Relax and catch sets. Sit deep, carve hard. Let it swing.
This has been a king hell biiiiatch to write, this review. Not because I have nothing to say about the process of ordering and receiving a custom surfboard off Maurice Cole, a 6’3″ Protow round-pin designed for good-to-excellent Point surf, but because the whole last week and while Derek Rielly has been busting my nuts every day to get the review done, the surf has been relentlessly pumping.
The exact same surf I envisioned the board to ride in. Double-overhead Point surf, high-speed racetracks. Every day I’ve broken contracts with myself.
Today I write it.
Today ends in a blur of surf stupefaction and a blank screen.
Right now, I fight the strongest impulses to down tools and get out there again.
One quick lap around the internet surf forums, or in real life carparks puts the vexed issue of surfboards front and centre.
The list of horror stories when trying to order custom equipment is long and never ending. My mate ordered a single fin and got a thruster, from a shaper who has spent a career railing against the hegemony of the three fin. You’ve probably got your own scenario where you looked at the freshies in the rack and thought “that can’t be it”. Fuck, it’s got my name on the stringer.
Particularly custom vs stock.
Generalist vs specialist.
I favour the specialist. It’s my belief the working gal of an intermediate or beyond skill set can gain ground, tortoise and hare style, over the more naturally gifted through the development and acquisition of superior equipment. Which is custom surfboards.
That view was formed by tutelage under North Shore resident and Cherokee Indian Craig “Owl” Chapman, who continually stressed the importance, the advantage conferred, by having the “best board in the line-up”.
How to get the best board in the lineup. The list of horror stories when trying to order custom equipment is long and never ending. My mate ordered a single fin and got a thruster, from a shaper who has spent a career railing against the hegemony of the three fin. You’ve probably got your own scenario where you looked at the freshies in the rack and thought “That can’t be it”.
Fuck, it’s got my name on the stringer.
Self-knowledge, or lack of is the biggest obstacle. The line up is full of the surfer stinking the joint up on the wrong sled. No activity engenders so much self deception. BeachGrit’s own Chas Smith wrote an article in Surfing Life where he detailed some of the struggle and outsourced the knowledge to his pal D. Rielly. Rielly identified the strengths and weaknesses in Smith’s approach and they got to something that worked.
My prior experience with Maurice wasn’t quite so chummy.
I’d had an epic Tom Curren inspired 7’3” reverse-vee sometime in the nineties which circumnavigated the globe and ended up left behind in Guam as rental payment on a house. In the interim me and Maurice had beef, sometimes epic beef on the internets. The specifics escape me. I was a Maurice fan since he took aim at racism in Australian politics. Maybe we came to virtual blows when Rory Parker ended up in conflict with Cole and I got caught up somehow. Sometime during a particularly toxic exchange I had to take stock.
I drove a gal to the airport. Maybe she could sense my rage. She pressed a little card into my hand when we parted and said “read this”.
In calming shades of blue and green was written a series of compassion exercises.
Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.
Just like me this person is learning about life.
And so on and so forth.
It did stop me in my tracks. I recalled Owl’s vision of himself as a surfer, “It’s a better me”.
And, then scant few months later I am in email exchanges with Maurice about a custom board.
The second great obstacle to getting the best board in the line-up via custom equipment is what I call a category error. Every shaper/designer has their trip. Run with it and get a great board, if it’s dialled in correctly. Ask a shaper to go too far outside their area of expertise and you get a version of the famous “Hold the chicken” scene from 5 Easy Pieces. Jack Nicholson’s character wants to fuck with what is on the menu and it all ends up in tears.
Don’t be the gal asking a shaper to hold the chicken.
Maurice Cole specialises in concaves. It took a few emails to nail things down. I let him know I wanted the board well and truly in his area of expertise. A board for OH+ down the line point surf. In his words, “A very fast surfboard that carves at high speed, with deep concaves and hard edges”. The whole process was civilised and painless. Confidence was high we understood each other and the board I received would not be found on any surfboard retail rack.
Fast and trustworthy. There’s something to be said for going out of your own comfort zone and riding different stuff. It’s fun to be unhinged. But when something made especially for you feels so good right out of the gates that is a feeling of satisfaction of a different order.
The sled arrived, via courier truck. The nose had been busted off. I patched it up. In three months of solid abuse, that is its only wound. Sleek lines, a nose-to-tail tucked rail edge that is distinctive. No volume measurements but it felt very right on. The concave was noticeable but not pronounced.
I put fins in it, waxed it up and rode it. Straight away. The Point was a windy four-to-six foot. Paddling into twenty knots of sideshore wind with current felt fine. The very first turn on the very first wave felt smooth. Fast and trustworthy. There’s something to be said for going out of your own comfort zone and riding different stuff. It’s fun to be unhinged. But when something made especially for you feels so good right out of the gates that is a feeling of satisfaction of a different order.
Further follow-up emails with Maurice occurred. I gave him feedback. He asked questions. There’s no other sporting goods manufacturer in any other sport who would do the same. No golf clubs, no tennis racquets, no fishing rods. Surfing is unique in that regard.
Even in a dud winter like this the surf gets good around here. I rode it whenever it did. Replaced the stock fins with fibreglass C drive fins. At slow speed they feel grabby and tight. At speed, on a down-the-line wave, a hydrofoil effect comes into play. The board seems to lift up, the wetted surface disappears and you feel like you are sliding on ball bearings. The rail, with its edge, feels active. Sensitive, not at all neutral like a modern shortboard rail.
I claim the sensation to be both highly functional and unique.
Final thoughts fresh out of five-star point surf. The problem for the working gal in perfect surf is panic at the disco. The mirror ball starts flashing and limbs are splaying everywhere. The generalist short board is redlining. The solution is do to less, the panicked mummy or daddy tries to do more.
On a better board, one made for this eventuality, you can relax into it.
Let the board go up and down in the trim line, at least to start. You have a better paddler than the typically underpowered work-a-daddy or Euro lower intermediate in thrall to the latest and greatest and industry sizing. Relax and catch sets. Sit deep, carve hard. Let it swing. Try not to laugh (inside) when you see someone panicked and spazzing out on the generalist board du jour.
Just like you this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.
Just like you this person is learning about life.