Thoughts on a new friend.
We met in the back of a non-descript warehouse, the sort where all kinds of things are made and stored and sold. I handed her a envelope stuffed with cash and she carefully counted it out. It felt like a drug deal. I was picking up a board, which maybe isn’t all that different for people like us.
On the way, I’d lost myself in an island chain of strip malls looking for a bank. All the buildings looked the same. Who can possibly find anything in such a place? I made more wrong turns than I’d like to admit. I am bad at following directions, which I’m guessing won’t come as a surprise to any of you. But I found my way to my new surfboard.
I’d met Christine Brailsford Caro earlier this spring, while working on a story for Red Bull’s magazine, the Red Bulletin. A friend of mine who has an eye for this kind of thing, told me to check out Furrow, which is the name Caro uses for her boards. “She’s this rad shaper down in San Diego. Her boards look epic.” My friends text like this. I can’t help it. But I do tend to trust their judgment when it comes to surfboards.
When I went to interview Caro, we sat outside Moonlight Glassing where she shapes and she told me how she grew up an artist. She made wood carvings and her first boards were made from wood: an alaia, a series of over-engineered handplanes (“They have little rails, they don’t really need little rails”), and zippy little paipos.
A friend wanted a board and offered to pay for the materials. After that, Caro was hooked. The second board she made was for herself: a 5’9” stubby design with a glass-on fin.
“I guess you’re supposed to keep your first surfboard. This is my second surfboard, so I guess I have to keep it. One day, I’m going to find some kid that’s worthy and I’m going to give it to them.”
Caro is forthright that she’s not a shortboard shaper. Thrusters aren’t her thing. She’s interested in the wild, innovative period of design between the longboard era and the shortboard revolution. Not surprisingly, she cites Greenough as an influence. “He made this v-spoon and he was able to do these wrapping turns that no one had ever seen before.” The first board she loved riding was a fish.
Now, you will all be rolling your eyes. Like, what is going on? Why is she writing about a fish shaper? She said she hated fish. She said she hated fish and was never riding a fish again. She said they make her arms do weird things. They do! It’s true that riding a fish does make my arms do weird things. But I’m trying to overcome these feelings. Rainbows. Unicorns. Peace. Love. Kale. And fish.
At the time I interviewed Caro, I had an obsession. I wanted a super short small wave board. I blame the diabolical geniuses at Catch Surf for this desire. Last summer one of my editors wanted a fun, beach-surf story and I suggested soft-tops. I’d ride them and write about them. Easy, I thought.
Then I rode a Catch Surf Beater for the story. And then, I kept riding it. It was aesthetically questionable — and became even more so with time. Also, I got like zero respect in the lineup. A chick on a boogie board. Awesome.
So when Caro said she liked making short, fast boards, I figured, here was the solution. I’d have her make me a tiny board. A twin fin. It would be fast and slidey. We emailed back and forth. Two fins. 4’10” long. 20” wide. A moon-shaped tail. I told her to put the volume wherever she felt it would work best. I picked a blue resin tint almost exactly the shade of a Tiffany box.
I drove to the industrial park with my envelope full of cash. It fits snugly under my arm, this baby twinnie. The color looks amazing. Caro shaped a single concave bottom with the cutest little v between the fins. There’s a tiny short rail line and a round nose. The tail is wide with a killer moon-shaped cut-out. When I met Chas for lunch later, he insisted on smelling it. At least he didn’t lick it.
I didn’t expect it to matter to me that a woman had made my board. I love gossiping with my usual shortboard shaper and he makes me lovely, precisely tuned boards. But somehow, there’s something special about this one. It’s the first time I’ve had a board made by a woman who loves playing in the waves just like I do. I guess it’s a kind of kinship, a meeting of kindred spirits. I can’t quite explain it. It just is.
I rode the board last night and it’s screaming fast. I giggled madly. It’s giving me the best kinds of ideas. Boards should give you ideas — the more improbable, the better.
Caro named her boards Furrow for the lines farmers cut into their fields to plant their crops. She describes a furrow as a path and sees her boards as seeds.
“One of my goals is to bring joy and positive energy into the world with what I create. And that’s what I feel like with my boards. You know, I’m not doing anything amazing or miraculous. I’m not saving lives or anything. I’m just hoping it’ll give someone this experience of joy that they can take with them in their lives.”