Belly Boards are descendants of the short wooden planks called paipos which were ridden in the Hawaiian Islands 100s of years ago and are still ridden there today. The belly board is a foam and fiberglass version of the paipo. I bought a belly board in 1966 and used it to surf Huntington Pier during the summer when the blackball was up. This was before leashes and every wipeout led to a long swim to the beach to retrieve the belly board. I decided it was easier just to body surf. The following summer I shaped a BB from a broken longboard I found in the trash. Officially my first shape. Glassed and sanded it myself, and was making a fin for it. Unfortunately, someone stole it from my garage before I had a chance to finish it.
So…a little over 40 years later I shaped this 51″ beauty for my buddy Reef from SliderMag. Reef has a knack of talking me into shaping some really interesting boards, and this one is no exception. This board’s design was inspired by the work of Larry Goddard who spent over 30 yrs perfecting belly boards ridden at the classic point breaks of California in the 70s, and later in large surf at Makaha and Wiamea on the North Shore of Hawaii in the 80s & 90s. Goddard painstakingly documented all of his experiments in BB design and published his work on the web a few years ago. Standing on the shoulders of this giant, I took some of Goddard’s basic ideas and added a few tweaks of my own, specifically, bottom contours and rail shape. I also chose to use asymmetrically-foiled fins, toed-in about 1/8″ over symmetrically-foiled fins set straight.
The design characteristics of the belly board, with its wide planing area and low rocker, make it one of the fastest surfcraft available. Belly boards are 6”-8” longer and have more volume than the modern foam body boards, and also have a stiffer flex pattern. They plane faster because of this. They also make full use of tail fins and can be built with any fin configuration. Fins give a belly board greater hold and greater responsiveness than foam body boards with no fins.
My T-Belly features a convex bottom in the front half which transitions to a flat middle and then “V” with single concave out the tail between the fins. This bottom shape allows the T-Belly to roll up on rail easily for turning, to plane smoothly and allows water to flow quickly across the bottom and out the tail. The rails are full to maximize volume, with soft and forgiving tucked-rails in the nose transitioning to a tighter tucked-rail in the middle and then to down-rails in the last 9” of the tail. The fins are set close to the rail about 2” off the tail, and serve as a pivot point for turns. Switching to a deeper set of twin fins provides the hold necessary for steeper and/or larger waves. The foil of the board keeps most of the volume under the rider’s shoulders, chest and hips, and the nose is scooped-out slightly to reduce swing weight. A light concave runs through the tail of the deck for better rider fit. The T-Belly is fitted with a leash cup about 4″ below the nose.
The T-Belly has a wide wave range from small, dumpy shore-break to as big as you can paddle into. Because of its size, it makes a great travel board. It can fit easily into the back seat or the trunk of your car. The T-Belly offers a unique riding experience. Riding prone reduces wind resistance for greater speed, and with your head just inches from the surface of the water, the sensation of speed is enhanced. If you like making little 2-ft, shore-break barrels, or want to experience breath-taking speed in larger waves, the T-Belly may be just what you’re looking for.