Are you familiar with the term Empirical Evidence, or Empirical Data? It refers to the underlying concept of the scientific method of research. Where you have a theory and then test that theory the results of which are observable with the human senses and measurable with test equipment. So for example lets say your theory is that gravity plays a part in a rock falling from a height of say 2 feet. You place the rock at 2 feet from the surface of the earth and let it go. What happens? It falls to the surface with a resounding thud. Ok, se we’ve learned about gravity and we knew that theory would test out positive. It gives you the concepts though. You see something and formulate a theory, you then devise a test that HOPEFULLY is unbiased and tests your theory with observable and measurable results.
There is a concern that most empirical evidence is driven by previous experience and is therefore already biased. So let’s say that your theory is that the surf wake of the XYZ hull is horrible and you go out and observe 4 newbs attempting to wakesurf it and they fail, thereby confirming your theory. Now, most likely your theory is accurate, but the testing itself is exceptionally biased, but also the theory itself is biased, right? The wake is horrible is a biased theory and so the underlying tests to document that theory right or wrong will be biased. Developing theorem and empirical data is hard and often we don’t even realize that is the case…we mean, everyone knows the surf wake of the XYZ is horrible! Eliminating bias, but also eliminating the inference from prior observations is probably almost impossible.
Did you watch any of the pro finals at any contest this year? Performances seemed to diminished compared to prior years, didn’t they? As we try and drill down on that observation there are some options. One is that the changes in the ’12 and ’13 models of boats are such that it caused 25 of the worlds best wakesurfers performance to diminish. Another is that simultaneously 25 of the worlds best wakesurfers suffered diminished capabilities, again simultaneously. Third, that there was some environmenttal change and a combination of human error, like poor ballasting and poor water depth, that caused the observable conditions.
We can pretty much eliminate the simultaneously diminished performance theory, c’mon what’s the likelihood? 1 in 20 gazillion? If there were a huge change in the various hulls we might be willing to accept the theory that the hull is responsible for the decline, but that really wasn’t true. Some were new, but second day portions of events typically had the organizers modifying the wake due to rider complaints. What can we almost always observe at contests? Overweighted boats so that all those picturtes can be used as makerting materials.
Happens at almost all contests that are primarily sales tools. That becomes a theory in and of itself, doesn’t it? Weighting of contest towboats is primarily driven by photo ops and marketing efforts rather than optimised for wakesurfing performance. Or similarly, wakesurf contest towboats are weighted based upon a minority preference. If you don’t like that don’t compete! Right?
BUT that theory holds tons of validity for wakesurf board development. The wake of most contest towboats won’t be optimized for actual wakesurfing, but instead will be optimised for the photos and marketing efforts. That’s certainly a reasonable theory. If you’re in the business of selling boats, what do you want from sponsoring an event? To sell more boats, of course! So boats will be presented in a light that makes them LOOK the most appealing to potential buyers.
As shapers and developers of wakesurf boards, we observe the wakes and the results of wakesurfing those wakes. Do you think everyone of the pros this year sort of stopped performing well in contests? The likelihood of that is very slim. There has to be a component of that equation that revolves around inneffective equipment for the environment. If the performance for all competitors was diminished, it is a failure to have proper equipment for the conditions. Now that could mean that the course was run through 8 feet deep water, but as a competitor, there should be a board in your quiver that allows you to perform in that environment.
So as we work on the ’13 prototype we are keeping in mind a few things. One is that our personal boat isn’t optimised for marketing purposes. In ocean surfing contests, those waves aren’t optimized at all, but…locations are choosen for the optimum environment. A contest organizer wouldn’t choose the beach just off the shore of the Santa Cruz boardwalk in July for a big air contest
What we have observed from 2012 contests is that wakes will be optimised for marketing purposes. With only a few exceptions, most contests followed that formula. They will look big in pictures and videos and the resulting marketing materials. Appearance will be the key.
Regardless, the overall contest experience for 2012 dictates some significant changes in how a board will be shaped or maybe the correct phrase is HOW it should be shaped to be competitive on such wakes. That isn’t intended to be judgemental, like another sucky wakesurf season, but instead to document the challenge shapers face and also really that we have failed. We have been shaping for optimised environments and that was unwise as we see more and more influence from marketing. We need to shape for THAT environment and develop wakesurf boards that are efficient within that model. Also, a one board competitive quiver is probably a luxury of the past! If we shape only for the boat we know, our riders will be left struggling and that isn’t the boat manufacturers’ problem that’s ours for not seeing that risk with eyes wide open. Now that model may change as folks become more proficient at the sport and recognize that TALL does NOT equal GOOD automatically. Currently the most recognized metric is TALL. That certainly conveys well in photos.
What we always like to suggest is that you look at what’s being landed in pro level divisions. If it’s not much, guess what? That wake isn’t easily adjusted to by many of the pros and also, shapers haven’t optimised for that environment. But man, if the top pros are all killing it in all divisions, where the competition is fierce and the tricks numerous and difficult, that’s empirical evidence you can trust…so is the contrary. That the wake is GOOD and the wakesurf boards have been optimised for it…or not. Personally we think that would be the best for everyone involved, but is that what sells boats? The details of the rns themselves? Or just the selected highlights?
We here at Flyboy Wakesurf will be shaping for marketing optimized wakes (MOW) and we’ll share some of that R and D as we proceed through the 2013 season. The plan at this point is to have similary shaped boards but with modifications suited to the boat that will be surfed in a particular contest.
Just a few pictures and a short unedited clip of the new ’13 prototype. This is a first iteration, so isn’t ready for hard service yet, but we’ll get there quickly.
James Walker at the start of the snap
Here is a short unedited wakesurfing video featuring James Walker on his ’13 Flyboy Wakesurf prototype. In this video James lands a bottom turn to surface reverse; shuv-in, shuv-out sequence and big spin but can’t quite seem to pump back in backside switch
James Walker mid-snap
Thanks so much for following along and for listening to our diatribe, about the failure to shape for a different motivation and failing to recognize that, even though it was clearly present throughout the season.