If you’re an East Coast surfer, especially a Northeast Florida-based one, the name Whisnant likely rolls off the tongue as easily as the word “nor’easter.” Over the course of more than four decades, in which he’s gone from shaping pintail single-fins to chunky twins to high performance blades for successive generations of the region’s best surfers, Mike Whisnant’s crafts have simply become part of our collective local surf DNA.
So when Void was looking to curate a batch of shred sleds with the North Florida surfer in mind, Whisnant—with his decades of experience building a variety of quality surfboards—was the obvious choice.
To celebrate the release of this distinctive crop of boards, we asked the renowned North Florida shaper to share a little insight about the crafts, his experience with each design, and what makes this trio, collectively, an ideal quiver for the variety of waves our region offers and the eclectic community of surfers who ride them.
So you’ve buttered your bread, so to speak, making high performance shortboards. But, when you began shaping, you started with single fins, then moved to twins, and followed the demands of the general surfing population to where we are today, where people are riding a variety of stuff. What excited you about the three boards in this collection?
Well, I’ve shaped all this stuff before. I’ve got the roots in the ground, so to speak. So to have Void involved, I think we’re just building on top of that. I get to expose my work to more people. I think that’s great.
Also, my business is steady. But, there are more people surfing than ever. So why are less people buying surfboards? I think there’s a demand for different boards right now. Boards that work well, but do different things. There are a lot of great shapers offering unique shapes right now. While I can’t do what Ryan Lovelace does with his brand or his boards, there are boards that I can do that others can’t. So with the Void boards, it’s almost like this is my alter ego. I’m having a blast making these. I’m getting to do cool stuff that I haven’t gotten to do for a while. I’ve got all this history, but many people I guess didn’t know I could do this stuff.
So the Golden Abyss (the single-fin model) is kind of an updated version of the boards from right around when you started surfing?
Right, I think of the three boards, the single fin is the most interesting because I grew up in that time, riding these kind of outlines, when they first became popular after the shortboard revolution. And I can tell you, they didn’t work in our conditions.
But, I can take 30 years of shaping, 45 years of board building, I can take all that information and apply it to a board that looks like a 1970s single fin, give it the look, the overall feel, but make something that works in North Florida waves for North Florida surfers. It’s got a more modern rocker, even though it maintains that single fin flow. It’s got more modern rails. It’s new school without showing it. With this board you wanna roller coaster down the line, get on that rail on your bottom turn, surf with style. That’s what you want to do on a single fin.
And the Red Mullet—the twin fish—has a retro outline, based off the original Steve Lis-style fish. But again, you modernized it.
Yes. I remember Bruce Clelland brought back the first twin fin to Jacksonville in 1973 or ’74. It was an Oberlin twin from California. Nobody on the East Coast had seen one. That board was so fast. And it was really close to what we’re doing with the Void twin. The rails are updated. We still carry the thickness through the deck out toward the rail. There’s a bevel toward the front half of the board, which allows you to carry volume out, then pull the rail down. Now the thing will turn. It’s not just fast!
You’ve made so many high performance shortboards over the years. What excites you about the Black Flag?
Well, first look, it looks like a slug. But we glassed it light. It’s got a modern bottom contour. It’s definitely in the performance family.
But it’s a really user friendly shortboard. You’ll be able to get that good flow, keep speed. Then the fins and bottom will allow you to get vertical. Basically it’s a new school design on a wider platform. It’s a board to keep in your car, everyday. It’s great in knee-high to chest-high surf, if it’s top to bottom. But it’s magic when the surf is big and soft.