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March 10, 2021

Inspiration and context: All is forgiven

You can be forgiven for not noticing we low key released a pair of eggy bangers  under the title SUPERsymmetry recently. You can even be forgiven for not knowing where the inspiration came from for these boards as we did not state it explicitly. Furthermore you can be forgiven for not being well versed in our history. All of which we explore below. You can definitely be forgiven for not giving a fuck what I’m going on about as it will likely be a bit tedious. However, you cannot be forgiven for not subscribing to Encyclopedia of Surfing and doing some base level of due diligence before making unsubstantiated accusations in our DMs and on our posts. I will forgive though if you go subscribe now. 

Below we discuss, for the record, both the origins of SUPERsymmetry (a unified field theory of mid-lengths) and the recent controversy arising from an instagram story post by Ryan Lovelace, a shaper with a pig-like outline that he’s been shaping for some 10 years. We do this not because we owe an explanation to Ryan, although we gave him one privately in good faith after his post, but because he has reach. People follow him and believe what he says, even when he is wrong, although unwittingly, because he is a good guy and his heart is in the right place. We also discuss it here because imitation is the most frequent ad hominem attack leveled against fellow shapers. These attacks are almost always ridiculous, and almost always make enemies out of potential allies and are thus a waste of human emotion. We hope that Ryan sets the record straight publicly as he has agreed to do with those in his DMs. We’ll see. 


The post in question: 



First with the boring part:


Origins: The SUPERsymmetry collection is made up of 2 designs with identical outlines albeit one is reversed. The rockers and foils vary but the outlines are the same, again, just reversed. See the collection to get an idea of what we are talking about. The result is one (Yang) with a wide point forward, and one with the wide point back (Yin) and the board in question. The flipping of the outline about the center point dates back to 1955 I believe when Dale Velzy, unsatisfied shaping the same boards over and over flipped the outline moving the wide point way back and creating a design attribute forever after known as the Pig. Below is an excerpt from EOS:


One day I told Hap [Jacobs, Velzy's boardmaking partner], "I'm going to make something different. I've made thousands of them [chips] and I can't stand it anymore." So I drew a planshape backwards, using the nose from one template as the tail, and the tail from another template as the nose. Then I smoothed out the lines and there it was—a board with a narrow nose and a wide tail. It looked like the outline of a pig, if you were looking down on it from a fence rail. That's what we called it: the Pig. And as soon as we went down to the beach and tried it, and saw how it turned, we knew we were onto something. You could spot the difference the minute a guy got onto a Pig. It was that quick. Everyone progressed. The first half of the summer, people would see guys in the water and they'd say, "Whoa! Who just made that turn?" And it'd be Mike Doyle, Kemp Aaberg, Lance Carson, Mickey Munoz. You could spot 'em from the beach because of the turns they were making. People had never seen surfing like that before.” - Encyclopedia of Surfing

Here you can see we play a variation on that theme. We wanted both the down the line hold of an egg with the wind point forward as well as one that had the agility and playfulness of a “Pig”. 

The Pig has a long history of being an inspirational concept throughout design history. Wayne Lynch played around with them and Joel Tudor road them in the 90s. By his own admission, Ryan Lovelace based his wide point back mid-length(the V-Bowls) on Wayne Lynch’s work. With such a rich history of using the piggish wide-point back outline to improve maneuverability, why all the controversy? Who knows. The internet and the lack of due diligence (Get a subscription to EOS) is as much to blame as anyone or anything. Nonetheless, Ryan Lovelace, in a recent instagram story (image above), made some claims that must be addressed, not because they have real merit, but because he has reach. Again, for his part, he has expressed remorse for the post and looked to have deleted it prior to its expiration.


Claim 1: “…they got the rocker horribly wrong”

The explicit claim exposes the implicit claim. If the rocker is wrong is must be wrong according to a standard or an absolute. The inference is that the standard or absolute is the rocker of the VBowls. A hefty claim on its face, but the further inference is that the specific objective was to copy the VBowls and that we failed to match that objective. And there in lies the problem for the claim. If we set out to copy something it would be a perfect copy, we are not unskilled with either hand templating or CAD design. We mapped our own hand shapes for years into software. Since the claim is that the rocker (an essential element) is not the VBowls rocker, it stands to reason, it is not a VBowls copy strictly and the outline, as we have asserted above, pre-exists all of our entrances into the industry and in the original case, predates out emergence into this world as humans so it is not a copy suggestively either. If the outline inspiration is not the original element being discussed and the rocker is “wrong” it stands to reason there are other important distinctions, thus the implicit claim is wrong along both the intention axis and the empirical axis.

