What He Rode
Travis Lee breaks down Kai Otton's winning board from the Rip Curl Pro Portugal
HEIGHT: 5’11” (180 cm)
WEIGHT: 169 lbs (77kg)
SHAPER: Channel Islands Surfboards
WIDTH: 18 5/8”
THICKNESS: 2 5/16”
VOLUME: 27.4 L
NOSE WIDTH: 11 1/2”
TAIL WIDTH: 14 1/8”
TAIL: Round Pin
CONCAVE: Deep Single
GLASSING: 4/4 Team Light
FINS: Thruster (Quad option) – FCS II with CARVER template
BASE: 4.58″ / 116mm
DEPTH: 4.66″ / 118mm
AREA: 15.73″² / 10150mm²
What board model was Kai riding?
What design elements of The Proton helped him adapt to Portugal’s challenging conditions?
The added tail rocker and continuous curve of The Proton made it the perfect board for the curvy waves at Supertubos. The deep-single concave also gave him great projection out of his turns. This model was developed with Dane Reynolds at the beachbreak waves south of Ventura, which are similar to Portugal’s, so you could really see the board come to life under Kai’s feet.
Leading up to the Final, Kai seemed to be focusing on his forehand linking barrels with tight pocket carves. But in the Final, conditions favored the rights where he was forced to go more vertical. What about this board assisted him in that transition?
As mentioned, The Proton has a lot of curve and that gave Kai the feeling of almost being on ball bearings. The reaction time off the bottom in steep waves is incredible. You can push extremely hard through your turns without the fear of sliding out.
Did the conditions factor in to Kai deciding to ride a round tail rather than another tail design?
He was very aware of the changing conditions from heat to heat. He watched intently and wasn’t scared to switch boards at the last moment if the winds or tides changed and it went from barrel riding to airs or turns. The majority of the time it was a barrel riding contest, yet if the wave didn’t cooperate, you needed two very powerful turns in the meat of the wave to get a score. He felt stable in the barrel and smooth on his hacks with the round pin. When it came to the combination of barrel riding and hard turns in the pocket, he felt the most confident with this 6’0” round pin.
READ: Ottz Wins in Portugal
The board featured a five-fin setup. Why did Kai opt to ride it as a thruster rather than a quad?
As a quad, the board works well when you are coming from behind and need that little extra burst of speed to make it through. But with the shitty conditions, Kai wasn’t sure if that would be the case from heat to heat. Many of the sets required you to stick your arm in the face to slow down. In those cases, the thruster works better because it’s easier to slow down. Also, I think he felt more comfortable with his turns with it set up as a thruster.
Speaking of the five-fin setup, the board has FCS II for the side and center fins, but standard FCS plugs for the rear-quad option. Can you fill us in on why it doesn’t have all FCS II?
This board was made by our distributors in Australia, who Kai works closely with. I haven’t spoken to them, but my guess is that FCS hadn’t gotten them the quad rear plugs before the board was glassed, as it is a relatively new system and we’ve experienced similar issues in the past.
Since his Semifinal finish at Teahupoo, Kai has had a career-best run. How have his boards contributed to his recent success?
I would like to think his boards have given him an edge and really helped him improve his surfing in all types of waves. He works closely with our shaping team in Australia, as well as our team here in the U.S., paying very close attention to detail with the performance of his equipment. He knows exactly what board to ride and when, and if he has questions, he isn’t scared to ask. His confidence is as high as ever and he has a great contest mindset. But overall, he has worked extremely hard over the last few years, so it’s more a combination of everything.
What can we expect to see Kai riding at the Pipe Masters?
He ordered a few Proton step ups ranging up to 6’5”, and then we have a new model designed for Pipe called the Taco Grinder, which he may try in the 6’5” to 6’10” range.
What can the everyday surfer take away from this board design to improve his performance?
How important it is to know what type of waves you surf most and riding a board with the characteristics that best suit those waves and your ability.