HYPERFREAK HYDRO BOARDSHORT: BEHIND THE DESIGN


A CONVERSATION WITH LORIN ELY-MCGREGOR

SENIOR BOARDSHORT DESIGNER

The O’Neill brand is built on innovation. Since the early days, we’ve strived to create and develop products that enhance the surfing experience. Jack O’Neill’s simple goal to surf longer lead him to the invention of the wetsuit. That same pioneering spirit is still alive and well, serving as direct inspiration for the all-new Hyperfreak Hydro featuring the “No Tie Fly.” This patent-pending design is unique and warranted a full explanation straight from the source. We caught up with Senior Boardshort Designer Lorin Ely-McGregor, the man behind the “No-Tie-Fly,” and had a few questions to ask…

 

Where did the inspiration for the new Hyperfreak Hydro come from? 

The challenge brought to me was to come up with something innovative because the O’Neill brand has always stood for that. There’s a heritage in innovation. Some things work and some things don’t, but we’re always pushing to see what we can get away with. For this particular product, it was about making the best boardshort possible from a functional standpoint. Generally, we are trying to make something that doesn’t affect movement, doesn’t rash, doesn’t cling, and doesn’t fall apart. The standard over the years has always been a drawcord as far as closures go.

 

So we don’t have to accept the fate of the drawcord?

Exactly! (Laughs) They work okay but can come undone when you’re in the water. I went down this rabbit-hole of trying to find a totally different closure. The goal was to create a new standard that’s better than the drawcord. So I started researching other products with different straps and stuff, shoes and bags or whatever. I just started sketching different things and ultimately came to an early rendition of the “No-Tie-Fly.” From there, we started making prototypes.

 

When you had the drawing, was the hook and loop design the original idea?

Yeah, right when we were designing a vendor actually showed us the hook and loop material. I think that was in the back of my head already. I know hook and loop isn’t anything new, but it hasn’t been used like this before with a boardshort. Fight shorts and stuff use it so there is a similarity to those. In the 80s, Jimmy-Z kinda had something similar but this is much more modern and high-tech.

 

And there’s no stitching?

As far as the Hydro goes, it’s all welded and there’s no stitching. We wanted it to be really comfortable. A bulky, knotted drawcord is just weird to lay on. It can get clogged with wax and things too. So with this, it was about making it really low-profile and secure when you lay on your board. I’ve been using it and it works great. I think people will think it’s weird at first, maybe a little awkward. But then you put it on and it feels really good.

 

Visually, are you worried people won’t like the aesthetic?

Maybe, I think it’s a natural reaction because it isn’t what we’re used to. I think people will be weirded out but curious at first. They’ll probably try to tug and the strap and tear it or something. Which is okay. It’s not the norm. But once people actually use it and realize that it’s really comfortable and works, they’ll wonder why it isn’t the norm. And that’s cool.

 

So with a normal boardshort, when you’re out in the water for a while, there is a certain amount of give that happens naturally from drag and moving around. Does that still happen with the Hydro?

I didn’t notice any. Maybe there is a bit but it’s not substantial. Every time I’ve surfed in it the waistband stays locked in and doesn’t budge. With that being said, if you buy it big I’m sure there will be some movement.

 

Yeah, that’s true. You can’t really cinch with this closure system.  

Well, with drawcords, you can’t really cinch that much. There’s only a bit of play. That’s still true with the No-Tie-Fly.

 

What’s cool conceptually, is that the closure works with the surfer for the first time. Like the downward pressure when you’re laying on the board actually helps keep the closure locked. And with a drawcord, it seems like the opposite. But this lays flat so you aren’t mixing wax in and pulling the thing apart.

Yeah, that pressure actually seals it more. That’s true. And we use a really high-grade hook and loop. It’s three times as strong as normal velcro. If you zoom in on the closure, the teeth are gnarly and create a sturdy grip.

 

So let's talk about the waistband. This thing is pretty tech as well and probably different from what people are used to.

This trunk is much more than just the “No Tie Fly.” The waistband construction itself is a 3-ply bonded material. On the inner part of the waistband is polypropylene which is a moisture-wicking material that pulls moisture outward off the body. The second layer is mesh and the third is the normal boardshort material. What’s happening is the waistband pulls moisture off the body and goes outward, helping the short dry faster. It took a lot of work and testing to get the waistband right. Not too stiff and not too thin, but still really modern and lo-pro. It went through many versions to find the right combination of fabric construction. It’s hard to do with the welding because it tends to stiffen things up. It gets almost too sharp sometimes but I think it came out cool.

 

What’s the deal with the bottom panels? The lower part that’s actually draping over the legs is extremely thin.

Yeah, so the idea was to have a fully laser-cut hem. We designed it with a slight scallop at the side leg for ergonomic and performance reasons. The laser-cut hem actually burns the edges of the material so it doesn’t fray. It’s a clean cut and there is no stitching or folded over fabric at all. Those things restrict flexibility so we made sure to do away with it. The whole silhouette is completely open to maximize the fullest range of motion. There’s no restriction of movement.

 

Are you worried that the short is too thin? Do people have to trip out about it sticking to the side of their legs when it gets wet?

The fabric is very thin and tightly weaved, but does have a tendency to stick. That’s why we only used 170% stretch in the upper paneling. There is a higher density panel in the lower parts of the body so it doesn’t get hung up in the high wear areas. High wear areas like the inside legs where you’re sitting on your board have thicker, high-density fabrication to prevent clinging and help with durability. We use ultrasonic welding, which means it butts the fabric together and welds on the outside. It’s completely flush on the inside. There’s no edge. So there’s no rash.

 

Gotcha. So it’s just a layover but it’s smooth.

That goes for the inseam as well. Normally you would have a stitch line but we actually constructed the short with no inseam. So normally when straddling your board, a rash can form at the seam line and irritate the skin. We did away with that completely. There’s no rash.

 

So can you talk about the look and graphics? Why did you choose this kind of smokey, space-themed design?  

When we go through our process of building boardshorts, there are a ton of ideas. One of the themes for 2019 was to do a cosmic-inspired series of boardshorts. That theme was definitely something we wanted to bring in with the Hydro, thus the kind of smokey glow.

 

Any other features we’re forgetting?

Our Hyperdry Plus is a premium water repellency treatment that helps the short dry really fast. It wicks water off the surface and enhances comfort. This is the top level of treatment.

 

This reflective zipper is pretty interesting. What’s the deal with that?

So yeah, that’s our welded zipper pocket. The zipper garage is built at this angle so it backs in and can be out of the way. Also when water drains from top to bottom, it doesn’t pull or put pressure on anything. It just drains and flows off. The actual look of the zipper is completely holographic, so it has a weld and fits the futuristic theme of the whole design.

 

What is the future of the “No-Tie-Fly?” Will we see it coming out in other colors or on other boardshort silhouettes?

Yeah, so we are adding all new colorways for every season moving forward through the year. Some are plain and some are patterned. We are also looking to expand the closure to our other franchises so be on the lookout for those in the future. This is new technology so we want it to be on our most premium product, but maybe as time goes on it will tier down.

 

Where do you picture the Hydro fitting in? What kind of customer does this appeal to?

I think this is for the guy who appreciates performance.. It’s for the surf guy that this stuff appeals to, along with people who are into working out or hiking. You can do anything sporty in this short. Play tennis or train or whatever. Most of it goes back to the heritage of the brand. It’s inspired by Jack O’Neill and his pioneering spirit.

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