Bert Burger on making a statement at big Nazare

Since being put on the big wave map a few years ago, Nazare has quickly become a base for big wave surfers, especially those from Europe. While it may not have the front loaded heft of Jaws or Mavericks, the sheer scale of Nazare sets it apart from every other big wave and creates a challenge of its own: how to make equipment that reaches escape velocity while handling the open ocean chop of big Naz?

Originally my German business partner in the Board Factory Thailand, Martin Jandke, saw something online about a Go Fund Me project. Sebastian was looking for help to achieve his goal of riding the largest wave ever ridden. We dont have any cash but figured maybe he needs boards. So Martin gave him a call.

Up until that point I hadnt heard of him, but I knew that a few years back a German guy did win a big wave award. I just remember a big stir around Christian Fletcher and some comments at the awards night that hit the media...

Martin spoke with him a few times over the course of a year and things started to line up enough on both sides for us to be able to meet up and discuss some boards. So about a year ago we had multiple in depth Skype discussions about tow boards, different tow locations, variations in each wave location, what he needed, what he was feeling in his current boards. I would chime in with the logical reasons why he was feeling that and what the design options were to solve some current issues.

Finally, late last year I put together a few tow boards and Sebastian tried them at the end of the season. For Nazare, they were pretty much duds. What can happen when working with people for the first time is that if you dont make them a really good board first time they walk away and try something else. But I was able to convince Sebastian that this is part of the normal process of working through variables to isolate what is the best approach.

So far, over the course of the last year, I've put together around 25 boards, which is actually quite low, I've seen pro surfers working through 200 boards in a year to nail down the good ones. However, the right conditions for testing in big waves just dont roll around that often.

[Laughs]…maybe the stuff I’ve been saying is getting out there. Just your question alone already offers up an alternative approach. For twenty years I’ve been harping on about the shock absorbing qualities of using light EPS in big wave boards, not building them too heavy or stiff that you actually deal with bumps in a different way.

In the ‚70s we had surf mats, kind of like an inflatable bodyboard with rope handles on the nose. They weren’t capable of dealing with a freefall or square bottom as they would fold up and you came to a violent stop, but in down the line bumpy conditions they were so fast. It didn’t make sense. The bottoms would completely morph to the chop on the wave so the rider and his weight were unaffected by the forces of the bumps and the momentum kept you going in one direction, like good suspension in an off road car

When bumps or heavy chop are transferred through a stiff board to the rider, these are known as vector forces. They’re forces that act in directions other than the desired direction you want to go and they slow you down. But you also have overall stiffness of the board length ways: too floppy and the board bends as it hits giant chop. The rocker changes and you’re pushing water.

If the stringers are too thin and light, then, PU especially can get an ugly reverberation, or a dulled slow spring back after hitting bumps. If the board can’t instantly pop back to shape before hitting the next bump then you’re on a rollercoaster ride.

So you really want the structure of the board, its flex length wise, to be almost stiff, but with the ability to bend if needed and rapidly return to shape after hitting giant chops. Then the bottom to be soft to absorb smaller chops.

Current PU construction just doesnt allow for all those features to be built into one board. It’s either heavy, stiff, and transfers the bumps, or it’s lighter, flexy to the point of reverberation, changing rocker losing speed and it still feels the bumps. So what we really have is a complete mindset about big wave boards needing to be heavy, that’s evolved around the materials that make up the status quo construction. Namely PU foam and polyester resin.

I’ve built both PU guns and EPS sandwich guns. I learnt to shape in both mediums, so there was always shapes that worked better in each. PU needs to be heavy because it flexes differently, has a slower rebound/flex return, you need heavier stringers to get the extra glass and resin to springback quick enough. It cant absorb chop so you need enough weight to make it plow through chop.

Light EPS with a balsa sandwich and you have the same stiffness with a faster springback at a lower weight, plus the ability to absorb and morph to chops so you dont need as much weight. If you did throw weight onto this board it’s still smoother to ride than its PU counterpart even if the weight was identical.

So your questions about weight, stiffness, and shock absorption are all related and interwoven…

On weekends you can either spend your time on hanging around, getting a sunbath oooor get a scooter and explore the beautiful nature Thailand offers.

This weekend my plans were to visit some of the temples around the region Phang Nga. After moving from my first beautiful apartment to another even more beautiful one...  

I started to get to my first destination, but as you know we have September and that means that we have raining season… I already had passed more than half of my way when suddenly it started to rain. The first few minutes I tried to continue - putted on my raincoat which I brought from home (turned out that it wasn`t waterproof ^^- so buy one in Thailand)  but after getting totally wet I decided to turn round because the sky was getting even darker…

I took all my stuff: a water bottle, suncream (don't forget to put on suncream during the ride with the scooter, otherwise you will be surprised about your crab-look in the afternoon), cash for entry fee app. 20bht/temple, and clothes that cover shoulders and legs. Don`t start your trip too late, because it will takes you a couple of hours to get through! The earlier the fewer people will be there.

After such an exciting day with lots of great impressions I enjoyed my dinner at the beach :) I really recommend this tour - of course you can get a guided tour, but I really love exploring things on my own. You will find places you would have never reached with a guided tour!

During the week we had a lot of rain so we tried to catch some good waves in the morning…..

Weekends are there for exploring….I took the bus at 7 am and 2 ½ hrs later I arrived in Phuket old town - unfortunately the weather wasn`t good so I decided to stay in the Sino-portuguese district.

I really loved it there, lots of little coffeeshops, pottery stuff….

New week - new Babys

Another new arrival reached us last week...


our new Intern!

Like every Intern he also got thte welcome-package: pick up from the airport, dinner with his new peers and surfing in the morning!

We are very happy to have Tom in our Team! He uses his knowledge to support the workers in building up the new production line.

On the weekend there is a surf-contest at our beloved  Memories Beach - there will be a lot of participants - that`s why we prepared some stands for the boards during the week to show some of our most beautiful babys at the Apsara Resort which is located nearby. Really looking forward to that festival!

That`s how a perfect Sunday should look like! We started early in the morning to reach the spot where we jumped right into the water with our SUNOVA SUPs :) It took us around 4 hours and 12 km to reach the Memories Beach - as the last of us reached the Bar Martin has already ordered thirst-quenching coconuts - THX for that and for the awesome food!

After 4 months in paradise I`m back in Austria to finish my studies. I have learned many things and got in touch with a different culture, which was great! Thank you, Martin for offering such an opportunity and the hospitality! 

And thank you guys! We had such a great time!

I really miss you!