16 August, 2016 16 August, 2016

Ian Armstrong’s Lucky Fish

Kelly Slater himself can be spotted riding a board that has drifted far away from the standard short board shape. It’s always interesting to understand how and why those weird chunky boards fly. With the summer slush in the not so distant future, a good old-fashioned fish doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Having been a part of surf culture since they began appearing in lineups around the globe over five decades ago, the Fish is not a new concept. But the magical thing about board design is taking what we already know and incorporating a personal twist to suit your taste and style, like Cape Town shaper Ian Armstrong has done with his ‘Lucky Fish’. Dougal Paterson sauntered over to Scarborough to find out a little more about the sleds Ian, Max and the rest of the Armstrong clan have been tearing up their local turf on.

Dougal: How did you first discover fishes?

Ian: I was surfing Inner Kom in about 2003 when I met an Australian life guard, who was on holiday. He had a fish, which he let me try. I loved it! Later, I went over to his house. I took some hardboard with me and traced the outline of his board. I shaped myself one just like it. (Holds up template) I’ve made 100’s of boards off this template now.

Max Armstrong blows the tail on his father's design.

Max Armstrong blows the tail on his father’s design. Image: Samuel Tome

What’s so different about riding a fish? Can you explain it in your own words?

Well, I like riding fishes because it suits my style. They are very fast. They fly really, and they’re easy to keep on a rail. You don’t loose that speed either, because they’re so wide and flat. A fish with a nice outline feels so good when you do a carving cutback. It’s the purest speed in surfing. That’s what drew me to the design.

This is no ordinary board  though, it looks very different to a regular fish. Talk us through the thinking behind it?

(Chuckles proudly) We’re calling it ‘the lucky fish.’ It has two parts. A thin part and a thick part. Whilst paddling, the thick part is under your stomach and the thin part is under your chest. It’s a flat rocker with a single to double concave in the tail.

What’s the benefit of all that volume in the tail?

It’s all about paddling. It lifts you up and tips you forward. It keeps you afloat in gutless conditions. The volume is very different under the front foot, as opposed to your back foot. On my board it’s almost 3 inches under my back foot and a bit over 2.5 under my front foot.


Ian and Asha Armstrong with some funky looking fishes. Image: Dougal Paterson

What level surfer are these made for?

If you want to push the performance, then it’s best at eye level. Head height makes it easier and a few inches taller makes it super easy. Performance potential depends on what length you ride it at. Max likes it for airs, Asha for barrels and I like it for big carving turns. It’s a very versatile, all round board.They’re good for a wide variety of waves.”

You, Max and Asha have just been picked up by RRD(Roberto Ricci Designs). How did that happen?

Roberto saw me surfing a lucky-fish at our local beach break. He was really stoked on it and got me to make 5 prototypes, which he took over to Portugal and had copied onto a machine. Now, he’s supplying shops in different parts of Europe. I get royalties for every board he sells. It’s crazy, my boards are going around the world with my name on it. I never thought that I’d be paid for boards I didn’t shape. I’m being paid royalties for my design.

What happened to that first fish you shaped in 2003?

That original board was stolen, along with my car shortly after I made it. A few years ago I decided to make one again….and look where it’s taken me.” (Smiling broadly)

Ian putting his design to the test.

Ian putting his design to the test. Image: Samuel Tome


  1. Craig Drysdale
    17 August, 2016 at 8:17 pm · Reply

    pure stoke. Lekker Ian

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  2. Evan
    31 January, 2017 at 10:44 pm · Reply

    Summer slush in cape town? We’ve once again had a great summer! Nonetheless I got myself a fish recently and have loved surfing it in llands tubes and a certain left hand point break. You really learn more about how to surf waves and find the pockets when u surf a variety of boards. Aweh!!

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