Meyerhoffer Test Center set up at Zed Layson's in Barbados
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 6 March, 2012 : - - Thomas Meyerhoffer, like most surfboard shapers, is continuously tweaking, refining and creating new designs. Zed Layson of Zed's Surf Adventures in Barbados has been a fan of Meyerhoffer Surfboards since their release to the marketplace in 2009. In January 2012 Thomas and Zed set up the first Meyerhoffer Test Center at Zed's awesome establishment in Barbados. The Meyerhoffer Test Center will be used all year round to test various new Meyerhoffer designs as well as to enable Zed's visitors to enjoy and experience all the boards in the Meyerhoffer range. We spoke to Thomas and Zed this week about the new Meyerhoffer Test Center.
GSI: Thomas, how did you first meet Zed?
TM: Zed has been riding my boards since the very beginning, but it didn't know.... Musician Tony Roberts and film maker Nick Welch, worked together to produce a movie called Welcome To Today, a surf video about Barbados and its surfers. Tony then sent me a handwritten letter (!) together with the video. I checked it out and discovered Zed ripping on the Comp 9.1. It really peaked my curiosity - who was this guy ripping on the board half way across the world? So we got in contact and Zed invited me to Barbados to stay at his surf center. I went with little expectation and it turned out to be one of the best surf trips I ever taken. Thanks Tony and Nick!
Nick came back when I was there in January and made a video called simply Meyerhoffer. It's a great video about the different aspects of the boards, how they work in reality, who rides them and how it benefits all surfers and their surf experience. (Nick Welch is a passionate filmmaker. To see more of Barbados and his films, check out beachesofbarbados.com.
GSI: How did you come up with the Meyerhoffer Test Center concept?
TM: You can't fully experience a surfboard unless you ride it, especially ours which might take a few sessions to get used to. From the beginning one of our main goals has been to promote demos because when you try a Meyerhoffer surfboard you'll feel the performance advantages and you'll see improvements in your surfing... Barbados is the perfect place to try out our boards: warm water, good waves all around, and a world class surf center in Zed's place that attracts really great people from all over the world.
Zed is a very experienced high-level surfer, so I'll value his feedback as we develop the next generation of our boards moving forward, but he's also an excellent instructor who comes in contact with hundreds of surfers each year who stay at his surf center. Our Meyerhoffer surfboards line is a perfect fit for this environment as we have a full spectrum of boards suited for beginner-level surfers all the way up to surfers like Zed. Surfers can come to Barbados, try out a board, get some tips from Zed, improve their surfing, try out another board, and just keep improving and having fun. With the combo of the Barbados environment, Zed's high-level surfing and instruction, and the range of surfers who come to surf and stay there, it is the perfect fit for the first Meyerhoffer Test Center.
GSI: Why do you think your boards are popular in Barbados?
TM: Having an volunteer ambassador like Zed showing the potential of the board to everyone in the water has been one major factor, but I think one of the reasons is that Barbados is it's own place. There is no major surf brands or media present, no surf shops with pre set values Barbados is a surf community with lots of great surfers where there is no pressure on what you "need" to ride, what to belong to or how to look...
The surfers there simply surf for the love of surfing - its what they do and they have chosen to use the board they like the best from all the options they have. It's really simple in the end - surf and experience as much as you can.
GSI: What was it like surfing with so many Meyerhoffer boards in the water?
TM: I have to be honest, it was an amazing experience for me to be in the water with 8-10 Meyerhoffer boards at the same time. Some of the best young long boarders on the island ripping it up: Brandon and Akeem surfing the Comp9.1. A German guy on the 9.2, a girl on the Lemondrop, a gentleman from New Hampshire on the 8.1 and some kid improving his shortboarding on the Pill - all loving the boards and improving their surfing.
GSI: Tell us about the new model you just tested at Zed's: the Horsepill.
TM: The Horsepill is a modern interpretation of a Simmons hull and a fish. It retains the hulled nose but has deep double concaves with a pulled-in performance tail to fit in the pocket. The double concave runs all the way into the convex hull area of the board to create a high performance version with a retro feel. This unique mix makes the board less squirrelly, with more drive and control to go vertical, plus the ability to cruise over sections and out on the open face of the wave. The width and volume helps you out paddle everyone else. The Meyerhoffer Horsepill will be available around the world in April 2012, and you will certainly be able to test ride one at the Meyerhoffer Test Center at Zed's Surf Adventures in Barbados.
Zed, your surf center is regarded as one of the very best in the world and has been featured in many travel magazines. Tell us a bit our what you have built there in Barbados and who comes to stay?
ZL: When I was a little boy in my teens, I would be surfing Soup Bowl and see tourists paddling out on little small boards and the rip would pull them straight out. I would see the expression on their faces when they saw how big the waves were, I would help them back to the shore. I always had a vision of somewhere for beginners to surf in Barbados, I didn't necessarily think I would open a beginner center, I just thought there should be one.
I was in business running a supermarket (of all things) and lost my shirt, completely broke. My bank manager at the time suggested I try something I knew better like surfing (I thought to my self, I am 30, how am I going to do anything with surfing), well I couldn't compete any more so that was out, and I wasn't a real lover of competition anyway. A friend lent me some money to open a Watersport's shop, her name was Lisa, without that trust in me to pick myself back up and start over, I would still be sleeping on my Mother's couch a broken man. I also started teaching surfing out of this shop with one board in 2001.
