April 22, 2008. That’s the date that I officially went into recovery. I know this because it’s the day my daughter was born. It was the day that my surfboard collection changed forever.
When it comes to a surfboard fetish, I had it bad. I was compulsive … an addict even. I'd see a surfboard I like and I simply had to have it. I would sneak new boards in and out of my garage like some kind of polyurethane junkie.
Pro Tip: If you keep all your boards in board bags or board socks your significant other will never know when there's a new sled on the rack. And if you get all your custom boards painted the same color they’ll never know when you get a new one.
So, in 2008 my daughter was born and, not so conveniently, the bottom also dropped out of the economy. Buying surfboards on a whim became harder and harder to do. Fixing dings and broken noses has never been my forte, but I endured.
It took a few years to realize it, but as time passed I found I was really only riding three boards in my collection of 30 or 40 boards. So, I started selling off my quiver. I posted on Craiglist; I gave away boards to neighbor kids; I “upcycled” a couple into crude hand planes (like ding repair, I also suck at shaping). I held onto a few of my more prized boards, but as far as my everyday surf habit goes, I’m living a much cleaner life.
Here is the lean recipe for success that worked of me:
I’m talking longboards. If you pride yourself on getting in the water nearly every day, you’re going to have to endure your fair share of flatness. Nothing beats flatness like a trusty log. I’ve had a 9’6″ Con single-fin forever and I love it. It’s got a wide nose, pintail and I put a really small fin in it to make it loose and funky feeling. As long as you take care of your longboard, it’ll take care of you.
However, about a year ago I shifted gears to a 7’10” Bluegill design by North San Diego craftsman Jon Wegner. It has a really flat entry rocker, nearly parallel rails, but it's most distinguishing feature is that it utilizes these very tiny side-bite fins that allow it to perform a lot like finless board. You can slide it (or “drag ass” as the old timers called it), spin the board around, ride backwards, and get really creative with your approach to the wave. The design also cuts down on a lot of the friction and drag that more conventional boards suffer from, making it really easy to catch anything from six-inch crumble to six-foot runners. It's been really hard to convince myself to ride anything but this board for the last 12 to 14 months.
Something Just-Plain Fun
For my money there me there are few grovel boards more fun than Cole Simler's Trunk Model. The San Clemente shaper makes this killer model that's small and wide (best ridden about six inches shorter than your normal shortboard), it’s got some crazy concave throughout the bottom and when ridden as a quad setup absolutely flies. I've ridden the board around the world, and from the Maldives to the Surf Ranch, it has never disappointed.
Other like-minded models along the same vein would be more traditional fish models, a shaper like Chris Christenson comes to mind. Rob Machado's Go Fish model produced via Firewire has been getting great reviews. A 5'6" twinzer by Stu Kenson is one of the best boards I've ever owned. And …Lost's Round Nose Fish is another gem in the small stuff.
The overall point is that a lot of times you're looking as small, mushy surf but want to go out and do a few turns, hit a few close-out sections and get the good, old surf mojo going.
Something Built For Speed
Alternative designs and experimentation are all vital components of keeping your surf experience interesting, but when the waves are firing and it’s the “day of days,” don't limit your performance by riding a board that might only work ok. You want something you can depend on during late drops, or in the barrel, or when you just have to jam through that next bowl section. Don’t get detonated, get yourself a shooter that’s going to be there for you when you need it.
Myself, I love a 6'3" rounded pintail with a thruster setup (I'm a huge fan of the Timmy Patterson fins, but I've also got an appreciation for bonzers). At about six feet tall and 185 pounds, I want something a little bigger that will get me into plenty of trouble when it’s pumping. The rounded pin thruster has a lot of drive, holds tight in the pocket, holds through high-speed turns and I know when the waves are good it'll be there for me. I've ridden various versions in Hawaii, Indo, Tahiti, Fiji and throughout California and it seems to be a very versatile, very dependable board.
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