The Bobsled by Bob Mctavish

After nearly a decade of FISH boards getting us long boarders back on shorter equipment, there is a new solution on the horizon… The BOBSLED!

Fishes are fine if you surf them flat, and are happy to move your back foot around between manouvres, so you can get power into those fins right out on the rail. But if you wanna jam more VERTICAL, the fish doesn’t really wanna go there. The BOBSLED solves this problem by pulling the tail width in, and closing up the fin-spread, allowing you to snap from rail-to-rail instantly without moving your foot to find a point to dominate your fins. In other words, the Bobsled surfs like a regular board, but with paddle power supplied by a wider mid and nose template, like a fish.

But how do you make a wider board roll fast onto it’s rail so it can go vertical? The answer there is the classic McTavish bottom shape: Concave down the centre for LIFT, then BEVELS along the underside rails to soften it’s feel… instead of a cranky flat or full rail-to-rail concave, the bevels make the board feel NARROWER, and allow easy banking onto the rail into the turn.

The RAILS are boxy, carrying more paddling VOLUME out to the edges where thay can displace some water. No point in having a board measure 3.5 inches thick in the centre if the deck is heavily rolled, shedding all the volume and creating an uncomfortable rolled feel underfoot.

The fin set-up is pure QUAD, the fastest, best feeling combo on the planet! (But only if you get the fin-spread right, as we do. We’ve tested our quad spread on our team, from young short-board shredders all the way to us older vast experienced surf designers.)

LENGTHS are ranging from 5’5 (like the one I made for Slater) all the way up to the mid sevens. It’s that VERSATILE.

The BOBSLED… The new bankable, fast reactive high-speed shorter-board from the McTavish Team.

Josh Dowling on composite surfboards

Composite construction or the process of vacuum bagging or laminating wooden skins over a foam core is the very high tech end of wooden surfboards. The purists may not view it as a wooden board in the way a solid or chambered board is to them. But technology is there to be used and move us forward and expand the possibilities . Here is Josh's story...

Shaping since the age of 13, and working professionally in every aspect of board production, I always had an interest in alternative construction. I had consistently tried to break from the repetitive 6’2 squashtail formula in both shape and materials. Initially I was after durability and performance rather than the beauty of wood for its own sake, though that is a bonus I very much enjoy now.

The path which took me to the boards I currently make has a bit of a story...

Up to the minute design and wood skin composite construction
Beautiful and functional Paulownia skins
Detail of high density foam plug reinforcement
Tailblock detail prior to laminating...
The finished job.
Paulownia has some beautiful grain
Monsta Jacko's shortboard is 7' 4" x 21 1/2"
In Byron in the late 90’s I also did a stint with Bamboo surfboards Australia. It was here that I was first exposed to vacuum bagging, but their methods were prone to problems, hence I was wary, but the road led to EPS as the lighter bouncier option, and of course it can only be lammed in epoxy.

I’d returned to Torquay and been producing my own label in “normal” construction for a while when a longtime customer traded my shapes for surftech! Thats not an uncommon experience amongst shapers, but it was my stimulus to attempt to make custom boards with similar durability...

So I got experimental...not for the first time!
I scored a panel of 2mm timber, from a pressed-ply chair manufacturer, and sandbag pressed it onto EPS. I also used carbon around the rails...This board was too small for me, but was ridden successfully by my mate steak, It looked butt-ugly because I’d lammed it with qcell in the resin to save weight.

Around this time, 2004, a friend pointed me towards “Swaylocks” where a number of guys around the world were experimenting with composite boards. With “Pinhead” paying for the materials and myself doing the work, I took to vacuum bagging in the garage, and six months later the first Balsa railed EPS/Corecell composite boards emerged.

I was sceptical...the process seemed convoluted compared to conventional boards. These boards were yellow, expensive and time-consuming, but on my first surf I was convinced they were a step forward. The “twang” from the timber rail was tangible in bottom turns, becoming forward projection which saw me making sections from way behind at Winkipop. I was in love!

Balsa / Corcell / EPS / Epoxy prototype for Pinhead - 5' 11" x 19 1/4"

This is "Offcutter" The first flat to bend board produced by me under Firewire lable and still a regular ride at 7" x 18 3/4"

Immediately I began to devise ways to make the construction simpler, and the next board was built from a flat slab of foam and wood sticks bent to a rocker rather than cut to profile. This allowed a saving on materials which was greatly encouraging.

I began to correspond with Bert Burger and Nev Hyman and soon became Research and Development technician for the fledgling Firewire company. I was paid to play around with the composite technology and to this day I have a quiver of my own shapes in variations on the balsa railed composite tech. It was here that I was able to fully develop the techniques I had initiated in the garage in Torquay and my inventions became the basis for the mass-production of Firewire boards.

This one is the original flat-to-bend construction prototype which became Firewire...Made in a garage in Torquay for fellow shaper Mark Phipps. The skins and rails are spliced together from offcuts of the first two boards. Note the Balsa/Corecell combo deck.

My involvement with Firewire and Sunova dissolved with my becoming disillusioned in the shadow of more famous names. I returned to Victoria to take off where I had left off, and now I proudly put my name to my shapes and construction.

