Cymatic Board Review: “F$cking steep learning curve, sensations unique!”

You got what it takes to manhandle a Slater Designs Cymatic?

Marketing sure is a strange voodoo, none of us immune to it’s subtle charms. We all have our strange desires. Japanese swimbaits give me fever chills, Borsalino flat caps tickle my taint in the most enlivening fashion.

Despite a brief dalliance with the curved potato chip-style killers of the 90′,  if Slater throws up a marketing itch I ain’t one for scratching. Purps, Kommunity, VSTR, white wetsuits,wave tubs etc etc. If Robert K Slater is the pitch man I go cold as ice.

So, I got a Slater Designs Cymatic.

My first thought when I took the Cymatic under arm was: this isn’t a surfboard, it’s a piece of air painted white with fin boxes in it. Impossibly light, and insubstantial. My wife commented as I took it out of the Camry that it looked like a dwarf mini-mal. Inauspicious beginnings.

We need to start somewhere, so let’s start here. I took a sixpack of Stone and Wood Pacific Ale around to Stu Kennedy’s gaff on a Friday afternoon as a thank-you for delivering the board from the Gold Coast, via Thailand. He said he couldn’t drink it because he was sponsored by Coopers but his wife and mate in high-vis volunteered to accept the gift. My first thought when I took the Cymatic under arm was: this isn’t a surfboard, it’s a piece of air painted white with fin boxes in it. Impossibly light, and insubstantial.

My wife commented as I took it out of the Camry that it looked like a dwarf mini-mal. Inauspicious beginnings.

The stock 5’6” came in at just under 30 litres, a couple under the recommended dims from the Firewire site for my specs. You need to go small. I’ve seen the evolution of the Modern Planing Hull, of which the Cymatic is the latest iteration, from a front row seat. I was there the day Dan Thomson showed up at the Point with a little 5’3” wakeboard and I’ve been there countless times when he’s laid down the shred on his Tomo Modern Planing Hulls. There’s always been something there and I figured at some point I would jump on the bus and swig the Kool Aid.

Never happened until now.

Why? Marketing.

Just as the fabulous success of the Hypto Krypto came on the back of the young and the bearded entranced by the romance of a throwback design steezed-out by Craig Ando, the Tomo and Slater collab has come to stand in for the middle-aged man looking to recreate some magic in his surfing life.

Don Quixote, were he alive today, would be on an over-sized, or under-sized Cymatic. I don’t say as a foreigner passing judgement but as a fellow traveller. One who believes life is not worth living without a generous dollop of creative self-delusion. The first surf was comical.

In other words, a potent symbol of middle-aged delusion.Terrible irony for such a high-performance product. Don Quixote, were he alive today, would be on an over-sized, or under-sized Cymatic. I don’t say as a foreigner passing judgement but as a fellow traveller. One who believes life is not worth living without a generous dollop of creative self-delusion.

The first surf was comical.

Checked Tallows on my way back from the airport and it looked fun in the corner,. punchy lefts breaking into the rip. A dozen or so people out, maybe 20 along the whole beach.Went back to the industrial estate to grab the Cymatic and came back. I got onto the beach and I could see no-one in the water. No one. 

The lefts were still breaking in the corner, punchy little things sometimes winding in on themselves. Light north-west wind, perfect for the spot. Empty. It was surreal.

I craned my head and looked up the lighthouse, no tourists lollygagging. Nothing. Something must have happened: shark attack, suicide bomber, zombie apocalypse.

 So I went out and grabbed a few lefts, then a few more. I could barely get to my feet on the board. 
Only one way to test this, I thought. So I stripped off and went back out and surfed naked. 
No one came. I could not occupy the same point in time and space as the board. Wherever I was it wasn’t and wherever I wasn’t it was. Without control, speed is hard to attain. Pushing, driving in any normal sense lead to disaster.

