Some Background on the Design Process of the Barra model by Portal

Erik Antonson
Erik Antonson
December 16, 2017

You guys are picking up in act 3 of the design process.  I didn’t want to share until this last trip to Costa Rica and testing the 5th and 6th prototypes for what I’m calling the Barra.  The brand name is Portal, the board model is The Barra.

In the video I’m riding a 7.4 x 25.5 at 84L and a 7.9 x 28.5 at 107L (deckpad and slow mo).  Damo is riding a 6.1 x 22 at 39L (which I’m riding as my shortboard, actually making a 5.8 right now for our next trip!)

 

The idea behind the Barra, and my impetus to design it, has it’s foundation in my ideal of standup surfing.  I see standup, and I’ve talked about this countless times in the journal here and on the podcast, as the perfect blend of stylish longboard/midlength surfing and radical progression of shortboard surfing.  Done correctly it is the most complete, highest form of surfing, although I doubt many surfers would share that viewpoint, at least at this time.

If we break down the components, the dichotomy of what makes paddle surfing beautiful, you come up with a unique set of parameters that makes design a challenge.

The essence of long rail surfing, longboards/midlengths, is an ease of speed.  Using the wave to generate speed through positioning and enjoying the ride.  In shortboard surfing the surfer enforces his will on the wave, riding in the most critical sections, with the most radical lines.  The two endeavors require different crafts in paddle-less surfing as the combination of rocker, rail, template and volume for either goal is mutually exclusive from the other – some boards do come close, retro twin fins, hypto krypto…

Generally speaking in surfing (without a paddle), a board that has glide will have a length, weight and volume that won’t perform well in the pocket, and a board that can fit in the pocket and surf radically won’t have amazing glide.

Ideally you would have a board that didn’t compromise.

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What changes this equation is the paddle.  The paddle allows you to enforce your will on a much larger board than you’d ever be able to turn without a paddle.  It’s having the ability to immediately, for an instant, double, or even triple your weight.  So, your board, which at an incredibly large volume for your weight if you’re thinking in shortboard terms, momentarily becomes a shortboard when looking at forces.

The addition of the paddle allows you to surf a board with a large volume both optimized for glide, while not using the paddle, and optimized for radical maneuvers, while using the paddle.

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The design challenge was to create a board that is optimized for both glide/trim at normal, non-leveraged, bodyweight and radical surfing while leveraging the paddle.  While, seeing as it is a standup board, and you need to be able to paddle it, meeting the volume requirement, which I tried to separate from surfing.

At this point I won’t dive into all the details and how we arrived at the Barra model, or give away the secret sauce, but I will say that what you’re seeing now is the result of 5 months of work, over 60 designs, input from 2 acclaimed shapers (one in the standup world, one from surfing), and lots of prototypes and testing.

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I tried to add up all the influences that have have gone into the Barra and landed somewhere around 50… There are a lot of good boards out there and this was not designed in a vacuum.

Some examples of influences and the process –

Mid rocker theme is based on feelings from a 6.10 Howard Special, a 6.10 Rawson, the feeling of the Hypto Krypto in good surf, the L41 Popdart in small surf, the Lost Rocket v.1 and the way Torren Martyn has been surfing on his twinnies…  I also looked at 4 boards that I hate for how they carry speed (which I won’t name) and compared those to what I loved.  I studied the combinations that seemed to work and extrapolated from shortboard to standup lengths/volumes and made educated guesses on what might be ideal.  From there the elements and combinations were drawn out to test – rocker, rail, bottom design.

The first rocker designs were spot on for glide but lacked performance, or more precisely lacked rail surfing performance.  The middle third of the board was great but I missed the balance between where mid and tail rocker needed to transition and how much was necessary.  This was a 2 week dive that I might write about, but the gist is that I wanted a board that can drive/glide from the front foot and tap into incredible turning off the back foot, without moving foot position.  There were some long conversations with a one of my consultant shapers and through reframing the question we arrived at a more correct solution. This changed entry rocker, mid and tail rocker to get both the desired feeling and performance.  I don’t think we’ll refine much from this point on this model.

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The step deck was a natural evolution because as rail thickness increases my like of trim/highlining and front foot drive (pivotal in that glide feeling we were trying to get and response off the bottom) decreases.  In all the board mapping I did, there was a definite correlation between thin rails and a effortless trim which equals free speed.  Thin rails doesn’t equal trim, but trim does equal thin rails (at least in standup terms).  So, thin rails were a must, and the question became how to get them.

I’ve owned both highly domed deck (Banzaii, Hobie) and step deck boards (early Stretch quads and the Popdart).  The first models of the Barra were domed.  Paddling stability suffered because of how much volume we were packing in the center and the steep angle of the dome.  To hit the mark on rails, volume and length the boards are thick in the center but from my testing you don’t feel at all.  Not all volume is created equal.  I wasn’t sure if stability issues were because of thin rails (low volume on the rails) or the angle of the dome itself.  I found in further prototypes that it was some of both, but that with a step/flat deck it offset some of the balance and with the thin rails you could actually opt for more volume, better stability and paddling speed, and still surf better. (after the last round of testing I’m increasing volume 8L on my standard board to 92L)

The Barra isn’t quite ready yet, but we’re close!  I have four new Barra prototypes, each with slight variations for testing, waiting for me to finish at the factory tomorrow.

