PDN Photo of the Day

Surf Week: Boards and Builders (10 Photos)

Surf Week: Boards and Builders (10 Photos)

All Photos © Ryan Field

Ryan Field  is part of a team working on the documentary film project “Hydrodynamica”. The film explores alternative surfboard design and functionality that  originated in San Diego in the 1940s with the enigmatic surfboard shaper Bob Simmons.  “He thought about surfboards and their interactions with the wave in an entirely new way,” says Field. Simmons’ ideas have influenced generations of surfboard shapers who prefer alternatives to the common three-finned thruster we’re all used to seeing.

Field has photographed the boards and the people who make and ride them. To draw out the shapes and nuances of the boards, he used lighting techniques based on the lighting that the shapers use to create the boards. “I have a great deal of respect for the knowledge and craftsmanship they have to design and build something so beautiful and functional to harness nature’s energy, all for the feeling you get gliding down the face of a wave,” Field says.

Above: An old bodysurfing board, thought to come from the Atlantic coast in the early 1900’s, photographed in San Diego, California, June 11, 2010.  The board is made of wood and wrapped in canvas that has been painted.  It’s thought that boards like this were rented on the beach for people to ride in the surf.  Some of the board’s design elements seem functional and show up many years later in more modern designs.A 5’6″ Lis fish surfboard photographed in San Diego, June 13, 2010.  Steve Lis, a surfer and shaper from the Point Loma area in San Diego, California is credited with inventing the fish shape characterized by its short length, deep swallowtail and twin keel fins.  The board was designed to fit in the steep, barreling waves of various San Diego reefs.


Tony Alva, legend, world champion skateboarder and member of the Zephyr skateboard team from Venice, CA in the 1970’s photographed in San Diego, April 18, 2010.  Alva, known for his incredible pool skating ability, is drawn to the modern planing hull designs based on Bob Simmons shapes from the 1950’s.



John Elwell, surfer, lifeguard, pilot, and historian, photographed in San Diego, Spring 2010.  Elwell was a friend of Bob Simmons and is considered one of the leading authorities on Simmons life and designs.




John Elwell’s original Simmons planing hull.  John grew up life-guarding in Coronado, and was a friend of Bob Simmons.  Bob shaped this 9′ board for John which is made of balsa wood and it’s a classic example of his boards from the early 50’s.



Casper, a modern take on the Simmons planing hull, photographed in San Diego, June 15, 2010.  Casper was shaped by Joe Beaugess in collaboration with Richard Kenvin and was based on stories that Bob Simmons shaped a 6′ foam board made from a styrofoam block that he acquired from his brother who worked for McDonnell-Douglas in the 1950’s.


Chris Del Moro, a professional surfer from Encinitas, California, photographed in San Diego, Spring 2010.  Del Moro is an extremely talented free surfer who is known for riding and testing new designs such as Carl Ekstrom’s asymmetrical boards as well old Hawaiian Alaia’s made from Paulownia wood.


The Fractal, a surfboard of perfect symmetry shaped by Daniel Thompson, a talented surfer and shaper from Australia photographed in San Diego, March 2012.  Daniel has been involved with the Hydrodynamica Film Project for a long time, studying and surfing the Simmons planing hulls and applying that knowledge to his own, ultra modern designs.  This board incorporates theories and measurements associated with the Golden Spiral and Fibonacci numbers.


Ryan Burch, a professional surfer and shaper from Encinitas, CA, photographed in San Diego in Spring 2010.  Ryan is on the cutting edge of surfboard design and has studied Simmon’s designs and taken principles from Lindsay Lord’s naval architecture tests and applied them to modern surfing methods.  He is also working with designer Carl Ekstrom on new, asymmetrical surfboard designs.




Joe Beaugess, master surfboard shaper, photographed in San Diego in July 2010.  Beaugess restored Jon Elwell’s Simmons planing hull and built some balsa replicas after that.  In collaboration with Richard Kenvin, Joe shaped Casper, the first modern, Mini Simmons planing hull.




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