What He Rode: World Title Edition
Shaper Darren Handley breaks down Mick Fanning's Pipeline craft
HEIGHT: 5’10” (177 cm)
WEIGHT: 161 lbs (73 kgs)
SHAPER: Darren Handley (DHD)
WIDTH: 18 5/8″
NOSE WIDTH: 11″
TAIL WIDTH: 13 1/8″
THICKNESS: 2 3/8″
NOSE ROCKER: 5 5/8″
TAIL ROCKER: 2 5/8″
TAIL: Rounded Pin
BOTTOM CONTOUR: Single-to-double concave
GLASSING: Single layer on top and bottom with carbon reinforcement in the tail
FINS: Quad—FCS II with MF2 template plus trailers
BASE: 4.35″ / 110mm
DEPTH: 4.50″/ 114mm
AREA: 14.62″² / 9434mm²
Was this board based on one of his regular models, or was it specifically made for Pipe?
It was specifically made for Pipe, based on designs that I’d been working on over the last couple of years for Ryan Hipwood, who’s been charging all kinds of heavy waves. I’ve slowly been making Mick longer and longer boards, up to about 6’6″, and he’s had quite a bit of success with them at some of the events like Tahiti and Fiji. So we just extended it to a 6’10” for bigger Pipe and that seemed to work fine. He went out early in the morning on a 7’1″ that was just too long and then he elected to go to the 6’10” because it still had a bit of thickness in it. He had two 6’10″s and two 6’8″s as backups down on the beach.
What’s the range of lengths you made for him for Pipe?
From me, he took boards from 5’10” all the way to 6’10”. He rode the 5’10” at Haleiwa on a smaller day, a 6’1″ at Backdoor during the earlier heats, and then the 6’10″s on the last day at Pipe, so he really got to test the full range of boards.
What are some of the important design elements that you think about when making boards for Pipe?
It’s mainly rocker and concave so that the boards fit into the curve on the takeoff. There needs to be some volume up front so that when he paddles into a wave, he gets in early enough and can negotiate those drops. He went with a quad setup for the fins so he’d have plenty of speed to get out of the barrel.
Does he always ride a quad setup at Pipe?
He went into Hawaii sort of unenthused about riding quads. He said he was a little bit over them because he went on a trip to Fiji and was riding thrusters the whole time and really enjoying them. It was just that last day at Pipe that he opted for the quad just for coming out of the barrel. That’s all it was out there. There really wasn’t any turning involved.
Has that become pretty standard for the guys on Tour when Pipe is solid?
Yeah, Mick, CJ, Kelly, Joel—they were all riding quads that day. I’ve spoken to Joel and Kelly about quads this year at a few of the events. They all seem to say that the quads are unreal in the barrel, but that we haven’t figured out how to make them feel good for turns. There’s so much going on back there with the positioning of the fins and how it affects the way a board rides, and over time with enough testing we’ll likely create something that turns just as well as a thruster with the speed of a quad. So all the board factories around the world are gonna be trying to develop that.
I know a lot of the guys on Tour order boards from local shapers in Hawaii. Are there any local shapers that influence the way that you approach your North Shore boards?
Oh yeah, for sure. Mick has been working with Wade Tokoro for years and has quite good success on his boards. Those boards always end up in my hands, so I’ll have a look at them and try them out. Wade and I were watching Mick that day at Pipe and Wade told me that he had been riding some of my boards that Mick had given him to try—a 6’1″ and a 6’3″—and he was telling me how good they went. Just a few years ago, I was riding Wade’s 6’3″s and feeling how good his rocker worked in solid waves. I’m always watching what he’s doing because he’s got such beautiful rocker in the boards. So he’s been an influence, for sure. Lately, my main influence in making boards for solid waves are the team riders. I listen to what Hippo and Kieren Perrow want out of their boards, and Mick trusts those designs because those guys are riding big waves all of the time.
Leading up to an event like that, how much time does Mick put in at Pipe and Backdoor? Is there much opportunity to test equipment in a lineup that’s so hectic?
I don’t think he’d ever ridden that 6’10” that he won the Title on. Guys like Mick can just put it under their arm, look at it up and down, and they’re pretty confident in it straight away. But Mick does get a lot of waves at Backdoor. He’s the first one out every morning, whether it’s 1 foot or 12 foot, so he knows how to negotiate the lineup and he gets his fair share. But then you have someone like Jack Freestone, who hasn’t put in as much time there, and he told me that he was struggling to find waves to test boards out there. It can be hard, for sure.
When you’re in the shaping bay making Mick’s boards for Pipe season, do you ever think that the board you’re shaping could win or lose a world title? Does that mess with your head at all?
[Laughs] It doesn’t mess with me! When I make boards for guys like Ryan Hipwood, if they’re taking off on a 12-foot wave, and their equipment slides out on the bottom turn or nosedives off the drop, they could receive some serious bodily harm. That messes with me a little bit. With Mick, we were pretty confident in his boards before the event. We shaped the first handful of Hawaii boards and then he checked them out, asked for a few little changes, then I went in and made the next selection of boards. In the end, he felt all of them and just said, “Yep.” He know’s what will work. The board he won the title on was only glassed with a single layer, same as his pro model. I was surprised that board didn’t break because he took a frickin’ beating that day. But glassing is important for the right flex. The way that board flexed when he wanted to generate speed, it was almost like a fish. That flex gives him a lot more drive through the barrel and a lot more control. When it’s that light, he can maneuver it inside the barrel more easily. But sometimes when it’s too light the foamball can just grab you and eat you up.
What’s going to happen to that title-winning board?
It’s gone straight to the poolroom. As soon as he won and finished all his interviews and calmed down a bit, he came up to me and said, “I’m never going to ride this board again, so can you run back to the house and grab a 6’8″?” So I ran back and stashed that board in his room and grabbed him a 6’8″, and that 6’8″ was what he rode against John John. The 6’10” is also really special because three weeks prior to him winning, one of the sanders that sands all his boards and fins passed away from a heart attack, so it was pretty special for Mick to win on one of that last boards he worked on. Maybe he sent Mick those last-minute waves against CJ and Yadin.