SUNOVA shaper Marcus Tardrew on new SUP and foil designs including the ‘mutant’!

Have you ever wondered what goes into the process of designing premium SUP, foil and surf boards for one of the most innovative and disruptive watersport brands?  TotalSUP caught up with Marcus Tardrew, SUNOVA Rider and Designer, to talk about “pumping out those SUNOVA prototypes”  and the future of SUP and foil design.

Image source SUNOVA

You’re a designer, sailor, avid waterman and a pro SUP athlete yourself  with an impressive achievement portfolio… How does that affinity to ocean translates onto your design projects?

I think that the combination of doing really different sports like sailing, wave sailing, foiling and surfing has help me understand how certain hulls do different things and really helped me feel out what is working on the range of different boards that I work on with SUNOVA. Also SUNOVA are very supportive with prototyping and we test so many shapes across all the range to make sure we release the best possible product.

Image source SUNOVA

Contemporary design revolves around UX and customisation. What’s your take on that?

As far as the ranges go, I’m always striving to make the best product for every type of user, whether it’s a pro or a learner. Each model of board is designed with that in mind. For example we are about to release two new ranges of downwind SUP foiling boards for someone graduating from our standard SUP and dedicating to downwinding and also an elite range for the most accomplished downwind foiler.

We aim to have a board for every paddler or surfer no matter what they’re level or type of wave or style etc. However we are talking about a human relationship with the ocean. People and the oceans are all different and it’s impossible to offer everyone a dream board so that’s where the custom side comes in. I love working out what someone needs and hopefully getting them their dream board. I love people getting stoked on something we created together.

Marcus Tardrew carving on SUNOVA / Image source: Instagram

What does a collaborative design process look like when you work with some of the top riders?

My relationship with James Casey started before SUNOVA and I was only going to go to SUNOVA if he came over from JP, so we were a package deal I guess! Ha ha. From the start we made some good boards but the way we felt the boards and spoke about them in the same “language” just worked so well and the boards became really good quite quickly.  It’s a pleasure working with him now for so long and we’ve become great friends who spend hours on the phone talking about our boards and ideas for the future ones.

James Casey flying high / Photo: Sam Brisby

I’ve been lucky enough to work with legends like Kelly Margetts, (world class paddler and also started the race team at SUNOVA) and Noic “Chicken” Garioud who exploded into the SUP racing scene on our boards to become one of the world’s best at a very young age. Also we have a really strong Russian racing team and some Germans who help out with the boards. The list is too long to mention all of them personally but they’re a very valuable part of the team.

The process is fairly simple. The rider tells me what they’re liking and disliking about a board and quite often it’s the same thing I’m finding. I’ll then make a bunch of prototypes for all of us involved and we repeat that process until we are 100 percent happy the board is world class and can be released. We don’t release a board every year just because. We release a board when we have one to release.


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Could you tell us more about your work with SUNOVA? How does your vision align or maybe (creatively) collide?

I was working with DEEP at the time of signing with SUNOVA. I was hanging out with Kelly at my brother’s house and he mentioned that he was setting up a race board division with SUNOVA. Jimmy and I had just been in Hawaii and raced Molokai on the DEEP board I designed which went well so I felt had a leg to stand on and said I’d be keen to get involved as the designer but think it would be massive if we could get Jimmy on board as a rider. A few months later we were pumping out prototypes and soon after that we were making an impression on the world tour and a soon after winning races.

As far as my creative relationship with SUNOVA goes it couldn’t be better. They actually signed me during a difficult period in my life and I’d say I was a bit of a pain in their ass but besides that it’s been smooth sailing for the most part. I really do consider the team as extended family now. They support and put full trust in everything I do. There’s a good feel to what we have going on.

What’s your favourite SUNOVA set up?

Oh that’s a hard question. I’m really loving the new foil stuff we’ve been working on. The new downwind boards are exciting because that side of foiling really seems to be gaining traction now. Also I really enjoy the surf SUP I’ve been working on for a while which isn’t really a thing yet but I’m sure we may see it one day in production.


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What are the challenges of designing for the SUP and foil industry?

There’s a few for sure. Figuring out if what we are working on and loving is going to translate to the rest of the world. Trying to do that and do it efficiently so you aren’t left behind can be a challenge. I’d say it’s more fun than challenging though!

It seems like there’s a lot of hype around the unlimited design, not only for downwind endurance competitions. What’s so promising about it?

Ah, yes the mutant! I guess the obscure design of it is always going to draw some hype, but besides that, it just works. The strange tail, standing area and nose are all there for a reason and it’s one of the designs I’m most proud of because it’s so different. It’s the result of a lot of passion for unlimited race boards from Jimmy and myself and huge support from SUNOVA.

We probably pushed harder in this area than most other brands because it’s not a huge market, some brands don’t even offer an unlimited. The first time I went downwinding on the mutant I knew it was special. I won’t go into it’s secret sauce but I’m glad there’s hype around it. It’s a special one to me for sure.

The future of SUP, foil and downwind design is…

I think the big developments we are going to see (for boards) is in the foil sector. The new downwind foil SUPs are allowing us to paddle up foils smaller than ever without becoming super long and losing surf ability. Also the wing boards we are about to release are really exciting. I’ve been focusing on a board that releases easy on a stable platform while at rest but is still super loose and surfy. I feel like we have a great foil range about to be released for everyone to enjoy.

What’s next?

Just keep moving forward with creating better boards with the SUNOVA team and also a few personal projects which hopefully the world will be able to see in the next 12 or so months.

Thank you for your time and good luck with new designs and projects!

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About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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