Due in large part to Thomas Campbell’s early films “The Seedling” and “Sprout,” which featured legendary San Diego surfer-shaper Skip Frye trimming with stoic confidence at high speeds atop long, decidedly-narrow boards with parallel outlines, the word Glider has since been linked to boards of extraneous-seeming length.
Although shapers like Frye, fellow San Diegan Josh Hall, and Santa Cruz’s Marc Andreini have been making a wide variety of Gliders for years–with a diverse assortment of lengths, outlines, and bottom contours–the Glider may seem, to the uninitiated, a novelty item. Fun, perhaps, but likely too cumbersome, too awkward, too peculiar a shape to merit an investment.
Meanwhile, multi-talented Southern California surfer-shaper-artist Tyler Warren, who is renowned not only for his abilities on a diverse range of equipment, but for his faculty in crafting a miscellany of unique shapes (His miniature Bob Simmons-inspired planing hull, the Bar of Soap, or rippable, double-ender mid-lengths like the Quadratic Egg), says the Glider fills an important void in his ever-evolving quiver.
“I think [Gliders] are great for those people who ride shortboards and longboards, who might be bored with some of the stuff they are riding all the time,” he says. “They are really fun in small waves, but you can ride them on bigger surf, too. They can really open your eyes to what’s possible, or how much fun is possible.”
Tyler Warren has fond memories of his first self-shaped Glider. Having just crafted a bulky, 11-foot twin-fin, he paddled out amongst the multitudes of loggers and surf-eccentrics at San Onofre’s Old Man’s, hoping the years of R&D he’d put into his elongated surf craft would enable him to lock into trim and outrun sections at blinding speeds. But the test-drive would be more an instance of kismet. Upon paddling out, Warren bumped into the shape’s luminary.
“Skip just happened to be out there on that day,” Warren remembers. “It was kind of crazy. I paddled over to him and I was like, ‘I just shaped my first 11-footer.’ It was his 70th birthday.”
A half a decade later, Warren is still drawn to the Glider. He shapes many for himself while fulfilling custom orders, adding his deep knowledge of the shape’s history to the assortment he creates for his label.
We caught up with Warren and asked him to elaborate on the key characteristics of the Glider, and to debunk some of the misconceptions surrounding the shape.
LENGTH DOES NOT A GLIDER MAKE
With speed often being a function of a board’s planing area, drawing out the length of a surfboard—as many Gliders do, into the upper-eleven-foot range—can ensure that more foam is touching the water at all times, thus increasing the speed. But, of course, there are other ways to maximize planing area. Hull bottom contours, down-turn rails, and flatter rockers, for example, all help keep significant portions of a board engaged with the wave. But, as Warren points out, if Gliders have a distinguishing characteristic, it’s the board’s tendency to maximize planing area in service of acceleration and flow – or “uninterrupted speed.”
“The main thing is just the sleek-design,” Warren says. “They are meant to go fast – paddling fast, trimming fast, turning fast. I like to make mine with 50/50 foiled rail, neutral rocker, neutral bottom, parallel-outline, no concave in the nose, usually a simple rolled bottom.”
Warren says Gliders tend to be weightier, utilizing heavier wood, or multiple stringers, to create more momentum. And while Warren says he typically makes Gliders over 10 feet long, length doesn’t necessarily make a Glider.
“There’s a lot of variety,” Warren says. “Skip or [Chris] Christenson make a lower rail. Some of Skip’s have a crazy, Simmons-style concave where it gets deeper three-quarters of the way up the board. You could have a mini-glider, like a 7’6. Andreini makes a lot of mini-gliders with hull-entry and super pin-y tails—that’s a glider, in my mind. Greg Liddle’s boards, his hulls, are kind of gliders.”
DON’T JUST STAND THERE (UNLESS YOU WANT TO)
“A lot of people have this interpretation where you kind of just take off on a Glider and just stand there,” Warren says. “That mostly comes from the ones that Skip makes, where he’s really just trying to go fast and maximize trim—which is super fun.”
“But I like to make mine to where I can fully noseride them and turn, use the whole entire board,” he continues. “I like hanging ten on them and doing helicopters, and hanging heels. The ones I make are more about a nice fluid rocker. It’s like an extended Lance Carson pintail. Just subtle roll in the bottom to vee out the back. I like to make mine like massive logs, where you can do all that other stuff, but you still get that Glider feel—the speed and trim.”
WAVE SIZE IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN QUALITY
“You don’t want to ride them in choppy waves,” says Warren. “They can be hard to navigate in choppy surf. “You want a nice, clean, long face where you can feel the whole rail in the wave. You don’t want to paddle one out at choppy Huntington.”
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be small, though,” he continues. “Thomas Campbell and CJ [Nelson] will ride them up north when it’s good size. [Ryan] Burch and I have ridden them at big bird. I’ve ridden my twin fin [Glider] at Doho reef. You don’t want big, big waves. Just clean.”
MORE BOARD, LESS BORED
Ever-open-minded, Warren admits that many won’t share in his affection for Gliders (“They’re definitely not a board for everyone,” he says). And he cautions beginners that Gliders, while easy to paddle and rather buoyant, are craft best suited for more advanced surfers. He encourages the more amenable, more experienced surfer to give it a try.
“Personally, I think you should at least have been surfing for five years before getting one,” he says. “Or, unless you’re in Waikiki, or a really controlled, mellow place where you’re not going to kill someone. It’s a lot of board, and you need to know what to do with it.”
“For me, I’ve always been fascinated with the whole idea of paddling fast and having something you can have fun on when it’s really small. It’s just something for people to have fun with. I’d recommend more experienced surfers who like to ride all kinds of boards to look into them.”