When thinking of Germany, large jugs of beer, Sauerkraut, technically minded people and lederhosen would be the first things that would spring to my mind. What might not spring to mind is Germany being the birthplace of a surfboard shaper.
Apart from the world famous Eisbach river wave in Munich, Germany isn’t blessed with much surf. In fact its pretty much a landlocked country. Saying that, this hasn't stopped them from producing a lot of passionate surfers who travel the globe to find waves.
A few years ago in Sri Lanka, I was fortunate enough to meet one of these passionate German surfers, Jonas Buchloz, who’s now an established surfboard shaper living in Germany. On first meeting one another what struck me was his calm and welcoming personality, that and of course his very long beard! We had the opportunity to surf some fun little waves together and it was great to watch him gliding into a few runners with his custom made Mini Simmons. He was happy to let me test his board and it was a joy to surf.
JB (Jonas Buchloz) has a genuine passion for the profession he has chosen for himself. He’s a pure craftsman when it comes to carpentry and joinery. He’s spent his whole adult life studying and refining his skills. He’s a surfer at heart and he’s combined both his joys of surfing and carpentry to produce some stunning handcrafted surfboards.
Somehow I managed to convince him to shape me a board to test for Surf Bunker and within a short time frame, he went and produced a stunning wooden board. I give you the...
5'6 x 21 1/4 x 2 3/8
The board got a proper road testing for two months on the shores of Sri Lanka. The slaying sled was ridden consistently for two sessions a day by a number of different people. I don’t think there was a day that went by without someone taking her out for a spin. Conditions varied from 2ft to solid 3/4ft conditions on reef’s and beach breaks.
A mix of Paulownia and Cherry wood with a partially recycled EPS foam core. Cork edge outline.
Flat to slight Vee in the tale.
Very little rocker, especially in the nose area. This means water can flow quickly under the bottom of the board, resulting in quick acceleration and generally a very speedy ride. Jonas added a little extra kick in the tail to help lift the nose up out of the water when needed.
Made from Cork and not super chunky.
The Flunder Fish is a really unique looking board, it’s a thing of beauty! Folks would literally make a point of paddling over to inquire about the board and its origins. The cork rails are a very cool touch. Swallow tails often get damaged very easily at the tips and the cork really helps avoid this problem as it helps absorb knocks.
Ok, some would say it’s not a pure bred classic Twin Fish. The edges are not as chunky, the outline has a little more curve and the fins are ever so slightly towed in. It’s a bit more perfomancy than a classic fish…or so I’m told!
So it looks great, however, the main thing is how it performs in the water. I’ll be honest, this was actually my first real experience with a Twin Fish style setup, yup, it’s true and guess what, I’m 100% converted! I literally fell in love with this board and Fish shaped boards in general. A few of us tested the Flunder Fish and a couple of other variations. It was a game changer for a few of us and now we’re all in the market to buy one.
The board paddles in easy and takes off quick, which is thanks to the extra width up front and the flat enrty-rocker, which is common for this type of board. It flies down the line with ease and has excellent flow. The extra width up front and in the tail helps maintain speed, which makes this an excellent board for weaker or flatter waves. The extra surface area also adds stability via increased dynamic lift and makes it easier to climb up the foam or to land certain manoeuvres off the lip.
It seems almost effortless to ride, using less of my effort to scratch and pump for waves that were gutless. I found I had time to enjoy and use the energy of the wave itself. My wave count generally seemed a lot higher than my pals on their shortboards and I seemed to be able to squeeze in more manoeuvres on a single wave.
The Flunder Fish also performs well in bigger waves, I rode it in head high and just overhead high. The edges aren’t super chunky, like some of these kinds of shapes and this helped me lay into the face of the wave when it got bigger or steeper. This also helps get a good carve on when needed. Combine this with the swallow-tail and twin fins and I found I could make quick direction changes to stay in the power pocket of the wave. It had a good combination of hold and release.
This board, along with boards of the same ilk, are perfect for the mellow waves in Sri Lanka. It’s a great option if you don’t want to bring a longboard. The two months I was on the Tear Drop Isle, I’d say this was the board I rode the most out of my four board quiver and there were a lot to choose from. I truly believe it took my surfing to another level.
The board was made for Surf Bunker to test and we didn’t give Jonas much time to make it. It was constructed fairly hastily to get it to me on time. For this reason, Jonas had to get his hands on what he could, which meant using a lower grade cork for the edges. They held pretty well for the most part, but after two months there was a bit of disintegration, mostly at the tail end of the board. This meant that the edges soaked up a little bit of water too, although not enough to make it noticeably heavier. If I squeezed the edge, a bit of water would come out. I’m told this is actually an easy fix by using higher grade cork, which is what would normally be used.
There was no varnish or resin used in the creation of this board. The wood was treated with a coating of soya-based furniture oil. This gives the board a beautiful look, but unfortunately, in the humidity, some strips of wood got a little mouldy. Again, an easy fix if a regular coating was applied.
The board is stiff and on bigger days, doing tricks off the lip and landing them was a little jarring on the ankles and knees. But to be fair, as my friend Liam pointed out, this is not a high-performance board to be smashing tricks off the lip or for doing airs in crazy conditions (not that I can actually do airs, but cheers for the faith Liam!). I think we just tested the board to its limit to see what it could do, which meant taking it out on days when I’d normally use a more performance oriented set up. For it's intended use is, like mellower cruiser surfing, then this isn’t an issue at all and the board excels at what it’s meant to do.
