Sea Dragon Surfboards

Charting my exploration of surfboard design and construction, from a small shed in the Adelaide Hills

Testing – board, fins and personal limits 

I recently added a pair of single tabs to this ageing board so I could ride it as a 1+2, thanks to these little tri-colours given to me by Ben Chipper. It’s a great board to ride, but I’d found that it lacked hold in steeper waves. The side bites are intended to rectify this situation. 

Yesterday I took it out for testing in what turned out to be some reasonably serious waves – overhead to almost double overhead on the biggest sets. At first I found it difficult, as if the new fins had added hold, but at the expense of speed. I wasn’t making it past the curl, but if I did, I was struggling to turn it back into the power source and was left bogged and cursing as the wave ran away from me. 

Then one simple thing happened that changed my whole perspective – I changed where I was surfing. Instead of chasing the more elusive right-handers down towards the middle of the beach, I paddled back up to the point and sat on a left where only the biggest sets were breaking, and almost all the waves were lefts. 

Being a natural footer, this meant I was now on my backhand, so this, in combination with the size of the waves, resulted in a significant downgrading of my expectations of what I might be able to achieve. Effectively, I reset my whole outlook on the session and went back to basics. Find the right wave, paddle into position, turn, paddle, stand, make the drop, bottom turn, find the power source then drive down the line and pull off. 

Nothing fancy, but it allowed me to really concentrate on the board under my feet and how the new fin setup responded to small, subtle prompts. An average surf turned into a great one. I didn’t always make the waves, but it didn’t matter. There was nobody else on the peak, so I had my choice of waves and there was no pressure. I caught a few waves yesterday that I would normally not have had the courage or confidence to catch in the past, given their size. But I was so caught up in this perspective shift that I didn’t even think twice. 

The whole experience brings to mind a passage from Andrew Kidman’s book, Lost in the Ether (it came with the film), in which iconic Aussie surfer/shaper Terry Fitzgerald describes his approach to finding his rhythm on a new board. 

“Adjusting your settings is the essence of individual surfing… I would stop. Tell myself to just take-off and simply stand there. Do nothing but make the wave, looking for and magnifying the subtleties of trim. Feel the wave! From the incredibly simple concept of fitting your board into the wave you can begin to rebuild. Add a turn, ride the fall line and gradually work back up to multiple turns… Ultimately, it is the wave we are truly riding.”

Update on the Phoenix project

If a picture tells a thousand words, then here are 14,000 words for you to digest…








Article published on Swellnet

So I got this article published last month, detailing the design and construction of my agave board, which I finished building back in February.

The production line

It’s been a busy couple of months in the old Sea Dragon Surfboards shed. I’ve just finished the board in the last post, and just before Christmas I delivered two more to happy customers.

The first was for Sean, a local plumber, in return for some really useful emergency work he did around our place throughout the year last year. He’s a novice surfer, but not a small bloke. The brief was to make it as stable and beginner-friendly as possible, without compromising on style in the process. I gave it a nice Balinese batik inlay and Sean couldn’t have been more stoked.





The second of the two also had a batik inlay, although it was for a much shorter recipient – my 5yo son Charlie. It’s a 4’11” x 16″ x 2 1/4″ single fin, using a fin that I shaped myself out of plywood, which Charlie then marbled with artist’s ink (no photos of the fin). He hasn’t got on it yet, but was pretty excited to just have a board.



New year, new board

I started the year off with a nice little custom order. It’s a high performance short board for an intermediate level surfer, a 16th birthday present for a neighbour (and I thought I was the only waxhead in the village). If everything goes according to plan, it should help her take her surfing to the next level.

Mia's Board - finished

Templated Blank



Painting in progress

Painting finished

Messy bottom

Plug installation
Dimensions are as follows: 5’10” x 19″ x 2 3/8″, single to double concaves on the bottom, with a 5-fin set-up. Colour work was done with acrylic paint and the black was all resin – in the lamination on the bottom and as fat-arsed pinlines on the deck.
I wish I could get a chance to try it out before handing it over, but it’s getting picked up tonight.


Just a quick update on the cracked S-Plug saga (that’s what it’s being called now). I contacted Shapers to let them know about the lost fin etc. and included photos of the cracked plugs. I just wanted to give them some feedback, I wasn’t fishing for any freebies or anything like that.

As I said, I’ve always had great service from them in the past and this time was no exception. After a brief conversation about whether I’d hit the bottom (I hadn’t), they offered to send me a replacement set without prompting. I said thanks, but if they were willing, I’d rather replace them with a set of their X- series plugs and they didn’t even blink. A new quad set is in the mail as you read and hopefully I’ll have the board back in the water before Spring (although I won’t be holding my breath on that count – things happen slowly around here).

With all this in mind, and for what it’s worth, I highly recommend talking to the good folk at Shapers Manufacturing Co. for all your shaping needs. And shakas to Dan from Shapers, who is, even now, dropping into a crystal blue set wave somewhere in Indonesia (bastard).

Fin Blow-out

Had a bugger of a surf yesterday, I just couldn’t get into a groove. Turned out that I’d lost my front toe-side fin, which explains why every time I tried to turn it on my frontside I got bucked off. At one stage I wiped out then slid down the face of the wave, on MY face, with a veritable waterfall of brine being forcibly injected up my sinuses. Not pleasant.

Anyway, I was double bummed because it was one of a pair of glow-in-the-dark fins I got from Ben the fin man Chipper and it was the first time I’d tried them out. Here’s a picture of the setup I was trialling:

Quad setup

It felt really drivey off the bottom, I’ve never felt like I had that much control in such size on my backhand. If only I’d had a chance to put together a couple of frontside turns as well…

Having examined the board in more detail this morning, I’ve discovered that four out of the eight plugs have cracked, so I’m actually lucky that I didn’t lose more than one fin. They’re Shaper’s S-Plugs and were a bit of a bugger to install. You can check out my trials and tribulations on this thread on Swaylock’s.

Here are a few pictures of the cracked plugs. As you can see, it’s definitely the plugs that have failed, not the installation.

Cracked Plugs

I’m now facing a long stretch back on the single fin until I can get my act together to a) finish my agave board, and b) find time and resources to route out the damaged boxes and retrofit an alternative. Maybe I’ll just go with glass-ons, except that would severely limit my ability to test different setups.

I’ve emailed Shapers to let them know about the failure. Still waiting on a reply, but they’ve been pretty responsive in all my dealings with them to date, so we’ll see what comes of it.