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Naval Architecture of Planing Hulls

*This is not the complete book but a good portion.

LINDSAY LORD (1902-1991) was a New England naval architect with a doctor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

His expertise was in the field of planning hulls, a small craft that skims the water. During the American prohibition of alcohol, Professor Lord gained attention when wealthy private clients (the Mafia) commissioned him to do high-speed load-carrying boats to run rum from Cuba.

His designs were so fast that federal and state law enforcement could not catch them. Prohibition ended, but Lord was not forgotten. WWII broke out, and the US Navy needed fast load-carrying hulls that could accelerate, maneuver quickly, and maintain speed in various sea conditions.

Lord was commissioned as a naval officer and sent to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was given unlimited resources to accomplish his mission of designing fast, seaworthy planning hulls for the Navy. Lord began with simple forms known to plane like existing Hawaiian surfboards.

Using a local boat shop in Hawaii, he created several model plates to test various sizes and forms to determine the best aspect ratio for planning. The aspect ratio is related to the size and proportion of the hull’s length and width. The model plates were then towed, and resistance was measured with a remarkable new engineering device called an electric strain gauge, invented by Bob Simmons’ brother Edward “Dewey” Simmons at Caltech in 1938.

After the war, Lindsay Lord published a book of his work titled “The Naval Architecture of Planing Hulls” in 1946. The book was often seen in Bob Simmons possession, and he shared it with some of his surfing friends. Simmons was a mathematician and very experienced with Bernoulli’s Law and other theories that pertain to aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. After 1948 Simmons appeared at surfing areas with radically new surfboards that he would proclaim as “hydrodynamic planing hulls.” He would exclaim, “surfboards are planing hulls!” and then finally, like a lightning bolt through the California marine air: “…and these are my latest machines!” The most efficient planning models tested in the Naval Architecture of Planning Hulls appear on pages 14 and 15. They are nearly neat, tidy, and carefully constructed versions of the paipo boards that Hawaiian surfers have been riding for generations. Simmons’ use of the information provided by these simple planing plates marks the moment when Western science merged with the mysteries of ancient Hawaiian wave sliding.

Recently, the powers of these simple planning totems have been revealed by a group of young surfers in San Diego. In the late summer of 2009, Encinitas surfer/shaper Ryan Burch used blanks of closed-cell foam to make a series of simple, rectangular boards that are nearly identical to the planning “plates” tested by Lindsay Lord in Pearl Harbor in 1946. Burch and his cohorts Lucas Dirkse and Eric Snortum surf these boards with amazing creativity in a universal surf/skate style. By deconstructing board design down to its simplest form, they have demonstrated how the planning boards (the Alaia, the paipo, and the summons planing hull) laid the foundation upon which the surf/skate style was built.

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