Magic Board: World No. 1 Molly Picklum’s Hawaiian Super Sled

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It’s been a good month for Darren Handley. His young team rider/charger Molly Picklum put on a performance for the ages at Pipeline on her way to runner-up finish. Then she backed it up with a similarly mind-melting performance to take out Sunset - all on the same 6’2" DHD-shaped whip. She’s now sitting pretty atop the World Tour rankings while Darren Handley leads the Shapers Cup, pending the outcome of Portugal. We asked Darren to break down Molly’s equipment during the Hawaiian leg and chart the history of their working relationship.

How long has Molly been riding this model?

Molly’s interesting because she gets big batches of boards and then I don’t hear from her for 3 to 6 months. That comes from working with Micro [Glenn Hall], who gets her to order big batches of boards and then she just does a lot of work [on them]. We worked on those boards 12 months prior to going to Pipe so she got to test all those Sunset and Pipe boards at Margarets, at Teahupo'o, and the year prior at Pipe. That day (in the Pipe finals) she was on a 6’2" x 18 3/16" x 2 5/16" Mick Fanning DNA round tail, around 26.5 liters.

And was she on the same board for Sunset?

Same board for the Finals but she did ride a couple of 6’4"s and 6’0"s at Pipe in the other heats. In the final two days–when Sunset mellowed a little bit–she was on the 6’2".

When you make a board for Molly at Pipe, what are the important design elements to keep in mind?

Single-double-concave, rails a little bit low, a little bit of volume in the stringer of the board so it’s easier to paddle, getting the fins in the right spot so she can still turn it. And getting the weights right. She likes her boards pretty light so getting the weights right was really important.

Picklum, having a chat with Caity Simmers on her magic sled<p>Ryan "Chachi" Craig</p>
Picklum, having a chat with Caity Simmers on her magic sled

Ryan "Chachi" Craig

In terms of Sunset, what are the important design elements to keep in mind?

This is what I’ve learned for next year with the Sunset boards: we saw how Jack Robinson was making it look easy rolling over that 6’6", so we’re just gonna make the boards for Sunset a little bit looser. I know Molly did that really amazing turn but the set up before that–we’re going for a little bit more speed next year and a little bit looser so she can actually ride a longer board instead of riding a 6’2". She might go up to a 6’3" and do it that way. That’s what I learned from Sunset, that her board will be a little bit different next year.

How many boards did Molly bring to the event?

Around 15 of mine and she has a few of mine over there from previous years. I have a place where you can leave them. And she ordered some Pangs as well–four or five–just to try and see if there was anything in them she liked. She said there were some good things in there but she likes to ride mine which is great.

If an average surfer were to get this model, what would you suggest?

"Average surfers" are all different weights and sizes. She’s quite small and her boards are quite narrow so it’s a really open-ended question, but definitely that DNA round tail from 6’1" to 6’3" is pretty good and pretty popular. When it gets a bit bigger, she’s been riding the Sweet Spot 4.0, which is made for chunkier and bigger days.

Remarkable she was on a 6’2" during such consequential conditions on Finals Day at Pipe.

You gotta understand she rides a 5’8" as a shortboard so that’s like Ethan riding a 6’8". Caity Simmers was only on a 5’11"! But she rides 5’5"s as her shortboard.

They’re tiny humans to be sending it that hard.

Oh yeah, what you saw on the internet and the TV was nothing compared to what it was like when you were there.

I was there. I was shocked at what I was seeing. It was so heavy that day.

We’d watch it live then go in the house and watch the replay and the replay was nothing compared to what it was live. The people who saw it around the world don’t realize how much bigger it was and how much more power there was.

The Sunset turn heard around the world<p>WSL/TONY HEFF</p>
The Sunset turn heard around the world

WSL/TONY HEFF

How has your shaping relationship evolved with Molly?

I’ve got a large team and everyone is different. Molly, like Mick used to do, does come up and spend some time (with me). She has a really good base of surfboards so once the base is there we start tinkering around with little adjustments and some of those adjustments work well and some of them don’t. She’s lucky enough that she gets to travel a lot and chase all these swells. Not a lot of the other guys or girls get to. So she actually gets to really test out the boards and put the good ones away and comes back and gives me feedback and then we make some more. As long as they’re putting in the work and they’ve got a really good understanding. That’s why I get them in the shaping bay to understand why I put that double there, why I put the fins there, why I’ve added the volume in the center, and why the rails are low, just so they can articulate back to me what worked or didn’t. The information that they give back to me is critical for me to make them good boards so they can be at the top of their field.

How is Molly in the bay with her feedback and board IQ?

Really good. She’s getting a lot better. But she’s really lucky she’s got Micro who was on my team as well and rides the same size boards as her. He’s out there riding her boards with her so they get the same results. What she’s feeling, he feels the same. So I’ve got two people giving me the same feedback on the board, so that really helps me give them what they want. Micro is very good at picking up the phone and telling me, ‘Hey, the Molly boards are good or those Molly boards you did were bulky in the rails and wouldn’t roll over as much.’ That’s essential to some of her success I’d say.

Wow, that’s a bonus.

Yeah, well then you’ve got Jake Paterson who understands boards better than all of them. He’s shaped a few himself. I just got off the phone to him talking about Ethan’s boards for Bells and Margarets. The coaches and the athletes are all on the same page to make sure the athletes reach their potential.

And what about Darren Handley Designs! How good are you going! On top of the Shapers Cup, won Stab in the Dark the other day. Killing it mate!

Yeah, pretty good, pretty good month. I’ll probably get kicked off the top after Portugal. I’ve only got Ethan in the final. I need him to win. We’ll see what happens. But yeah, it’s good, I’m loving it, enjoying my shaping, and enjoying traveling around. Can’t wait to go to Bells, can’t wait to go to Margarets, and I just love hanging out with the other four or five shapers who are leading that top five. We all get on quite well and talk about surfboards and a bit of banter. So life’s good mate.