In 2000, Thomas began exploring new surfboard concepts. Less concerned in functionality and instead focused on feeling, these early surfboards were created in an expression of the experience itself: riding a wave.
Finding design in nature and never intended for production they explored new design directions and became the start of a journey that would take Thomas around the world over the next several years and meet some of most influential shapers and surfers.
Today, Meyerhoffer has a dedicated following of surfers from around the world surfing the explorative designs. Determined to move the experience forward, he continues to develop new surfboard designs and connect with influencial shapers and surfers.
Surfboard design is driven by the demands of performance: to ride more dynamically and efficiently in and around the breaking part of the wave. The better a board performs, the more intense the sensation of surfing becomes. As such, emotion is still the heart and soul of every good surfboard.
In 2000, Thomas began designing around this concept. Less concerned in function and instead focused on feeling, these early surfboards were created in an expression of the experience itself: riding an ocean wave. Finding design in nature, these bizarre and novelty surfboards — akin to a concept-car — were never intended for production, but explored new design directions, technology and styling.
Out of these free experiments came breakthrough moments — the boards performed beyond expectation — inspiring Thomas to pursue his ideas a stage further.
In 2007 Meyerhoffer's original designs where featured in a ten page article in The Surfers Journal by Scott Hulet. The article asked the question, "how does this make you feel?" and explored how we can design surfboards that not only perform better but also expand the feeling the surfer exprience on each wave. Design that deliver emotional preformance.
By using computer aided design — notably, long before it became common practice in surfboard building — Thomas is able to work accurately and efficiently, unencumbered by traditional, antiquated tools. Cmputer aided design already familiar to him was used as he continued to develop explorative designs. He managed to overcome the shortfalls of the traditional production process unable to accommodate his unorthodox design, to create the now iconic, ‘Hourglass’ Longboard shape. This distinctive and desirable form became an instant hit, attracting public interest, national press and a string of international design awards — a feat never before achieved in surfing.
In 2009 Thomas was fetured in The New York Times in an article that descibed his surfboards. Later that year it was included in The New York Times Magazine, The Ninth Annual Year in Ideas. With the unexpected success came the inevitable skeptics. Thomas was at the time unsure if the articles was good or bad, well aware of the street cred needed to be accepted. In the surfing world, opinions were polarized: open minded surfers embraced the boards, while many questioned the validity of the design and its subsequent commercial success. Meanwhile, Thomas found himself working at the leading-edge of surfboard design focused on developing the ideas further.
Even with mainstream success, the surf industry remained slow to adopt Thomas’ ideas, however it did afford him opportunity to confer with some of surfing’s master craftsman, including Australian surfboard designer, Bob McTavish and Hawaiian legend Randy Rarick.
Bob, a progressive thinker himself, McTavish encouraged Thomas to follow his vision, remembering he too was laughed at for his own bold innovations throughout the 1960s. He urged Thomas to work at his craft and enlist the best surfers to test the equipment: only then could he begin to measure his success as a surfboard designer. Energized by the encounter, Thomas returned to the basics of surfboard design and above all, the fun of surfing. A period of extensive travel introduced him and his design concepts to a world of waves and surfers: the feedback would prove invaluable.
Back home and back into the studio, he began working ever-more accurately and efficiently with the computer, unencumbered by traditional, antiquated tools. His output was creative and substantive, yielding a range of shortboard and longboard shapes.
Most notably, the Slip-In model recieved much attention and was awarded ‘Best in Show’ at the prestigious Sacred Craft surfboard exhibition — an event rooted in the traditions and craft of surfboard building. Significantly, the award was recognition from surfing’s core establishment.
In the evolution of the modern surfboard, the Single Fin is a somewhat outmoded design, surpassed in performance by the modern Thruster invented in the early 1980s and now a staple of competition surfing.