Lack of control is the primary cause of most of the heinous crimes committed by the intermediate surfer. At its fundamental level, good surfing is harnessing the gravitational force using the climb and drop and the kinetic dimensions of centripetal force off the bottom turn and top turn.

Lack of control is the primary cause of most of the heinous crimes committed by the intermediate surfer. At its fundamental level, good surfing is harnessing the gravitational force using the climb and drop and the kinetic dimensions of centripetal force off the bottom turn and top turn.

It’s incredible how rarely these basic truths have been laid down in ink or bytes. 

The session ended as the day started to wind down. Following three shaky speed snaps I went over the handlebars on a close-out dredge-out and, wading into the beach with the sun in my eyes, I could not see the board…no legrope.

By the time I got into the beach, the board was in the rip and going around Cape Byron. A naked swim out to sea under a darkening sky to retrieve did not feel nice.

Very sad, I composed a long text message to D. Rielly, BeachGrit Principal: Sorry, losing my edge. Can not ride Cymatic. Death awaits. And so on and so forth. Only a residuum of pride native to my home Island kept me from hitting send. Bribie Boys don’t quit. A total rewiring of the neuro-muscular apparatus was in order. A naked swim out to sea to retrieve etc.

The next few sessions were conducted at a wedging rivermouth breakwall, please don’t name. Really good surf. Overhead, an abundance of speed indigenous to the wave shape on offer. At first, the board again felt too insubstantial and out of control for me to put it where I wanted it to go. Which was straight up for the high hooking backhand hit. It was a case of following the advice of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke who counselled, “We must learn to trust in what is difficult.” Learning curve is not a property we associate with surfboard marketing but it is a valid measure.

The learning curve for the Cymatic is steep, very fucking steep. But somehow it started to make sense. You don’t push to get where you need to be, you think it and the board will go there. By the end of the third session I was surfing again.

The learning curve for the Cymatic is steep, very fucking steep. But somehow it started to make sense. The hull is so sensitive, even finned as a quad that the body riding it must develop a corresponding level of relaxation and sensitivity. Any tension or inappropriate body positioning is brutally punished. You don’t push to get where you need to be, you think it and the board will go there. By the end of the third session I was surfing again.

To achieve the desired neuro-muscular state a period of mental and physical hygiene was required, and duly undertaken. Abstinence from substances, physical fitness, clean eating, meditation etc etc. The better I got, the more the Cymatic came under my control. A distinctly un-radical observation. Many sessions at the local Point followed.

The good thing about riding a Cymatic at Lennox Point is you will be under the gaze of the designer Dan Thomson and his father Mark Thomson. That is also the worst thing about riding a Cymatic at Lennox Point. You can’t hide. There was independent verification by these eyewitnesses that the board was not too much of a vehicle for self-delusion. Also confirmation of the “control problem.”

Some conclusions: The quad concave hull and channel bottom is incredibly hydrodynamically efficient. It reaches top planing speed with very little effort by climbing and dropping. The increased rocker does not slow down-the-line speed. While the tiny board is a bitch to paddle around the lineup it catches waves with surprising ease. Control of the turning angles and arc lengths at speed remains the primary challenge. I reached top speed on most waves but fell a lot. I did not go near the edge of the performance envelope on this board. I enjoyed very much.

The good thing about riding a Cymatic at Lennox Point is you will be under the gaze of the designer Dan Thomson and his father Mark Thomson. That is also the worst thing about riding a Cymatic at Lennox Point. You can’t hide. There was independent verification by these eyewitnesses that the board was not too much of a vehicle for self-delusion. Also confirmation of the “control problem.”

Mark was adamant that changing fin designs to his Power Drive fins would grant me more steering control and avoid the under or over steer I was experiencing during turns at speed. More testing on his fins awaits.

I like to be “on the bus” with a surfboard design. To that end, a passion for following a design can take on cult-like proportions. A little discussed but fundamental property of surf culture sorely missing from Chas Smith’s listicle of qualities required to belong to surf developed here.

