FAT ARSE WOMBAT REDUX.
After doing a dozen or so customs of these again over the past 12 or so months, some for customers who had one 15-20 years ago, some for people who rode a mates one and simply had to have their own, to people who were totally fresh to this tried and tested and extremely versatile design, we thought it was about time we had a Wombat Comeback.
There’s been some smoke and mirrors going around lately about the actual inception of the Fat Arse Wombat, and I’d like to recount the actual story, from the people actually in the trenches, just to clear things up for you, the surfing public!
Before it was named the Fat Arse Wombat, this design was in its basic form a model called the “Retro Drive” and we were originally manufacturing them for an amazing Japanese label at the time, NoBrand. This was around 1998.
We made hundreds of the things for them. Phenomenal boards for Japanese waves. They were a shorter and stubbier version of the later form Wombat, but the ingredients were the same. Flatter rocker overall for paddling and trim speed, a wider nose and tail to increase planing area so you could pack as much foam into a shorter board as possible. Very subtle double concave running through the vee in front of the fins and out the tail. A versatile 2 + 1 fin setup with a larger centre fin for drive and stability, some were ridden solely as single fins though too. I remember my first one while I was still in school. It was 6 foot and quite thick for my wiry frame at the time. I rode it at The Pass religiously, and used a narrow based and super raked out Velzy fin in it. Thing paddled as good as a longboard, but of course was much more agile and quicker to respond. This was back in the day where you didn’t have to battle for waves out there and could really feel what a board/design was doing on the wave.
Now, following on from the Retro Drive, we had Beau Young riding for us at the time while we were making Bear Surfboards. We made the longboards that he won both his World Titles on, the first shaped by Brett Munro just next door to us here, and the second shaped by Hutcho, both designs we scanned onto the KKL machine and we still have access to them to this day. Beau had also been riding for NoBrand before Bear and had some experience with the Retro Drive and one day while talking to Paul in the shaping room, wanted to slightly elongate the length so it was more in line with something like what MP was riding in Morning of the Earth. You all know the section, you all know the board. THE cutback. So Hutcho went about shaping a new, updated version of the Retro Drive which ultimately became the FAW. That first one was 6’4” x 21” x 2 5/8”. It was perfect. Beau rode it in Indo. Frothed on it. We scanned it into KKL. And that first one is the same board that we make today. Zero changes. The cuts even have slight foot wells in them as we scanned it after it had been ridden. That’s how accurate KKL is at scanning.
Now to name it! Hutcho is always great at coming up with names. He talks a lot of shit. It’s incredible to work with day in and day out. The Sydney 2000 Olympics were in full swing. Hutcho was watching the Roy and HG program “The Dream” while the Olympics were running. Anyone who knows Roy and HG knows they also like to talk a lot of shit. Perfect symbiosis for Hutcho. They had an Olympic mascot called the Fat Arse Wombat. It was the perfect name. The board had an incredibly wide tail outline for the time period. It was as Aussie and colloquial as you could get. A model was born.
At the time there wasn’t a lot of alternative craft available, The Seedling had come out so there was a full blown logging resurgence, and we had just started making Donald Takayama’s under licence. But other than a few dudes riding traditional keel fishes and mini mals or Eggs, there wasn’t a lot of boards in that 6-7 foot realm that would let you surf no matter what the waves were doing. The FAW was that board. Dudes who were riding longboards could now ride something shorter and not feel like they were paddling underwater, and guys who rode shorter stuff could now ride something that was short but they could catch small, crumbly waves and still move the thing around. “The board that makes high tide fun!” was a quote we were using for early advertising of the board.
The thing that surprised everyone the most was the boards ability to hold when the waves got serious. We’re talking 8 foot Indo and guys were even taking them out at solid Cloudbreak and having a blast. The larger centre fin with sides had more than enough hold for the wider tail to rarely skip out. And the flatter rocker and thickness would get people into the waves a lot easier than their Step Up thrusters.
We made hundreds of these boards but they had a decline as more designs started entering the market and the nature of people wanting to ride different designs and feel different things on a wave, which naturally led to us not making many more after around 2010. By then Sprout was on everyone’s minds and anything and everything was available for people to order/shape. The Fat Arse Wombat lived on for many years after that through die hard fans of the design and people who had kept theirs through the years and continued to ride them, but once we stopped making Bear Surfboards full time in about 2016, we didn’t offer it in our showroom anymore, felt like a bit of an end of an era.
But like fashion, everything comes back around again, and around 2 years ago people started enquiring for them again, the real deal ones. Not some modified version from someone who hasn’t been shaping for 50+ years, people wanted to feel the same magic they or their friends may have felt over 20 years ago. And of course, we obliged. Like I said before, the board is available for reproduction from that first hand shaped one on our KKL machine, unmodified, unmolested by technology.
This one is/was for myself for this current Spring/Summer, but I’m now sidelined with recovering from shoulder surgery, and may not get to test it for another couple of months at least. Bummer. But I did want to try this first one as a pure quad fin with either Hanalei Q2 quads first in smaller surf, or Krypt powerdrive quads when the waves get a little more push. A nice, simple little change up from the standard 2 + 1 fin setup we ran in them since its inception.
Summer stock will be available at @surfectionbyron and possibly @keelsurfsupply also. This one is currently in the showroom in Byron here at the factory if anyone wants to come have a fondle or a chat about it…
Thanks for reading!