Musings on surfing a pig for the first time

Discussion in 'Surfing' started by aloha73, May 15, 2018.

  1. aloha73

    aloha73 Active Member

    Jun 19, 2004
    LA, CA
    Took my new (to me) 9'6 Bing Feral Pig for its maiden voyage yesterday. Never surfed a pig before. Malibu Surfrider, 3-4 ft waves, mid to low tide, slight texture, slight breeze, 2.5 hr session.

    These are my thoughts:
    1. This board locks in the pocket so hard
    2. It noserides super well. (see above)
    3. It does not like my sweeping cutbacks and big fades

    It's almost difficult to break the board free while riding in the pocket. Maybe I'm used to super-fast boards that outrun sections but this board just gets locked in. Maybe I just needed to chill out a bit. My last 5 sessions were on a glider so there's that also. That lock made nose riding super easy. I got a bunch of 5's and a couple of 10's. Definitely need to be way back on the board to cutback. It didn't like my usual style of over exaggerated sweeping turns. A couple of waves felt like I was learning to surf all over again. It likes more of a subtle correction. Paddled great and likes to sit high in the wave. I definitely need some more time on the Feral Pig in order to decide if it has a permanent position in the quiver.

    I'd be interested in other peoples experiences with the actual ride of a pig. There's a lot out there on board design but not a bunch on the ride.

  2. jory

    jory Active Member

    Dec 25, 2005
    United Kingdom
    Reckon that sits with my limited experience of my mates junod pignar. Definitely favours a bit of body English and stop/go stall and trim pocket based surfing style. hella fun and Really solid on the nose in a steep pocket.

    As far as your cutbacks go, think about how much fin you've got. Its wide based and upright - The drop knee cutback evolved because early 60's boards with those big fins were hard to turn. The swooping more modern lines didn't evolve until greenoughs early 4a style fins and magic sam. There's a passage in nats autobiography where he talks about the idea of cutting back with both your feet perpendicular to the stringer being a new idea around the time of the 66 worlds. A piggish template with wide point back actually turns really well with a 4a style fin - alex knost/ Harrison roach/ most of the current cool kid loggers are on a modern less extreme piggy template at the moment
    aloha73 likes this.
  3. Lackosense

    Lackosense Well-Known Member

    Apr 25, 2017
    Long Beach, NY
    i need to give my pig more've inspired me :)
    Gill and aloha73 like this.
  4. NJ Longboarder

    NJ Longboarder Well-Known Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    my 2 cents about pigs from a less than average surfer

    super stable
    surprisingly good noseriders for narrow nose
    the like to go in a straight line
    pivot turns only. have to be way back, stop your back foot, lift nose out of the water, swing it to where you want to be and put back down. can do fade drops ins fairly well
    d fins are overrated and can make the board too stable. almost impossible to fall off board
    good close to the pocket and thru white water
    shorter pigs are mo bettah.
    aloha73 likes this.
  5. miscreant

    miscreant Well-Known Member

    May 20, 2016
    I wrote this for SLIDE magazine back in 2010. Maybe it isn't what you were looking for. Maybe some of it is.

    Surf A Pig

    Today was grand at Slider’s Point for the likes of a pig. It was pig slide city! During my predawn walk down to the beach, the rabbits were hopping, birds singing, and the sun was rising. But I also saw ranks of potato chip thruster sheeple along the path, which unnerved me a wee bit but also got me thinking: How can a person be so stuck on one design that they choose to ride it regardless of the conditions? Then in a surprisingly ironic thought, I pondered: Well, why would you think past one design if it works in most conditions? Facts are, little thrusters aren’t right for the waves all the time, yet few are the days when I feel like my pig is the wrong board. When I surf , I surf a pig.

    Back to the birds and the rabbits. There is a condition that the ocean has every now and again, when it says very clearly, “Ye shall ride the log and enjoy it!” It was just small enough to frustrate the thruster kids but still had enough push to hold the pig’s rail in. It was a day where you fade a bit, whip it around, set the tail, walk up and perch - right into the nuclear void - then cross-step back and huck a turn. The people on thrusters were butt-wiggling their way to somewhere, while I, on a proper log, was levitating.

    I bought my first pig in 1988 for $60. My affinity for heavy, wide point aft, narrow nose bellied boards with a D fin must have begun that day. I didn’t buy that board because it was a pig - at the time, I didn’t even know what a pig was - I bought it because it was long and I could afford it. I’ve spent decades on all sorts of boards over nine- feet long. That said there is something unquantifiable, something special about the slide of a pig board. It has a beautiful turn, trims fast, and nose rides great. Combine great nose riding with insane turning and, in my opinion, you have THE all - around perfect board, a board that fits perfectly in the curl and nearly drives itself.

