Domus Magazine

896 October 2006

Long Surfing

Edited By Francesca Picchi. Text By Matteo Poli

Thomas Meyerhoffer left his native Sweden for California in the early 1990s. Here he was part of one of the most extraordinary creative laboratories linked to the industry: that of the Apple team dealing with the relaunch of the company in the era in which Steve Jobs returned on the scene. It was 1997, and Meyerhoffer was working in particular on eMate, a computer for children that was certainly the precursor of the things that were to become Apple icons designed by the team led by Jonathan Ive as the iMac, iBook, iPod and so on.

"With the eMate Meyerhoffer had the chance to try out that free and relaxed approach”

That set about “domesticating computer hardware based on the foresight that “soon the computer companies will enter into competition with the companies that influence lifestyle such as nike”.So the first colored computer, with expressly organic forms and a translucent plastic shell that left to transpire its electronic interior was probability the eMate, and despite the fact that it isn’t very well known, there is reason to consider the link between the white totems of the first Apples (it was in any case that the first “colored” personal computer to make its appearance on the domestic scene) and the generation of “intelligent evinces” of the Internet age born in an era when Apple the references for the young team of designers from Europe oscillated between Alessi and Nike.
Probable a certain influence on this creative context must have also been his passion for surfing as this recent project by Meyerhoffer leads on to think, where technology in considered for its capacity to place us in contact with emotions.

“I created the boards using a combination of high tech tools and traditional surfboard craft"

Having spent most of my professional lie pushing the boundaries of computer-aided design, I used the design tools I know in this exploration to reach new levels of resolution in the surfboard shaping process.

The boards were first conceptualized with pen and paper, then designed on the computer in my studio in Montara, CNC milled in Santa Cruz, traditionally hand shaped by me in my shaping room and finally glassed by my master glasses in her shed near Fort Bragg”

In contrast to the omnipresent shortboards spread by the advertising, Thomas Meyerhoffer’s boards are not designed for a brief and adrenaline filled experience but for long intense surfs, in line with the tradition of longboards.

Premisses

1. The very long surfboards of the 1970’s and 80s, laden with unique individuals, for whom the board was a support on which to carry out artistic experimentation and live out an almost mystical experience, gliding upright over the waves, are the antithesis of the super top performance, difficult to stand on shortboards, children if the competitions, big turnover clothing and tricks for the few.

2. In surfing, as in many other sports, there are two schools of thought: one more linked to extreme performance and fun, like snowboarding and skiff and one to the original functions of devices for ploughing through the landscape, from skis to their traditional derivatives right up to the longboard.

3. The big difference between the shortboards and longboard (besides the fact that to carry the former all you need is the new Mini and a Barbie at your side, while the latter requires a lot of style, a Volvo 240 and a real women) are the movements but possible: the shortboard is fast and reactive but allows the surfer just one position, while the longboard thrives on sequences, starting at the nose to acquire speed and power moving up to the tail for precision on the wave, like a long walk skimming the surface of the water as an interlude.

4. As with windsurfing, the coolness of surfing dissolved in the moment when companies discovered it, breaking one of the main laws of cool-hunting (what is cool can only be observing and not reproduced); from that moment surfing became fashion and style, losing initiates and stagnating in an artificial tradition.

Zoo Surf

Based on these premisses Thomas meyerhoffer, a Swede in California, offers a summary of the two traditions, philosophies and techniques, mixing longboard elements with shortboard details and adding a small does of personal obsessions (“the waves are a change created thousands of kilometers away that we can enjoy once only”) to obtain a sensual board that combines sporting with emotional performance, renouncing the fashion aspects and returning undisputedly to being cool. Meyerhoffer’s boards, zoom or pic and romantic, children of CAD and NURBS, experiment with form and movement of water, questioning the notion of performances as pure expression of power and proposing an increase in the “marine” experience as an integral part of the service required from a board: the longboard allows interaction with the sea, visual and dynamic, close to the idea of navigation. “Soul surfing”, says Thomas.

The process of designing and making the board, in fiberglass or polyester fiber is almost all done as the same time from hand draws sketches to 3D models in Maya, to the production of the boards using CNC cutters up to the hand finishing for the waterlines and details. Meyerhoffer combines elements that have specific and known effects of personal intuitions: the three flipper (typical of small boards) on a longboard to favor maneuverability, the dropper shaped nose for fast turns, the carving ski-like profile to move up the wave, are typical examples of the remixing worked on his board at the nose, increases agility and tends to bring up the tail when turning, while the wide tail fitted with two translucent eyes guarantees “the perfect nose ride”. The search for an “increase in emotional performance” is, according to Thomas Meyerhoffer, the key to not continuing to produce objects, designer or for sport, that may offer increased performance but are increasingly less usable. The research put into the longboards gives those who go on them the joy of an unexpected experience “you’ll land with a big smile...”

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