Liquid Force’s Co-Founder Jimmy Redmon Talks Shaping, History & Innovation
Last week, evo was lucky enough to chat with Liquid Force co-founder Jimmy Redmon. Jimmy is one of the most influential people in the wake world and has been shaping boards, judging contests, running companies and setting trends since the founding of Redline Designs in 1985. We talked about Jimmy’s board shaping inspiration, LF’s history and where wakesurfing will go in the future.
evo: Liquid Force is a household name in the wake industry and has been around since 1995. Has wakesurfing always been a focus?
JR: Wakesurfing has always been a part of where this whole thing came from in the first place. I mean, before Tony and I even met each other it was footstraps on a surfboard behind a boat, that’s what brought both of us into this. We grew up as surfers, so naturally we’d get behind a boat and go skurfing with our surfboards.
We’d put footstraps on them and eventually the boards had to get stronger, that’s what eventually became a wakeboard, but everything started off surfing behind the boat, way way before there was wakeboarding. So it’s cool to see how everyone is so excited about wakesurfing now because the product is just so much better, it’s evolved and the boats have some push behind ‘em now to really do something, instead of just gliding. But for us it really started here. Surfing is our first love, our offices are across the street from the beach, so it was a natural progression to eventually let go of the rope and just go back to surfing.
evo: How do you create a board specifically for a boat wake?
JR: That’s what’s so cool! Unlike in the ocean, you don’t have to paddle in our out of the wave, so really, what’s underneath your feet is all you need to ride the wave, in whatever way you want to approach it. Whether that’s skim style, with a much looser, more slippery rail, or whether you’re really projecting and leveraging the fins, attacking the wave in surf style. In both cases, the biggest difference is you can strip away the board to its essentials and get rid of a lot of volume because you don’t have to paddle it, so boards can get a lot smaller and therefore a lot more responsive.
If you look at guys that are doing tow-in surfing, once they started realizing that the extra volume wasn’t doing them any favors, they needed to stay engaged in the face, the size of tow-in boards got really, really small. The same thing on wakesurf boards, it’s very rare to see anybody riding a board over 5’ long behind a boat anymore. You’re either a big guy or a beginner if you’re riding that size. Anybody that is competing is on boards in the 4’ zone. Quick little skateboards under their feet.
evo: What is your favorite surf shape you’ve created?
JR: Right now, the board we’ve all been riding the most on is the Pod, a surf style shape. The volume is stripped away, so you can ride a really small board. The bottom configuration and more parallel rail where the nose and tail are blunted allows the entire board through the middle to be narrower compared to a conventional shape where the nose and tail are pulled in more. It makes it really fast rail to rail, but we were also able to shorten the whole length because the volume is redistributed with a wider overall shape but narrower through the middle for a really fast, compact board. That shape has created a lot of new variations of boards that will come out in the future; it’s just a really efficient, fun and quick board to ride.
evo: That sounds a little bit like what is going in snowboarding, where we also see volume shifting and boards are getting shorter and fatter.
JR: It’s also exactly what is happening in surfing. If you look at a lot of the surfboards, especially a lot of the stuff Daniel Thomson is doing, you’ll see these kinds of ideas of redistribution of volume, and it goes all the way back to these shapes Bob Simmons did a long time ago. When you eliminate the need to have to paddle into the wave, the board can be even smaller still when you get behind a boat wakesurfing
evo: Where do you see wakesurfing going in the future?
I see it growing. It’s truly one of those things that if you’re having fun, it’s all that matters. What I mean by that is that is, sometimes when things get too precisely defined, everyone’s telling you if you’re doing it right or wrong. What is so refreshing in wakesurfing is people are trying so many different ideas.
I love it, because the only rule is to have fun, so that’s spawning a lot of creativity and experimentation and everybody gets to benefit from that stoke because every company out there is working on something new. That’s unreal.
evo: What’s your take on foils? We see more and more of them out there.
I am very fortunate because we have different divisions doing different things, and I am making boards for all of them. We’ve been putting foils on kiteboards in low wind situations because the foil is so efficient. So then we started putting foils on some of our wakesurf boards, going out behind boats, and realizing how much fun is is to surf a wave on a foil.
