With a reigning Brazilian World Champion this year, it was widely anticipated that a Brazilian would still be leading the rankings by the Oi Rio Pro. Adriano de Souza (BRA), however, was not the first surfer that came to mind. But so far this season -- his tenth on Tour -- the powerful regularfooter has been impressing fans, fellow pros and judges with a new consistency.
It should come as no surprise, then, that his equipment has been as consistent as his surfing. Britt Merrick, son of Channel Islands Surfboards founder Al Merrick, offers a look at the model that took De Souza to the No. 1 spot. If he keeps surfing the way he has been, it just may keep him there.
WSL: What model and dimensions was De Souza riding during the Final at Margaret River?
Britt Merrick: Adriano was riding a 6'0" x 18 3/16" x 2 3/16", 25.1 liter Rook 15. His normal short board is a 5'8", so the 6'0" was a pretty good step-up for him. It had slightly pinched rails, more like you would find on a board that was 2 1/8", to provide a little more sensitivity while maintaining paddle power for the challenging conditions.
WSL: How many boards does he generally take with him to test at a contest site? What other CI models does he tend to like?
BM: He generally has about 8 new boards to test for each event. He is riding both the Rook 15 and The Proton.
WSL: His board looked like lightning under his feet and transitioned through turns really smoothly. What about its design allowed it to perform like that?
BM: The Rook 15 has quite a bit of rocker in it that allows for quick turns and transitions. It also has a nice straight-ish spot under the front foot in the rail rocker that, along with a very generous single concave running almost the whole length of the board, creates lots of speed, flow and drive. The tail block is pulled in on the Rook 15 as well, which helps with fast transitions.
WSL: How did his winning board differ from the step-up he surfed during the earlier rounds, when the waves were even larger?
BM: In the earlier rounds at The Box and on the bigger day at Margaret's he was riding a 6'3" Proton step-up. The Proton is a board that my dad developed with Dane [Reynolds] a few years back that has been one of our more successful high-performance models. We have been working with The Proton and several team riders lately to refine the rocker curve and it has been working great.
Lots of our team riders were using Protons on the bigger days of the Australian leg. It's been going well for all sorts of surfers in all sorts of waves and works nicely as a step-up, like Adriano was using it in WA. His winning Rook 15 was different in that it was 3 inches shorter and has a bit wider nose, some straighter sections in the rocker through the center, more concave, and a little more curve out the back in both the rail rocker and the tail block.
WSL: When designing a step-up, what elements are altered to accommodate the length and still allow for high-performance surfing?
BM: My dad always says, "You can't surf radically if you can't go fast and transition quickly." So a lot of what we are trying to achieve with a high-performance short board is creating speed while still allowing for quick directional changes. This is always a delicate interplay between varied rocker curves and bottom contours.
My dad always says, 'You can't surf radically if you can't go fast and transition quickly.'
Of course the waves that are being ridden will dramatically affect the approach to those rockers and contours. A step-up is generally for waves with more size, push and power, therefore the board itself does not need to be as efficient at creating speed. Rather, we are looking to control and harness the speed that the wave provides.
Since flatter rockers are faster, a step-up goes in the other direction and will call for more rocker but with elongated curves. Extreme curves or breaks in rocker can create wash in powerful waves that make a board unstable, so a step-up will have subtler breaks in the rocker but more curve overall. The same holds true for the contours-since you do not need to create lift, but rather control the lift the wave provides, you can employ more muted contours. It is all a balancing act between speed, lift and transitions.
WSL: De Souza has finished at 3, 2, and 1 in the last three events. Has his board stayed the same, or does he switch between models regularly?
BM: He had essentially the same boards for the whole Australian leg -- Rook 15s and Protons ranging from 5'8 to 6'0. For Margaret River he added a few longer versions of The Proton -- 6'3s and 6'6s.
WSL: A lot of surfers prefer rounded-pin tails in the larger, open-face walls. What is it about a round tail's performance makes it more desirable than a squash in those waves? How do they differ in performance overall?
BM: The rounded-pin on a step-up works in conjunction with the rocker and contour modifications mentioned above. The width of a squash tail helps provide a board with lift and flow. The rounded-pin has decreased surface area and so helps provide the release that is needed in powerful waves. The water exits the tail sooner and with greater volume and hence releases or burns off excess force. Since there is less lift, consequently, the tail will sit down in the water more easily and so hold in and feel more stable and solid in waves of consequence.
WSL: Looking forward to Rio, how will De Souza change up his quiver?
BM: He will be riding mostly the same models. Both the Rook 15 and The Proton are very versatile boards that work in just about any wave. We will tweak them a little for the particular conditions in Rio, and give him one or two new designs we are working on to try as well.
WSL: De Souza isn't a big guy. But while most guys are riding boards around their own height or shorter, why does he tend to go a little longer than most Tour surfers?
BM: Personal preference, really. But you'll notice that Adriano has a powerful approach, stance and style and likes to push really hard on the rail and draw out his turns. We saw him do some huge carves in the pocket at Margaret River, holding his rail for an extended period of time. The little extra rail line provided by the length helps this sort of surfing.