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!

Zane and Matty Schweitzer Podcast – Technical Skills Discussion

Zane and Matty Schweitzer Podcast – Technical Skills Discussion

Folks! I know I’ve been slacking, so to make up for it I sat down with Zane and Matty Schweitzer last week and we had a 2 hour technical skills discussion. We covered stroke technique vs. board size/volume. Hydrofoils in the lineup. Foot position for turns. Zane’s five tips for folks starting to paddle surf. The Pacific Paddle Games. The Ultimate Waterman. Matty’s settings and camera recommendation to film surfing to aid in deliberate practice.

I know you’re gonna love this discussion, and some of the meat is nearer the end, so try to get it all.


FCS Fin Test 2 – XL Performer Front, S Performer Quad Rear

FCS Fin Test 2 – XL Performer Front, S Performer Quad Rear

Have I told you guys how much I love surfing?  Well, I f@#$ing love it!!!

After traveling for a week and then having to unexpected leave for another 2 days, I’ve only surfed once in the last 2 weeks.  You’d have to go back to august to find 2 weeks with that little surfing.  I have been in the water, but kids are are amping so much that they don’t let me surf.  Sunday, I had it all planned out, get up early, sneak an hour or two in the water, then have the kids meet me, but they woke up earlier than I did and were already ready to go.  I’m not complaining, I’m actually having just as much fun watching them learn as I’m having surfing.

Read Day 1 of the Fin Test, Performer XL Front and GL FCS2 Center

But today was my day!  Kids at school, and the Fiji swell was showing up!  I checked the reef early, still not enough wave and the direction was wrong.  So I headed up to the beachy, high tide.  I didn’t expect it to be big yet, so I thought it would be a great day to try the quad setup that Tyler from FCS sent over.


Now, I don’t love quads normally.  There are a few boards that I’ll ride them, but not since my board was the 7.4 x 28.5 Airborn have I preferred quads.  Another board that I will ride as a quad at times is the 7.5 x 26 F-One.  That board likes the GAM2s.  So, today when I decided to ride the Quad setup, I wasn’t overly optimisitc.

I have tried a quad setup in the 2015 and 2016 7.4s.  If you don’t know the difference between those boards, the 2015 is 78L the 2016 is 83L.  The rails in the 2016 are a bit fatter, and fin placement is much better.  The 2015 fins were pulled in too far off the rails which hurt performance.  They fixed that in the 2016.


I didn’t like either the 2015 or 2016 as a quad.  Early on I tried the stretch quad set, which is my favorite shortboard set and lately the Performer L front and M trailers.  The stretch set was way too lose, fun on super small days, but I hate losing speed because of small fins.  The Performer L-M combo was also slidey, and flitty.  Not sure if flitty is a word, but it accurately describes the feeling.  Quick back and forth without any real drive.  Slow and weak off the bottom.

I described that feeling to Tyler and he sent me the Performer XL and the S trailer.  As I said, I didn’t expect much.

The waves this morning were bigger than I anticipated.  Sets up to 10-12 foot on the face were coming through every 15 minutes.  As I loosened up on the beach, I regretted my decision to ride the quad.  That said, I’m committed to the process and journey, not the outcome.


It’s a new experience for me to try to remain an observer instead of an active participant in  surfing.  I’ve been reading a lot about sports phycology and getting the conscious mind out of the way is something I’m working on.  Also trying to instill this in activites with the kids.

Here’s the idea –  You do something.  Instead of judging if you did it right or wrong, you notice how it went and draw lessons from the process.  So a wrong is a positive because you learn something.  And a right is a positive because you have a mental representation of how to do it correctly.  It takes the negative emotion out of the equation and allows you to learn faster.  Easier to say than do, but I’m working on it.

Like this approach to learning?  Come train with us in Costa Rica!


So as I was paddling out today I was just reminding myself today is a great opportunity to feel how these fins work in larger waves.

All my preconceived notions were wrong.

