From Stab issue 67: Welcome to the Stab Caddy, wherein we present remarkable surfboards to ogle, reference and perhaps molest if given the chance. Today we examine the 5’5″ x 19 1/4″ …Lost fish by Matt Biolos…
Interview by Derek Rielly
This is a surfboard of the most tempting liveliness and full of so many surprises. A board so removed from the prevailing wisdom of the time (1995), even among the early fishes. The 5’5″, as ridden by Chris Ward and Cory Lopez, turned a generation on to the idea that a performance board could be kinda kooky looking, a pointed nose but with a forward wide point and all wrapped up with a regular pulled-in 14″ tail (and radically thin at 2 1/16″). It’s a combination that, even now, some shapers don’t get, sending devils out on those thick and straight-railed cruise ships with 20″ tails.
“The tail as always the dirty little secret,” says Biolos. “It’s the same width as a normal high-performance board was at the time. And it was this lack of a big, wide tail that allowed the boys to surf them in such radical waves.”
This board is now affixed to a wall in the …Lost office and if you were ever thinking of making an offer for it, maybe you’re a collector or an investor in such things, Matt says for four-gees you’d probs have a sale…
Stab: What was the reason behind its creation?
Biolos: This board was made for Cory Lopez in the fall of 1995. The reason I started making these was purely because Chris Ward asked me if I would make him a “Fish”. This was over the phone in the fall of ‘94 while Chris was in Hawaii. He said Tom Curren was on a Fish and he wanted one. I had no idea what Chris was asking for, really. I knew of The Lis-type fish (based on San Diego kneeboarder Steve Lis’ twin-fins from the early ‘70s) and the Fireball Fish (Australian Tom Peterson’s take in the ‘90s). This was before the internet and The Surfers Journal type of historic surf journalism so I went down to a local surf shop (BC Surf Shop,) and checked out some classic twin fins from the 70’s that were hanging on the wall and took mental notes. These boards we very MR-esque. Most were late 70’s, early pre thruster 80’s twinnies. If you look at this board, and our RNF (round nose fish) in general, you will notice the actual nose is fairly pointy and the tail is kinda pulled, not unlike the MR twins. The board pictured would be about a year after the first one I made and it was definitely already refined as I’d started riding these types of boards by then as well and was getting them dialled. I was sorta working in a vacuum ‘cause so few people were making these types of boards at the time.
It’s interesting ‘cause I always figured they were based on a Lis or a Fireball… When Chris called me and talked about Tom Curren on the fish we later found out that what he had seen was Tommy surfing was one of the Peterson Fireballs. I didn’t know it at the time and that’s why my fish is a nearly polar opposite of those boards. It actually wasn’t until later when we watched one of those Rip Curl Search videos that we saw Tommy on the Lis-type kneeboard fish. Our board had little resemblance to that board either. The width of my entire swallow, tip to tip, was about as wide as one-half of the kneeboard tail. Unlike the MR/Reno Twins, which I based my board on, I was using a single concave under the front foot and then vee in the tail. This gave the flat rocker board a really curvy rail line and allowed the radical turns without the trackiness that was so prevalent in fishy designs in the past and even later in the Lis rip-off craze that was to come. There were others doing things, though. Kasey Curtis had a CI “Twin Finner” that had an extremely pulled in baby swallow, which he carved really well on. It was really right around the same time. Like, summer ‘95.
Can you describe the reaction when it hit the streets? Uh, people tripped out when you would show up with them but once they saw you having fun on them it really piqued their interest. This was just after those years of nearly everyone riding incredibly lowvolumed, needle-nose, extreme rocker chips. Of course, what Chris and Cory were doing on them, and Mike (Reola) following them around with the video camera, is what made it happen.
How many boards did you sell? How many of the 5’5” (1998) movies did you shift? Oh, I don’t even know. It sorta grew slowly. Then when the movie came out it just exploded. I had to hire a few shapers and start scanning my designs into the computer for the first time. It was on. The crazy thing is, after that movie came out, ever shaper’s business went up. Shapers all over the world were calling me and saying thanks for making that movie ‘cause all of a sudden, everyone needed a new surfboard.