I have belonged to several surfboard cults, notably the McCoy cult and the Bonzer cult. They are beautiful, enriching experiences with wonderful sage-like quasi guru figures to rally behind. Matt Warshaw, in his introduction to Cocaine+Surfing, said surfing is pointless. Which is true enough, at face value, but a reductio ad absurdum argument carried to it’s conclusion.

Life is pointless, on that we can be certain. A fascination and immersion into the cult of the surfboard generates as much meaning as any human activity. More than most, maybe.

The Tomo designed Modern Planing Hull has migrated from Lennox Head and achieved a cult-like status in North America, particularly on the west coast. It has many passionate adherents. During several years of goalless vagabonding on the North American continent I experienced tremendous, tremendous luck with the gals. Korean-American vegan waitresses in Santa Cruz, Psych-nurses from the Twin Cities, sharp-tongued Jersey girls from “the Shore”, lawyers from Boston with accents you could cut with a steak knife, transitioned show girls in hole in the wall bars in San Fransisco, dancers from Kansas who took too many chances, drug fiends from Dakota, cherubs in Sea-Side, Oregon who spent big on cans of fake tan, big breasted playboy models in La Jolla with tempers like cobras, wherever I went, qualities that would earn a clip over the ear on Bribie: bookishness, a penchant for bombastic language, a poetic world-view, saw nothing but open hearts, open minds, open legs in return. It was truly a feast at which all hearts opened and all wines flowed.

I do not brag. The experience is not unique. I have not even what Lewis Samuels calls “a regional talent”. I could sing the lyric from Townes Van Zandt’s No Place to Fall – “I’m not much of a lover it’s true” – very honestly.

I only mention for two reasons. First, a cursory and more detailed inspection of the history of surfing as written in the magazines and official documents paints us as a curiously asexual, prurient, bloodless tribe. It’s as if the bronzed rigs, the delight in coupling do not and have never existed.

Second, as Dan Tomo and my experience has shown, sometimes you need to escape the small town and take the show to the Big Smoke. The Modern Planing Hull, the Cymatic would have forever remained a fringe design had Dan not had the sack to “take California”.

The wheels fell off the wagon during testing. Slowly, at first, then all at once. Drinking started during the Keramas event. A little at first, then too many. Gudams were smoked. I piked taking the Cymatic out at six-to-eight-foot-Lennox Point. Then hurt my back sexing my wife. She likes a willing lover and has let it be known I could easily be replaced by a Maori rugby player if I’m not up to the task. The next day the surf was still six-feet and I took the Cymatic out to test the upper-size range. The paddle was horrendous and on a set wave, barely in control, I did 20 or so backhand re-entries. I could barely walk up the rocks.

Two days later in head-high, butter-texture Point surf, I did the best backhand surfing in my life, I think. Granted, self-delusion is the primary characteristic of the middle-aged male surfer. We are truly a risible type of buffoon. Tara is right to point that out.

Am I kidding myself I asked him after he’d twisted one up.

“Mate it’s the spiciest and best I’ve seen you surf for years,” he said.

Believe or not, at your discretion.

Luckily for me, I have my oldest friend, we grew up together on Bribie, as a surf companion. There are no Sancho Panzas on Bribie. We tell it straight. I called my mate over for a chainsaw and fish after the surf.

Am I kidding myself I asked him after he’d twisted one up.

“Mate it’s the spiciest and best I’ve seen you surf for years,” he said.

Believe or not, at your discretion.

It’s probably the sad fate of this design to not end up under the feet of those who could push it to its limits, Tomo himself notwithstanding. Kelly Slater did it a terrible disservice not riding it in the tub for the Founders’ Cup.

Who, what and where would the Cymatic suit? I think tropical and sub-tropical surf zones are its natural habitat, plus California. An A-frame in Nicaragua. Small Mexican Pipe, Point surf with curve. Any and all Indonesian reefbreaks. Hawaii. South Pacific, North Pacific. French beachbreaks. Durban.

