May 09, 2021 4 min read
Photo by Fred Pompermayer
I was packing for a six-day strike mission to Mainland Mexico when I realized something: I bring way too much shit with me. My travel duffle is always overstuffed and my board bag is insanely heavy. Too many options. To break the pattern, I challenged myself to pare down for this trip and vowed to simplify my on-the-road experiences going forward.
Reducing my average duffle to just a small-sized backpack wasn’t all that difficult. You just double or triple down on consecutive days in the same threads—and make damn sure you bring some reliable deodorant. The proposition of scaling back my travel quiver, however, felt sacrilegious. I mean, how could I possibly be prepared for the unknown without a large, padded bag full of abundant choices? Then again, how many times had I hauled a bunch of boards across the globe only to ride the same one all week? Staring at the pile of bags in my side yard, I decided to reach past the three-high coffin and grab the single bag wedged right behind it.
Now, what to fill it with? A traditional longboard? Nah. Too unwieldy in overhead surf—and a nightmare to drag around. A shortboard? Also a no. It lacks paddling power in small, soft waves—and has the same hindrance for anything well overhead or coming out of deep water. Knowing the average waves for this trip were going to be shoulder high to double overhead, at a mix of playful points and thumping beach breaks, I deduced that an “egg” would be the best strategy when rolling with a single-board quiver. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of the places I enjoyed traveling to would be ideal with just my trusty 7'1" egg.
I think it’s worth noting that an “egg” is not the same design that many refer to as a “funboard.” While eggs are indeed very fun to ride, the term funboard is specifically associated with what I consider the poorly executed, overly rockered, bastardized version of the original egg. Boom-times era surf retailers are the architects of the design and many unabashedly used these cheaply-made funboards as bait in the 80s and 90s to lure newbies into the “lifestyle,” resulting in a certain kook stigma attached to that design. Some would even say the term “midlength” falls into a similar line of thinking, but the term itself is really just a broad catch all for everything in between a shortboard and long.
In its purest form, the egg is anything but a kook ride. It’s a simple, beautiful, efficient wave-craft that is well suited for a majority of the world’s breaks. More succinctly, it’s a wide, oval-shaped design that features low nose and tail rocker, and typically has a shallow vee panel in front of the fins that blends into an ever so slightly rolled bottom-curve. Most tend to be framed with finely foiled rails that are hard edged in the tail but transform to soft all the way up, making for a buttery ride while still having enough bite and control to handle critical moments. Less twitchy than a standard shortboard, the egg is ideal for a confident intermediate to expert level rider, and offers more maneuverability than a longboard—without sacrificing effortless trim.
The origins of the design run deep, all the way back to Skip Frye’s late 60s shaping bay in Pacific Beach, California. “After seeing imagery of round-tail boards that Australians like Wayne Lynch were riding in early ’68,” recalls Frye, “I immediately reshaped and glassed my wide, squared-tailed vee-bottom into a round-tail.” The new board’s curvy outline was a better fit for his flowy style, and became an all-time favorite that he credits for helping him win a few major contests in the weeks and months that followed. By summer’s end, the board was hammered. Despite its extremely delaminated deck, Skip still took it with him that November to Puerto Rico for the World Contest, earning “standout performer” accolades from his peers atop that beat up round-tail.
Early the following year, while trying to replicate the board’s magic, Frye experimented with its outline by using the tail template on the nose, albeit a bit narrower. The result: a unique 7'6" x 22.5-inch shape that resembled an oblong chicken egg. Its narrower, oval nose was a notable departure from the popular wide-eared templates of the time.
Friend and fellow Gordon & Smith Surfboards shaper Steve Seebold loved Skip’s new creation so much that he immediately shaped a 7'3" replica. “Man, that board looked so good I had to borrow it just after he was done glassing it,” Skip recalls. “Then I literally couldn’t stop riding it because the board seemed to be getting better with every session.” After a month’s worth of daily surfs, Skip had caved in Seebold’s feather-light deck so badly that a super-thin rail was created along its back third. In addition, the extreme wear and tear he put on the board had inexplicably created a concave feature on its bottom-surface, running from the fin area to the tip of the tail.
Seebold’s crushed deck creation was a stroke of luck that inspired Skip to refine and foil down the rails of his original design, as well as add concaves under the tail area of some of the boards—which years later became a standard feature on all of his eggs. Predictably he dubbed the updated shape, “The Egg,” and history credits him for the design. But Skip always credits Seebold’s “Egg Bold” board as paving the way for the following decade’s worth of surfing and design work on that new genre.
My first experience with one was in 1997 when Donald Takayama insisted I try his 7'6" “Tri-Fin Egg” model—one of the best interpretations I’ve seen of Skip’s design to this day. That particular D.T. board was mind-blowing, and the first few sessions to follow became my own sort of “Egg Bold” moment. Discovering the design—its unique lines and trim-speed—was the best thing that’s ever happened to me in surfing. The second best was when I realized how much taking one board can simplify your surf travel experience. Thankfully, the characteristics of the egg allowed me to do so without hesitation, an impulse that paid dividends in Mexico. And elsewhere.
— These words first appeared in The Surfers Journal, issue 25.6