First wave was a medium one.  I’m conditioned to surf a new board or a board with different fins tentatively at the begging.  I have a exploration process.  Ideally I’d like to get a few slopey waves to first feel the rail, then open up a turn or two when I figure out where the board is really grabbing the water.  My first bottom turn held.  So much so that it put me off balance coming up to the lip and I blew the top turn,  ruined the wave.  But I realized that there might be something to this fin setup.

Second wave ran a bit and I got to expore where the board was accelerating.  I didn’t figure the drive out today.  Honestly, it felt a bit slow.  This is most likely user error, as I’m so dialed into riding this board as a thruster. There’s a lot of subtlety to driving down the line.  It didn’t slip around and the other quad setups I’ve used on this board have been dicey.

After a couple more waves I finally got a wave with a few sections.  I loved it on the bottom.  If you’ve been reading, that’s where I have problems with this board.  If you can hold a bottom turn, you can have a good angle and enough velocity to come hard off the top.


I’m not done testing this set.  Because I don’t ride quads much I need to give it a few days to internalize.  I think it will be 2 or 3 days before I can surf it without thinking about foot placement and really get feel for the differences.  But so far, I’m pleasantly surprised and looking forward to asking Tyler why it feels so much different from other experiences with Quads.  So far, he’s 2 for 2.

Read Day 1 of the Fin Test, Performer XL Front and GL FCS2 Center

FCS Fin Test – Performer XL Front and GL Center

FCS Fin Test – Performer XL Front and GL Center

Back in Costa Rica!  Seven days of no surfing and zero athletic activity.  For me, that’s unheard of, but the body needed a break.  I was getting sore  in the hip flexor area and the elbows and one week of downtime seems to have solved both of those issues.  The downtime was and always seems good for my surfing.

Taking a break from an activity  allows time for the mind to process new skills.  I find this in both surfing and language.  I group the two because if I’m not surfing I’m also probably not speaking spanish.  When I return from a trip back to the states surfing and spanish are noticeably better and more fluid.

Now, I’m not sure if the time away has allowed me to forget the level of where I was and thus it seems that I’m more proficient, or if in fact the mind uses that time off to solidify new processes.

The latter makes sense.  The feeling I have in the water is that the areas focused on are now naturally included with other older skills.  I also find that the “chatter” has dropped out and there’s more efficiency in movement.  The same holds true for language.  And I’m not built for language, so it is probably a better barometer for the learning process.

I’d be interested to know if there is a documented process in learning and strategic off time for processing, internalizing skills and movements.  If you know of a resource please comment below or shoot me an email.  Otherwise, I’ll do some research when I get time.

Prone Pop Up - 1

Today is the first session report from our fin test.  Tyler Callaway, a guest on the show and head of FCS, has sent me 3 new sets of fins to test.  I’ll be testing and journaling what I’m feeling and then at the beginning of next month we’re going to circle up and he’ll explain why and how it’s all working.

The fin setup for the morning session was Performer XL for the front fins and a GL (Gerry Lopez) FCS2 center.  I’ll be testing all the fins on the Starboard 7.4 because I’ve committed to riding that board in the Costa Rica SUP finals which will take place on June 25.  For the past month I’ve been using the Starboard with an AM2 center and Performer L fronts.  So, the change today was larger front fins and a taller, .5cm, but narrower, especially at the base of the fin, center fin.

Tyler sent the specific sets of fins to try after a discussion where I was explaining that the board felt a touch loose on the bottom and I didn’t feel I could hold hard bottom turns.  I had to decide to do a harder turn and lose speed or pull the turn and surf flatter.  I tried different fin positions with the AM2 and I could get more drive off the bottom with the fin all the way back in the box, but then the board felt slow and tight on the top.  It drew out the lines too much and the gains from riding a small board were lost.  If you’re going to ride a small board, you want to be able to draw tight lines.