How does the original 5’5” compare now? Y’ridden one lately? Wow, I have not. I usually burn through a board model and once I feel good about it, I tend to go and punish myself developing new ones. But, interestingly enough, the classic holds up. It’s Mason’s favourite of all our fish. I made all the boys a couple of them about four years ago when we filmed 5’5” Redux. Gorkin (Aaron Cormican) and Mason both nailed full sections on the remakes I did them. In fact, I had one of Cory’s from ‘96 all repaired and fixed up, then Gorkin went and nailed a full seg on that thing. The board was about 13 years old at the time. We still make five, maybe 10, per month in the summer.
How has this design impacted current board design? Shit, I know it made an impact. There isn’t a shaper alive who won’t at least admit that. For me, the impact on my life was immense. It put me on the map. It was the breakthrough for me as a designer and shaper. Before the RNF, I was that shaper guy who paints rad stuff and makes surf party vids. It afforded me the opportunity to get good surfers on my boards without them really needing to risk using them in contests. It bought me time as a designer to learn to get better. It made it possible for me to travel the world as a shaper. Once the design hit, I was immediately getting calls from around the world to come shape. Europe, South Africa, Australia, it all happened after the RNF.
Matt Biolos’ first rendition of the Round Nose Fish landed a name for …Lost Surfboards surfboards. Made popular by Chris Ward’s and Cory Lopez’s performance on the board in the 1995 Hawaii seeason, the Round Nose Fish transforms any session into a ripping good time. Since the first model Matt has developed the Blacksheep, RNF5, and most recently the Pelagic; all models stemming from the original 5’5″ x 19 1/4″ RNF.
OG RNF – Ridden to fame by Cory Lopez and Chris Ward in the classic video 5’5 x 19 1/4″. Exact replica of one of Cory’s boards in the film, complete with glass on fins (with an FCS trailer) and old school logos. Each board is hand signed and numbered by both Cory Lopez and Chris Ward, as well as shaper Matt Biolos.
RNF5 – The world’s all-time best selling fish model. Still goes fast, still allows hard carving turns, still allows a wide range of performance in varied surf, still paddles great…still makes you look good. Designed with low overall rocker and a central concave for lift, into a spiral vee in tail, for control. The RNF5 features a wider tail and 5 fin setup for playing with a multitude of fin options. The RNF is designed as a twin with rear trailer, but works great as a pure twin fin or try all three standard thrusters for different feels in different conditions.
The Pelagic – After four years of tweaking and testing this most radical of fish designs we are proud to finally announce its release. Pelagic species are known as “The fastest, most stream lined and agile of all open ocean fish”. With a lifetime of snowboarding, I have always been intrigued with the concept of side cut outline as applied to surfboards. Side cuts in surfboard outlines are not new. The concept has been dabbled with for decades. In the spring of 2008, I saw an old “Bill Caster” surfboard (with a particularly interesting version of side cut) hanging on a wall at Heritage Surf shop, in New Jersey. It immediately caught my attn. I returned home and begin to play with curves and come up with my first prototype. In surfboards, everything is balance. Curvy rockers need to balance with straighter outlines and curvy outlines need flatter rockers. These principles became very apparent in the development of the Pelagic. Beginning with a fairly standard RNF template, we added a point at 12” from the tail and carved a reverse, side-cut, outline from there forward, into the wide point just above center. This effectively creates a reversed curve outline between the riders stance. To balance the negative outline curve, we have added a tremendous amount of rail rocker through the center of the board. The final component is a very low, straight and fast centerline rocker, which cuts a massively deep concave through the rail rocker.
The Blacksheep – What if we combined two of our most popular designs? Put a Sub-Scorcher tail on the Rockets nose? We did just that, and what came out is the driviest, on- rail carving, hybrid stub we have ever made. Featuring the exact nose outline, rocker and foil that made the Rocket’s so fast, smashed together with the Sub-Scorcher’s wide tailed, flat rocker to vee combo. The rear outline and rocker both become straighter than the Rocket, allowing this board to fly across flat gutless waves in a way the Rocket couldn’t for many surfers. The vee lends control and smooth rail-to-rail transitions, and “Super Swallow” tail allows some bleeding off of speed and adds bite, encouraging hard turning. For any one who wished the Rocket was easier to ride in junky waves, but didn’t want to add volume or go to a more “grovel” board design, this is your answer. Designed with double concave, ”exacta deck” (first used in our Placebo line a few years back) in the tail, to mimic that “magic board”, locked in feeling for your back foot. Because of the low tail rocker and tail shape this board works well as a Thruster or quad.