For more than two decades Christian Beamish has been quietly and methodically shaping a huge range of functional, eclectic, and just plain rad surfboards. He has walked his own path of innovation, refinement, and testing. His ability to create and elevate trends is in full view with some of his most sought after shapes, like the channel bottom twin, old school twin, glider, and single fins. Christian has never overlooked the importance fins when optimizing the performance characteristics of his shapes, so we thought it would be great to get his take on past, current, and future board / fin / surf theory.
TA: What age were you when you first started shaping?
CB: It was 1995, I was 25, still in college... living up in Santa Cruz and not loving the "elf-shoe" style of shortboards. With little interest in developing my air-game in surfing, I began looking back through the catalog of earlier designs. Andrew Kidman's film "Litmus" cracked-open a whole new way of seeing surfing, especially the Ireland parts and also Wayne Lynch talking about maturing as a surfer.
TA: Where does your influence for shaping come from? Specifically your high
performance twin and single fin designs that have become synonymous with the
Surfboards California label?
CB: Mainly from my 80s youth in Newport Beach. I was associated with Quiksilver (a junior team rider) and surfing the NSSA contests, and there was a lot of influence from Australia—Rabbit and Kong were our surfing idols, and their Allan Byrne channel bottom boards were really intriguing. Also, right at home, there were great surfers like John Gothard and Smerk Managan who rode Stussy's Twin Fin designs. Dane Kealoha was an almost mythic character—the way he slotted the short Twinne and rode deep at Backdoor. The single fins are meant for clean surfing. You can't "cheat" your turns on them: you either have the speed and right line or you don't. I like the way the single fin connects the eras of our sport, and certain riders: I always think of the Jeff Divine shot of Eddie Aikau at Sunset Beach, his bully boy stance and the pure Hawaiian core of his whole approach, right down to riding the sea-roads aboard Hokulea; and different, but somehow quintessential as well, Michael Peterson at Sunset Beach—frenetic and so radical. Full on single fin ripping. Rabbit, of course, at Kirra and Burleigh. These moments, even though I wasn't there, kind of became my points of orientation.
TA: Many of your designs have deep channels in the back third of the board. Can you discuss how water moves across those channels and affects performance?
CB: Channels are a cool combination of lift and drive. In the tube, there's this "ball-bearing effect" where you just weight the channels and feel the water loading up and shooting past simultaneously.
TA: Similarly, how do channels and fins interact with each other?
CB: It's been interesting to realize, almost in concert with what the guys in Australia have been telling me, that the round-pin channel bottom Twin Fins want smaller fins, generally: The TA Twin in 5.1" as opposed to the "standard" 5.5" TA Twin. With the concaves ahead of the channels, and the "drivey" outline of many of the round-pin channel bottom twins, the larger fins don't seem to release at the apex of the turn. It's not a deal killer, it just kind of makes the board "buck" and not give the feeling of control most of us are looking for. That said, on the double-wing swallow, six-channel Twins, I find I like the bigger fins. I think it's because those wings and swallow tail (along with the channels, of course) do a lot to "break up" the water flow. So, on the shorter double wing swallows, with channels, I like the bigger fins. Perhaps counter-intuitively, I think a longer (say, 6'8" to 8'2") double-wing swallow six-channel might want smaller fins because the long rail line will cause the water to "load up" through the fins and tail section of the board, generally. On the 7'2" double wing twins I'm doing without channels I'll ride the 5.5" (bigger) TA Twin.
TA: We’ve noticed an uptick in the number of 2+1 setups you’ve been shaping. What opened the door to riding three fin setups? How has your interest for the single fin and dual trailer configuration grown in the past few years?
CB: I pretty much stumbled into the 2 + 1 set up when I brought out the tail dimensions on a shortboard, and just didn't like the look of it as a twin fin. I hadn't been looking to make a keel fin, but was messing around with the diamond tail (which is a natural progression from the round-pin Twins). So the 2 + 1 was a way to "hold the show together" on a 6'5" with a 15 1/4" tail. I really liked the feeling. Way more single fin than Thruster, but still with the ability to "jam it" in the hook of the wave. I then moved into these 7'4"s (7' 4 1/2") with the "elliptical" tail block, and they're pretty dynamic: feels like a lot of upper range into 8- or 10-foot surf and more classic single fin "70s" style surfing in smaller waves.
TA: How do you see board and fin design evolving in 10 years from now?
CB: I wonder if more people won't be riding bigger boards generally, as a result of the wide-spread interest in midlength designs. The challenge for us designers is to marry concepts and make for greater surfing freedom—sometimes that means sacrificing certain aspects, like ultra-high performance maneuvers (which, to my mind, only look good when done by the upper echelon of pros anyway). I think with speed and flow as guiding principles, a surfer is most-often better served with a board he or she can paddle effectively and harness the power available (either when the waves are small kine, or pumping). Personally, I'm excited to refine these double-wing swallow Twins, and create a line of boards that runs from 7'0" to about 9'2". The idea is to flow like Gerry Lopez, and crack it and swoop like MR—also ride surf from two-feet to 12-feet with the same board (and in the barrel, too)!
Please visit http://christianbeamish.com/surfboards-california to order a custom board from Christian.