Saturday, March 2, 2013
Potato Chip Syndrome
Ok, I know, potato chip boards were a thing of the 90s and the industry has moved beyond this shape--or at least provided us with options. But I am surprised at how many people, when looking for a new board, still want the smallest, thinnest, narrowest board possible. They just want a board "that shreds." Again, there are those guys/gals that can surf those boards and surf them well, but when young kids who are just starting to surf or even have been surfing for a few years look at these boards I want to scream, "DON'T DO IT." If only they would heed the advice of North Shore soul surfer Chandler. You remember Chandler, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the movie North Shore? I just dated myself with two references from my childhood, but as cheesy (and utterly classic) as that movie was it still had the right idea when it came to surfing. In case you forget the storyline, once surfing guru Chandler agrees to mentor young surfer Rick Kane he has him begin his surfing lessons on the biggest of logs--and it is literally a log. As he masters each board, Rick is allowed to move down in board size and shape until he is finally able to surf the shortboard that he craves. This is a lesson that all young surfers could learn from--you don't start on the shortboard, you progress to that board.
This lesson also brings me to my California trip where I saw all kinds of surfers and all kinds of boards. But what struck me was that in the heart of the Huntington Beach line-up, in Surf City USA itself, there was a tendency towards bigger, wider, and fatter boards. Again, I don't want to overgeneralize--there were the rippers out there on their shortboards--but so many guys had longboards, fun boards, alternative shapes, and the one thing that I can say with the utmost certainty, they were all having a blast! I brought my 6'4" BoneYard biscuit shape (custom made--have I mentioned that BoneYard and Matador boards are still hand shaped to your specs) and it was fantastic. This board (pictured above) is generally flat, 21.5" wide, 3" thick and paddles like a dream. What most young surfers don't think about is getting into the wave, they only think about how the board performs when on the wave. It is important to have a board that performs, but if you can't get into the wave then you can't perform down the line. The flat rocker, wide point of the board pushed forward and the overall volume makes this a great shape for getting in early and yes, it still performs. The single to double concave bottom is just deep enough to provide a loose feel to a thicker, wider board. So don't worry about losing that rail to rail feel that is so necessary for riding with style. This shape worked in the head high+ days at the pier to the soft waist high session I had on my final day. So when choosing your next board, avoid the potato chip syndrome and consider something with more volume--it doesn't have to be a longboard but the alternative shapes usually make for having the most fun. It also makes the best surfer--the training of Rick Kane proves it. And remember, surf for fun!