    I prefer a board, that when on the nose, is a clean trim-holder instead of battling a board’s tendency to climb out the back of a wave. Rather, I like the opportunity to subtly manipulate my inside rail to keep the board in the sweet spot. David Allee of Almond Surfboards & Designs describes it like this: “The pulled-in nose is great for nose riding high and deep in the pocket. With so much board buried in the wave, and so little nose width, the board is less likely to get ‘washed - out’ when standing on the nose.”

    With pigs, the very design elements play off the boards’ weight. Vintage surfboard stylist John Haffey states it precisely: “Size, thickness, and weight-they give you that full drive momentum and glide.” Furthermore, a pig surfboard does not lose any of its performance as it matures. Barry McGee, celebrated San Francisco artist and pig surfboard enthusiast has this to say about old pigs: “The weight is perfect with the D fin on the ass of the tail. Let’s shred our waterlogged smash-up boards!”

    A little pig tale.

    To the uninitiated, the term “pig” has been used to describe any fat, chunky, bloated-with-foam surfboard; yet, this is simply not the case. A legit pig adheres to a few staple design factors: the board’s wide point is aft of center, its nose is narrow, it has wide hips, generally with a baby squash tail, flat rocker and a honking D fin attached.

    But how did the pig board design arrive at that point during surfing’s golden years? Going in, I am aware myths and inconsistencies abound when it comes to surf lore, but I really wanted to get the true dirt.

    According to Bing Copeland, during the early - 50s say, Matt Kivlin and Joe Quigg were building boards suited for Malibu. This design became known as the Malibu chip, with its wide point forward. When Dale Velzy started building boards he was using that same template type shape, wide point forward. In fact, when Bing went to Hawaii in 1955, he rode a chip. It was a good thing, too, because a wide point forward board worked better in Hawaii than it did at the local beachies. Back on the mainland, though, Velzy was always messing around and just took the [chip] template and turned it around. He moved the wide point back and made the nose a little narrow.

    And, historically, that is how many believe the pig came about. Jim “the Genius” Phillips, David Platt, and Mickey Munoz, among others, echo this sentiment.

    In the book DALE VELZY is Hawk by Paul Holmes, Velzy concurs: “One day I told Hap [Jacobs], ‘I’m going to make something different. I’ve made thousands of them and I can’t stand this [Malibu chip] plan shape anymore.’” Velzy goes further: “I drew on the plan shape backwards, using the nose of one as the tail and the tail of another as the nose. It looked just like the outline of a pig if you were looking down on it from a fence rail.”

    In a somewhat differing yet similar account borrowed from an online source, Jacobs allegedly states, “In the balsa days there was a lot of sawing involved, and Velzy wished we could just leave the tails blocky to save the trouble. Well, on one board, he just left the tail fatter than anything and had her glassed. When he saw the finished board, he shook his head and said, ‘it looks like the ass end of a pig.’”

    “Velzy had a huge part int he evolutionary process,” Greg Noll graciously discusses. “It all started with Quigg and Kivlin. Well, it started with [Bob] Simmons when he put glass on balsa, but Simmons had a handicap, he made a shitty board. When Quigg and Kivlin came back from the islands they had a design. Velzy had the advantage of making a lot of boards; Velzy stepped off the edge and did radical shit. A lot of the stuff might have only lasted two or three boards, but the pig board was one of those boards that got a following. …It made a statement.”

    Talking to Brian Hilbers of Fineline Surfboards about this chain of events, he adds: “Velzy was making some pig designs. Just post kookbox, post finless boards. The guys that were doing the first pigs were doing this all in balsa. Velzy was still kinda in the quasi-kookbox style - a pretty flat top and just rolling the rail. Quigg and Kivlin were also making pig templates out of balsa. They were the first ones to actually start sculpting the boards in the third dimension. In other words, like ‘hulling’ it or whatever you want to call it. Theirs had the D fin, of course. Quigg’s and Kivlin’s were going more and more foiled, though. [Renny] Yater saw their boards, and that is when he started dong it. From Yater, that is where [George] Greenough started doing it, and they got more and more foiled, which is where [Bob] McTavish got it. That is how it all started blowing up. Back in 1955 to ’56, Quigg was doing 8’2” to 8’8”. They were 16” nose, 21.5” width, 16.5” baby squash tail. D fins. But the wide point was in the middle.”

    Matt Calvani of Bing and Hap Jacobs Surfboards takes it a step further. He claims, “The pig worked because of the fin. If you stick a big ass fin on a board and you don’t move the wide point back, you can’t turn. With a big fin you need more distance between the base of the fin and the rail of the board. That way, when you go to turn it, you don’t have as much resistance. If you put a big fin on a narrow tail, you are not going to turn. They kind of knew this. I think the key is, they really kind of built the pig around the fin.”
    JBorbone, aloha73 and Lackosense like this.
  6. miscreant

    miscreant Well-Known Member

    May 20, 2016
    Accidental Fortune?

