Giddy highs, depressive lows.
Some years ago, and just before discovering Matt Biolos, I was en thrall to a surfboard shaper whose designs were famous for their experimentation.
Because I occupied a position within the media where the occasional favourable story could be dripped, perhaps he even viewed me as a friend, I would, for a cost price of three hundred dollars, receive custom hand-shapes.
One board, I remember, convinced me I’d mastered surfing.
Where to next, I wondered? A new sport? The tour?
This feeling was short-lived, of course, and never returned. But, oh, those dimensions, those magic pre-literage dimensions: six-one, eighteen and five-eighths, two and five sixteenths, fourteen inches at the hip, a flat bottom curve under the front foot and into a slight double tween the fins.
I chased that feeling over and over from this shaper but never came close to replicating the feeling of absolute mastery of man over board. As if to punish me for my hubris, the boards became increasingly harder to ride until, one day at Huntington Beach, I told my wife I wouldn’t be coming in until I rode a wave properly. Determination has never been my strong point, when the going gets tough, quit, is generally my motto, but that day, I had a problem to solve.
That was at one pm. At eight she was roaming the beach in the dark asking the last surfers coming in, if they’d seen a guy still out there.
I think I rode sixty waves that day and didn’t come close to a satisfactory experience.
From the best board I’d ever ridden to the worst. Same shaper. Same design theories.
These days, I know what works for me. Biolos shapes, mostly, the all-time best board I’d ever owned was one of the early round-nose fish, although a Slater Designs Sci-Fi made in Carlsbad just before the big fire has been a revelation.
I have an echo chamber of boards, all low-rockered, wide, thin. My ability to surf in the pocket has completely atrophied but every time I catch a wave I can get a little buzz on.
Best board. Five-nine round nose fish by Lost. Shaped by the Hawaiian Brian Bulkley while on a working holiday at Pukas Surfboards in Spain. Narrower than is the norm now (19 7/8″) and a vicious little pulled-in tail.
Worst board: A radical front-foot vee into a deep, deep concave underneath the fins. I was surfing at Lennox one day at little Dean Morrison paddled over to talk.
Yours, he said.
I surfed like I was riding on the back of a distressed bull, up, down, up, down, before vaulting the horns. I could’ve cried. I repeated the process three times.