– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Bamboo veneer rocketfish

I recently replaced my ol’ reliable Neilson 6’0″ Rocketfish. I was stoked on the EPS/epoxy construction and how well it held up over the 4 years of abuse I put it through, but it was time to replace it while I could still get some resale value out of it and I was planning on moving on to the vacuum bagged stringer-less epoxy construction type that I’ve been riding now on one of my other boards for a couple years. It was then that I stumbled upon a post on Swaylocks from drewtang (Drew from Inspired Surfboards) who was doing vacuum-bagged bamboo veneer boards. I got my trusty local shaper Tom Neilson to shape a blank provided by Drew into my familiar 6’0″ Rocketfish and sent it off to Drew for the glass job.

Neilson Surfboards - Bamboo rocketfish surfboardSo enough back story, after much anticipation I finally got the board  in the middle of one of the worst summers in recent memory. We’ve had miserable waves and I’ve only gotten to ride the board twice since I got it in lackluster Florida summer surf. From a construction standpoint, this board is the epitome of what I’m after – light weight, dialed in custom shape, extremely durable construction, and hopefully stellar performance. Not having gotten a chance to try it out in some solid legitimate surf, I’ve been putting off writing a review until I got a chance to put the board through its paces. Well, that chance came this weekend. Thanks to Hurricane Bill, the whole East Coast lit up with some of the biggest surf this year and I paddled out way under-gunned on Friday afternoon. It was well overhead and the buoys were reading 5′ @ 16secs, so there was plenty of power behind it. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how well this board handled the conditions. Normally I wouldn’t ride a 6’0″ x 19 3/4″ board in solid overhead beach break because this shape has a tendency to start sliding out and getting squirrelly due to it’s fuller outline and lower rocker. No problems there, it held in beautifully, which told me Drew had gotten the build pretty dialed and it didn’t feel stiff or corky. It has a lively feel to it and has really good projection when you load it up coming off the rail. The super light weight is noticeable in how quickly it reacts and how easy it is to make small adjustments in critical sections.

The construction – this board is made from 1.5 pound EPS foam with a 1/42″ bamboo veneer skin. There is a layer of glass under and over the veneer and 2 layers of 4oz. glass on the bottom of the board. The rails are strengthened  with braided carbon fiber tape that helps provide some stiffness for the stringer-less construction. This build method adds about $100 to the retail cost of the board, but is well worth it and provides a great alternative to other more complicated wood build methods. You get the beauty, flex and compression strength benefits of wood with the light weight and ease of shaping of the EPS blank.

Neilson Surfboards - Bamboo rocketfish surfboard

I’m sold. If this board can handle the abuse of some of the heaviest waves we’ve seen in a year without a single heel-dent and still provide a good, lively feel, then the only other question in is long-term durability. Knowing how well my previous board held up, I can only guess that this one will surpass it in terms of durability and has the added benefit of the bamboo skin to provide positive flex characteristics that are less likely to fade (or feel dead) over time.

Keep an eye out for what your local shapers are building for themselves and what they are currently stoked on riding. A lot of times they are making some really cool shit that they aren’t pushing in the retail environment because it’s too much time & effort or they haven’t fully R&D’d them yet. Since getting this board, I’ve learned there are a handful of other local shapers building boards with this same construction method. There are also a lot of guys on Swaylocks doing this too.  Check out the this thread, it’s currently 13 pages long, but covers all the details and there are guys from all over the world chiming in, so if you’re interested see if you can find someone on there in your area that you can hook up with.

But more so I want to push you, the surfers who read this and give a shit about what you ride, who shaped it and where it came from, to demand more. Make your voices heard by how you choose to spend your money. Fortunately, the Chinese board market went to shit and is falling apart, but that only opened the floodgates for distributors to dump excess inventory in an all-out effort to not get stuck with a warehouse full of shitty boards. This only provides more incentive to support the guys who provide the core products that make our sport unique and special. Track down the local shaper and talk to him about what you’re looking for and what your ideals are. Chances are you’ll likely find someone more than willing to go that extra bit to provide something above and beyond what the status quo is.

Personally, I need to say thanks again to Tom Neilson for putting up with my shit and humoring me when I ask him to build me boards with all kinds of quirky, unproven methods (biofoam, ice9, stringerless EPS all come to mind) that his air brushers, glassers and sanders usually bitch endlessly about. Also, a huge shout out to Drew at Inspired Surfboards in St. Augustine for hooking it up with the blank and amazing vacuum bag/veneer/glass job.



• Category: board construction,

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