Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Don's Lab" Home-built Formula Board

Last week I fussed on the "" forum about Florida's light summer seabreezes and how my current formula windsurfing setup just wasn't quite powerful enough to take advantage of them. I wrote that I was potentially in the market for some bigger, better, used formula gear. Lots of people replied with offers, including Don Wagner, an Emergency Room doctor from Vero Beach.

Don actually builds his own windsurfing boards. I'd met him and seen his creations in action a few times at local regattas. I thought the boards were super cool but I didn't imagine I'd ever ride one because "Don's Lab" is not a commercial venture. Dr. Wagner just builds the boards he'd like to ride, then he retires them from use as he comes up with new board ideas. I was very excited when he offered to give me one of his retired formula boards for free. He also had some big formula fins and stuff he was looking to sell.

I didn't waste any time driving across the state as soon as I had a day off. I met Don and his artist wife at their beautiful house, ensconced in a cool jungle of shade trees and tropical plants and flowers. The Wagners were exceptionally hospitable and I really admired their comfortable and close-to-nature approach to living in Florida. Needless to say I also admired Don's workshop and windsurf menagerie. He's made everything from surfboards to SUPs to slalom and formula boards. He even showed me a hydrofoil-board that he'd made! So cool.

I thought that for the price of free I'd be getting one of his earliest formula board experiments, but he actually helped me pick out what seems to be a very modern design similar to the latest ultra-wide-tailed, double-chicken-strap boards made by the major windsurf manufacturers.

 photo DSCN1731_zps99cdf23a.jpg

One of the only obvious differences between Don's board and a mass-produced formula board is the thinness of the tail section on Don's board.

 photo DSCN1732_zps21e60bdb.jpg

Here you can compare Don's custom board to my 2002 Bic Formula board.

 photo DSCN1738_zpsf07b9296.jpg

 photo DSCN1737_zps2ffb213a.jpg

Another difference between the two is the fins. The one on the Bic is 58 cm. The one I bought for Don's board is actually even longer than the class-legal size of 70 cm, because it's a moderately cut-down 85 cm fin! It should be great for early planing and going upwind.

 photo DSCN1736_zpsaaa21be1.jpg

Of course I'm desperately eager to take my new acquisition for its re-christening voyage, but so far the wind has been too light and variable even for formula. I kept busy today, though, by giving it a coat of white paint and some funky blue graphics. Don doesn't paint his boards because the paint adds weight, but figured I'd paint this one.

 photo DSCN1739_zpsc9fb6e3a.jpg

 photo DSCN1743_zps7b3c9de1.jpg

 photo DSCN1745_zps30046f79.jpg

I hope it floats. I'll try it with my 9.5 sail first, then I may or may not add an ~11.0 sail to my quiver to see how early I can get it to plane.


Lady Notorious said...

Love the original "Douglass-Style" paint job :) looks sassy!

I'm interested to hear how it does when you get an 11.0 sail

Alejandro said...

Looks like a nice board. I really like the fact that it is so thin in the tail. I wonder how this affects its performance though?

JSW225 said...

Does Don have an email address so that I can get in touch with him? I'm interested in building my own board, but have some big questions regarding required amount of structural reinforcements, and the like.

James Douglass said...

Lady Notorious- Thanks! I'm interested to see how it goes with an 11.0.

Alejandro- The thin tail doesn't seem to stop it from planing early and going upwind well, but it definitely makes the stance feel a little different. I haven't had enough time on it to figure out the optimum tightness of the footstraps and stuff like that.

JSW- Don has an email address but I don't want to share it online without his permission. You should be able to PM him on iwindsurf, though. :)