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Beach Grit

Magic: I Bought Adriano’s Surfboard!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Like Excalibur beneath my feet!

This week I visited the Channel Islands surfboard factory for a project with a Japanese surf mag. I was guided by Britt Merrick (Al’s son and lead shaper/designer at CI) and Blake Howard (CI marketing director) and was genuinely impressed by their production. I’d never seen a board factory so large, so efficient. But then I’ve also never been to Taiwan.

After touring the whole assembly line (machine, shaper, glasser, sander, QC), we arrived at the used board rack. The foamy graveyard consisted of three rows, the sum of which would cover the length a football field.

Sleds of Jordy, Dane, Lakey, Kanoa and every shredder under the sun could be recognized by their stickers and board art. But I’m a tiny fucker, so it was Adriano de Souza’s board that caught my eye.

A 5’8″ x 18 1/4″ x 2 3/16″ Rook 15 with a rounded pin. Plenty of rocker, moderately used, with an homage to Ricardo dos Santos, scribed by ADS himself, on the bottom. I snagged it for $250.

“The worst part about this purchase is having to remove all these stickers,” I told Blake.

“You should leave them on,” he replied. “At least for the first session. That way if you don’t like it, you can always sell it for a profit. He is the world champ.”

Shit. He was right.

And I could hardly bear the thought of paddling out on Adriano’s Formula-One racer. The snickers from the lineup would be unbearable. The pressure to perform like a million Hawaiian Dreams on my shoulders.

The next day I was supposed to go to Lowers but a guilt-trip from my lady (sharks!) led me to Blacks instead. A new south had filled in and the surf was as fun as it gets for a non-barreling beach break.

I carried the board, cloaked under a towel, to the middle of the beach. In a calculated effort I removed the towel and sprinted for the surf, successfully submerging the craft before anyone could witness the atrocity.

The paranoia was real, but my first wave masked every Mitsubishi-laden insecurity.

Instead of having to nurse it off the bottom, this board gripped the water in a way I had never experienced. My rail drove through the surface and brought me to the lip faster than anticipated. I check-snapped off the coping and set up for the money section.

Carrying as much speed as a head-high wave will allow, I threw all my weight off the incoming wedge and carved back to the pocket. Rather than catching an edge or getting stuck behind the foam, I was able to lean on my toes and float-climb the lip for a finishing maneuver.

Never had I felt so connected with, and in control of, a surfboard. There was no adjusting my surfing to suit the craft; the board simply followed my every direction. It was stuck to my feet.

A Magic Board.

And this got me thinking, maybe pros are actually riding better equipment. Maybe the shapes are more refined or the foam more carefully selected. Maybe it’s the lighter glassing?

All I know is, I felt like I was drawing Adriano-esque lines on the damn thing. His decades-long bottom turns and seamless carves finally made sense.

Have any of you had a similar experience? Ridden a pro’s stick and felt an immediate difference in ability and control? Maybe even inherited some of said pro’s powers?

I know it seems loony but I have no other explanation! It’s not like I got better at surfing overnight.