It slows everything down. You don’t have to worry about the boat wave or the water being perfect. In conditions where you would normally be bummed out because of the chop, you can go out on a board with a foil and it’s underneath the chop so you don’t experience any of the bumpiness, but there’s still enough push on the wave for you to surf, kind of in space. It just opens up your realm of fun – a day you normally would not have ridden you’re able to go out with a whole bunch of people and have fun.
evo: How do you foster community and get more people into the fold wakesurfing?
JR: LF does these events called Free for All. Initially, we’d do ‘em at cable parks. Eventually, the parks started asking for a day with boats. This year, we kicked Free for All off at Mission Bay, not at a cable park, where we had one boat pulling people behind wakeboards, and another boat with Austin Keen pulling wakesurfers. That sense of community is even closer with wakesurfing because the thing is, most of the people on the boat were beginners and just wanted to learn how to get up. They weren’t intimidated to try in front of people. The boat’s slower. There were kids, ladies who could have been my mom who just wanted to get on the boat. Their ability level didn’t matter. The proximity of the rider to the people on the boat is huge, because you can hear everyone applauding you. That encourages people to keep riding.
evo: What’s your favorite trick behind the boat?
JR: Oh man. I wanna say, just pushing the board. Seeing how far you can blow out the fins and slide the board, and then reconnect. My most fun behind the boat is trying different boards and different ideas. That’s what I indulge in. Usually every time we go out wakesurfing, my car is full of boards. All these different things like, “let’s try different fins, will this give us more projection?” or “how does this board ride compared to this or that?” Everybody’s sharing ideas and that’s really the most fun.
The other thing that I still love to this day is teaching somebody, watching somebody do it for the first time and get stoked and know they are going to come back. I can’t believe I get to do this as a job.
evo: Could you give us an overview of the new Liquid Force wakesurf lineup? Any recommendations for skaters or snowboarders transitioning to wakesurfing?
For skim style boards that skaters would love, we’re really lucky that we’ve got some great feedback. Guys who are fully dedicated to the skim style approach, and some guys who integrate surf style into their riding but still like the board to be slippery. From Dominic Lagace, to Austin Keen, to Tommy Czeschin, who comes from a snowboarding background, we’ve got these different boards that suit their styles.
Dom is taking full on skate moves to the wake. With his board, the Super Tramp, he’s doin’ kickflips on the board. Austin is doin’ every kind of big spin that you can imagine and ripping the wave and slashing it too. These boards have easily removable fins so you can ride them as singles, or tris, or completely finless, like Austin. Tommy Czeschin has a hybrid shape board called the Primo. I call it hybrid because it does have some bottom features to it, it’s got some channels out the back, and it’s got a little more volume, but again, it’s got a fin system that can be ridden as a twin for a surf style approach, or pop the outside fins out and put a shallow little baby skim fin in the center and it works like a nice skim board and it’s super loose. Also, every one of these boards comes in three sizes depending on your weight range and your skill, there’s a board for everybody.
We do the same thing with surf. We’ve got boards that are really performance oriented like the Pod, we’ve got a board that Shawn Watson loves called the Dart that’s got a really wide tail block. It works really well as a thruster but you can ride it as a twin or a quad, too. It’s really easy to surf, has a whole lot of glide and a rounder outline so it’s very buoyant. Anyobdy can surf on that board, even bigger riders on the 5’3”.
For guys that just want to cruise – I took one of my longboards and just re-proportioned it and scaled it down into a mini-longboard, called it El Guapo. Initially, it was just available in a 5’2”, scaled down from 9’, made it really thin and adjusted the rocker. You can nose ride, you can just glide and you don’t need the best wave in the world, either. I noticed that there was a need for a bigger version for bigger guys, so I made a 5’6” version. I had a recently retired NFL player try it, a really big guy who’d never surfed, skated, nothing. He got up his first day surfing on the 5’6” El Guapo. There’s something out there for everybody!