“Er, bonjour, I’m here to pick up the Brink for the Surf Europe 100?” said the Editor, fluttering his eyelashes at the assistant in Vissla’s flagship Hossegor store. “I spoke to Monsieur Naude about it earlier?”
Having stolen the Brink, he brought it back to SE’s secret hideout, where we cautiously inspected it as you might inspect a crash-landed alien spacecraft, took pictures of it alongside tropical cardboard cut-outs, and tried to make sense of its mysterious curves. It was beautiful. All we knew about it was that it was 5’ 10½” long (no other dimensions on the stringer) and made for a regularfoot surfer by Donald Brink, the world’s best-named surfboard shaper and perhaps also its most intriguing.
Donald, who hand-shapes all of his boards, downed tools to explain himself, tapping out a few words with his thumbs from the shaping bay. “I remember making this board,” he said — always a good sign. “It was the last shape of a batch I did with Antoine at ‘Dust Barn’ in Capbreton on a shaping trip for Vissla.”
The Brink philosophy, often articulated in a language all of its own, is about helping you "surf the way that you stand” (he says that a lot). “There are areas we can enhance and certain frustrations we can minimize with careful cohesive adjustments.” (He says "cohesive" a lot, too; even the most minor adjustment will be counter-balanced or complemented by multiple other, equally minor adjustments.)
“The Brink philosophy, often articulated in a language all of its own, is about helping you 'surf the way that you stand’”
As for this particular board, it’s “essentially very simple”, which is how he seems to characterise all his surfboards, however complex they may appear. “The distribution of foam is well balanced, yet the twisted curve in the rocker is where fitting turns into wave shapes will be rewarding. Imagine longer flowing lines on softer waves with a flexy single fin up forward in the box. Now for a more vertical approach in the same board, with a balanced tri-fin set up, one can surf more into the exit rocker and define more precise lines as desired.”
My mind snagged on “twisted curve in the rocker”; after thinking about it for a moment I guessed that this meant there would be more rocker on the toe side and less on the heel side. “That twist orientation is correct for the aft section but spirals into a reverse balance forward," said Donald. "It’s usually better simply saying it’s twisted than isolating one part of the craft's curve. Too much info. Ha ha.” One wonders what a board that wasn't "essentially very simple" would look like.
The fin set-up is somewhat unusual, even by asymmetrical standards. In between the two staggered FCS II side fins is an off-centre single-fin box, which has been paired with half an FCS I tab; the trailing fin thus straddles both sockets if you opt for a tri-fin set-up, but there’s still room for a single fin to be used on its own, positioned further forward.
Brink Left-Foot-Forward Assymetrical
Shaper: Donald Brink
Materials: PU / PE
“Lay into that bottom turn and look for your desired line,” suggested Donald. Well? You heard the man!
Donalds have gotten themselves a bad name lately, as indeed have brinks, what with Mr Trump and all the brinkmanship, but here's someone who restores honour and dignity to both. Halfway through one email he broke off into a new paragraph to counsel: “Create and innovate. Get out there.” Somehow this didn't sound like a cheesy soundbite — it seemed to be a genuine piece of advice. He signs off his emails: “Donny Brink. Enjoy your water.” He’s my new favourite person, and I intend to follow his teachings to the letter.