“It gave us an opportunity to build something, which happens less these days,” Jai Kumaran says of the surfboard he and Clayton Taylor designed for this past summer’s A+D Museum benefit. It also gave the pair, California natives and partners in the LA-based creative design firm West of West, a chance to turn traditional surfboard design on its end. “It’s a hybrid of early California surf pioneers’ theories along with a more contemporary approach to design,” he explains. “It’s made in a traditional way—in fiberglass and resin—but thought of in a more radical fashion.”
The work of a surf legend named Bob Simmons served as a source of inspiration. “As well as being a surfer and beach bum, he was a sharp scientist and engineer,” says Kumaran. Simmons own work was influenced by Lindsay Lord, who had written about planing hulls. “It was an interesting first step to look at him since he used things he was designing and thinking of. It dovetailed with how we approach out work.”
While Simmons work—the planing hull, a wide flat board and concave elements—from there it morphed into an exploration of other themes in West of West’s work. “We’ve had a longstanding fascination with topography and landscape. The idea of topography played into the bottom of the board with channels and the different types of asymmetry,” notes Kumaran. The use of gray (historically boards were white) points to an interest in an abstract notion of what the board could be.
Once they had the design, which they modeled on the computer, they took it to the ship, where they worked with a shaper named Chris Noell. “It was fascinating to transfer the digital information by hand, and gave us a little flexibility. We worked some things out in real life,” says Kumaran.
Will there be more or was this just a one-off? Kumaran says they’re up for making more, since the project fits in with the firm’s wide-ranging design interests. “We’ve been contacted by a number of people asking where they can get one,” he says. He’s quick to point out, though, that the boards aren’t for everyone. “I think it will e entertaining for someone with a high skill level who appreciates a board that could produce different ways of experiencing the waves.” As a design object, though, its appeal is universal.