What is the best surfboard in the world? A question surfing enthusiasts and craftsmen have been asking since the early 1900s. If an objective answer were possible, determining the ideal means of the free-form, bound-only-by-imagination experience of surfing, then the Stab in the Dark contest would be the only logical place to go looking.
What began from an idea about testing wetsuits side by side gave rise to a double-blind shaping competition led by Stab Magazine. Their waters quickly began to draw an audience equally interested in finding a winner for the ultimate surfboard test.
Twelve of the world's best shapers submit their prize performance board, without a clue, as to whose feet might be riding them. Next, Stab picks a mystery man abled to carve a section on a plank, and then the fun unfurls over ten days of chasing waves and examining sleds.
This year, world tour veteran and high-performance icon Taj Burrow put the blindfold over his eyes and carried a 12-board quiver into the bed of a West Australian winter.
For the first time in the contest's five year history, the boards packed a little something special. Over two months, the team at Dark Arts put their hands to the final production piece, carbon-fiber glassing, with the goal that every blank be identical except for their shape and distinguishing color coating on the rails.
Justin Ternes, Dark Arts' founder, says: "It's really cool to be a part of Stab in the Dark. A lot of eyes are on this contest. It gets our construction on so many different brands' boards with one of the best surfers in the world, to find the best performing board on the planet."
This collaboration of the best in the game all-things surfboard construction marks a critical moment for Dark Arts Surf: we're dropping in on center stage.
"It was an exciting opportunity, but also a gamble. We put all our cards out on the table, and from what I hear, I think we did well! I'm excited to see all the footage and hear Taj's thoughts on how they all rode." - Justin Ternes
Check out stabmag.com for the final results and to see Taj rip it on all black.
Lifestyle Photography: Myles Carroll
Action Photography: Andrew Semark