Q & A with Flying V Designer – Clinton Filen
Having spent his entire life developing products for the wind and surf industry, racking up some serious water time in the process, Clinton currently calls the small coastal city of Cape Town home.
We spent a morning catching up with Clint to learn more about his process and the recently released Flying V.
You don’t consider yourself a shaper, why is that?
I was born into an age of machines, so I just don’t consider myself a shaper or a craftsman. In my opinion, a shaper is a classic term for someone who creates something by hand, and my work has always been shaped on a computer. So that’s why I refer to myself as a board designer, rather than a shaper.
I also don’t make customs boards. I believe that we should deliver customers a resolved product, something that is well thought out. Even if I do sell somebody a once off, it is something that has been extensively researched and developed, and that’s why I believe we build better boards. We develop an idea completely before taking it to market. Only once we have refined it and gone through many iterations does it reach the consumer, and that’s a big difference from what a lot of our competitors are doing.
What led you to become a product designer?
It’s pretty much all I have ever done; I have always worked in product development. I built my first board when I was 15, and I guess I did have a hand in shaping that one with my friends, but it has always been something I am really passionate about.
Could you take us through your design process and who your biggest shaping influence is?
The process for me is very personal, for example with the Flying V, where it’s something I see as solving a problem. Developing short boards that work well in small waves for intermediate surfers is something that is very close to me personally, because of the small waves we have in front of our offices in Muizenberg, and the fact that I’m an intermediate surfer. So some of those designs are very easy for me. I’m basically doing the classic product design process of solving a problem as best as I can.
I’m not really that influenced by other shapers to be honest, although I have obviously worked a lot with traditional board designers like Svein Rasmussen and shaper Dave Stubbs who I really respect. For me, it’s always about tying to bring something new to a person. I’m always trying to give something new to people that nobody else is delivering, and that’s one of the challenges.
What was the concept behind the Flying V?
The idea for me was to look at a classic fish and see what conditions it was traditionally best for, which is when waves are small and sloppy, and see how I could improve on this.
The issue I have with a fish is that it has inherent weaknesses in terms of being able to ride top to bottom. So I wanted to take that relaxed approach of how you would surf a fish, with the classic style and riding fluid lines, while also driving the product through the turns nicely. Traditionally with a fish, you kind of go down the line and any time you wanted to do something very critical the board would turn very flat. You know it wouldn’t really be good at going around corners either, so I basically tried to make a fish that turned really well without loosing the low end.
How long did the development process take from concept to creation?
It was a complicated board and it probably took us a year in development.
We have developed quite a few boards for small surf such as the Ultra and other very dedicated super small wave shapes, but with the Flying V we were looking to improve consistency and drive. To do this, we started to find things such as bringing the Tri-Fin feel into the fish shape in order to improve overall performance. That’s when we got onto the Flying V bottom shape. The bottom shape gives the board that feel of rolling from rail to rail.
Traditionally the twin fin, like a fish, would basically engage one fin or the other and when you were in the middle you would kind of get what I like to call ‘hunting,’ where the nose doesn’t really go where you want it to until you engage the other rail or fin set.
So what we did was introduce the Flying V bottom shape (where the board name came from) and that was the break through. Getting a lot of stability out of the bottom shape, then being able to almost use the fins to loosen up the board and the overall feel of the ride.
What are the benefits of the deep double concave in the board?
That gives you a lot of directional stability and it channels the water very strongly. The thing about the “V” is that it allows the board to turn from rail to rail very effectively.
Could you give us a breakdown of the rest of the board shape?
If you look at the nose, it’s pretty narrow. What this helps to do is pull the nose around at the end of your top turn if you don’t have a lot of power and you want to come and kick back into say, a round house or something. Having a lot of curve in the front of the nose really helps to do this.
In terms of the total width of the board, it’s a really wide board with good planing area, not as wide as say the Ultra, but the width is the key for really getting going when its super small.
We wanted something that you could still stomp the tail and throw into a nice powerful or snappy turn with. So by bringing in the wingers, the tail is now relatively narrow and that’s a big differentiation again over a fish.
Flex Carbon Technology was used in the construction of this board? What are benefits of Flex Carbon for this board?
We are basically able to reduce the weight with the use of carbon fiber, which is stronger than standard glass fiber too. So you have the benefit of a stronger deck, and because it’s biaxial, you still get the flex characteristics of a traditional glass board because none of the carbon fiber is running longitudinally. We were also able to take the stinger out so that you have a board that’s really flexible and responsive.
What type of surfer is the Flying V designed for? Could anyone pick it up and have a blast?
We originally developed it as an intermediate small wave board, although some of our more advanced testers have really started to enjoy it; riding it a little bit smaller, they have been really amazed by the flexibility and capabilities of the board.
How does this board go, and what conditions is it best suited for?
Small waves, you are looking kind of 1 – 4 foot where it would excel. Those would be its ideal conditions.
Can it still surf OK outside of its “ideal” conditions, or is it pretty specific?
It’s quite good with choppy conditions because of the bottom shape too, although it is quite specific. Once you start getting over four foot it would be a real handful, there’s a lot of fin and a lot of board, so you could surf it but it wouldn’t be in its ideal zone. Keep it in the 1 – 4 foot range and it’s a really fun board.
What’s next for Starboard Surf and yourself?
We have been playing with quite a few interesting projects in our development shop, but I can’t say what will be refined enough to take to market right now.
We have made some really interesting developments on pure entry level shapes. Some of the more performance thinking is around inverted V designs in the Streetfighter concept, or the negative side cut outline, combined with the deep V from the Flying V; this is our Flying Squirrel concept. These ideas try to solve a similar problem from opposite directions, which is always a really interesting process.
As always, we focus on having something really resolved, instead of just chasing fashion, so before we expect anyone to drop money on one of our new shapes, we’ll run through our usual R&D and testing. You’ll hear more on those concepts soon I’m sure.
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