An Update from John Beausang, Publisher of Distressed Mullet. Are we complicit in our purchases of copied boards and paddles?

We noticed an uncanny resemblance of a new prone paddleboard by VESL and Joe Bark’s Commander in both design and in graphics. In fact, we couldn’t see any difference. I know it’s online and not in person. But at what point as a community and an industry, as individual and store buyers, do we ignore the companies made up of the people who innovated, shed blood sweat and tears to build this industry and the sport as we know it in favor of a cheaper knockoff? PSW has taken the board down from their site apparently to give it a different paint job. This is an excerpt from our chat conversation when I checked out the board on their website. The entire string is hilarious and sad.


From the Paddle Surf Warehouse website

  1. Is it ok to buy it?
  2. Is it ok to sell it?
  3. Is it ok to manufacture it?
  4. Is it ok to have it manufactured?

Many shops will just see the price and the design and just order them. Many paddlers will see the price-point paddle or board and just buy it. It’s not like they said to a factory, “Please scan this and manufacture it under my brand.” But those who manufacture them, those who should know better, that make an obvious copy, is it right?

And where do we come in? The Paddlers? The Surfers? I know it’s been part of the surf industry to have similarly shaped boards, perhaps identically shaped boards. But has it been ok?

Check out the VESL prone board that’s an identical replica of Joe Bark’s Commander. Who wins in this scenario?

Here’s another question I asked them about knocking off the V-Drive from Quickblade’s Jimmy Terrell and Dave Kalama…


Think on it. Are we cutting off the innovation that shaped our sport and if we continue to do that, will we end up driving all the creativity in the sport away?

—The Mullet


  1. and barks stock board looks alot like the WATERMAN design from craig lockwood…a good design is a good design, and no copyrights on any of it. simon anderson did’nt copyright the thruster…just go paddle and stop bitchin, lifes to short!…

  2. hey, i’m just makeing a point. i’ve been surfing/paddling since the mid seventies, an absolute student/island born ocean love’r. pretty much all stock boards look like the very succesful waterman design, but i sure would dig seeing some ‘experimentation’ with new thoughts/ideas…seems it took forever for folks to get past the thruster and see what else was fun…personally, i’ve never owned a thruster in over 43yrs. of surfing…i had my own ideas, and it served me well. i do enjoy your site, and keep up the good work and conversations. from dunedin with stoke! andy

  3. I get it. Totally. It’s strange isn’t it that you want creative freedom, that they can copy each other but want to keep their designs. It’s a strange shaping world for sure. The whole mini Simmons design history and battles are super interesting also. Love the comments. Always welcome.

    • I have a mini Simmons design shaped by Larry Mabile called a white pony and I did so much research into it and didn’t realize how many really angry people there are in the wake of that design. I used to stalk swaylocks/ Super interesting stuff.

      To reloop on this argument. I always thought that an exact copy is off limits. BUT, taking your own spin on it is ok. The question is if that own spin includes just materials, construction, color, even down to the millimeter. I also know none or few of the shapers are the rich ones financially. I didn’t grow up in the industry or around shapers so I don’t pretend to know everything. I have a history degree but not in surf. I’m an average 50 year old on a log who likes to stay away from crowds on something that catches waves and moves around. I wish all of life was that simple.

  4. one of the things i always loved about surfing, was the shareing of ideas for the betterment of the experiance…exact copies are hard to pin down with all the variables, so i can’t imagine people gettin all worked up. maybe we can sit down over a beer sometime and talk shop, especially since i’m a little slow on the keyboard, and don’t use a ‘smart phone’…on another note, i was just on prone zone, and someone just posted pics of a new stock board from liquid athlete that P.B. wharehouse just got in. waiting for them to write back with more info…this is what i was talking about, when i mentioned new ideas in board design…looks REALLY interesting, check it out