It’s probably the sad fate of this design to not end up under the feet of those who could push it to its limits, Tomo himself notwithstanding. Kelly Slater did it a terrible disservice not riding it in the tub for the Founders’ Cup.

Get after it and get in shape if you are north of thirty and want to ride. Get the fast-twitch fibres happening and open the mind.

The learning curve is steep but worth the effort, the sensations unique. It is a mind machine, willing to go wherever you can imagine.

Buy, examine here. 

(And watch our masked pro surfer throwing a board he describes as “having more speed out of turns than I’ve ever felt” around at Snapper and D-Bah.)

 

 


Here we see Aaron Eveland, successfully completing what was thought, only a few days ago, to be impossible!

How to: push-start a foil surfboard!

It's a world first! Beach starts!

Two days ago, while at dinner with a lank blonde whose cheeks were glazed with gravy and some grains of yellow rice were stuck to her mouth, I found myself lost down the Instagram hornpipe.

One post, of the Hawaiian cinematographer Aaron Eveland push-starting a foil board, captivated me. A world first.

I repurposed the clip for BeachGrit’s Instagram and was rewarded with a little over six hundred thousand views.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj-o5R0HzPA/?taken-by=beach_grit

I spent the last couple of days trying to get one of the stars involved, and a few minutes ago spoke to Aaron although work commitments meant he had to whisper and asked if I might call back at a convenient time.

As it transpired, the beach starts were because Aaron and his pals, including Eric Sterman and Josh Amundson, wanted to get towed behind a drone but the little bird didn’t have enough heft to move ’em from a standing start.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkEZjHPFNPC/?hl=en&taken-by=zoard

And, hence, necessity as the mother of invention, the gang worked out how to beach start prior to the tow.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one chasing the reveal. The WSL’s Peter King just released this short of the beach starts at work. It’s like watching harlequins dancing in the wind.

Like puppets whose strings are being pulled etc.

Watch!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkDzl8UBm4Y

 


Matt George Matt Warshaw
Matt Warshaw, at right, in happier days with old college boyfriend Matt George.

Revealed: I made Matt Warshaw suffer!

Preeminent surf historian caught in cruel web.

I am writing to you, today, from deep in a New Smyrna jungle some many yards away from civilization but in the most civilized place ever. The Atlantic Center for the Arts. Tonight, you see, is the worldwide debut of a small film I directed called Trouble: The Lisa Andersen Story and it is being unveiled at a ridiculously gorgeous compound not very many yards away from where Aaron Cormican perfected his Gorkin Flip.

If you are around you must visit and see for yourself. It is too fantastic to describe here.

The air outside is a pleasant 90 degrees with 123% humidity. I love traveling to humid climates more than others mostly because I think it makes my hair look amazing but also because I think it makes my hair look amazing.

I am, anyhow, excited about the premier tonight. I believe in the film and I believe in Lisa Andersen. She is a true hero and her time is now but more on that later. At this moment I want to talk about Matt Warshaw. He is here too, alongside David Lee Scales. We were all supposed to meet up at nearby Orlando’s airport but my flight had to sit on the tarmac for an hour and a half after landing because lightening was striking nearby and apparently airport personnel aren’t allowed to go outside where there are lightening strikes. David Lee Scales was less fortunate and diverted to Tampa.

So there I sat on the tarmac looking at Instagram and wanting to drink before finally being let off the plane and wanting to drink. Matt Warshaw, who was waiting patiently inside, also wanted to drink and good thing because where we were headed was close.

Unfortunately, I was navigating and if you have read the still new Cocaine + Surfing (buy here)! you will know that navigation is not my strong suit. Shall we read a small portion?

Or maybe it is only a marvel only to me, and mostly because my directional sense is absolutely terrible. Even on land. Even in a place I have lived for years. Especially in places I have never been. I am a liability. A blight. I was once in Kiev, for example, directly after those fiery Iron Maidan protests of 2013. My “bridge burning” surf book had just come out and I thought I was back on my way to a meaningful destiny. I did not yet know I was running from it.

