Longtom on the Cabianca/Medina DFK: “The easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled!”

Our reviewer finds the Holy Grail of surfboards, an ultra-high performance sled for the immediate surfer…

It does seem a little like cheating when you get, not just what you want, but what you need and with perfect timing.

Thus it was, that around the same time Medina had slayed J-Bay on his 6’0” DFK by Johnny Cabianca I received mine in the same dimensions, in time for a six-week run of perfect waves where my local resembled a sub-tropical warm water version of J-Bay, except better.

Sure, I got chipped for it by local wags.

“What, you think you’re fucking Gabe Medina?”

Yeah, if Gabe was reincarnated as a bald, albino with intermediate skills. I do, after many hours in the sun look like a plucked and cooked turkey, so I guess me and Gabs (armpits) do have that in common.

The dominant narrative on Gabe’s boards is that you could stick deck chairs on ’em and host baby boomer cruises to the South Pacific with very little modification.

That did not gel with my initial impression.

I felt a very balanced, slightly lower rockered round tail shortboard with the only noteworthy features being a slightly thicker tail foil and a very crisp edge on the bottom tail rail extending forwards of the fin cluster. Subtle bottom contours.

The thing felt damn good. Substantial.

Almost invariably the initial impressions of a new sled are determined by context, what you’ve been riding and where. I’d been cycling through some insane surfboards for good point waves: a 6’3” roundpin Maurice Cole Protow custom, 6’6” Desert Storm custom swallowtail and, on days when the westerly wind was howling or the devil wind was in, a 7’3” Aleutian Juice custom Vector-Cuda. The best quiver I’ve ever had for good waves.

A 6’0”, no matter how generously foiled, was always going to be easy to power up after cycling down from those boards.

I’m shit with my hands but before I rode the DFK I did a little DIY mod to the BeachGrit tail-pad, based on a positive experience with a Necro pad and negative one with a Connor Coffin pad. I figured a low, subtle kick was to my taste so took a stanley-knife and hacked the kick in half. That turned out to be a very good move.

A ruled-edge long period east swell greeted my maiden voyage.

Crisp, before sunrise on a Sunday morning. Strangely uncrowded. Sizzling little head-high racetracks. It took very little to get this board humming. Maybe the first wave or two felt little sketchy, a bit under-powered due to coming off much longer rail lines.

It took less than half the session to figure out the board wanted to be surfed simply and definitively from top to bottom with no wiggles or double pumps to keep the water flowing through the fins or the concaves engaged.

Since I T-boned an elderly Vietnamese man on a rainy night in Byron Bay and got shown the door from bus driving* I’ve had to account for my time with more prudence.

As a full-time freelancer two go-outs in a day is rare. Feels too indulgent.

But my Bribie pal had come back from FIFO in the Tanami desert, which is the middle of Australia if you’ve never heard of it. He was keen for a paddle, and although I’m not a leave passer I did get the second bite of the cherry with the blessing of my spouse.

Second surfs always feel better.

I never pretend to be anything more than high intermediate, competent is the vain term. The DFK is a board that is reassuringly easy to come to grips with. After riding various high-performance shortboards I’ve come to believe that control is the most important variable.

In sunny head-high point surf, with just a ruffle of side breeze, the DFK felt very, very solid. Leveraging speed off the bottom to go straight back into the top third felt seamless, and you can push that as hard as you like.

Generating rhythmic momentum from turn to turn very much within my grasp.

I never pretend to be anything more than high intermediate, competent is the vain term. The DFK is a board that is reassuringly easy to come to grips with. After riding various high-performance shortboards I’ve come to believe that control is the most important variable.

That balance between sensitivity and drive has to be tilted firmly in the drive quadrant, for me, to be able to get the board where I want it go. Struggling with control is almost the definition of a board outside your area of expertise.

I felt confident pushing this board very hard, from that second surf onwards. That had generally positive results. We can all agree, I hope, a point of difference for Gabe’s surfing is the ability to switch from hi-fi, fins-free or aerial attack to classic power-based carving.

My skill set did not extend to the former but very much enjoyed the latter on the DFK.

The only mixed bag came in a crowded Saturday surf where the Grace of God smiled upon me and I jagged three set waves in quick succession. Threading through a heavy pack I thought I could blast a backhand high hook on the corner of a tubing section with multiple people to dodge. Ended up catching an outside edge and slamming hard.

