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Out Of The Comfort Zone

Victor Bernardo and Asymmetric Surfboards

Words by Kim Feldmann de Britto | Images by: Album Surf


For decades, surfboard design adhered to a symmetrical paradigm, with a focus on balance and predictability. However, away from the spotlights, the rebels and visionaries of the surfing world have always sought to push the envelope, to break away from the status quo and discover new dimensions beneath their feet. They have achieved that in many ways — from outlandish fin designs and setups to elaborate bottom contours and inventive core materials and construction methods. But among them all, asymmetric surfboards are perhaps the most subversive and visually striking experiment.
At first glance, these avant-garde boards defy the conventional uniformity we’ve come to expect from our trusted crafts. The nose might be slightly offset, the tail unevenly shaped, the fins placed weirdly, or the rails boasting an amplified curvature. Sure, such a transition from the sacred geometry might initially seem daunting, if not silly or downright stupid.
But for those who have embraced the asymmetrical movement, nine times out of ten it’s a revelation; call it enlightenment, if you will. They often describe an immediate connection with the wave, a heightened responsiveness that transcends the limitations of traditional boards.
Why is that so?
Well, mostly because, unlike their counterparts, these types of boards acknowledge the wave’s inherent asymmetry. Waves are dynamic, unpredictable forces of nature, and asymmetric surfboards aim to harmonise with their irregularities rather than resist them, consequently providing surfers with an enhanced sensation of effortless flow.
But also, asymmetrical designs take the specific demands of a surfer’s frontside and backside into account. The way we shift our weight on the deck differs when we ride a left-hand wave from a right-hand wave, and the uneven geometry of these boards taps into that difference, providing surfers with more sensibility over their crafts.

 

How?

 

Again, it comes down to the unbalanced design features.
An asymmetrical surfboard will typically boast a slightly longer (toe-side) rail line. This allows the surfer to cruise and carve through the wave with ease, engaging in powerful and sweeping turns with confidence, as one is more likely to do on their frontside. Conversely, the (heel-side) rail line and tail are shorter and feature a more rounded shape, which improves control during backside turns and facilitates quicker, more responsive manoeuvres, enabling the surfer to navigate the wave with more agility and get to the lip more vertically.
Professional surfer Victor Bernardo, known for his dynamic and progressive approach to the sport, has emerged as a vocal advocate for these unconventional boards. When asked at which point of the ride he thinks the asymmetrics shine the brightest, he notes, “I believe they work very well in rail transitions, providing an incredible projection between manoeuvres.” He also highlights the board’s stiffness when pushed with the heel, which, according to him, “makes total sense, as we don’t have the same power on the toes when we’re carving or making a backside turn.”
The emphasis on rail transitions and the nuanced mechanics of heel pressure reveal the depth of thought that goes into the design of these boards. It’s a departure from the symmetrical norms that have defined surfboard design for decades. For Bernardo, this departure has been transformative. “I think I cleaned up my surfing and gained more flow between manoeuvres,” he shares. “It only helped me, and I don’t feel any limitations. The extraordinary projection is one of the characteristics that asymmetric boards provide me, along with a lot of speed and confidence.”
Yet, embracing asymmetry wasn’t an instantaneous revelation for the Brazilian surfer. “I believe the biggest lesson was not judging the board by its appearance,” Bernardo reflects with a chuckle. “When I surfed on my first asymmetric board, I thought it would be different, and after catching my first waves, it completely changed my perception of these unconventional boards.” This revelation echoes the sentiment of many surfers who initially approached asymmetric designs with trepidation, only to be pleasantly surprised by the performance and versatility these boards offer.
Another upside of asymmetric surfboards is that, besides the lopsided geometry, there’s no single template or formula — options are literally endless. This diversity means that surfers can tailor their boards to suit their unique styles and preferences. “There are many varieties and options when it comes to asymmetric boards,” Bernardo emphasises. “Tail, nose, and the number of fins on the board…”
Bernardo also notes that breaking free from preconceived notions and embracing asymmetry can promote a shift in how surfers engage with the wave, allowing the ride itself to redefine expectations. This shift in mindset, he suggests, can open up new realms of possibility for surfers of all levels. “I believe that if WT and QS surfers tested these different boards, they wouldn’t regret it and might find something that fits their surfing style better.”
This call for experimentation echoes in Bernardo’s collaboration with shaper Matt Parker from Album Surf. Their partnership extends beyond the typical shaper-surfer dynamic, evolving into a shared exploration of uncharted waters. “I’m enjoying the process, always trying something new and creating new shapes with Matt,” Bernardo shares. “I think because he’s always in the water testing his creations, it helps him evolve as a shaper. Each board has a different characteristic, making it quite enjoyable.”
As the asymmetrical movement gains momentum, it sparks a dialogue within the surfing community. While some purists may resist the shift, others, like Bernardo, see it as a refreshing departure from the norm, a chance to explore new dimensions and embrace the ever-changing nature of the sport.
In that sense, asymmetrical surfboards can be seen as more than just tools for riding waves; they are a testament to the spirit of innovation that defines the surfing culture. As Bernardo puts it, “Trying something new and stepping out of your comfort zone is what I love most about surfing.” And in that, he’s definitely not alone.
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