I’ve exchanged the use of Balsa for Pawlonia, a timber which is less water-absorbent if dinged. My supply is Australian grown, and I make each board by hand, absolutely custom.

Pawlonia also gives what are more interesting grain patterns than balsa, and I love to play
‘spot-the-hidden pictures” with the whirls and knots in the timber. With all-timber boards I find the stiffness factor means I have to compensate with added tail rocker rather than relying on the flex which High - Density foam skins allow. My orders are evenly split between wood, foam skins or a combination of both. I’m still most interested in cutting-edge design rather than retro...Having said that I intend to build myself some old-school single fin showpieces.

I can build a shortboard under 2kg on request, but I find that my customers are very pleased with a typical high-performance weight with the added durability of the composite construction.

Full-circle from corporate involvement in surfboard manufacturing back to my roots, I’m happy to be making my own thing and I relish having some stoked customers.

Josh <>

Sign Painting

Theo helped me paint a new sign for the side of the shop.

This is for sure my favorite photo of Theo. Taken by none other than a photographer from Muchos thanks amigos.

Bobby Crisp's working on a couple of boards for August

Bobby Crisp from Wellington , New Zealand id finishing off a couple of boards to bring over in August to The Wooden Surfboard Day. He does a nice job , with a lot of detail in his inlays and wood work. Looking forward to meeting him and checking out his boards.

Check out Cyrus Sutton's Do it yourself website. This is a really awesome idea and I think everyone should contribute to it.


All great wooden boards need a great fin

When you build a great looking wooden board , don't forget to finish it off with a great wooden fin. There are not many better at it than John Cherry. Beautiful woods and a great craftsmanship to create this art.

No excuses now with this sort of inspiration.

Brushing Up On Old Ideas

While I had my paint brushes out and was making a mess, Jim and Steve stopped by to order a couple of boards for an upcoming trip. Jim asked if I was having a flashback because some of the stuff looked like the boards I was painting and riding in the mid 80's. Surfer Feb 1987, photo: Woody WoodworthWell, yeah, I guess I was, only this time around I'm not sporting a mullet and a fluorescent yellow and blue wetsuit.

Ahoy Matey

Darren over at Ahoy just sent me the most killer board bag.  I sware the thing fits perfect and the colors are rad. It's unlike most board socks that are a pain in the ass to put on. This one slides right on and off comfortably and has a unique opening for the fin. 

Check out their bags at

Email Darren to get your new durable Ahoy board sock. 

Still chipping away

Roger Hall , profiling one of 4 boards he is building for August. He is loving working with wood again. He includes some beautiful wooden nose and tail block detail on a lot of his foam boards. Check his web site for some great examples.

Blue ???day

One of the joys of being a teacher in the summertime is not knowing what the hell day it is. Bite me, nine-to-fivers!
This week's Blue ???day board comes via Ocean Beach surf enthusiast Hardy Danger, fresh from his Mexican honeymoon.
Faithful HHG readers may recall Hardy's inappropriate wedding night antics from a previous Blue Monday post. Seems he's gotten himself out of the doghouse and back into our chilly waters.
Is Hardy Danger an employee of the state? Nope.
Is he at all affiliated with coastal rescue, OB beach patrol, or lifesaving in general? Nope.
How he stealthed these photos is best left to the imagination.
This we do know, though: those 101FinCo bamboo quads indicate superior taste. Looks like they save lives, too!

I shaped this 6'4" quad fish over the weekend.

Controlling an SUP in the whitewater

The fact that SUP's are confined to small surf or breaks with easy paddle out channels hasn't been publicised, but it is obviously true. What bothers me is that people use them at breaks where there's an easy paddle out in conditions where they can't control the boards when caught inside, that's wrong and negates the 'waterman' image which the marketing tries to project.Keep in mind that I have been riding a huge variety of very large boards for many years, and have been building and riding longboards of 27 inches wide and more long before the SUP craze. I don't wear a leash and therefore have a very good understanding of what it takes to control a big longboard in surf up to 4x overhead.For big boards to be controllable they need the following features:1) Weight. For a board to be rolled successfully it needs to be heavy enough to drive the rider underwater, a minimum weight of 25 pounds is needed although it does depend upon how much wetsuit buoyancy the rider has. 35 to 70 pounds works better.2) A thin board with a low frontal area. Boards which approach 4 inches thick are a bane when rolling under as they catch the force of the wave too easily . That's why buoyancy is better distributed over a longer board, and is one reason why the very short thick high buoyancy SUP's are always going to be hopeless at getting through whitewater3) A rail which is thin enough to be gripped strongly. With hands of my size ( average I presume) a board thickness of more than 2.25 inches makes the board much harder to hold on to as the grip strength decreases when the hand has to be opened up more gripping the rail4) Two hands available.5) A helmet. Not absolutely vital but helps a lot when getting hammered while rolling under big sets as the board can be pulled down on to the head increasing grip strength enormouslyThis 65 pound 17 footer is easier to roll under waves than a thick lightweight board of SUP dimensions