Every surfboard is about compromise, that is the line we are told. What if we could have it all with no downside? Have our cake and eat it, so to speak? Welcome to the tried, tested and proved LightDrive Tech conceived by Dane Hantz of Vulcan Surfboards.
“Some things are perhaps often so obvious that they go unnoticed.” said a wise man (not me).
First a little background
There are many different sorts of sharpers out there, some that look forward, some that are inspired by the past and some that can see literally light-years beyond our current situation. Dane Hantz is one of the later and concentrates on the rapid evolution of the surfboard. To say that Dane is one step head would be an understatement.
The evolution of the corrugated principal into surfboard design is one that perhaps might have been realised earlier. It is, after all in many natural forms of strengthening from palm tree leaves to sea shells. Think about the strength of a corrugated tin of plastic roof, it has strength on the vertical while retaining flex in the horizontal. Exactly what we want in a surfboard.
There is more, being that the corrugation is actually mown into the design of any of the Vulcan range, it means that Dane can use lighter stringer-less blanks. But wait for it, we are not finished yet... the co-axial flex, spring and return means you will accelerate out of a turn giving the your EPS board that feeling of a 'magic poly' board. Like we said, maybe we can have our cake and eat it?
This is what Boo Stubs had to say on LightDrive Tech.
" I've been around this industry all my life and other than my Dad's best friends, Hobie Alter and Grubby Clark taking us from Balsa boards to Foam and Fiberglass, this is the single biggest innovation to date..."
Being thristy for more facts and insight about LightDrive and Vulcan shapes we reached out to Dane to see if had time for a chat on all things foam.
SB: Hey Dane, thanks for the time, I know you are a busy human. Where did the name Vulcan come from?
Dane: My father's naval battleship was the USS Vulcan so the name carries special significance to me. Moreover, I identified with the mythology of Vulcan. I’m an intense person creating things in segregation so it seemed like a natural fit. A name means nothing unless it means something to you.
SB: How exactly does the LightDrive feature effect surfboard performance?
Dane: LightDrive is a Stringerless surfboard construction which uses corrugation instead of a stringer to add strength, increase performance and lower weight. The weight reduction of LightDrive is immediately noticeable with how well the boards paddle. A lighter object requires less energy to move. To illustrate, imagine two fishing boats with identical outboard motors. Imagine one boat is empty while the other is loaded with fish. Which do you think will accelerate faster requiring less energy? Of course the empty one. Likewise a lighter surfboard requires less energy to paddle compared to an equivalent volume board of greater mass. Secondly, LightDrive not only flexes easily but springs and recoils to its original shape with greater force than a typical board. Corrugation is very spring-like. The result is a board that translates spring and recoil into forward propulsion.
It also serves as a great way to grip onto your board with your hands and feet.
SB: Can the Lightdrive tech be coupled with any of your shapes? Is there an extra cost?
Dane: The technology can be adapted to almost all boards but is particularly suited toward high performance shortboards, fishes and planing hulls as well as larger boards which would benefit from a lower material weight. In fact I especially like the construction for large performance boards which can otherwise become heavy. There is a $148 charge for adding LightDrive.
SB: Would there be any kind of board that would not feel the benefits of Lightdrive being added?
Dane: Yes, surfboards are highly governed by the law of inertial mass so wind and surface texture can benefit or detract how a board performs based on its mass subject to the environment. A simple illustration of this principle would be two spheres of exact volume but entirely different mass; one sphere is a balloon and the other a basket ball. If you allowed both spheres to roll down a hill which do you think will roll on a more stable and direct path? The basketball of course. Now imagine the hill is bumpy with side shore wind and the law of inertial mass becomes sharply evident in how the objects are governed in the way they perform, exactly in the same way surfboards are affected by environmental conditions. Ultra light boards require more management in junky conditions but when conditions are average to ideal the performance of LightDrive is phenomenal.
SB: When and how did the idea or realization come about that corrugation could be used in foam?
Dane: I wanted to bring something significant to the table and the way I see it, nearly every surfboard shape has been done. Material construction is where the frontier is but I’m taking it a step further. With LightDrive the shape itself works in concert with the lamination somewhat like a unibody construction. Corrugation is the most efficient way to add structural integrity to a given material and to my knowledge is the only method of creating strength while simultaneously reducing weight. Think about it, in every other construction strength is achieved by adding more materials and subsequently more weight. More stringer, more carbon, more fiberglass... There is no more efficient way to add strength and reduce weight than corrugation. It should be noted that a single grab rail channel is not corrugation and does not have the same mechanical performance as the corrugation you see on LightDrive. I had to demonstrate this to the Patent Examiner which is why I was awarded a full Patent for the design.
SB: While we have you here could you tell us a bit about the Trapezoid keels?
Dane: Yes, the Trapezoids. I’ve been fortunate enough to work around the most influential surfer/shapers in the modern era of surfing, many of whom became twin keel specialists. Regardless, I personally struggled with conventional twin keel designs which I feel are antiquated compared to say a modern quad set. Steve Lis recognized this.
Conventional keels are too easy to overpower. But before I get too far ahead we should talk a moment about how I classify surfers. I believe there are Active Surfers and Passive Surfers. Passive Surfers exercise their ability within the potential of the board and the speed and shape of the wave. Passive Surfers are generally nostalgic in their view of surfing and focus more on trim and glide. Longboarding would be one example of a Passive Surfer. Active Surfers on the other hand, exercise their ability according to their own physical potential and will not be constrained by a boards limits or the speed and shape of the wave. Active Surfers are generally progressive in their view of surfing and focus more on maneuvers and performance. Performance shortboarding would be one example of an Active Surfer.
The twin Keel fish is a very unique board in that it’s one of the few boards which exists beautifully within the confluence of Active AND Passive surfing. It’s a very unique realm occupied by who I refer to as the Confluent Surfer. Dave Rastovich and Asher Pacey would be excellent examples of Confluent Surfers.
The Trapezoid Keel manifested from my understanding of these classifications and the need to create a keel fin which would support the execution of both styles on the same wave. There’s a great deal going on with the dynamics of the Trapezoid but in a nutshell, drive and hold are supported by massive surface area while speed, thrust and release are cleanly facilitated by sharp angular lines. The result is a keel which will high line and flow with the same freewheel rhythm of a conventional twin keel but also grip a full figure 8 roundhouse without spinning out or loosing control, likewise you can over rotate an off the lip snap without landing on your ass because the board went skipping out.
SB: How much would we be looking at for a full spec Tachyon with Lightdrive and Trapezoid keels?
Dane: LightDrive boards up to 6’6 are $835. And the Trapezoids are $110.
SB: Possibly one of the most interesting, eloquent and visionary board builder/designer/surfers on the planet has just given me the 'surf chubby' (surf excitement). After having read what Dane has said I find it hard pushed for you arrive at a different conclusion than I. It's time to get the wallet out and part with some cash.
We have decided, infact, that it would be worth having a whipround (grabbed some cash form the interns) and will be getting our grubby hands on a LightDrive Vulcan board. If some of us give up smoking for a week we might also be able to afford some Trapezoids, either way it's going to be test time.
Being at the forefront of something potentially groundbreaking like this is just to much of a opportunity to pass up. It just so happens that some of the video and picture evidence suggest these boards do exactly what Dane says they do. They rip.
Thanks to Dane for the time and keep an eye out for more on these sweet looking machines of the wave.
N.B If these things surf as good as they look, this might be the last article I write after all once you have found a board without compromise, what is the point in carrying on?