My phone was not working because and thus I was Google Maps-less-but wanting to get into the mix and so I pushed off into the charred drizzle with nothing but joie de vivre and a fantastic pair of Saint Laurent sunglasses. Before long I was hopelessly lost and stuck in some weird barracks of a protester practicing sword play, mumbling what he was going to do to the Russians when they returned, swishing his blade right under my nose. I didn’t know where I was and I tried to leave, but he wouldn’t let me unless I knew where I was going-because the Russians. And was I on their side? Was I on their team? Why was I wearing sunglasses? I asked for tea, eventually, and when he went to make it in a broken-down Volga he was using as a kitchen I ran out into the streets but got more lost and had to spend time with two Ukrainians dressed as Eastern European Mickey Mouses who proceeded to bore me with broken English and folk dances.

Scientists call it the “neurological effect of navigation-by-smartphone.” Scientists say that our directional sense lives where are memory does and when we end around by using technology instead of our brains we quite basically give ourselves Alzheimer’s. That we never really know where we are in the world and that puts humanity’s very future in danger. All I know is that I am an absolute directional catastrophe and that my memory really is so bad that I’ve been accused of Alzheimer’s more than once and I blame navigating by my phone. Or playing football in seventh and eighth grade as the skinniest boy ever born.

I made Matt drive one full hour in the wrong direction to a slum. We got to the slum and he said, “This doesn’t feel right.” I looked at my phone and responded, “Oops. We were supposed to go to Winter Park not Winter Haven.”

The torture lining poor Matt Warsahw’s face during the hour back made me feel very badly. Very very very badly.

Taken today by David Lee Scales. Matt is not suffering here but this is much how his suffering looked.
Taken today by David Lee Scales. Matt is not suffering here but this is much how his suffering looked.

I always like to bring a nice shirt or stylish white shirt. Then I really like to play with my jewelry. I have a lot of rings that I mix out. I have one silver lion and one gold lion ring from Gucci. I also wear Gucci watches. One that’s more elegant, one which has a sports style. Because at the end of the day, we are at the beach so I can’t show up in a suit. I do wear my board shorts with rings, which is a little more my style. | Photo: Gucci

Leo Fioravanti is the new Adolph Spreckels!

Who does unapologetically vulgar better? Leo or Bunker?

It ain’t news that the Roman surfer, and former WCTer, Leo Fioravanti gets his Gucci Gucci for free.

It is the biggest sponsorship in surfing, in a sense, given that even a modest Gucci jacket costs five thousand dollars, a sweater, fifteen hundred dollars and a pair of horsebit fringed leather sandals a little over a gee.

Recently, Leo, who is twenty years old, appeared in a Gucci photoshoot at Malibu, California. In every photograph he looks like a king or an emperor and you can imagine Leo carrying a plastic sword with a gold handle and swishing it at the camera crew.

Seeing Leo wrapped in Gucci’s famously unapologetic vulgarity reminds me of Adolph Spreckels, the hedonistic experimental surfer of the nineteen seventies. 

(Buy the Taschen book of Art Brewer’s photos, which is called Surfing’s Divine Prince of Decadence, here.)

The Gucci thing is an ambassadorship that works  both ways, Leo told the website Highsnobiety in a recent sponsored editorial.

“First of all, it has put some style in my surfing style, or in my lifestyle. As a surfer, I can give it an extra touch, and what they’ve done in the last few years with Alessandro [Michele] has been incredible. They really brought Gucci back to the young people. I feel like four or five years ago it was kind of getting a bit older. In the last five years they’ve done an incredible job whether it’s from Alessandro or the stylist or a lot of people in the background working with younger people. It’s really shown.

“They really brought Gucci back to the young people. I feel like four or five years ago it was kind of getting a bit older. In the last five years they’ve done an incredible job whether it’s from Alessandro or the stylist or a lot of people in the background working with younger people. It’s really shown.”

