Interview with Wave Chaser Founder and MD Nigel McBride, a big SG supporter and our technology and learner surfboard provider.
Nigel tells us a bit about himself, how he started surfing, and why he started Wave Chaser. You’ll also learn what kind of learner board is the best to buy and how Wave Chaser technology is on track to play a big part in changing the sport of surfing in the future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your surfing history, Nigel?
I was introduced to surfing in 1976 by my father Paul, who pushed me onto my first wave at North Cronulla. The board was a 12ft Malibu that my brother Daz and I found in the laundry at the North Cronulla Hotel, which was managed by our family at the time. From memory, I rode that wave to the sand and totally claimed the ride, haha. I was always intrigued by Dad’s stories of his surf trips up and down the coast during the 60’s early and 70’s. Cut to 1980 when our family moved from Sydney to Tweed Heads and that’s when surfing basically began to consume my life, particularly after joining Snapper Rocks Board Riders Club at the age of 12. I lost interest in everything else, school, rugby league, work…haha. That’s when in 1987, Mum decided I needed a massive life correction and took me to the Army recruitment office. So then the Australian Defence Force consumed my life for the next 10 years, but every leave break I was back surfing Snapper and D’Bah with my mates. Fast forward to today and I’m in the fortunate position to get back in touch with surfing as part of the vital product development for my company, Wave Chaser. I really enjoy delving into the performance and creative design aspect of the surf hardware industry. Let’s say for me it’s far more interesting, but no less important than the operational aspects of the business.
Why did you start WC?
Back in 2012; I was looking for a beach catamaran to enjoy time on the water with family and friends. I did the Google research thing, but my imagination kicked in, and I wondered what it might be like to sail a windsurfer-catamaran with twin rigs, one on each hull. I studied the concept and learned about the performance advantages of twin rig and planning hull catamarans, mostly on larger racing and cruising catamarans and decided to build one. I consulted with a wide range of industry professionals for their design advice and manufacturing support. This activity eventually became more than an interesting hobby when I realised the performance potential. From the outset, I had imagined this craft surfing ocean swells, and the term Wave Chaser came to mind, which I thought would be a cool name for it.
What is your goal at WC given you seem to be focused on technology and broader forms of surfing than just traditional surfing.
I believe that I’m fairly broad minded in relation to wave riding disciplines and water sports activities in general. I suppose having experienced the overcrowding of popular surf breaks, even as far back as the 80’s, I became drawn to alternatives. Today, I’m inspired by the energy and capability of multi skilled water people such as Waterman of the year Kai Lenny. His surf and downwind foiling in 2016 was a revelation, particularly because he wasn’t wearing ski boots like Laird Hamilton, who in the eyes of many is the king of them all. Literally, on the back of the foiling phenomenon, we’re now witnessing an explosion in the interest of Wing Surfing or Wing Foiling. With this new water sport, any capable rider will require a high degree of performance from three main equipment components; wing, board and foil, all of which need to work harmoniously just to achieve flight, let alone the aerial manoeuvres of advanced riders. At Wave Chaser, I’m very appreciative of the talents of our product development team, including; Aussie Kite Surfing Masters Champion, Brad Hampson, Australian and US Olympic Alpine Ski Coach, Mick Branch and paddle surfing sage, Steve Beyer. Our team tend to quickly discover the performance limits of any given watercraft and provide timely feedback for design improvement. My own technology focus stems from a surfing and military background, both require a level of support product functionality for a given performance outcome, in some circumstances that include personal survival, a parachute for example haha.
If you were a beginner surfer, how would you go about choosing an entry level board?
Can you believe that soft, Malibu shaped boards were around in the early 80’s? Billy Rack had a few of them that we’d “hire” from whichever mate of ours was in charge of hires on a given day at Billy’s Beach Hire Greenmount. We’d ride them at Greenmount Point for hours at a time or until someone saw Billy! May he now rest in peace. Those boards were very buoyant, paddled with ease, light enough for our small frames to turn and trim, and we could run over each other without damaging the boards or our bodies…so they were great beginner boards! Today’s soft skinned boards come in all shapes and sizes. They’re ideal materials for the construct of beginner boards and, when choosing a starter, I suggest going for a bigger board. Length, width and volume for stability and buoyancy are more important than layback cutties at this early stage of performance development!
How have you designed your entry level board and why?
This is quite a personal thing, and I prefer the narrow nose profile of a shortboard to that of a rounded Malibu nose shape. So long as the volume, length, nose entry and rocker are adequate, the entry level board doesn’t need a wide nose area. In fact, when considering entry level design for SUPs, renowned surfboard shaper Sam Tehan and I decided to transfer the standard design, nose width and volume, to the tail area. This provided more buoyancy and stability for paddling and earlier wave pick up than normal narrow tail boards. Additionally, the wider tail increased straight line speed, particularly helpful over the flat sections of waves. With less bulk forward, the rider has more point and pivot control over the board from their natural, mid-rear, standing position. Sam was also helpful in suggesting the nose area should have a bit of V or convex shape to help separate the water and stabilise the board on takeoff. This was a design suggestion from his successful shape work on knee boards. Our SUP boards have proven the narrow nose, wider tail theory well, so we carried the design across to our entry level hardcore soft skinned surfboards and with the help of our respected manufacturing agent and surfboard shaper Danny Villasenor, we adjusted width and thickness for improved prone paddling and especially useful for women’s surfing.
What’s different about WC to other surfboard providers?
I have a great deal of respect for many surfboard manufacturers, particularly those who I grew up surfing amongst on the Gold Coast like Murray Burton, Al Burne, Gregg “Noddy” Webb, Rob Webster, Darren Handly, Neil Purchase Senior & Junior to name just a few. Whilst in no way do I put myself in their class for surfboard craftsmanship, I do believe that our team has something to offer in terms of the design and manufacture of performance SUP and foil boards in particular. In relation to our position in the SUP Foilboard market, Wave Chaser is still in gestation, however, with the help of a very experienced and capable team, and by listening and engaging with our customers, we’re quickly discovering market avenues with product that just happens to also satisfy our own wave riding preferences. Although the surfboard and SUP markets appear saturated with product, there remains room for more nimble, niche brands, who are flexible and capable of developing diverse equipment without the cost bleed and extravagant projections of larger corporate entities. At Wave Chaser we have no interest in simply copying a board shape and rebranding it, however, we’re keenly interested in discovering and integrating design features from a variety of products, some outside of surfing,