However, the Single Fin has endured, sustained by its perceived simplicity, which continues inspire surfing purists looking to flow in harmony with the wave — an approach associated with ‘Soul Surfing’: surfing for the good of ones soul, in contrast to prevailing aggressive styles in professional, competetive surfing. Recognizing the virtues of this forgotten design, we reimagined the classic Single Fin, boosting its performance capabilities, while retaining the gliding sensation and trim-speed unique to the original design.
The distinctive tail is a derivative of the revolutionary longboard design and features a negative cut along the extended tail. This radical design does away with traditionally bulky tail shapes and reduces drag, enabling easy rail-to- rail transitions and a tighter turning radius. The wide point of the outline is moved further up, immediately positioning the surfer forward on the board in gaining momentum as he traverses across the wave.
A complex blend of bottom contours work to channel water efficiently through the fins, creating positive lift and hold through decisive turns. The Rocker (the curve of the surfboard from nose to tail) strikes a balance between the traditionally flatter rocker of a Single Fin (for speed) and the more pronounced rocker of the modern Thruster (for maneuverability).
The fin itself forms a crucial component of any board design. Working with Futures, we produced a unique fin template with a large rake for tighter turns. Using carbon-fiber, the base of the fin is made strong for stability, and foiled to a fine edge that flexes as pressure is applied. This flex pattern determines how the board handles on the water and is carefully balanced for maximum control and drive.
"You can use a modern style approach if you want real performance or just keep it real classic and maintain a one-line approach" says professional surfer, Eric Geiselman. Subsequently, the Slip-In is a proven functional surfboard used by devotees and professional surfers alike, the world over.
Josh Mulcoy, a surfers with an open mind searching for new experiences says: "It has all the good qualities of a single-fin, but at the same time, you can turn it on a dime. It has the best of both worlds: the thruster feel and the speed, but you can get on a rail like you do on a single-fin."
A group of surfing's best are given a chance to ride a collection of surfing's most iconic boards from the past and the most intriguing shapes of the future.
Slip in was tested together with shapes from two other visionary shapers Tomo and Maurice Cole.
Jamie O'Brien, Julian Wilson, Ian Walsh and Kolohe Andino push the limits of what they are used to riding and explore boards shaped for the future. See the possibilities of these boards and how the riders were pleasantly surprised with how these boards ripped.
Meyerhoffer continues his unique evolution of the boards, gaining momentum and a following. Enjoying status at the vanguard of surfboard design, Thomas now silences his critics by allowing the surfboard to speak for itself. His beautifully functional, powerfully simple designs are now used by devotees and professional surfers alike, the world over.
Living on the coast of California, overlooking the surf, he stays close to the source of his inspiration and the international community of surfers that surrounds him. Just as the Pacific Ocean is ever changing the surfboard, by extension, holds infinite design possibilities for him. Free to challenge the limits of process and form, he is liberated: a feeling that flows through his broad design practice.
In 2016 Thomas was featured in Surfers Blood a Movie by Patrick Trefz. Surfers Blood tells the universal story of true individuals that share deep bloodlines connected to the sea. From the old world fishing history of the rugged Basque Coast via oar and surfboard shaper Patxi Oliden, to the modern metropolis of San Francisco and the eccentric computer shapes of Thomas. A Sonoma Valley Art Museum that exhibits hydrodynamic surfboards via avant-garde curator Richard Kenvin, to 3 time Mavericks big wave champ Darryl 'Flea' Virostko's struggle to overcome an almost fatal meth addiction and the bittersweet loss that came with it.
"Depending on how you see it, what Thomas Meyerhoffer does is contrary to Patxi's machinery mindset that approaches every task by hand," says Trefz. "All of the boards that Meyerhoffer shapes are by machines, but his shapes float and they ride well. Even Josh Mulcoy couldn't believe it when he tested them out. Meyerhoffer didn’t lay his tools on it, so to speak, but he does lay his hands on it in his own way, through the computer. Is it any less of a legitimate method to design surfcraft? That's for the audience to decide."
The world premiere of Surfers Blood was at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in September. US premier was in Santa Cruz, California at the Rio Theater. It is now avaliable on Red Bull TV.