Prone Pop Up - 3

Here’s the GL FCS2 center.  This fin is a game changer from a feedback perspective.  Never before have you been able to make micro adjustments to equipment in the water with no tools.  Normally you surf a whole session, thinking about how the board feels and then make a change for the next day.  But by then the waves are different and the test isn’t apples to apples.  Now, you can surf a wave, make a change, then surf the next to compare.  This significantly reduces time for discovery.  I also believe that you mind will change and shape experience due to outside factors so you may not truly own the sensation of the wave after a few hours.  Game changer!

Here are my notes from the morning.

  • On my first wave the board felt a bit loose and I blew the tail out completely and fell on a normal cutback.  I relied on the back fin with previous setup.  It wasn’t there in the same way.
  • I adjusted foot position forward, slightly, for the second wave, and used more rail and felt the larger front fins grab.  Bottom turn held, but the waves were small.  I’m not going to give a verdict until we have some juice.  Off the top the board is very loose.
  • I was able to refine cutbacks and began to like the feeling of larger front fins with a smaller, it did feel smaller than the AM2, center.  I would equate it to riding a Twin with a trailer.  Specifically it felt like a Lost Round Nose Fish with the MR 2+1 setup.
  • My favorite turn of the morning was a slingshot cutback, generally the most difficult turn for me on the starboard.  It felt like the front fins allowed more rail to be used.  The lead in picture is this turn.
  • Backside results felt similar.  Bottom turns were similar, here we really need big, fast surf to know.  And of the top the board was very loose.  It is going to take some getting used to as on two turns I just blew the tail out and slid around.  I’m going to need to use more rail for powerful turns off the top both frontside and backside.


Loose off the top, wish this shot were a second before as the tail released.  Felt like sliding a coping on a skate ramp.


I notice looking at the photos that there isn’t as much spray as the other fin setup.  That loose feeling is a loss of power.  Better for video, worse for photos.


I like this shot because the rail is still engaged and the fins didn’t release.  I pushed hard in the turn trying to feel if the fins would break out and they didn’t.  Could be good in bigger surf, we’ll have to wait and see.

Side note:  If you go to Atlanta, you’ve got to hit the Georgia Aquarium.  My kids were blown away.  Here’s a shot of one of the three Whale Sharks.

If you want to swim with one, come down to our camp and surf with us and you might get the chance!  I had the opportunity to swim with whale shark’s twice now!

Whale shark - 1


Prone Pop Up -Steps plus Video. More on Volume.

Prone Pop Up -Steps plus Video. More on Volume.

Morning folks!  Is this a strange year for weather where you live too?  May is supposed to be a rainy, pretty bad month for surf.  I usually tell folks to avoid it, and we’re not running any camps right now because of that risk…  that’s whats giving me the time to dive into these tutorials.  But, this year May has been stellar!  This morning we had another day of overhead , offshore wind surf.  Got some clips, maybe we’ll post those up later.

Lower tide this morning — steeper waves.  Rode the starboard.  I’ve never really thought about specific standups for conditions… not sure why.  Normally I’m trying to learn a board and have felt that each board is a step closer to the pinnacle of performance. What’s strange is that in short boarding, I always have 2 or 3 boards.  One for fat waves, one for punchy surf and one for when it gets really big.

I’m realizing that the starboard is an incredible board, but it definitely has a set of conditions it thrives in and some conditions where it struggles.  It’s more like a shortboard, a true, good wave shortboard.  I wonder, if in a year or so, I’ll be traveling with 2 SUPs, like I do with shortboards…

Here’s a few pics from the morning –

Harvey emailed in with a note on volume.  I thought it was helpful, so I’ll post it here:

When you are considering the amount of litres you need to support a paddler I think you need to factor in the weight of the board, paddle and wet suit. So for me in full winter mode in a 6/5 hooded wet surf , under vest , boots, and soaking wet I think that might weigh 2 kg poss 3. Add the board and paddle could add over 10kg to my body weight. I think you  need to consider adding that to the your weight to get the neutral bouyancy. 