Not sure whether it was the rail of my board or someone elses or the wave but I spent the rest of the day thinking I was having a heart attack. Rib cartilage or broken rib. Nothing Nurofen before and after a surf couldn’t fix.

The only other slight caution is to be on your fin game.

I started with JJF M’s, fins made from recycled fishing nets (sourced in Chile) and carbon. Beautiful fins and they felt great, but at speed, under pressure, I was able to blow them out under load a few times. It wasn’t bad enough to swap them out so minor problem.

I think Gabe’s DFK is the easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled.

The trend among most pros has been to increase volume. You’d have to give Matt Biolos credit for that. When Fanning jumped on the Mayhems (at Trestles) and changed the emphasis to more volume he got better immediately.

All up, from pro to Joe people mostly look better and surfing feels better on something that paddles and has some glide, even at the high-perf level. There’s really only one human being alive who looks good on an underpowered sled and we call him the greatest of all time.

Toledo gets away with bladier boards.

Julian’s still look underpowered to my eye, especially now compared to Medina.

JJF has added litreage.

All up, from pro to Joe people mostly look better and surfing feels better (to me) on something that paddles and has some glide, even at the high-perf level. There’s really only one human being alive who looks good on an underpowered sled and we call him the greatest of all time.

A way forwards for the rec surfer is to get your top end dialed and customised, make sure your good-wave sleds are as good as they can be. That gives latitude for experimentation in the high-performance “space”, if you’ll pardon the corporate malapropism.

Johnny Cabianca has put a high-performance sled square into the Goldilocks zone for the average recreational surfer. I cannot recommend highly enough.

I rode my DFK as a stock 6’0”, just under thirty litres of volume.

* I had two witnesses who testified he was driving without lights on. No matter, I got shitcanned.

Buy, examine, here. 

Innovative: Florida man attempts to surf six-foot shark; gets bit!

"I felt like a train hit me..."

What is the weirdest board you have ever surfed? A smooshy little fish? A long n lean gun? A Tomo, asym, swallow? Well, a chiropractor from Florida has you beat, surfing a shark for a few exciting moments, and let us learn, together, about Donald Walsh and his New Smyrna adventure.

Donald Walsh, a chiropractor, was surfing when he went airborne and crash-landed on the shark, as The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

“It felt like a freight train hit me and the first thing I could think of was to literally push him away from me and as soon as it happened, I grabbed my board and started to paddle as fast as I could,” Walsh told Click Orlando.

Walsh was making his way back to shore after he had been surfing for several hours and attempted to “go airborne,” something he doesn’t typically do, when he landed on the shark. Walsh tried to flee, and the shark bit him once, resulting in lacerations on his arm and his calf.

“I never did see the shark as I was coming down,” Walsh told the News-Journal. “I did see it after the bite happened.”

The story goes on and includes a happy ending, Mr. Walsh will return to the lineup as soon as his wounds “close up” but I think serious concerns are raised here.

First, what is Aaron Cormican doing today? He put New Smyrna on the map, for me, and when I visited there as part of my Florida Surf Film Festival vacation, I felt star-struck just being in his same town.

Second, does attempting an air and potentially landing on a shark give you pause? The last time I attempted an air my board flipped upside down and I almost landed on my fins, which would have hurt. I assume, from the beach, it looked like I was trying to do a kickflip, which would have made me Zoltan Torkos, which would have also hurt.

Third, why are sharks such buttholes? If Mr. Walsh did an air and landed on a person and that person bit his arm and calf then he or she would certainly be facing assault charges. Should we hold sharks to a higher standard?

Fourth, seriously, what is the weirdest board you have ever surfed?

Conspiracy: Is the World Surf League purposefully trying to bury the Mavericks contest?

The event window opens in 2 short months and yet the permits, which take six long months, have not been applied for.

Now that Teahupoo is over it is time for us to turn our eyes from those gorgeous green folds, that turquoise water, those reefs all the colors of the rainbow that we learned from Joe Turpel is not a sign of health but rather a cry for help and gaze upon the cold grey fog of California’s Bay Area. Upon Mavericks herself.

And when was the last time you thought about Mavericks? To be honest with you, it is fading from my memory just like Marty McFly and his brother and sister were fading from his wallet picture when he pushed his future father, George, away from an oncoming car, altering the course of history and having Lorraine fall in love with him instead of his future father.