    Seemingly everyone I interviewed for this article irrefutably agrees Dale Velzy is responsible for moving the wide point behind center - perhaps the single most defining measure of a true pig - and, in doing so, created a paradigm of the classic design. The only dispute, however, is whether or not it was intentional.

    Some, like world-renown shaper Marc Andreini, claim: “It was an accident, Dale Velzy’s glasser put the fin on the nose instead of the tail.” When I asked Bing about the discrepancy, he nonchalantly responded, “Well, a lot of it is, when you go back that far, 50, 60 years, you take two or three guys that were there, at the same place at the same time, and you are going to get different stories from every single on of them.”

    Greg Noll, though, says he heard the answer directly from Dale’s mouth: “Velzy was into coming up with something new. Dale had a wide nosed board with a narrow tail.” As Noll recalls, the board was about 10 foot and 19” wide at its widest point. It was a Hawaii style board. But, he says, “The glasser fucked up and put the fin on the nose of the board.” When I mention the contradiction to this claim in the Velzy book, Greg tells me a story: “ About a year before Dale died, Dale and I had been having a few beers. Dale told me the fin being glassed on the nose of a wide point forward board was an accident the glasser made. That stuff in the book must have been his answer when he hadn’t been drinking.”

    Whatever the true story behind that famous, first Velzy pig, the outline and dimensional equation quickly made their way to shapers around the world, allowing the design to dominate the surfboard market for several years, something no single design has been able to achieve since. But why has the pig been able to hold court for so long?

    Gene Cooper, who I recently collaborated with to creat the line of Cooperfish “Blackboard” pig models roughly based on the earliest pig designs, explains: “The plan shape on some of the earliest Velzy pigs from the mid- ‘50s was pretty extreme, and I find those the most interesting - 16” nose, 17”+ tail, 8” tail block, and a beautiful combination of curves. At first glance they look pretty simple, but, if you take a closer look, every contour and design element is very thoughtful and exactly in the right place, never better.

    I’ll just say that the design is ‘subtly complex’ or ‘complex in its simplicity’, not unlike what was being created by the artists and architects of the mid-century,” continues Cooper. “Velzy’s design was groundbreaking, enduring, and those early examples were pure art. I’m glad we live in a time when many surfers embrace surfing’s roots and designs. Riding a proper pig, nice and dense, sans modern foiling, is just pure fun. A clean, solid feeling that defies description, I’m hooked, …again.”
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  7. miscreant

    miscreant Well-Known Member

    May 20, 2016
    The turn heard ‘round the World

    A pig board is a quirky shape. A number of the old boards (especially the mass-produced “pop-outs” that subsequently hit the market) were terrible riders. However, some of the pig boards worked so well that surfing went from being a sport of awkward stances and going straight (for most participants) to a fun activity of radical directional changes and surfer performance, as experienced by many of Southern California’s coastal youth. But who was the world’s first test pilot?

    Jacobs claims the first pig board was ridden by Munoz at Manhattan Beach Pier. Says Hap: “ Munoz tried the thing out at the pier, and it went great.” I also asked Munoz about it, to which he replied, “Hap mentioned that he and Dale gave me the very first pig board ever made, and I went out and rode it. They were totally dazzled on how well it worked. My performance on it solidified the design in their mind.” DALE VELZY is Hawk corroborates this declaration.

    Still, there seems to be some hazy history associated with this session. The inimitable Noll told me the claim that Munoz was the first to ride a pig is “pure bullshit.” Noll seems to think the first pig rider was some kid known as “Maggot.” But, when I mentioned the story Hap Shared, Noll believes that Jacobs would know best, while acknowledging, “Guys in surfing love to take credit for stuff.”

    The first fellow who threw down the first full-rail turn on Velzy’s pig is not really the point; more importantly, the pig design, perhaps single handedly, introduced real turning to the sport. Before pigs, there were only a handful of people that were really laying down full-rail turns on the Malibu chips, among them Dewey Weber, Leslie Williams, Phil Edwards, Miki Dora, and Munoz. Jim Philips eloquently says, “The Malibu chip was on the road to the pig, but it lacked the ability to be put over on a rail. The pig has a short turning radius, which lent itself to the inception of ‘hot dog’s’ surfing.” Munoz agrees: “The pig boards were really responsible for introducing turning to the masses.”