Other notable quotes:

On Italian surf style: I think it’s more that each surfer has their own style; we all have very different styles. Sometimes you just want to achieve the same—whether it’s progression, speed—so we are looking for the same things to improve on. As far as outside the water, I really believe Italians have a different style, because they care a little more about how they dress, or how they look, whereas most surfers all they want to wear are board shorts and T-shirts and flip-flops. I love to do that, too. A lot of times I like to play dress-up a bit and bring out some Italian blood.

Breaking his back: It was the first event of the year and I was ready for the season. The first one, the very first wave I landed out in Hawaii, and it turned into a really big injury. I went to the hospital, I flew back to Europe with a big brace and had surgery, so it was a good four to six month of recovery. It was tough, because I was 17 years old and not used to, you’re not used to being injured. I never had anything like that happen before. Not being able to surf for about five months, that’s crazy. Like, I was going crazy and at the same time it gave me an extra motivation and it really made me realize how important surfing is and not to take it for granted whether it’s good waves or bad waves. I always enjoy it as much as possible and it really gave me an extra fire. I trained as much as I could, and I did everything possible so that I would come back on my surfboard stronger than before, and I really believe that happened.

Gucci things: When I travel, whether it’s for surf competitions or surf trips, I’m mostly at the beach. I always like to bring a nice shirt or stylish white shirt. Then I really like to play with my jewelry. I have a lot of rings that I mix out. I have one silver lion and one gold lion ring from Gucci. I also wear Gucci watches. One that’s more elegant, one which has a sports style. Because at the end of the day, we are at the beach so I can’t show up in a suit. I do wear my board shorts with rings, which is a little more my style.

So who does gaudy better?

Adolph?

Adolph, from Art Brewer’s extraordinary book for Taschen called Bunker Spreckels: Surfing’s Divine Prince of Decadence.

Or Leo?


Celebrate: National Women Learn to Surf Week!

What a time to be alive!

What a week. What a very special week. It all started, for me, with the official release of Cocaine + Surfing on Tuesday. I worried, briefly, that the news would be overshadowed by Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump’s meeting in Singapore but soon realized that nobody really cares about peace on the Korean peninsula. I did a reading that night at the iconic Warwick’s and am now sitting in the airport awaiting a flight to Florida for the premier of Trouble: The Lisa Andersen Story at the Florida Surf Film Festival. If you live anywhere near the Sunshine State I expect to see you there.

More will be written on that later but in the meantime, did you know that this is also National Women Learn to Surf Week? It’s true! And let us turn to the Corpus Christi Times for more:

Female surfers converged on Boogie-Bahn at Schlitterbahn Riverpark and Resort in Corpus Christi on June 12 to celebrate National Women Learn to Surf Week. World Pro Female BodyBoard Champions Cathy and Morgan Seabert, a mother-daughter team, were on board to instruct.

Cathy Seabert is a regular at Schlitterbahn, helping riders tackle the inland surf attraction during the season. Currently, she is ranked second in the world in her division of Pro Female BodyBoarding.

Some 20 female surfers from beginner to expert and ages 8 to 70 slid into the endless inland surf created by a blast of 50,000 gallons of water on Boogie-Bahn. The water is only 3 inches deep on the ride. Wipeouts land on a foam-covered surface, keeping everyone safe from harm.

This entire time I thought the Schlitterbahn was in Munich and was confused about which nation was celebrating Women Learn to Surf Week but just re-read and realized the Schlitterbahn is a chain of water parks in Texas. Anyhow, do you have time for a few quick questions before I board?

How difficult is it to get a National _______________ Week? Like, could we petition the U.S. Government for a National BeachGrit Cut n Paste Week? What about a National Venice Adjacent Gathering of Online Surf-ish Magazines That Have Located There in Order to Thrive and Seem Abbott Kinney Kool?

Do any of you know the process?