Rob Machado’s not afraid to ride just about any shape, style, or era of surfboard. And he’s got access to one of the world’s best shapers, Al Merrick, which makes for a potent combination of experimentation and board design. We caught up with Al to find out what Rob’s been up to lately, as well as why in the hell he thought riding a stubby 5’2” was a good idea in heaving Indo barrels.—Casey Koteen
What’s Rob’s go to board for everyday surf, probably the Gravy, right?
Yes, he has been riding his Gravy a bunch, but he also travels with his standard 5’11” shorty wherever he goes.
How is the Gravy different from a standard shortboard?
With the Gravy you are compressing a board down in size and increasing the volume dimensionally. You get more volume in these shorter boards by increasing the width in the nose and tail.
How about the fin set up, are you making them in thrusters and quads?
Rob rides the Gravy as a tri fin. I feel there is enough volume in the tail for the board to work as a quad, but we haven’t been making them for Rob that way.
What about tail shape?
He likes a round tail so we made that stock on the boards this year, I feel there is just more versatility with that tail shape.
What’s the ideal surf to ride it in, and what are the limits of surf it goes up to?
Rob seems to ride it in a variety of wave sizes, I don’t think there are too many limitations in that respect. I would say it was designed to be a bit more versatile in a smaller range of waves, though.
It’s made for small waves, but a lot of people have been challenging the notion of what can be ridden in bigger surf.
Rob rode it a bunch in some good size waves in Peru and liked how it felt. Also the majority of his Drifter movie footage was on the Biscuit and those were some sizable lefts he was getting. The Gravy is more refined than the Biscuit; more foiled, more sensitive and has slightly more entry rocker. It’s a touch more performance orientated, so I’m sure he would have fun on it in similar conditions
Yeah he made it look easy on some throating Indo lefts in his movie. Did it surprise you to see it ridden like that in sizeable surf?
Yes, it was a bit surprising it worked in such large waves, as it wasn’t necessarily designed for that type of surf. In a sense though, it’s also not that surprising because with a board that small you have more control over it by being able to keep the rail in the water. There is a decrease in wetted surface area.
One issue with some small wave boards is that they sometimes sacrifice maneuverability for planing speed. Can you have both, and how have you refined the board to seemingly do it all?
I don’t agree! I believe you can have both—it’s about getting the right rocker and dimension combinations. The tail dimensions really play a crucial role, and this especially becomes apparent in larger waves. It really comes down to the individual, and what he wants to feel on the wave.
Shorter boards turn in a tighter arc, that’s just physics, although it just may not look the same. You see the fan from a normal shortboard and you’re able to see the front section of the board, so the perception is that it looks more maneuverable. On smaller boards the front part of the board often gets lost, but if you’re measuring out the distance and time it takes, the direction change is actually shorter and quicker.
To check out the Gravy and all of Rob’s boards for yourself, head to cisurfboards.com/sb_Gravy.asp.