In practice it means small boards are a bit smaller people might think. Weight of the board and what you wear can have an influence. Thought might be worth mentioning as I think in non perfect conditions a few extra litres can really make a big difference to having a fun session and the last thing I want to see is people going too small and loosing the fun.

Agreed Harvey.  That said, I have more trouble riding a board a bit bigger than closer to my V/W ratio.  It’s nice to be below the chop.  But, it’s a new still set, and will take some practice to get it.

On to today’s tip.  How to get up from prone position.  Like I said yesterday, I don’t favor this method, but when you’re paddling back out and a set pops up it’s faster to pop right up instead of going to seated position.  You also lose momentum when you sit.

One tip, something you can try as you’re getting used to riding smaller boards, but that I would quit ASAP, is go use incoming waves or chop to help you get up.  One of the problems of popping up on a small board is that the force you’re using to get up on the board will sink your board a bit.  I found that if you paddle at an oncoming wave and pop up right as your going over the back of it, so descending down the back of it, you can pop up without nearly as much sinking.  You shouldn’t get used to this method is that when you want to pop up, you’ll be looking for oncoming bumps, and if nothings coming it will delay your pop up.  It was my first trip with Kieran and Fisher here in Costa Rica that I was still popping up by paddling over waves and Kieren was beating me to every wave by coming up from seated.


Prone Pop Up - 1

Alright!!!  So, you’re prone paddling.  I like to chamber my paddle under my left shoulder, peck.  I don’t think right/left matters, I just feel more comfortable there.  I find I have great control of the paddle.  No problem punching through waves.  Also, as I talk about, it helps you assimilate in lineups.  No one knows you’re a paddle surfer until you want to show them.

Prone Pop Up - 2

The first move to standing is grabbing the shaft of the paddle.  I naturally do this after a stoke on the paddle side.

Prone Pop Up - 3

After you grab the paddle, you place both hands on the board near the rails, just like you’d get up riding a surfboard.  It helps to have surfed with this pop up.  The only thing that gives me an issue is at times I grab a bit of shirt, then you go to pop and your stuck to your board.

Prone Pop Up - 4

Notice here that the weight is coming forward, and your creating space for the front foot.  You leverage your knees for that pop, and your back foot will come up first.  You’ll be landing in surf stance, the goal is to have  your weight a touch back on the board.

Prone Pop Up - 5

Back foot has found the board, knee outside of arm.  This is very similar to the seated pop up we covered yesterday.  If you didn’t read that yet, make sure you check it out now.  Front foot comes straight through the arms.

Prone Pop Up - 6

Notice that your butt is down.  You should always default to butt down, bend at the knees in all of surfing (or life really if you listen to Eric Goodman and Foundation Training.  He’s coming back on the show next week!!!  And has a new book out, True to Form.)

Wrong posture is one of the ugliest things in surfing.  Ever watch someone trying to get barreled bending at the waist and trying to stick their head in the tube?  Doesn’t look right.  Go watch some Kelly Slater footage and notice where he bends.

Prone Pop Up - 7

Surf stance.  Weight is back, tail low in the water.  You’ll have a bit more time to get your paddle in the water with this pop up vs. the seated pop up because of the velocity you’ll have from paddling.  The faster you paddle into the pop up, the more time you’ll have.

Prone Pop Up - 8

The first stroke is the most important.  If you can get good stroke from your nose you should be fine from that point forward.

Now, if I were catching a wave here, I would just turn and go.  Stance is perfect to take off.

Prone Pop Up - 9

But, since I’m paddling around, on the next stoke I move my back foot up.  It requires less energy to stand in a more parallel stance and you have more reach on your stoke.  Can also paddle both sides.

Now that we’ve got you up and paddling a smaller board, tomorrow I’ll tell you what to practice to get better faster!

Come see us in Costa Rica to work on this and really get your surfing dialed in!  Check out our setup here.