Josh Hall: The Glider

Interview by Glenn Sakamoto
Photography by Mark Jeremias

Josh Hall is a talented San Diego surfer/shaper. Under the tutelage and watchful eye of Skip Frye, Josh has inherited the San Diego-style and has made his own mark with his own trademark shapes. We spoke with him about one of his favorites: The Glider.

What is a Glider?
A Glider is basically anything over 10'0’ to 12’ in length. It could be an Eagle-style shape, a Fish Simmons, an Egg, a Velzy Gun, or a Pintail. Where I grew up in South County SD – they were called big boards, not gliders. Gliders are what they are now called as a general term. Skip Frye started shaping them in ‘90 or ‘91 out of Pacific Beach, San Diego. I always tell people to watch Thomas Campbell’s film, The Seedling, and watch and listen to Skip’s part. He talks about the creation of the board and the ethos behind it. 

How do you explain the current popularity of Gliders?
When I started riding them, you really didn’t see them outside of PB or Sunset Cliffs. You might see Skip down at San O or Malibu, but you really didn’t see the general population riding them except for the crew that Skipper built boards for. Today, there are lot of guys building them so people are starting to see them more. Basically, I think people are just looking for different ways to enjoy their surfing.

Why ride a Glider?
The length of lines that you can draw on a nice section that runs. And you if you go parallel stance, you can just stand there and literally do nothing at all. To me that is the ultimate in the trim and glide thing. It’s my favorite feeling in surfing. It’s just buttery, it’s smooth, it’s fast, and it’s just effortless. That’s why I put the phrase “Slide The Glide” on all of my boards. 

What is the feeling that you get from riding a Glider?
Riding a Glider turns me into a full on grom  It simply makes me want to laugh. It could be a knee high wave, but if it is lined up right – it just turns me into a grom. Nobody can really see what is going on when someone is riding a Glider because it looks like you are not really doing anything. But it’s the purest form of stoke that you could ever imagine.

What are some of the ingredients that go into a well-made Glider?
Parallel rails are a key element and also having the right bottom contours. In addition, the board has to have the right amount of Vee. I do a single concave into a spiral vee. This provides lift. 

Rail contours are also real important. Generally, they are softer up front and neutral in the middle, and down in the tail. The rails wrap the energy of the wave - whether it is knee high, chest high, or overhead – it will pull you along. It’s really an amazing thing to have 11 feet of rail completely engaged in the face of a wave. 

What about tail shapes?
The iconic tail shape by Skip is the Fish Simmons. That is what I first got turned onto. For most people it might be The Eagle, which is patterned after a rounded pin outline. Basically, it is either pintails or swallowtails. And depending on the models, the tail width will change.

The Fish Simmons is probably the most difficult board to learn how to ride well. The Eagle style with rounded pin is more forgiving. Both style boards can only work with a lot of Vee. The Vee gives you rail rocker which helps you get all that rail out of the water and turn...

What about fin setups?
My own research has shown that twins on anything above 8’ (like the Geppy-style keel fins or the high aspect tins) don’t really give the right feel. These days, most gliders I am making are single fins – I’m moving back towards single fins and less 2+1’s. They just feel so good going through the water. I’ve got an 8” fin on a 10’10” I’m riding right now. 

Also, I have built a couple 12’ quads. With the straight rails and having so much line, the quads make a lot of sense. With tri fins, you have that center fin drag. But with a quad, you basically break the center fin out and place it on the rails. Those boards really haul ass. 
What are the challenges in shaping a board that large?
It’s important to have a shaping room with good light. It also helps to have good curves or plan lines. Most importantly, you gotta have the space. If you are crammed in a little 12’ garage, you aren’t going to be able to get back and really eye it and get a good look at the plan and rail lines.

Why should someone commission Josh Hall for a Glider?
I’m fortunate in having been mentored and endorsed by Skip Frye. I ride everything I build. I know a lot of guys are building them now – yet some of them ride only shortboards. That just doesn’t make sense to me. If you are building 11 footers, you gotta know how to ride them. 

I’ve got everything from a 10’ Cali Gun to a 12’ Eagle-style board in my quiver. Gliders are a part of my design thread and history. And I’m proud and honored to be carrying the torch for Skipper. 

Photography by Mark Jeremias. To learn more about Josh Hall and his surfboards, click here. Mark Jeremias is a filmmaker, his latest surfing feature is One California Day.