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

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

Getting Technical with JP’s Shaper Werner Gnigler

Getting Technical with JP’s Shaper Werner Gnigler

Last week I headed down to Grand Bahama with the family (we were forced to leave the United States to renew our international health care), and it just so happened that the Pryde Group dealer meeting was going on at Taino Beach.  Now, this wasn’t exactly a coincidence, Garry Menk, head of Pryde Group Americas, is a good friend and when I told him we had to leave the US, he invited us to come down, check out the new 2018 gear, learn to kite and sit down with Werner Gnigler the shaper for JP.

Werner’s roots are from windsurfing, first a competitor at the highest level, then shaper and designer.  As JP moved into standup, Werner took the best of windsurfing design and tech and applied those elements to his paddle surf boards.  Working with the likes of Keahi de Aboitiz (podcast here), Werner has refined his SUP designs to be some of the best in the sport.  The new JP 7.6 x 27 is an incredible board.

On the show we get very technical about his shapes, board technologies, fin setups and innovation process.  This is definitely a show for the paddle surfing nerds, and one you could listen to a couple times…  Enjoy


7.2 JP thoughts, Larry Cain Stoke Drilling and Charleston Film notes

7.2 JP thoughts, Larry Cain Stoke Drilling and Charleston Film notes

We have had an amazing time on our East Coast tour.  Charleston put it on for us, Mex1 and Morgan did it right and the film played to a packed house.

It’s tough to evaluate how good something is in reality when everyone tells you it’s great.  I’m a natural contrarian and if everyone is saying the same stuff I get skeptical.  If we’re looking through the lens of deliberate practice that isn’t actionable feedback.

The metrics I’m looking at during the film are smiles, laughs, hoots and engagement.  From that standpoint I do think folks are enjoying it.  And from a personal standpoint, it’s getting harder and harder to watch as more time passes since I’ve surfed a real wave.  The countdown to Cali is on, and the swell is looking solid for our whole first week.  I hope Colin’s ready because the froth is frothing over right now!

Charleston SUP Surfing

Yesterday I attended a JP demo day on Isle of Palms.  Charleston has a vibrant paddle surfing scene.  As it should, given the amount of surfers and lack of quality waves.  It’s a natural progression and I’d guess that as surfers in towns like Charleston realize the amount of fun possible on paddle boards we’ll have massive conversion.

I used the opportunity to borrow Corey’s 7.2 x 25 at 82Ls JP.  I’ve been wanting to paddle that board for a while given I’m a fan of the 7.4 (too wide and fat in the nose) and the 8.0 (a great board, just long).  I’m about 4kg from where I normally paddle, 3 weeks in the states will do that to me, and on this trip I’ve actually be trying to pack on a few pounds.  I get cold in Costa Rica and think having an extra few natural millimeters on the body won’t hurt in Cali.  Water temps are about 62 from what I’m seeing online and I haven’t put on a wetsuit since 2006.

Even with the extra kgs the 82L JP paddled great.  It’s a definite sinker, I was at my thigh, but the grip is so good that I was able to hold.  She’d be tough in choppy surf, but in clean conditions it would be no problem.

I can’t comment on how it surfs because the waves were about knee high and lacked any power.  I did get into a couple and it has that JP feel.  I’d expect a smaller feeling pro model.  It’s all going to be in the bottom turn.  The 7.4 lacks drive off the bottom, the 8.0 has it, but it requires a lot of rail which then limits you off the lip.  Maybe the 7.2 is the one.  I’m going to talk to Garry to see if there’s a way to test this board in some waves in Cali or back home.

My second objective was to drill on the paddle technique Larry Cain talked about on the podcast.  I use a very similar stroke.  Where we differ is in leaning forward and getting your weight on your paddle.  My contention during the show was that it would be difficult in riding smaller boards.  I felt that yesterday.

I tested it on two boards – first the 7.2.   I could get the weight forward on the toes, but every 2nd or 3rd stroke the nose would bury and require a massive shift to the tail, at times a correction back-stroke, and all momentum was lost.  I fell a number of times.  While the stoke may be faster, at this point I don’t think it’s possible on sinker boards.  I’m sure there is also a component of nose surface area, and that JP has a small nose.

The second board I rode was the 8.6 pro, pretty sure it was at 29 wide.  It was a big board but surfed much like the 8.0.  My wife shot this photo on an iphone.

Drilling on paddle weighting on the 8.6 was 100% different.  The board felt stable in the water and the nose volume, rocker and surface area held the forward weight with no issues.

At this point there is something to explore further in the stoke and the final decision may come down to the size board you’re riding.

Just like in surfing, techniques that apply to large boards don’t necessarily apply to small boards.  It’s one of the reasons why I advocate racing to the bottom ASAP.  No sense in learning techniques that won’t apply to where you want to end up.

Examining Mental Models and the Beliefs they Create

Examining Mental Models and the Beliefs they Create

Knowingly or unknowingly we model people, behavior, and skills.  We accept some of the models and reject others.  Either decision can result in a pattern and repeated enough will become a habit.  Habits over time can become beliefs.  Beliefs are hard to change.

3 years ago this video became my aspiration in paddle surfing.

