The Singleton: Taylor Jensen reflects on Fourteen Years with Firewire
"Before Firewire" says Taylor Jensen "I just had problems with lightweight longboards breaking all the time"
Standing in his front yard two miles East of Oceanside Harbor, the California native who double's as an Australian resident continues "I'd break six or seven boards a month, I could never keep a favorite board intact. And when I switched to Firewire and Dan Mann started making my boards I immediately saw results, and the year after, I won my first World Title in 2011."
Taylor won his first World Title shortly after joining Dan Mann at Firewire.
Here today at home, just 24 hours after his second consecutive finals berth in as many years at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach (a result that places him comfortably at number two on the World Tour Rankings) Taylor recalls "It was a 16 month gap from switching to Firewire to all the sudden winning a World Title, that for eleven years I tried to get and couldn't get because I was constantly changing equipment. So that consistency that Firewire brought through their construction really made it easy for me to stay consistent in my contest results."
Dan Mann has been working with Taylor for 14 years.
Taylor's longtime shaper since 2009 Dan Mann describes what Taylor noticed between 2009 and his first World Title in 2011 as 'Firewire's ability to make extremely light surfboards that are uncommonly strong for how light they are."
It's coincidently this same 'strength - to - weight ratio' that inspired Dan's decision to join Firewire in 2006, just three years before Taylor did.
Dan says "When Firewire approached me in 2006 to join, I did it because from a materials perspective I had a lot of excitement for both EPS and Epoxy resin, and from a manufacturing perspective I had a lot of enthusiasm for Vacuum Bagging. These material and manufacturing combinations make it possible to build surfboards that give you all the performance of a light and fragile board that your stereotypical pro surfer wants, combined with all the durability against breaking that every surfer on earth wants - the marriage of those two things has driven Firewire for the past 28 years, this constant pursuit of improving the intermingling of material innovations and manufacturing innovations to create the performance a pro would expect with the durability an everyday surfer wants."
Taylor's shed contains fourteen years of Firewire history.
Taylor agrees as he rummages through his shed in the backyard containing fourteen years worth of surfboards designed by Dan , pointing to one and saying "This is a World Title board from more than ten years ago that Dan did for me. I can still surf it today in overhead, barreling waves."
This shed Taylor has insisted on showing us is a detour - an unexpected tangent separating us today from the main reasons we visited Taylor's home - firstly to congratulate him on his final against Kaniela Stewart (the two are tied in final heats at H.B. pier 1 -1 with Taylor taking the trophy in '22 and Kaniela in '23; the makings for what MMA and Boxing fight fans refer to as a tie breaking 'rubber match' next year in 2024) and secondly to get the download on his Singleton; the shape he rode famously in Malibu last year and again this year in H.B.
Taylor Jensen with a peak to himself at the U.S. Open. Photo: Pierucki.
Inspired by new WSL guidelines that require all surfboards for competition to be designed within specific requirements in homage to traditional log design, the Singleton was conceived by Stu Kenson to fit rules about length, outline, fin configuration and more as set forth by Professional Longboarding's governing body.
Taylor describes these new rules in disappointed tones, but quickly asserts his enthusiasm for Stu, saying "When we were designing the Singleton me and Dan needed someone with experience in traditional design principles of the past who could craft things within WSL parameters but also cleverly hide the performance characteristics within the shape that I wanted."
Refining rails. Taylor Jensen and Stu Kenson.
This creates what Taylor references as "A log that doesn't feel like a log" adding that the Singleton has "The spring and the good feels that a performance board has but it suits that [WSL] criteria that we're going for".
Stu's brilliance according to Dan Mann reaches beyond traditional logs for waist high waves saying that Stu is also a master at critical shapes for waves that can kill, describing his upbringing under Stu as "The best tutelage a surfboard designer earn at a young age, and also asserting that no one makes a better Mavericks gun than Stu."
Surfboard designing minds combined. Taylor Jensen and Stu Kenson.
"He's an absolute Hero in the Southern California shaping community. There are very few people making boards in this part of the world today whose knowledge or success isn't somehow derivative of Stu or at least earned in collaboration with Stu" says Dan.
'Colaboration'; is what Taylor suggests has kept him with Firewire across a decade and a half of board design "It's the optionality Firewire gives me as a platform. Just having the freedom to play with construction and play with different shapes with different shapers. I have a whole bunch of options on the table at any given time. It teaches you a lot, we learn from each other, we all come together on a model and it's a really fun experience."
Outside of competition, the Singleton has become Taylor's favorite shape in small waves that don't offer punch or power; different from the kind of head high or overhead waves that have made his popular TJ Pro one of the most desired performance longboards in the world.
The Singleton has exceptional nose lift for nose riding.
Instead the Singleton has become his favorite in knee or waist high Ocenaside, Byron Bay, Malibu. The ride of the Singleton provides trim, glide and slide that purists appreciate, but given the performance traits hidden within it by Stu, Taylor enjoys it during turns and cutbacks; the kind of maneuvers not as commonly performed in weak waves, but made particularly easy when surfing this design given Stu and Taylor's attention to performance in an otherwise traditional log.
Surprisingly, Taylor thinks it's his ferverent insistance on performance surfing that has enabled his recent success in contests that are ostensibly founded on traditional criteria.
He says " I'm getting lift out of my nose rides which is ticking boxes for the judges but you'll notice now the judges starting to reward turns again. At the U.S. Open that was pretty prevalent. Everybody can stand up there and hang ten but if you're riding a big rolled bottom log with no edge your turns are going to look a bit clunky and slow, and the Singleton just carries speed and momentum through all its turns, so it has definitely helped me get those results."
High turn-ability. Taylor and Stu hid performance inside the Singleton.
Having finalized this new shape, Taylor is most excited for the opportunity it gives others to feel what he feels when surfing around Australia and California, reflecting that "I'm 25 years deep in professional surfing and I'm in a really unique place to pass that on to your everyday surfer in the boards that we build and the techs that we make and the construction and feels..... I think the future with Firewire presents a lot of opportunities for me and everyone who enjoys surfing my designs."
Speed line on the Singleton.