From the land of marshmallow clouds and rainbow brittle, the Chubby Unicorn gallops out of fantasy and into reality as a chimaeric catalyst for downhill, freeride, and freestyle skateboarding. Compiling years of downhill skating experience and perspective, the Chubby seamlessly blends a multitude of high performance features, innovative materials and groundbreaking production techniques to create a badasscuddly shred stick.
The Chubby Unicorn will be available in select shops worldwide on December 4th for $360 (MSRP, deck only).
Birth of the Chubby Unicorn
We all cried, held hands, and sang a song of mythical flying horses.
This board has been a long time in the making and has required much patience from us and from all of you. It is finally here.
This is the story of its slow birth, history, and transformation. It’s a beautiful tale of turmoil, bank robberies, epiphanies, and love.
If you want to get right into hearing about the board’s features and design process, skip to the Features & Design section. Otherwise, read below about the history and slow birth of the board.
The Owl (Late 2004)
The first real emphasis on designing a downhill board (it was more downhill to begin with and gradually took on its freeride orientation) began in late 2004 and was spearheaded by Ben Wood. The Owl was a stiff, vert lam dropthru deck (oak core) with a long wheelbase and wheel cutouts. Future and Past were Ben’s signatures propelling him to infinity.
Ben disappeared into the desert and then to Kansas and the board development took a hiatus.
The Black Mamba (2006 – 2008)
In 2006 the development was rekindled when Adam Colton came on board. Louis Pilloni soon followed in 2007 and experimentation began in earnest. We began exploring optimal stiffness and damping through viscoelastic foams and UHMW bases while maintaining a similar long wheelbase, drop-through design and wheel cutouts. Enter the Black Mamba (note that this predated the Dervish).
Read about the design process of the BLACK MAMBA here: http://www.loadedboards.com/loadednews/index.php?post/2007/11/20/94-speedboard-proto-type-2
In December of 2007 Adam and Louis started bombing Tuna Canyon Road in leathers on the Black Mamba (click here for video). Back in the day they only skated half of Tuna because the rest was too gnarly. They would say, “Crap, dude, you will die if you go down the rest of it.” Now riders go down Tuna standup style, flowing in and out of switch.
The Black Mamba had some momentum but there was a lot afoot at that time (as there always is) and other projects took priority.
The Race Board (2009)
With strong inspiration from Adam, Louis, and James Kelly, we built a dedicated speedboard in early 2009. Taking what we’d learned from the previous boards and adding a corrugated carbon fiber base, we were working to reduce weight while achieving appropriate stiffness.
Here’s James rocking the board in the “We Got D’em Purps” video:
At this point we decided that we wanted our feet to be right up on top of the front truck, so we began to develop a fender for the front to lock your front foot in and create wheel wells. This never came together, however, and we took this opportunity to start again from the ground up.
The Chubby Unicorn (Late 2009 – Late 2012)
As time went on without a downhill board of our own to ride, we spent a good deal of time riding decks from other great companies like Comet, Rayne, LBL, and Rogers Brothers. After logging thousands of hours of collective riding time and gaining experience with a variety of different deck designs, we were able to dissect the various characteristics of a downhill board (such as concave, rocker, wheelbase, width, etc.) and truly nail down our personal preferences.
Adam and Kyle Chin found themselves quite fond of the mild concave, comfortable rocker, and narrow deck width of the Comet Voodoo OG; however, the stock wheelbase was too long to provide the maneuverability, cornering traction, and sliding response that they wanted. With motivation and handiwork from local Malibu shredder Tadaichi Nakayama and resident Comet team rider Dustin Hampton, they began redrilling and “chopping” their Voodoos to more compact, 27-29” wheelbases. This preferential shift toward shorter wheelbase downhill boards started gaining momentum all over California and ultimately helped inspire the development of Comet’s Voodoo Doll model.
Kyle riding a chopped Comet Voodoo OG in “Let Go”:
The knowledge garnered from the previous development activities combined with our collective exploration of downhill freeriding as well as some new ideas led to a fresh round-table discussion on the future of this board. The Chubby Unicorn became an opportunity to compile our understanding and preferences for downhill and freeride deck design and produce something that was unique and truly our own.