I’ll post some photos in the next few days of how the shapes are looking!

Portal BoardsProgression JournalUncategorized

11 Comments

  • surfafrica
    Reply

    The volume stuff is interesting. I know a few people now who were racing to the bottom but have recently changed direction a bit and added some strategic foam.

  • exiled
    Reply

    How well does the Barra scale up? Like in the 115-120L range? I’ve found that a lot of these high performance production models get crazy wide as they go up in volume and that just kinda kills the performance in my experience. Any design that can stack volume in the middle and not lose the rail in the process is a win in my book,

    • Erik Antonson
      Reply

      It scales great from our testing. In my first orders I’m making a few in the 120L range, one for a very good surfer on the east coast who will be testing. Stay tuned as I will be writing some about the design process and the core requirements which fit directly to scale. On our last trip we tested down to a 5.8 shortboard in the same design and feedback was great. I’ll be posting some photos/videos of that board. Width will always kill some performance, but I’ve gone from 25.5 to 27 in this model and actually like it more. Slow motion from the video with my son is on a 7.9 x 28.5 at 107L and a lot of those turns I’m not even using the paddle.

      • exiled
        Reply

        What are the dimensions on the 120L boards?

        • Erik Antonson
          Reply

          One is at 7.11 x 29.5 @120L That changes a touch if you wanted to go narrower, this design is for a friend who wanted to hit 29.5 for wetsuit and choppy conditions.

          Also just did an 8.0 x 28 @113L for a very good surfer who is testing for me.

          In the next few months some models will standout and become featured models. The 7.4 x 25.5 @83L, 7.6 x 27 @92L and 7.11 x 28.5 @107L boards are solid, I’ve personally ridden all of them and feedback others is all good. New dimensions are based on those shapes and testing thus far has shown the shape scales up and down well.

          The shortboards are most exciting as design ideas were about distributing volume to make larger volume boards feel smaller. But it also lets you add 20% volume to a shortboard so you can have more float/paddling/speed but still turn and hold rails. I’ll be releasing more photos of our last trip soon.

  • Erik
    Reply

    Erik, pop some out, we are all excited to sample! Volume and rail is such a fine balance. I loved the thin rail on my last board but it was under water a lot. My new board has volume but the rail is a little thick. The next one should be just right…

    • Erik Antonson
      Reply

      Hey Erik – I’m producing about 10 pre-orders this month for folks who reached out after the video. I’ll start taking orderers in the next few weeks. I haven’t had much time since we got back from our last test trip to write, but after a fin placement change and a change in entry rocker they’re surfing great and feedback from the 5 other guys testing is solid.

      Regarding rails, what didn’t you like about being under water? Was your board lower volume and that’s why you were under water? Or Same volume and just rails were under. We’ve found that if you have the same volume, so a comfortable float, but can have rails slightly under water you get some of the benefits of super low volume boards and being beneath the chop.

      Thanks, E

      • surfafrica
        Reply

        How are you glassing them? What does the 7.4 x 25.5 weigh?

        • Erik Antonson
          Reply

          I’m working with a solid glassing factory here in Jax Beach, FL. So far all the prototypes have been in standard epoxy construction. S glass, and the later builds with carbon vector next on the deck. This week I finalized innegra construction as an option. It will be a base layer of 3oz innegra, with two 4oz sheets on top and 3oz innegra with one 4oz on bottom. Weight will be the same, or just a touch lighter than the s glass. Weight is super light. I actually added weight from the first prototypes for feel. Changed from 1 pound foam to 1.25. I’ll get weights when this round is finished.

          I’m always open to hearing what you all think is the best construction. I plan on doing some interviews with folks about the topic. Maybe from other sports.

  • surfafrica
    Reply

    Are feeling a noticeable difference between the winged pin and winged swallow tails?

  • Alex
    Reply

    Hi Erik! Psyched to see your design. Here are some elements I notice in casual glances at the shape:

    — A semi-fish planshape with fairly parallel rails and outline curve that accelerates the closer you get to the nose and tail. Seems similar to the Hypto Krypto in this regard.

    — On an absolute basis, a slightly wider nose than tail. This is another element that seems well suited to a performance SUP to get good front foot glide while still being able to turn.

    — A wing/hip which accentuates the effect of the planshape balance described above.

    — A rocker that uses a more relaxed rocker line through the first 1/2 or 2/3 of the board with a more accelerated rocker through the rear 1/3. When optimized, this provides a good combination of front foot flow and turning. The idea rocker is one that feels fast and flowy down the line but still turns hard off the bottom and in the pocket. You know it’s right when you feel like you aren’t losing speed between turns. (IMHO Of all the design elements in a surfboard, I believe rocker is the one, that when right, makes the board feel “magic.”)

    — A foil which distributes more foam in the nose than the tail. Again to optimize front foot flow and rear foot bite.

    — Using the step rail, a very refined and low rail which increases speed and makes it easier to engage in hard turns.

    It so happens that I just got a board which has many of these elements, the Sunova Creek. Interesting to see how your rigorous and analytical approach has resulted in some similar design choices. As you said, its about throwing away preconceptions from shortboards and optimizing for the sup platform. I’d be psyched to see one in the 8’/110-115 liter range!

    Cheers

    Alex

    PS my other board is an L41 Popdart

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