I bought the JP 7.4, downloaded the song and modeled the surfing.

I’ve made this statement multiple times over the last 2 years –

“JP’s don’t really do rail turn.”

Today, while coaching, I decided to ride the JP.  I like the float and it’s easy to demonstrate paddle technique.  I always pick off a few waves during a session.  I gave zero thought to my surfing or what board I was riding – normally I have an intention.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Infinity lately, and defaulted to “Infinity lines.”  After a couple waves I realized I was drawing tight rail turns.

I journaled a few weeks ago about mustering rail turns on the JP, but that was with a ton of thought.  Consciously changing the way I was surfing.  Today was different.  It just flowed.  I was surfing the board with lines meant for a different board, and they worked.

What the f#$%?

I held a belief that JP’s don’t do rail turns.  Where did that belief come from?

I modeled Keahi, specifically the above video, to learn to surf the JP.  In the video Keahi does exactly one frontside slingshot rail turn (and not a great one at that).  Much stronger are his lip smashes and tail slides.  I spent hours modeling them.  Breaking down technique and recreating the turns.  But never once modeled a rail turn for the board.

The model of surfing like Keahi in that video turned into the pattern of top-to-bottom and slidey surfing.

The habit of surfing the board in that manner created the belief that JP’s don’t do rail turns.

All it took was surfing it like it was an Infinity,  and the board behaved differently. (When I modeled surfing Infinities and Hobies I’ve modeled rail surfing – Colin and Boehne)

This has me a bit mental at the moment.  I was certain and have argued that JP’s don’t do rail turns.  But, in fact, it was my model for surfing the JP didn’t do rail turns.

There are a few lines of thought I’m going to pursue – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  I’m exploring this in real time…

  1.  How does this apply to coaching.  Normally we start with the behavior.  X isn’t correct, you need to do Y. This is telling someone a belief is flawed.  Would a better approach be to go back to the beginning and ask where did the model for X come from?  Then switch that model for a better model, which should then eventually change the behavior.
  2. What are other beliefs that I currently hold that are based on flawed or incomplete models?
  3. Examining the beliefs held by surfers of paddle surfing.  What models created those beliefs and what new models do we need to create to replace the old models?

That’s just the beginning.  Think about personal, non-surfing beliefs.  Parenting… The rabbit hole is deep.



JP Australia 8.0 Session Notes

JP Australia 8.0 Session Notes

Session Notes – JP Australia 8.0 x 27 at 95L

I’m a believer in the race to the bottom, the idea that it’s worth the time and energy needed to learn to paddle smaller boards, because surfing them is much easier.

Last week Garry Menk, of JP Australia, came though Nosara.  He brought with him a few boards that happened to find a home in to our extensive board bodega.  One of those boards was my first performance shape, the 8.0 x 27.

On my race I blew through the 8.0 on the way to the 7.4 Starboard Airborn and then landed on the 7.4 JP for a few months.  Now I ride equal V/W, normally in the 82-85L range.  But, with this brand new beautiful 8.0 in the quiver, and some bigger surf on tap, I decided to give it a go, and figure the board out.

Here are some quick notes –

  • The difference in 85 and 95L is MASSIVE!  I feel like I’m paddling a race board.  Getting out in whitewater is fun.  The float and heavy nose rocker let’s me pop right powerful foamies.  Getting in to waves is a breeze, and wave count has been high in big mushy surf.
  • Energy consumption is much lower with a little more float.  It would be interesting to measure calorie burn.  I’m guessing that 10 liters equates to 20-30% more effort.
  • I played with fin placement.  The board works better with the fin all the way back, or about 1cm from the back of the box.  She feels stiff there, and it’s tough to push out the tail, but she keeps speed on the bottom and feels good in what rail turns you can muster.  The area where the board lacks is rail turns, as do most windsurf turned SUP production boards.  She’s a great board, and you just need to adjust the way you surf a bit.  Watch Keahi, he kills it on the JPs – but you won’t see too many rail turns (and he isn’t riding the production model.  He rides  – at the time of the podcast – a 7.6 x 26.).  The sweet spot for fins is smaller center fin pushed all the way back.  I have the GL center now and will be changing to an AM2, with FCS adapter, which will be smaller.
  • Backside length matters more.  Frontside surfing is aided to a larger degree by strength and paddle pull.  Backside surfing relies more on rail work and body swing.  The swing weight of the 8.0 slows down backside surfing.
  • Riding the 8.0 makes me want to try the new JP 7.2 x 25.  That’s an 82L board, it could be incredible.
  • She is a much better board in steeper waves.  Here again, JP and Starboard share the common trait of pushing water in slower surf.  I don’t feel either company has dialed in bottom contours or entry rocker.  I’m not a shaper, but the feeling of both boards is slow once you get on the bottom.  Compare that to my Hobie and Infinity boards and they carry speed like a shortboard, with less volume.

Overall, I love the board.  She has a space in the quiver.  It won’t be a daily rider, but when the reefs get going, and covering distance and dealing with chop are a factor, she’s the best option.

If you like this blog you’d love coming down to surf in Costa Rica with Blue Zone SUP.  We’ve got space in our July 9th-16th Camp!!!