 Claim 2: “…by a major pop out brand.”

There is some historical validity to this argument if you discount the first 7 - 8 years of our operation as well as the last 2 years. Past managers of the brand did branch into apparel and did make a few boards in Thailand. The later is regrettable from our standpoint but those in charge at the time were probably acting in good faith trying to make a profit. However, this endeavor spanned only 2 years of the brand and though a stain is well into our past and is hardly a defining characteristic of our overall contribution.

re: “major” or “Corporate” (as described in another feed) – For the last 2 years SUPERbrand has been operated by 2 of the original co-founder, shapers in the US, Brian Brown, and Jason Koons(speaking). We have one part time employee. We provide for our families by making custom boards for our customers and by making stock boards for our amazing and loyal retail partners. We build our boards in Oceanside, CA in both our own shop and at partner glass shops in the area. Prior to that the whole operation barely ever eclipsed 10 employees. A small business by any definition. 

However, it is reasonable that people outside our sphere wouldn’t know this recent history, so all is forgiven.

Our desired objective at SUPERbrand is to not just to make a profit but to build the best boards for our customers that we can but to do it in a way we believe is the most ethical for our workers, our partners and ourselves. This is a state of continuous improvement or “Kaizen” as it were. Our mission is to enhance the lives of our customers through designing and building elevated and innovative surfing experience through the medium of the surfboard. We have no desire to mass produce or copy or any other nonsense of the like. We want to make the best boards we can so our customers and riders can have the best surf they’ve ever had because we believe that improving the surfing lives of surfers improves everything around them. That’s why we endure the hustle. I believe this is also Ryan’s core ethic, or at least part of it.


One more thing:

On judgment of origins and intentions of a design: an optional diatribe about elements of good faith assessment and critique. 

There are two concepts that are important when evaluating the evolution of anything, including design. These are common ancestry and convergence.

A useful example of shared ancestry from biology would be that the chimp and the bonobo share characteristics because they have common ancestry. All other explanations fail in both their simplicity and verifiability. This is the simplest explanation and therefore the most likely one. As board builders we share a very close and limited common history of design. We all owe something to Velzy, Brewer, Aipa, MR, the Cambel Brothers and Simon Anderson, Al Merrick and so many more. As such it is absurd on its face to make any claims of intentional imitation based on a vague similarity of a known historical design attribute shared in the contemporary marketplace. No one owns a monopoly on the amount of fins one employs, what bottom shape is used, nor on an outline. It is the gestalt conception that the whole is more than the sum of its parts that makes a design unique.

Our other concept, though not necessarily relevant in this context, yet an important consideration while reserving preparing critique, is the concept of Convergence which offers a different and more rare but nonetheless notable explanation about similarity of traits. Convergence explains that adaptive traits simultaneously (within decades, centuries, millennia) appear in unrelated species or groups due to environmental factors. Wings on bugs and birds and some mammals are a useful illustration. Flight provides the ultimate in both hunting and alluding ground predators. Thus multi unrelated species emerge with this same absolute technology. That is, if there is a best rocker or outline or fin set up, an absolute performer, it is logical that anyone pursuing the best performance would arrive on the same or similar innovations.

Employing these concepts display good faith when there is lack of good data to support a more nefarious explanation for similarities. Although nefarious explanations stir up the mob they almost always cause more harm them good when they are even possibly untrue. Employing good faith in judgment is essential to making allies in such a small and connected craft industry. 

As mentioned above, Ryan and I have communicated via DM, which will remain private for now, and he has expressed surprise at the change in our structure and governance, a reasonable response as its not commonly known, and for this he seemed to be encouraged. He was also remorseful overall about the post. It seemed to have been deleted by him prior to its expiration and he suggested he would be setting the record straight to those in his DMs.

My advice to you if you have read this far is that if you are in the market for a VBowls, please go to Ryan and order or purchase from one of his retail partners. We do not make nor attempt to make the VBowls. If his boards work as well as they look on instagram I am sure you will be happy.

If you are one of the loyal customers who have trusted us for years or are simply curious about the design, you are welcome to place an order for the Yin or Yang to suit your preference.






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