Balance and versatility were the driving factors behind its design. The 28.5” wheelbase was selected to strike harmony between the traction and snappy agility of a shorter board and the high speed comfort and graceful rotation of a longer board. The Chubby draws heavy influence from all the decks we have ridden and/or developed: the vibration damping technology of the Black Mamba, the wheel fender concept from the corrugated race board, rocker and subtle profile tapering inspired by the Voodoo, and W concave sparked by (but significantly rethought from) the Rayne Avenger. Additionally, as we began to blend more and more freestyle exploration into our freeriding, we were compelled to design functional kicktails for our board. To top it all off, our manufacturing and R&D team of Ernie DeLost and Matt Nipper have had a tremendous and ongoing impact on how we develop and construct our boards. With that in mind, aside from creating a kickass board, a primary aspect of the design process of creating the Chubby Unicorn was to garner steadily more sophisticated development and manufacturing knowledge in order to propel our design capabilities into the farthest reaches of the cosmos.
Features & Design
Width: 9.75” – We designed this board with a men’s size 8 to 11 shoe in mind. This allows your toes and heels to slightly touch each rail for optimal board awareness and minimizes the need to shift your feet when transitioning from heelside to toeside slides. Although the width is slightly less than many other downhill boards on the market, we have tested with several foot sizes and have found it to be a comfortable size for most non-silverback riders. Additionally, the tapering near the nose provides much better ergonomics and rail control for a forward facing downhill tuck (where the rider’s front foot is often at a 45° or higher angle on the deck), whereas even large feet can get “lost” on a wider platform when in this position.
Wheelbase: 28.25”– After spending years riding a variety of downhill boards with wheelbases ranging from 24” to 32”, we found ourselves consistently drawn toward the 27-29” range for its very natural shoulder width stance. With your feet in the pockets (see “Integrated Wheel Wells/Flares” below), your knees are kept in a slightly bent, athletic stance that promotes control and stability when throwing long, fast slides to manage your speed down steep descents. Short enough for good traction, cornering agility, and snappy drifts, yet long enough to provide high speed stability, a solid platform for control in fast slides, graceful rotations, and an appreciable amount of lean angle (even on 50° trucks).
Kick length: 7” (tip to inner bolt)
Weight: 4.9 lbs
A rockered profile throughout the deck offers many benefits. It creates a subtle and comfortable lock-in for your feet (particularly in combination with the wheel wells/flares), helping them stay firmly planted while sliding. Rocker also slightly lowers the rider’s center of gravity for enhanced stability. Finally, the cradle-like ergonomics also provide a steady and natural platform for foot movement, whether you’re pivoting your heels over the rail for a predrift or cross-stepping up and down the board.
Recessed Truck Mounts
We have recess-mounted the trucks into the deck to allow the board to sit lower to the ground, increase stability and improve sliding performance. Incorporating rocker in a deck also leads to positive wedging of the trucks, which affects the board’s handling. Too much wedging (particularly when using 50° reverse kingpin trucks) can result in excessive sensitivity to steering inputs at speed. To compensate for wedging effects while still achieving the amount of rocker we desired, we angled the truck mounts to offset the rocker, so that the trucks will sit neutral (as though they were topmounted on a flat stiff deck).
Integrated Wheel Well Flares
The Chubby Unicorn features pronounced wheel wells that flare up above the top surface. The wood bends up to provide wheel clearance while also creating a transition to push your feet up against. The bottom surfaces of these wheel wells are also CNC routed, thinning the flared surfaces and providing additional clearance. The combination of wheel well flares and W concave achieves a uniquely locked-in rider interface while greatly reducing the potential for wheelbite.
Although the wheel well flares provide enhanced clearance, it may still be necessary to add risers to your setup when using trucks with kingpin angles lower than 50° or generally low and/or leany geometries, due to the lowered ride height from the recessed truck mounts.
We’ve ridden boards with all sorts of concave styles: deep and shallow; kinked and progressive; sharp rails and rounded/chamfered. What we found was that excessive concave could work against the rider and that subtle and mellow profiles often created the most comfortable and versatile interfaces for our feet. As a result, we’ve designed the Chubby Unicorn with a mild, progressive compound concave (using a range of radii that are blended tangentially) that gives optimal edge control and feedback without sacrificing comfort.
There are many advantages to W concave: it gives strength to the board, allows you to make the board lighter, and (if correctly implemented) can give you increased lateral support on the deck. Our experience testing a range of decks has taught us that W concave can be very comfortable or very uncomfortable, depending on how it is designed.
