Dave Johnson Hot Rod Board of the Month for surfwanderer.com

Photo: Jason Rath

Progressive Surfboards: “Hot Rod”
Story and Surfing: Shawn Tracht

If you’re a surfer, you probably know Dave Johnson in some way or another. For God’s sake he’s shaped over 30,000 surfboards and has been a top competitor at the Rincon Classic in multiple divisions for years. With a genuine stoke to be in the surfing industry and still make surfboards after all those years, Dave Johnson is a guy who will give you more than just a great board, he’ll also entertain you with surf stories that are rooted in stoke all the back to his grommet days.

Surfwanderer.com Board of the Month

Dave Johnson holding one of the best surfboard models he’s ever built.

Shaper’s Take:
The Hot Rod is the best all around shortboard I have ever designed for Southern California. It evolved from the small wave/fish side of the design spectrum, so it excels in waves from 2’ to 2’ overhead. The unexpected and pleasant surprise is that it is equally effective in solid double overhead surf as well.
The two key ingredients are the extra wide tail and the very deep concave that runs from the tip of the tail all the way through the nose. These boards skim high across the top of the water rather than plow through it and they catch the wave as far out as a board a foot longer.  The Hot Rod planes so high it would be too loose if not for the quad or “fiver” fin set up.
Small quad trailers allow for tail slide and break free snap-cutty combos. Larger trailers turn it into a carving machine. With a quad plus a baby keel fin as a fifth wheel your knees will buckle before it spins out.

Dave Johnson holding his favorite Southern California Surfboard he's ever built Photo: Tracht
Unlike some designs (eg. retro fish, displacement hulls) where each design element relies so heavily on the others that changing one thing can render the board virtually useless, the Hot Rod is extremely variable. I can modify any design element (width, thickness, rocker, rails) to suit the needs or preferences of each individual surfer. The result only enhances the hot rod’s performance making it fun for me as a shaper to be creative and continue to evolve my favorite all time design!
Surfer’s Take:
Reducing drag is a key element to surfing as fast as you can. Scientist years ago figured out how to reduce drag of a moving object. One of them was Daniel Bernoulli who published his “Bernoulli Principal,” in his book, Hydrodynamica, in 1738. His theory discussed how when water or air is moving through a pipe, the speed of the water or air can be increased if the space it is traveling through, the pipe, is narrowed at a particular point. Basically, the water or air will be traveling at a normal speed, and then when it hits the narrower part of the pipe, all of the energy will be channeled through a smaller opening, and when it shoots out the other side, it will create more energy, which creates lift, reduces drag, and helps increases speed, more or less. In surfboard terminology, the narrowing of the pipe would be similar to adding concave through the belly of the surfboard. Therefore, the surfboard travels faster on plane because Bernoulli’s Principal is in effect creating lift, reducing drag, and helping increase velocity.

Dave Johnson's Hot Rod for surfwanderer.com

Photo: Pfost

Most shapers add concave bottoms to modern shortboards, however, Dave Johnson went to the extreme with the concept. Usually when you hold a board in your hand, down by your knees, you can see a very slight concave in the board. With Johnson’s Hot Rod, it looks like someone came through it with an ice cream scooper. The concave is so deep it’s alarming to most surfers on the beach.

what does concave look like in a surfboard?

Dave Johnson showing us what a lot of concave looks like in a surfboard

The benefits of this concave follow the idea of Bernoulli’s Principal. The deeper the concave, the more lift and less drag; equalling a faster board. From two foot to overhead, and especially in smooth water conditions, this board travelled at a tremendous speed across the water. With the addition of a wide round tail and curve in the rocker, the board combined quickness from reduced drag, and high performance surfing due to the curve in the board.

Remember, flat equals fast and curve equals performance. Usually a flat bottom board will travel the fastest, yet loses performance and maneuverability characteristics. The Hot Rod uses science to get around needing the board to be flat to go fast. Instead, the extremely deep concave reduces drag while at the same time allows the shaper to leave many other parts of the board curvy (the rocker, the round wide tail, and the overall outline), which keeps the board very performance oriented.

Stats in order:
Shaper: Dave Johnson, Progressive Surfboards
Board Shape/Design: Hot Rod
How to Order: 2-3 in. shorter than normal board, a little wider than normal board, 1/8 – 1/4 in. thicker
Boards Specialty: 2 foot to 2 foot overhead! Excels when it’s glassy
Fins: Tri, quad, or five fin
This board is perfect for: Surfers who are looking for a board to surf many conditions with performance
Surfboard Tester, Shawn Tracht’s Normal Shortboard: 5’10 X 18 X 2
Tracht ordered this board: 5’7 X 18 5/8 X 2 1/8
Shaper’s Contact info:
Phone: 805-967-1340
website: www.progressivesurfboards.com
email: progressivesurfboards@cox.net
See this Article in Print in Deep Magazine or at deepzine.com


2 Responses to “Board of the Month: The Hot Rod by Progressive Surfboards”

  1. Henry

    I think every surfer well known about Dave Johnson, a great surfing board maker. His creations are tremendously good and once I meet up with this Dave and learned quite good knowledge about surfing and surfing boards as well. Thanks

  2. Larry Conn

    I learned how to build surfboards by watching Dave Johnson shape and glass many around the block from my home in Jr. High. Glad to see you’re doing well Dave! Say Hi to Dan too!


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