In 2003 I met David Gittens who rented me a spot at his property and Zed's Surfing Adventures was born. I was able to keep my head above water and keep growing, it is difficult to explain what or how it was built but what happened in the next few years was a roller coaster ride for surf school business in Barbados, Surfers Point became infamous around the world for beginner surfing and our school got pulled along for the ride.
I think the secret to Surfers Point is the environment and the people that work and live around here (surrounding neighborhood), its a very laid back atmosphere with respectful people all around. There are a mixture of Kiters, Surfers, Kayakers and just casual beach goers of all races and classes of people.
This reflects who we attract and I find Surfers Point seems to mostly attract like minded people coming around and staying in our apartments. I always stress we are not a resort (don't do that to me), we are a Home away from Home, where friends meet for the first time and surf. David Gittens was very much like this and I think the tradition has more or less continued, David passed away on April 4 2011.
I have seen many schools operate around the world, some who run rigid programs laid down by their Associations, some relaxed, some very good and down to earth but all doing their thing the way they are happy doing it. For me I designed a program that would enable vacationers to get up and go within the first three waves, then we move onto more stuff in the water, I was never into class room style teaching, to me this didn't make any sense, people have a problem remembering a few steps 20 minutes ago far less to remember an hour of tides and current and wave formation etc... this is stuff they learn as they go. Our lessons are about fun and safety... and we wont play around with peoples safety, this is paramount... I learnt this when running the watersports at big resort. The owners would tell me, if peoples safety couldn't be assured cancel the activity, don't take chances.
Our instructors are the best you can find here in Barbados, Junior is fun, funny and serious at the same time, he is also one of the best Kiters and Windsurfers in Barbados, to me he is the Garfield Sobers (Cricket) of Barbados Surfing. He has been working with me for at least 5 years and will always be a major part of Zed's Surfing Adventures forever.
Then we have some of the young apprentices, Akeem, Brandon, Andre, Jacob and Mike (not so young). These are all very special guys that teach here as well. You would see Akeem, Brandon and Mike on the Meyerhoffer boards all the time, I couldn't get them off of them even if I tried, they are in love with them. Jacob is my oldest son and he is into music but helps us out on the lessons daily. Andre is the brain box with an IQ average of just under a million. My wife Claudia surfs the 8.1 meyerhoffer 2 or the 7.2 Lemondrop, she loves both, her surfing has improved leaps since riding the Meyerhoffers, I taught her to surf when we first met and after two babies she is back in the water enjoying life.
When did you first hear about Meyerhoffer surfboards?
ZL: I first heard about the Meyehoffer boards when Ed Gerbino (GSI Territory Manager) asked me if I was interested in trying the boards, I looked at the picture of the board and thought, this is weird, I will try it. This would have been as early as they started because after trying them I order two more of the 9.2 and a 7.6, 8.0 and 9.6.
My first experience riding the Meyerhoffer was, "I can't surf this board", and after about 6 waves I came in, the waves were big and very bumpy, I wasn't pleased. Then two days later I surfed head high and perfect clean Freights Bay and BINGO, I hit the sweet spot, the board turned on and magic. My advice is when you ride it for the first time, take your time to draw clean lines and make sure your back foot can work the tail, once you find the sweet spot it will be the best board you ever ride!
What was it about these boards that made you want to supply them in your surf center?
ZL: Well, I have always been swimming up current to most people, I tend to look at things differently most of the time, so to have this weird board in the shop was like having a nice piece of art to talk about daily, I mean really, what will I say about a traditional shaped board? "Oh this one has a square tail and a round nose and so does this one and this one and this one". This board is the conversation piece in my shop and we have over 100 boards in the shop. The Meyerhoffer always sparks a conversation...sometimes people staying by my place will look at it and say oh no I don't know how that will ride and then see me or Brandon or Akeem fly over the lip and into a round house cut back and then back up again and they would go "On second thoughts, I will try it."
So it's art and it works better than any other board. If you dont have one in your center, you are missing out.
GSI: You have been riding Meyerhoffer surfboards since their release to market in 2009 how has the evolution of the range changed your surfing?
ZL: For me, its like this, I have always been a shortboarder and pretty die hard one too. But over the years I have been looking around for some new challenges in surfing and I like bigger waves, so Barbados is on average a chest to head high surf destination most of the year. I was looking for something to flow through the dead slow sections but still allow me to try radical stuff and have good flow, this is where Meyerhoffers came in to fill that void. I have been riding them from the beginning until today and I intend to work with Thomas to keep these designs as fresh as can be.
GSI: It must be great to be involved in the development of this amazing range of boards do you have a team of riders that test the boards?
ZL: All of my Team ride them but mostly Akeem, Douglas,Brandon and my wife Claudia. They are the best team because they give me honest feed back on the boards. Later this year we will stock the Horse Pill in the shop in all sizes, we already have The Pill, Lemondrop, the 8.1, 9.2, 96 meyerhoffer 2 and the 9.1 comp (in other words the complete Meyerhoffer range). We even have some of the original 7.6, 8.0 and 9.2 in the shop as well. Out of the 120 boards we have, there are about 50 or 60 boards from the Global Surf Industries brands.
Our Mantra is "Life is better when you surf" - what does that statement mean to you?
ZL: It Means Freedom, Surfing always puts things back into perspective for me. Our creator is ever present in the Ocean....and the flow of life should be like waves.
Source: Global Surf Industries
Tags: Meyerhoffer, Global Surf Insustries, Zed's Surf Adventures, Zed Layson