The space-time continuum is very confusing but back to Mavericks. The window for it to run opens in two short months and, as you recall, under the World Surf League banner who rescued the event from bankruptcy.

Yet the contest has not been held in three years and let’s turn to a San Francisco news source where a possible conspiracy is unfolding. Read with me?

More drama continues to surround the world-famous Mavericks surfing contest.

The window to hold the contest opens on November 1. But there is also a window to get things done so the so-called Super Bowl of surfing can even take place, including obtaining crucial permits — and that window is just about shut.

Now officials realize while the WSL holds the contest permit, it has not applied for all the other permits needed — a process that usually takes six months.

“To start the permit process now is definitely late in the game,” said Sabrina Brennan, San Mateo County Harbor Commission president. “It’s going to be challenging to pull it off.”

Mavericks surfer Bianca Valenti on Wednesday told NBC Bay Area she is worried.

“Each time we think we’re going to be getting the opportunity, something seems to happen,” Valenti said. “So fingers crossed that everything lines up and we have the best event ever.”

Local officials said they have not hear(d) back from the WSL about their concerns.

A few things. First, when has anyone called Mavericks “The Super Bowl of Surfing?” I believe I’ve heard Pipeline described as such and also The Eddie but never ever Mavericks. Have you?

Second, and more importantly, why hasn’t the World Surf League applied for the permits? Was the “rescuing” of Mavericks simply a move to disappear it from the earth forever? Is Jeff Clark behind this, wanting to kick the wave back into obscurity so he can surf it alone again? Last year, you recall, the WSL refused to run the event, citing too many big waves. It was, as noted at the time, the day of the year.

What is the World Surf League trying to hide?

More as the story develops.

Evaporated: What happened to the Andy Irons Most Committed Performance Award at Teahupoo?

"He was the people's champ! He's been fucked! Andy Irons was one of the few real things left in surfing!" says legend surfer-shaper.

A few hours ago, on the dreariest winter’s day imaginable, my mood only barely elevated by a Foxtel connection to Tahiti, I received a phone call from the swinging surfer-shaper Maurice Cole.

In quick order, he told me of his recent health and emotional travails, why Dirk Ziff has the will and the capacity to happily lose, indefinitely, twenty mill a year on pro surfing (Maurice explained that sports are a billionaires’ plaything and while some are spending hundreds of mill each year to own a team, Ziff drops pocket-change and owns a sport), that he was splitting Torquay to live in a van near Bells and…

what the fuck happened to the Andy Irons award at Teahupoo?

The AI award has been given to the hardest charger at Teahupoo every year since 2011.

Winners include Jeremy Flores, John John Florence, Ricardo dos Santos, Owen Wright, CJ Hobgood and Kelly Slater, who won it in 2016, the last time he won a WCT event.

“Secretly I’ve really wanted this award for five years now,” Kelly Slater said at the time. “I was channeling Andy this week. I was thinking about him a lot. He was a monster out here, he would just man-handle barrels. The last heat I had with him out here was that last year he won. I felt like I was part of that in some way. That award is going to be front and center in my home. There is a lot of emotions right now.”

Photo: WSL

Andy, of course, won the 2010 Teahupoo contest two months before he was found dead in his hotel room at Dallas/Forth Worth International airport.

In 2018?

No award.

Maurice is furious.

“Look at the comments,” he ordered, “They’re going fucking wild. He was the people’s champ! He’s just been fucked! This is the biggest fucking scandal I’ve seen today. Andy Irons was one of the few real things left in surfing!”

What happened?

The WSL was contacted for a comment with no response although Maurice assures me the great Nick Carroll, who has a sturdier connection to the WSL than me, is on the case.

More tomoz.

Tahiti Pro Finals Day: “Owen Wright wins by fluttering on inside nuggets while Medina sits motionless on the outside and Charlie fumes like a wounded bird at the end of Owen’s flight path!”

"Poetic justice," says Kaipo Guerrero.

I do feel some sympathy for the minions at the coal face of the WSL hype machine.

When you’ve OD’d on the most historic, the most epic, the most crazy etc etc the comedown in the cold light of the next morning will never be a pretty look.

Thus, groomed six-foot Teahupoo looked underwhelming for this Finals Day.

