actually getting out the back and generating enough paddle power to stroke into a wave is arguably more difficult.
Foamies that are as wide as they are long help, but obviously not enough for the blokes who invented the abomination that is the electric fin. Called the Boost Fin, this device is essentially a small propeller attached to a thruster fin that can push you through the water at a little over 15 kilometres per hour.
It’s by no means the first of its kind, nor will it be the last, and while it may serve a purpose if you’re both bored and have access to a 10-foot log, it’s probably not for everyone.
Kidney warming devices
My head gets cold when I surf, so I purchased a hood. My toes also tend to get a little bit chilly, which is where a pair of boots come in handy. If you’re someone who surfs in cold water and you’ve recently thought to yourself “I could use something to keep my kidneys warm” though, then we’ve got a device for you.
Developed by a company called Hot Suits, the heated kidney warmer is meant to be a morale booster when the conditions are less than balmy. Simply strap it around your waist then switch it on and you’ll be immediately shielded from the icy grip of Mother Nature… or so it says.
The truth is that wetsuit technology is so advanced these days that strapping on the kidney belt seems a little excessive unless you’re wearing top of the line neoprene and still freezing your tits off. Divers would surely benefit, but an additional layer under your wettie might be more of a hinderance than an advantage for most surfers.
Wi-Fi integrated surfboards
Fuck. Seriously. We’re all for coworking spaces and combining surfing with work but we can’t for the life of us think of any reason for giving birth to such a monstrosity.
Developed by Intel, the Wi-Fi surfboard prototype has already been trialled in the UK in the form of a 9-foot longboard with a 2.5-kilogram laptop integrated into the deck. The performance of the board is apparently unaffected by the laptop, but it makes us wonder: does Wi-Fi even have a place in the lineup? What about waterproof mobile devices for that matter?
Even the buzzing of a cheap drone 5 metres above one’s head can immediately snap you out of your state of board-sitting bliss and transform the atmosphere at a previously serene setting for the worst. Imagine sitting next to a bloke on one of these while he’s on a Zoom call, barking at his colleagues and ruining the vibe. Wince.
Despite being one more type of surf craft to contend with and watch out for in the lineup, foils actually have their place in the overall order of wave riding.
Using them at a crowded spot is not on, that’s for sure, but they’re ideal for when it’s almost flat or there are some fun-looking high tide rollers. You can’t argue with the fact that there’s something very alluring, very liberating about being able to generate your own momentum and cover vast distances without having to use a paddle, although your legs will be wrecked after 5 minutes if you’re only just starting out.
Matahi Drollet, respected Tahitian charger and core lord of the highest degree, recently got shacked on a foil whilst surfing Teahupo’o and Kai Lenny is constantly pushing the limits as to what’s possible on these wacky inventions. And while they’ll never be as popular as SUPs, foil surfing for sure looks way, way cooler.
Making it a habit.