    The pig also did well to discount a few myths. Marc Andreini concisely states: “ Before that big curve aft of center that is characteristic of a pig, people believed the back end of a board needed straight lines in order to maintain speed. After Dale Velzy introduces wide point aft boards, we see curves do not impede speed but can actually enhance it by letting us place our boards precisely in the best part of the wave which generates the most power (which equals speed).” Andreini goes further, “ Increased outline curve in the tail allows greater, even radical, maneuverability. Trim speed is unaffected. A wide tail planes up quicker at slower speeds; a wide tail stabilizes the nose, and the added curve helps hold the tail, which opens the door for nose riding! Overall, the pig design is best suited for small waves. Due to the wide tail, the board really turns well at slower speeds, and planes up quickly. The pig design lends itself well to radical turns and cutbacks in small performance waves.”

    So, does Velzy’s “Pig” design essentially represent THE BIGGEST TURNING POINT in the history of performance surfing? Ancient shapes like the olo and alia, kookboxes, and even finless boards were basically ridden straight to shore or angled across the wave face. For the first time, pig surfboards were swooping out of bottom-turns, fading, being swung around and resetting rails, and enabling some of the earliest nose rides.

    Of course surfboard evolution moved past the classic pig shape by the mid-1960s as focus turned toward full nose rides, sleeker guns, the shortboard revolution, and on to modern , light weight shortboards and longboards; but, if you look closely at the outline of a vintage pig and the outline of any ASP-style thruster shortboard clone, you easily recognize the similarities in shape: wide point behind center, pulled - in nose, wide hips, squash-like tail. As Munoz slyly comments: “It’s interesting, if you shrink the [pig] template down, it is essentially what contemporary boards are today.”
  8. cuda

    cuda Well-Known Member

    Aug 23, 2007
    good read - thanks!
    JBorbone and miscreant like this.
  9. Dawnpatrol

    Dawnpatrol Well-Known Member

    May 7, 2006
    Aloha73, I have the 9' 10". Very functional board for me. It rides wherever I put it! Smooth cutbacks no problem in descent waves. I do have to step hard on the tail to do a clean pull out. Only complaint is the weight in carrying it long distances but the weight and inertia it develops is what makes it fun on a wave. On an aesthetic note* The 2" balsa stringer, clear finish and blue fin is very pleasing to the eye. I've had numerous compliments from older folks on the looks of the board. I'm dreading the day I get my first ding!
    aloha73 likes this.
  10. Chilly Willy

    Chilly Willy Well-Known Member

    Feb 15, 2004
    USA New Jersey
    Interesting musings, @aloha73. I've got a 9'6" Jim Phillips pig with a glassed on D-fin. Before that, I owned a Bing pig, same size, quite a bit heavier, round rails, less emphasis on the hip/nose differential, just a kiss of nose concave if I remember correctly, and a D-fin that was a bit narrower (like a cross between a D-fin and a pivot fin). I guess a modern take on a pig?

    The Bing, for me, was a lot more of the "momentum" board, once you got the weight a-rolling and physics working for you. It was more fun in slightly bigger waves (chest high instead of knee high) because it wasn't as agile as your average board. I had some great sessions on it, especially one head high day where I found it to be really nice for long bottom turns and turns on the face. Noseriding was excellent on it. Impossibly confident in steeper sections, more like it was digging its own trail through the water instead of floating up the face. I liked it a lot for the most part, except in really small junk. It really needed to have a shoulder to ride.

    The Phillips is a different animal. I've heard some pig purists talk about fin placement, which can sometimes differ from Jim's theory of putting the fin an inch or two up from the tail to loosen it up. (The Bing wasn't right on the tail either, btw.) I haven't ridden enough pigs to opine about that. I will say that Jim's pig is incredibly nimble and is an intriguing blend of classic glide feel with the performance that you'd expect from a more modern traditional-style log. It is my go-to longboard during stronger offshore wind as the narrow nose helps me get into waves without getting blown off the top. The big takeaway for me is that there's some roll in the tail so you can tilt left or right, either to make micro turns or to ease with getting her more on the rail. Willing and able to turn up a bit and float over some whitewater sections with grace. The board also seems to settle into the pocket nicely and match the speed of the wave. If I need more speed, stepping up to trim helps a little bit, but moreso I've found that angling more parallel to the shore helps tremendously -- special thanks to that Wegener article from years ago about building tension with the big fin. Later drops feel easy on it, but I don't know why. Also, don't be tempted to skooch too far up when paddling as there's plenty of float with the wide point farther back.

    A last thought: I borrowed a vintage Dewey Weber pig once in a local classic longboard contest. That board was 100% inertia with a mind-of-its-own stubbornness, going ONLY in a straight line. I couldn't turn it in any way, shape, or form no matter how much I flailed, floundered, or clenched my butt cheeks. Not sure if that's how a classic pig should ride, but good lord was that a humiliating heat!

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