In The Shaping Bay
Josh Martin breaks down his father Terry Martin's classic Hot Curl design
SHAPER: Josh Martin
MODEL: Hot Curl
WIDTH: 22 1/2″
NOSE WIDTH: 15 3/4″
TAIL WIDTH: 11 3/4″
THICKNESS: 3 1/8″
Josh Martin is continuing the family legacy that his father Terry started more than 60 years ago. Josh shapes a wide variety of surfboards, but his passion lies in understanding some largely forgotten corners of surfboard design. The Hot Curl was the first of 80 thousand surfboards that Josh’s father shaped, and it’s also a design that offers surfers a chance to ride waves in a way that modern design has forgotten.
Tell me about the history of the Hot Curl and your family’s connection with the design.
My dad began surfing by riding finless planks, but he found them impossible to surf and figured he could make his own board that would perform better. The first board he ever made was the Hot Curl, modeled after a finless design he’d seen called a “Hawaiian Board”. He surfed a spot in Point Loma called Terry’s Slide, which is known as Osprey Street now. It was not much of a surf spot at the time because there was a lot of kelp in the lineup at low tide, but with his finless Hot Curl, he could just glide over the kelp. They were originally made from solid wood, but he and I did build a polyurethane foam version a few years back.
Can you tell me about that design?
I used the 10’8″ Y blank, designed by Rennie Yater. The foam is fairly dense, and the blank has enough thickness, just barely, to net a 10′ board with proper bottom contour. I requested a 1″ Redwood stringer because it’s beautiful, classic, and has a lively springiness to it. It is also a wonderful way to use and show off a special piece of wood that otherwise might end up as a fence post.
I cut the tail off of the blank, and 10′ feet seems to be a good length for the Hot Curl. It has relatively flat rocker with the wide point forward and a pulled-in tail. The bottom has belly in the nose transitioning into vee in the tail, and the rails are pulled up to the deck throughout the board.
How does the board behave in the water?
It’s a complete displacement hull, so the board cradles in the water. Rather than planing on the surface, it sits in the water like a boat and taps into energy under the wave that normal surfboards plane across. It’s the energy that a dolphin or a seal rides, just below the surface of the wave.
There are opposing forces at play with a Hot Curl. Firstly, the entry rocker and hull displace a great deal of water, which plunges the body of the board low into a cradle position, but the way the water filters down the rail line gives a feeling of precision. Basically, the same water that initiates at the nose follows the length of the rail line until releasing straight off the tail. The ride feels very loose, but very secure at the same time.
Traditionally, Hot Curls are made of solid wood, and this one is made from denser foam. Is weight an essential part of the Hot Curl design?
My father would have said, “Yes,” and my instinct is to agree, but I’ve actually had some conversations recently that have challenged my convention. Roger Hall in New Zealand is making some shorter versions with modern adjustments, and Donald Brink has made a couple out of EPS foam that are lightweight and work really well. Also, I’ve seen footage of Ryan Burch riding a board called the Rabbit’s Foot, shaped by Ryan Lovelace, which isn’t a Hot Curl, but it looks like his design taps into some of the same forces as a Hot Curl and goes fast like a Hot Curl. Burch was able to do bottom turns and get the board sideways in a way that the Hot Curl doesn’t allow.
What are the ideal wave conditions to surf a Hot Curl?
Because of the size and weight of the board, it’s usually best to avoid crowds. The boards go incredibly fast and thrive on the open face. They work best in good quality waves, but I’ve been working on slight modifications that will allow them to work in mediocre conditions. Because they tap into that below-the-surface energy, they can ride open swell that you wouldn’t consider surfing on your normal board.
My friend Jeff Quam opened my mind to the idea of Hot Curls being ridden in really big waves. The board paddles faster and more easily than even big-wave guns, so it’ll allow early entry into those big, steep waves. And it’s so incredibly fast and stable that you’d likely be able to outrun the avalanche of whitewash that sometimes chases guys down. We are planning a 12′ model to explore the big surf with. Will we see a Hot Curl at a spot like Maverick’s? I don’t know, but the biggest waves my dad ever rode were on a Hot Curl. The design is rooted in riding big surf.