Based on our preferences, we have created a very wide W concave in which the W hump conforms comfortably to the arch of your foot. The center of the hump is subtle enough to still provide a gently rounded flat region that does not cause discomfort after extended use or interfere with various stances for different applications (such as tucking, pushing, or sliding). The transitional “channels” between the central W hump and the mellow rail concave on both sides lock your toes in, providing exceptional lateral support near the rail edges where it counts the most for sliding and cornering. Toeside slides and predrifts are comfortable and completely controlled by keeping your back toe in the concave channel, eliminating the need to hook the ball of your foot over the rail for support.
The ergonomics of the Chubby Unicorn allow you to keep your feet situated and reduce the need to shift or adjust your stance when transitioning from edge to edge or between drifting and traction.
While we found the directional nature of many downhill boards to be functional in strictly downhill/race settings and generally aesthetically pleasing, we were frustrated that they did not perform the same when riding in switch or after reversing the board’s orientation (e.g. after a slide shuvit). We decided that a true all-arounder should offer optimal ergonomics in either direction; thus, we designed the Chubby to be a bidirectional, bicurious, bicoastal, bilingual freestyleriding machine.
Nose & Tail Kicks
Despite the unicorn’s unicranial nature, we maintained the twin design sensibilities and bestowed upon it a pair of completely congruent kicktails. In our early conceptual sketches we explored very short kicks that blended subtly into the tapered, race style tips of the board. These underlined the downhill/race aesthetic and kept the deck compact. However, after extensive freestyle testing and tweaking we were compelled to make the kicks as functional as possible and increased their size accordingly.
In their final form, the kicks transition gently inward from the deck’s rails after the wheel wells/flares, providing ample leverage to throw shuvits/bigspins and a comfortable surface with which to catch tricks and balance upon for manuals. The length of the kicks relative to the truck mounts was designed to ensure a usable contact angle for no complies and other tricks that required a physical “pop” of the tail against the ground. Although leverage inevitably varies from truck to truck (depending on location of the axle relative to the mounting holes), the Chubby Unicorn is capable of a mean ollie, pop shuvit, or kickflip with practice and some setup experimentation.
The underside of this board has two sets of grooves on each side that are both functional and weight-reducing. The outer grooves are positioned for your fingers to grab during toeside and heelside predrifts, while the inner grooves are set deeper in toward the center of the deck to provide grip for early grabs.
We meticulously studied every riding stance that we used on the Chubby to determine the optimal griptape design, from downhill tucks and heelside/toeside predrifts to shuvit-manual combos to ollies and no comply variations. We found that there were almost no regions of the board that our feet didn’t grace regularly and that it was important to have a consistent and seamless level of grit throughout the standing platform. So we made utility our top priority and covered the entire deck (save some subtle aesthetic accents near the bolts, where the bolt heads and wheel wells/flares provide additional tactile feedback) with a medium-coarse griptape.
Flex & Damping
The Chubby Unicorn is the most recent (and arguably most complex) endeavor in Loaded’s ongoing exploration of flex and damping. The majority of our board lineup has historically focused on lower to moderate speed carving, pumping, and dancing where tangible flex and camber could serve as both a desirable performance characteristic and as a form of suspension.
When it came time to design a deck for high speed downhill and freeride applications, however, our goal was to achieve a solid and stiff flex. Thus, we needed to take a different approach in order to balance stiffness and damping. The first step we took was to experiment with a wide variety of thicknesses for the Chubby’s basswood core. We settled on a thickness that provided enough rigidity for a 200+ pound rider to feel comfortable at speed while still allowing for a very subtle amount of deck flex. This allows the board to dissipate some of the energy from vibrations, hard impacts, etc. through low-magnitude deflection (in the same manner that the frame of a race car or motorcycle is often designed to flex very slightly).
Beyond refining the core thickness, the next step toward achieving optimal damping was through the use of new materials and construction.
This Unicorn’s chubby belly is sealed with a layer of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, the same material used in snowboard bases and many slide pucks. The softer, more compliant UHMW base layer adds mass to the harder basswood core and fiberglass skins and lowers the natural frequency of the final product. This effectively “filters” out some of the higher frequency vibrations transmitted through the road, wheels, bearings, and trucks, resulting in a smoother ride underfoot.
Furthermore, the UHMW provides a layer of protection against abrasion and moisture. We’re not suggesting that you should use the Chubby to toboggan down a snowy mountainside; however, we do suggest that you send us a video of said tobogganing if you are so inclined.