For the first time in history I agreed wholeheartedly with Turpel when, after Owen completed his five hundredth deep tube ride, he intoned “Wright can do no wrong.”

I could not agree with the judges when they awarded Owen a perfect ten for a leftover bomb wave from yesterday’s mack-fest. That robbed fans of a genuine contest in the closing minutes of his tube duel with OG Jaddy baby who was charging into them like a maniac.

He deserved a shot, no matter how infinitesimally small the odds, of taking the heat. The ten put him in combo land with a minute to go. In the end though, it was nothing more than cosmic justice: the Wright guy won and got to where he deserved to be.

Cosmic justice made a mockery of the next quarter between ADS and Jordy. Deep charging goofyfooters were a cut above naturalfooters all event and this heat seemed ghosted by the lack of Italo Ferriera.

Both Jordy and ADS looked shakey and not quite up to the task. The heat turned on a decision by Adriano to let Jordy go on the only proper set wave and when judges lost control of their scoring rigour and awarded a 9.23 the whole contest was in danger of spilling to a very messy conclusion.

“How do you know what you don’t know?” asked Barton Lynch in the booth, pertaining to the decision making process.

He claimed a vague interior process that lay beyond the bounds of rational thought, which he called “feeling”, that was the superior mechanism.

Whatever it was, or is, Gabe Medina had his Feels all lined up in quarter-final three against Jeremy Flores. On paper, the best quarter final of the contest. The waves did not show up.

No matter for Gabe. He walked Jeremy up the reef like a small dog on a leash, and then walked him back. Jeremy cracked first and took a small south insider, for a small score. That left Gabe with an open lineup, which he luxuriated in for twenty minutes before calmly opening up on very clean mid-rangers for an easy win.

The Seth Moniz-Caio Ibelli quarter was a mystery bag which, despite the lack of any semblance of rivalry, Kaipo tried desperately to spin as a grudge match.

Ibelli got the wave of the heat, a thick-set bouncer of a wave that he snuck in under after slippery fins finally engaged to bear hug to the safety of the channel. If it wasn’t for a display of cockiness, paddling arrogantly up the inside of Seth and trying for a too deep inside nugget he may have won the heat.

Moniz, like he was all event, backed his skill set and took the next set on offer to take it out.

How many tubes did Owen complete against Jordy in their semi? How much total tube time did he log for the event? Must be minutes It seems a little obscene. A very one-sided affair. I lost track of the final third of the heat after a kerfuffle out the back door distracted me.

It was a duck beating up on a rooster. Have you ever seen a drake beat up on a rooster? He was really kicking his ass. I didn’t know whether to punish the perpetrator or comfort the victim.

In the melee, I could not help noticing the duck, tall and handsome with slender but powerful neck, bore an uncanny resemblance to Owen Wright and the rooster with his powerful physique, plumage and proudly erect comb reminded me of Gabriel Medina.

Pardon me Barton Lynch, but that was how I based my decision making on who was going to win the final. My “feels” if you like.

Seth simply made too many mistakes to trouble Gabe. And judges could not pay the faked exits. Valuable learning for him. He’ll be on the podium here before too long.

Which put us to the final, with the two best guys of the event. Judges got the feels right. There were vapour trails from Owen and Gabe paddling each other up and down the reef. A ritual that did feel a bit played out by that point.

Priority was confusing and in the end all that tactical showboating made no difference. It was past halfway when the wave riding began. Gabe had the best of it, but the medium, large sets now looked fluffy and inconsequential compared to the inside nuggets which ran square across the very shallowest part of the inside reef.

They shared an exchange.

Gabe came out low with a fade out of the tube, Owen came out high with a speed pump. Scores could have gone either way. Owen was favoured by a half point.

Five minutes to go.

Medina defended a slender lead that never looked like being enough. He sat while Owen drifted in and measured up on an inside nugget, fluttering on the foam ball the whole ride. That wave turned the heat, paddling back out he repeated the dose while Gabe sat motionless on the outside and Charlie fumed and fussed about like a wounded bird at the end of Owen’s flight path.

Game over. Poetic retribution, Kaipo called it.

The Gods must be laughing to have Filipe Toledo, after all that transpired at Teahupoo, leading the race into the Wavepool.

Meanwhile, in a stunning counter-factual, John John Florence, who watches somewhere, surrounded by tasteful walnut and mahogany fittings, in my imagination at least, remains in the top five.