Q & A with Jonas
Surfbunker: The Flunder Fish is a thing of beauty. What woods, wood coating and foam did you use?
JB: Fish is made out of Paulownia and Cherry wood. The cherry wood stringers are off-cuts of the masterpiece I did for my master exams in joinery. Which was a 9´6” pig style, hollow unglassed longboard and a shape rack. The foam is EPS with an amount of recycled EPS material, some call it recycled EPS, but there is always new material involved. Still not a real green board inside, but you can eliminate glass and resins with this construction. As a coating, I used a soya based wood oil for the fish.
SB: If it’s not too top secret, what was the construction method used to make the Flunder Fish?
JB: Not a real secret, a lot of boards are built with vacuum bag technique. I shape the core by hand, subtracting the wood thickness of deck/bottom and cork rails. A thin strip of Paulownia is glued around the outline before it goes in the bag to add the deck and bottom skins. After trimming the excess of the skins multiple layers of cork are applied to build up the rails. With planers and sanding blocks the rail gets it´s desired shape and the boards is pretty much done. Setting in the fin boxes and sanding the board, and you´re ready to put on the wood oil.
SB: Could you describe the dimensions, shape and your shaping choices for the concave, rocker and edges?
JB: The outline is a classic fish outline, wide for a nose to tail. The rocker is super flat even for a fish, but it has a good kick in the tail. You get an earlier entry into the wave and when it gets steep you're already up and choosing your line. The tail kick lifts the nose up and with the smaller radius allows tighter turns, complemented by the vee behind the fins. The rails are more performance orientated than on standard retro fishes and not as bulky.
SB: Is it hard to get rocker and concave with this construction method?
JB: No, with flat rocker boards like fishes it's not a big deal. It all happens in the vacuum bag. The wood follows the gentle curves of the shaped core. I never had problems with concaves. The deck area around the nose is the most critical part because the wood has to go around the curves of rocker and the dome of the deck. All the tighter radii of the board are done with cork.
SB: When did you shape your first board? What was it and what was it made of?
JB: Mt first board was an Alaia out of Paulownia wood. That was in Spring 2010 and by the end of August, I drove to the Netherlands with a 9´6” hollow longboard for the first European Wooden Boards Meeting. Some Dutchies from the Swaylocks forum organized the meeting. Everyone was blown away by the board and then I was hooked!
SB: Who inspires you in the shaping world?
JB: Tom Wegener inspired me to build my first boards. I think he is the main reason why wooden boards came back to life. Tom is still an inspiration construction wise. I´ve read many books about surfing history and guys like Velzy, Simmons and all the other old guys. When I look at a shape today it is mainly rereading the principles of hydrodynamics. There might be some elements in a board that lead me to new ideas, but I can´t name someone really. In the end, you have to work out your own ideas and stay on your path.
SB: What’s your favourite board you’ve shaped and ridden?
JB: My 9´6” Masterpiece single fin, the board I have the most fun with. And I thought about that for quite a while. Why? Because it's so different and almost every wave feels like the first wave you stood up on! That´s what I feel when I ride the 18 Kilograms of wood from the Black Forest. It´s so intense, only paddling out you will already feel more glide than you ever felt before on a surfboard. It seems like the whole energy of the wave is transferred directly into you. And yes it turns...easy! Until now it is the most sustainable hollow board I build, all natural except the PU glue.
SB: How many wooden boards have you shaped? Are there rooms for improvement?
JB: I sat down one day trying to remember how many I´ve built or shaped. At about 60 I stopped counting because every now and then another board popped up in my head that wasn´t on my list. That was 4 years ago. About a third were wooden ones, but the majority were EPS boards out of square blocks, of course, harder to visualize, but it teaches and I´m not limited to a certain blank. I really love the shaping process. HWS are rather build than shaped, most of all it´s scraping off the rails. I tried 6 or more ways to build HWS, to find out the lightest and easiest for me. I can say I´m satisfied with what I´m doing now, but improvements come with every board. They never end, they only get smaller.
SB: The Flunder Fish you shaped for us, would you normally apply varnish or extra coating to avoid the mould issue?
JB: The mould issue could easily be solved by using chemicals such as varnish or resin. But do we want that on an eco board? No, I think it takes a bit more care to surf a board that doesn´t harm the environment and can dissolve in it. Totally logic if you think about it!
Wood can hold for centuries if it dries quickly after getting wet. The mould sits in the tracheary elements of the wood (responsible for water and mineral transportation in the tree). The water is sucked in and can not dry out as fast as on the surface.
SB: How can someone order a custom board from you and how long would it take on average to shape a Flunder Fish…in wood and in PU?
JB: Just contact me over my website, then we make a phone call and talk about the board and your style of surfing. The more I know about the customer the better.
For a wooden board, it takes two to three days until the shape is finished, whereas for a foamie it's only a few hours.
SB: How much would it cost in different materials?
JB: The Flunder fish is about 680€ in EPS/Epoxy and EPS/Wood skinned 880€. In HWS construction which is the most time consuming, it's starting at 1000€ for small boards.
If you’re in the market for something crafted using skill and passion, with a twist of uniqueness, then look up Buchloz Surfboards and get ordering your next love affair.
Disclaimer: Under new rules which we think are quite cool, we have to actually tell you how these test items got to us at the Bunker. We were not paid for this review. The board was lovingly made and given to Surf Bunker to review. We have tried to be as honest as possible and Jonas have had no control over what we decided to write. Not one bit, no sir. We like to remain honest, true and untarnished. Thank you for reading.