Californian Courtney Conlogue went on a tear at the Women's Drug Aware Margaret River Pro matching the power of the massive conditions on hand with her own style and flare. The event's heavy swell had even the most seasoned of pros scrambling to find the right boards to add to their quivers.
Conlogue and shaper Tim Stamps had been preparing for this moment since the first contest of the year, at Snapper Rocks. They developed a variety of boards for the unpredictable and often punishing waves of Western Australia. It appears their groundwork paid off, as Conlogue took down Jeep Rankings leader Carissa Moore (HAW) in an action-packed Final.
Stamps offered insights on the secret to finding the magic step-up:
World Surf League: Margaret River required bigger boards than any of the contests so far this season. When taking on more powerful waves, how do you determine the number of inches to add to Courtney's standard shortboard?
Tim Stamps: Places like Margaret's require a few boards to suit any conditions that may arise. I know she had several boards to choose from in an inch or 2-inch increments. She's good at assessing conditions and picking a few that might fit and giving them a test and choosing what feels best for her. I brought her a bag of boards for the Margaret comp when I came over for the Snapper event to make sure we had most of the bases covered.
WSL: Courtney snapped her board around for some committed laybacks. In terms of design, what elements of a board allow it to keep that rail-to-rail responsiveness, even with the added length?
TS: She was drawing nice lines and carves, yet was still able to snap it tight in those layback sections! She is a really strong power-surfer, so she can put the pedal down when she wants to. It was great to see her mix it up with those laybacks. I can't really say it's one thing of the board design that allows her to push into those maneuvers, but more how everything is working together.
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Those longer boards have more rocker, narrower tails, and more subtle bottom contours to handle the speed and the power out there. This one has a slight single concave with a touch of double through the fin area. We also do a special rounded pin template that she likes; the pin gives it a little extra area, yet maintains control.
WSL: How much does width play a factor when the waves get bigger, and how does less or more help harness speed in such conditions?
TS: As far as widths go, we don't change up the center width too much in the bigger boards, but the nose and tail draw in and the tail becomes much more refined. Having a longer board gives you more surface area for planing, but you want to reduce that where you don't need or want it in those types of conditions with that power and speed. It's definitely a balancing act of sorts.
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WSL: How many boards does Courtney typically test before she finds the magic one?
TS: Sometimes it's right away, but usually it's a process of what we've refined and may take a few. She gives them all a good go, adjusts the fins based on what she's feeling, and goes with what she feels will best suit the waves that day. She might even listen to what I have to say once in a while!
WSL: During the three years that you've been working with Courtney, how have you seen her board preference and knowledge evolve and grow?
TS: Over this time her boards have gotten really refined for what she likes and what feels best. We are always working from where we have been and trying to get it more dialed. I also throw in some new ones just to keep it fresh and we build off all of it. She has a pretty good understanding of design and what she likes, but more importantly she has a great feel of what she's on and how to communicate that feel to me. I can take her "feel" and incorporate that into the next board.
WSL: What is the best part about shaping for Courtney?
TS: She's just an overall great person and that just sets up the whole foundation for the relationship we have as a surfer and a shaper. It's really nice to work with a dedicated, positive and passionate athlete and she's always having fun no matter what is going on.
WSL: What are the specific challenges in shaping for Courtney?
TS: The challenges working with Courtney are what makes it special. Besides her obvious talent, it's her never-ending drive and dedication to be better, to improve and get to that next level. I'm the same way with my shapes and designs evolving to help get her where she wants to be, to be number one. The challenges are the best part.
WSL: Heading into Rio, how will her quiver change?
TS: It will be a reflection more of what she rides around here at home (in Santa Ana, Calif.). We have some of her "old faithful," go-to designs we're making as well as a few new tweaks to keep it spicy for her. Rio has a lot of the similar wave types to what we have around here at home, so I see her loading up a couple bags of high-performance beachbreak boards.