The urethane sidewall is the Chubby Unicorn’s pièce de résistance, raison d’être, and ménage à trois. High durometer Orangatang urethane is poured around the basswood core before being pressed in the mold. The urethane solidifies, cures, and bonds with the wood, forming a sidewall along the deck’s entire perimeter. This has been a pioneering step for us in our skateboard construction capabilities; although it took a long time to get the process dialed, it’s enabled us to create what we feel is a groundbreaking product and expand our scope for future projects. Credit where credit is due, of course, so many thanks to Ernie DeLost and his innovative engineering and fabrication approach for engendering this feature.
From a rider’s perspective, you’ll appreciate a number of performance benefits. Just like the UHMW base, the urethane sidewall adds compliant mass to the core and provides vibration damping throughout the entire board. Additionally, several years of experience with urethane R&D through the Orangatang brand gave us the tools to methodically hone in on a urethane formula and durometer that holds up exceptionally well to abrasion (lasting multiple times longer than a wood tail under similar riding conditions) while still retaining a solid and crisp “pop” for snapping ollies and other tricks. Finally, 360° edge protection means your Chubby is dressed for the occasion when a fall sends it rocketing into a curb at 30 mph. While it is exceptionally durable, the Chubby Unicorn is not impervious to physical damage. But like its mythological namesake, it’ll outlast a lot of other critters out there.
Our conceptual ambitions were set high for the Chubby, which produced a number of unforeseen process challenges. Consequently, we had to expand our in-house capabilities to nurture the beast into production. We explored a number of software applications to address the tectonic challenges of the deck’s construction. Given the complex contouring, we had to resolve a number of issues from 3D unrolling to pre-machined cores to complex tooling alignment to mythical hatching.
The primary challenge our design team faced emerged from our desire to pre-mill a flat core to account for the features designed into the 3-dimensional finished deck. The closest parallel that comes to mind is the unrolled maps of the world; due to the spherical curvature of the earth, distortion must occur to the surface area of land masses and bodies of water when viewed in a 2D format. The same holds true with the Chubby. We developed a program that would cast a field of points onto the 3D deck and then rebuild a flattened mesh based on the x-, y-, and z-coordinates of each point. Ultimately, the resulting mesh was not accurate enough when we pressed a set of test boards. We then shifted our approach to a process used by video game developers in which they take a 2D scanned image of a face and map it onto a digital 3-dimensional form of a head. We mapped the Chubby’s 3D compound surface to a flat core surface and the results brought tears of joy.
Construction & Production
The composite layup of the Chubby consists of a layer of triaxial E-glass followed by a pre-milled basswood core bound by a sidewall of Orangatang urethane followed by an additional layer of triaxial E-glass and finished off with a layer of UHMW. Our design team sought a composite construction primarily for its strength-to-weight ratio in comparison to a standard ply layup. However, reducing the weight of the deck produced a less damp feel when riding due to the lighter weight. To supplant the less damp feel we started exploring the integration of a urethane sidewall (derived from snowboard construction) which provided enhanced vibration damping as well as exceptional durability to side impact and abrasive wear. The urethane sidewall became an exploration in cross-pollinating material technologies acquired from Orangatang wheel development into Loaded deck construction.
While we felt we were at a point where each material of the composite construction was dialed to a specific performance expectation, our team had to optimize the board for production. In order to do so, it took many iterations of precisely aligning composite layup with the complex compression molds. Additionally, we had to explore means of analyzing the pressed blank to account for springback (the process by which the severity of a deck’s curvatures are reduced after the part is removed from the mold). We started with a traditional method of cutting the board along known axes and charting the displacement between design sketches and the produced part, but due to the Chubby’s compound curvatures we were not initially able to get an accurate account of springback. Thus, we invested our research into a laser scanning device called the David scanner. This system allows us to set up calibration panels behind the object to be scanned and, using a laser, identify points along its surface to rebuild the physical surface into an accurate digital mesh. We concluded with a comprehensive process that accurately transmitted information, materially and geometrically, between the physical and digital realms.
Naming the Beast
Having spent such an extensive amount of time in development (and leaked bit by bit to the public, as we were too anxious and impatient to wait for a production model before riding it whenever and wherever possible), the deck instigated such an enormous amount of rumors and conjecture that it ultimately took on a mythical dimension. We called it the unicorn in house for a while, and when early protos came out wide and squat (it’s trimmed down a bit since), the chubby name was coined and has stuck fast. Thus, the chimerical Chubby Unicorn was birthed from the enchanted mountainous woodlands of Malibu.
