The Hydronaut: A Brand New Step-Up by Daniel Thomson

Daniel Thomson took lessons from overhead reef breaks and applied them to the sort of barrels we all want to pull into. Perfect six-foot drainers at beach breaks.

The Hydronaut is Daniel Thomson’s mind in step-up form; it’s a shape made for surf destinations worth traveling to. Many of which Tomo has already been to. He’s one of the few surfboard designers creating surfboards for surf shop racks today who also rides waves like the ones below.

The rumors are true and we can say that yes, the LFT Hydronaut does come stock ready for big Cloudbreak barrels straight off a surf shop’s rack.

But still, most of us here at Firewire are like most of you. And while we do enjoy watching Timmy Reyes drop into bombs on his stock 6’6, we would still very much rather pull into cruisey beach break tubes on our stock 5’10 or stock 6’0, maybe somewhere like South Straddie or Playa Colorados in Nicaragua.

Tomo’s Quad Inside Single Concave applied to waves from overhead to well overhead.

In fact one of our favorite things about this shape is how it can scale to a variety of sizes for any single surfer. For example Timmy Reyes took more than just a 6’6 to Mexico this Summer, he also took a 5’8 and a 6’4.

Designed to go deeper. Ezra Sitt on his stock 6’8 Hydronaut in Indonesia.

Timmy rode all three in everything sized frightening to sized fun (hear him talk about it on The Wire Podcast), and as we’ve watched the video clips he gathered in Mexico during the lead up to this board’s release we’ve been as excited as everyone else who gave this Tomo shape such a cult following over the past three years.

We want to surf this board. Badly. But we also want to stop answering “when’s it coming out’ because it’s been three straight years of the same question.

It stops now.

Word of the Hydronaut first spread in 2015 while Tomo was on an extended stay in Indonesia.

At the time he said “ it’s an evolved perspective on the ‘standard shortboard’ however for me this design serves best as a step up for slabby or hollow down the line barrels.

Built for barrels from Indonesia to Tahiti, California, and Australia.

Between that trip to Indo and today, Daniel has followed his usual patterns of altering, refining, and tweaking that have come to characterize his obsession with perfect outcomes. It has landed us at something we didn’t expect: a single step up that works as well for professionally talented surfers at Nias as it does for average surfers with 9 to 5 jobs in Sydney who surf waves just a foot overhead.

Timmy Reyes on a stock 6’6 Hydronaut.

When compared to the ‘pointy nosed’ traditional step-up shortboards of years and years past, the Hydronaut has the paddle power of a board three to four inches longer and the maneuverability of a board three to four inches shorter. It feels floaty and free underfoot, the result of Daniel’s well tested Quad Inside Single Concave and the way it aligns with the Hydronaut’s carefully crafted rocker curve. It’s loose and maneuverable in a way that simply wasn’t expected from boards for big waves until now.

Quick response is critical when exiting ahead of oncoming sections. Timmy does it well on the Hydronaut.

The increase in paddle power per length results from the reduction of swing weight in the forward third of the board, removing inches from where they’re not useful, in the nose. It’s an approach Daniel has refined with Kelly Slater for his Cymatic and Omni. The design of both coincidently (and usefully) happened in parallel to the Hydronaut. The Hydronaut also has a soft entry rocker and volume forward in the template. Two things that make this shape both more effective for making late drops, and enable it to feel more natural in the tube.

The Hydronaut in Mexico with Timmy Reyes.

Today Daniel cites experiences in Tahiti as the motivating force behind the Hydronaut’s inception, well before he commented on it from Indonesia in 2015:

The first time I had the concept for this board was in TahitiI was riding a traditional needle nose pintail that was getting me into the wave fine but in the transition of the wave it just felt like too much board in the front end that could potentially pearl, and it felt too lethargic off the bottom. I knew right away that a nose similar to a Nano (a previous shape by Tomo) would be the ideal nose shape, so I started playing with traditional templates with a nano nose, and they quickly evolved into more of a torpedo nose. Then through a series of refinements with the quad inside single concave, contours and tuning the rocker, the design came alive – the Hydronaut is the best board I’ve ever ridden in waves of consequence.

The Hydronaut: created for clean exits.

The waves of consequence Daniel references are usually consequential because of their height.

In the Hydronaut’s case, we’ve approached every surfer’s need to outrun size behind them by modifying our standard LFT build to make the Hydronaut a hair heavier than other LFT shapes. By using a higher density core and stronger glassing than shapes like the SKX, the Hydronaut is also more difficult to break in heavy surf.

The extra weight is also good at absorbing the bumps and wind sometimes associated with larger swell.

Top turns on the Hydronaut. Unexpectedly quick in the lip for a step-up shape.

Put simply the Hydronaut is a stock LFT shape that feels fun to surf from V Land to G Land in wave faces sized from six foot to sixteen foot.

It’s ridden by Timmy Reyes, Stu Kennedy, and Daniel Thomson, and it excels at the most critical aspect of chasing the wave of your life – it makes the drop – to quote Kelly Slater’s thoughts on the Hydronaut; “It’s impossible to pearl on.”

See below for a list of dimensions you’ll find at surf shops everywhere. You’ll also find the Hydronaut online at surf shops like Cleanline, Surf Station Boardshop and REAL Watersports.

Timmy Reyes with his Hydronaut quiver for Mexico. A 6’4, 5’8 and 6’6.

Dimensions available at surf shops everywhere:

5′ 8″ x 18 5/16″ x 2 1/4″ – 24.8
5′ 9″ x 18 1/2″ x 2 5/16″ – 26.1
5′ 10″ x 18 11/16″ x 2 3/8″ –  27.5
5′ 11″ x 18 7/8″ x 2 7/16″ – 28.9
6′ 0″ x 19 1/16″ x 2 1/2″ – 30.3
6′ 1″ x 19 1/4″ x 2 9/16′ – 31.9
6′ 2″ x 19 5/16″ x 2 5/8″ – 33.2
6′ 4″ x 19 15/16″ x 2 3/4″ – 36.8
6′ 6″ x 20 5/16″ x 2 7/8″ – 40.2
6′ 8″ x 20 11/16″ x 3″ – 43.8

Timmy Reyes tested the stock Hydronaut in scary waves so that you don’t have to.