One of the most innovative designs we saw at Surf Expo was the O'brien Valhalla. We wanted more information on this board, so we talked to O'brien engineer Chris Johnson.
WB: Obviously the Valhalla has a unique design, what was the initial goal of this design?
Johnson: Honestly – we wanted to make the most badass wakeboard in the world. We have been in development with the Crook fins for a while after a ton of testing; we finally got to a point where we knew we could use them to make a wakeboard ride better. Our goal was to take everything we knew about wakeboards and put them into one package to create a loose, fast, and balanced board - push the envelope a bit - and lead the next step in the evolution of the sport.
WB: Can you explain to us how all the fins work, and what kinds of different rides each configuration can be suited for?
Johnson: The unique advantage to the crook fins is that they allow a wakeboard to remain loose and maneuverable when flat, but assist the rider by giving added leverage to the edge of the board when cutting to the wake or carving in general. Just as fins have evolved from “short-based deep surf-style” fins to “long base but shallow” fins, the Crook fins are the next evolution in board control on the water. The fins also allow riders to stick their landings with more confidence, correcting off-axis landings and preventing slip-out. The Crook fins elevate the performance characteristics required by pro level riders, while providing beginning riders better control over their board in all conditions.
We spent a lot of time shaping the board with the idea that it can be ridden in many different ways. With all of the fin options, there are tons of ways to configure the board to suit a rider’s style. When fully finned the Valhalla is a super controlled, hard edging board that anyone can ride and go big on. Take out the center fin and you still have the Crook fin edge control but you get a looser skatey feel for more freedom on the water. Take all the bolt-on fins off and it’s a sweet freeride board, the dual molded fins providing plenty of fin for more advanced riders.
WB: Is this a board strictly for advanced riders?
Johnson: Not at all. While the board may be a bit fast for a first time rider, we’ve had a ton of what I would call "beginner riders" on the Valhalla and they have nothing but good things to say about the board. The added edge control of the Crook fins, coupled with the center fin, builds rider confidence quickly and I have witnessed huge advances in rider’s ability from set to set on this board.
WB: Do you see this design rolling out to other O'brien boards?
Johnson: Definitely. We are already hard at work testing the fins on other shapes and without saying too much, there are applications for the Crook fins that may make a bigger impact than the Valhalla.