Serendipitously, the iconic Fat Unicorn illustration by Robbie Lee, originally presented by shirt.woot.com, was the obvious graphic inlay for this board. We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with the talented Robbie Lee and to be able to collaborate in some fashion with the bastion of modern high brow literature that is Woot. Many thanks to them for assisting in our quest to assimilate into the ranks of such menacing downhill boards as the Killswitch, Demonseed, and Avenger by helping birth this ferocious monster.
Across the rest of the deck’s surface are a series of subdued, concentric grey lines. These are contour lines from a topographical drawing of the top surface of the deck, graphically representing and accentuating its complex curvatures. As a somewhat fortuitous result, these contour lines bear resemblance to:
- the underbelly of a snake (evoking an early incarnation in the board’s history, the Black Mamba) or
- a false wood grain (highlighting the extensive use of composite construction in the Chubby).
We’ve tested the Chubby Unicorn on a wide variety of cast and precision trucks. There is a wide selection of great trucks on the market today, but below are some insights on a few of our favorites.
Caliber 10” (44°)
- Our favorite all-around cast truck for the Chubby to date. Offers good stability at speed, comfortable lean for standup slides (without getting sloppy), and a relatively short axle-to-axle wheelbase for easier ollies.
- We recommend a ¼” riser to avoid wheelbite on most bushing and wheel setups.
Paris 180mm (50°)
- A lively, responsive, and quick turning truck. An excellent choice for carving, dancing, freestyle, moderate speed freeride, or technical downhill.
- We run Paris on the Chubby without risers or with a very thin rubber shock pad for extra vibration damping.
Caliber 10” (50°)
- A more restrictive bushing seat and zero rake make the 50 Caliber less lively but more stable at higher speeds than the Paris.
- We run 50 Calibers on the Chubby without risers or with a very thin rubber shock pad for extra vibration damping.
Carver CV 10” (50°)
- A unique truck with a fluid and responsive carve. Provides more lean than its 50° geometry would suggest and feels best for moderate speed freeriding, carving, and dancing.
- We recommend ¼ to ⅜” of riser, depending on bushing and wheel setup.
Pretty Noise Lab (PNL) Strummer 180mm (47°)
- A well balanced and versatile truck. Feels similar to a Caliber but with smoother and greater lean potential (due to the less restrictive bushing seat and ball pivot). Three-way adjustable wheelbase provides versatility for more lean and higher stability or for quicker slides and easier ollies.
- We recommend a ¼” riser to avoid wheelbite on most bushing and wheel setups.
Aera 176mm (46°)
- A very fluid and leany truck, due to the very shallow and non-restrictive bushing seat. Positive offset between the pivot and axle centerline provides good turning response while the lower kingpin angle keeps things steady at speed. Extremely lightweight design.
- We recommend a ¼” to ⅜” of riser, depending on bushing and wheel setup. Due to their old school mounting hole configuration, Aeras requires a minimum of ¼” of riser for the baseplate not to interfere with the recessed truck mounts.
We run a range of wheel sizes from 65mm to 75mm on the Chubby Unicorn with great results. Below is a list of various wheel sizes and shapes that work well on the Chubby and what style(s) of riding we recommend them for.
- 65mm freeride – lightweight and compact option for freestyle and technical freeride
- 70mm freeride – fantastic all-around wheel size for freeride and freestyle
- 70mm race – smaller race wheel for quick turning, technical downhill runs and higher speed freeride
- 75mm freeride – good choice for high speed freeride
- 75mm race – larger race wheel for optimal traction and roll speed
It would be an understatement to say that we are excited to see the Chubby Unicorn emerge from development and become an available reality for skaters worldwide. This launch is the culmination of nearly three years of continuous effort (and around eight years of growth and evolution in our courtship with downhill skateboarding), and as such we regard it as a momentous milestone in our company history.
The Chubby has been more than just another development project for us; it has been a big picture investment into our research and development capabilities. From the inception of this board, we’ve not only expected but intended for it to be time, money, and energy intensive with the goal of expanding our creative process and internal product development resources. The innovations realized in the Chubby forced us to rethink our entire development process; we needed to reevaluate every facet of our production from digital design to computerized output to mold making to finishing to our future focus as a company.
While it certainly would have been possible to release this board much earlier, it would have been in a form that was developmentally unfinished and incongruous with our vision of its potential. We feel that patience (on our part and on yours) has paid off in the end and enabled us to produce a design that exceeded even our own expectations.
The longboarding community has been an incredible source of support and inspiration, and we hope you’ll accompany us on this amazing journey. The future is corpulent.
- The Loaded crew