Solving a surfing puzzle

The frustration of having to wait around for a lift to the beach while the best waves were breaking without him sowed the first seeds of creativity for Victoria University Design student and social surfer Max Robotham.

Ever since his days as a young surfer in Whakatane, Max’s love of the sport has been compromised by the unhappy marriage of surfboard dimensions and transport options.

“Due to the size, shape and weight of my surfboard, I was forced to wait for my parents to get home from work to get a ride to the beach,” says Max. “The situation didn’t improve after moving to university either. It’s tricky taking a surfboard on a bus.”

All this inconvenience culminated in Max’s innovative idea of using 3D-printing technology to make a customisable jigsaw surfboard—the Jigsurf.

After telescopic, folding and collapsing options were considered and rejected, Max came up with the idea of interlocking parts. He then set about a design process that included cardboard prototypes, followed by a 3D-printed scale model.

“From the model, I was able to pinpoint what was and wasn’t working with the design. After many more variations and scale tests, I was ready to start printing the final prototype.”

A somewhat nervous friend was the first to test the seaworthiness of the Jigsurf. Sadly, an unhelpful wave, along with a bolt that adjusts the tautness of the steel cable running around the inside edge of the board being loose, saw the invention come apart, necessitating a hasty collection of the 48 interlocking pieces.

“After retrieving and reassembling the board, I made sure to tighten the bolts fully. The next ‘field trial’ was a success!” Max hopes to develop the Jigsurf further by incorporating its development into his studies and exploring commercialisation possibilities.