The perfect board is a drag racer. Hard to master. Difficult to handle. Not suited for most roads.
Camus said there’s only one real philosophical question in life, and that’s whether or not we should commit suicide.
All other considerations, what is matter, what is time, what is consciousness, come afterwards. No use asking them if existence is meaningless.
By extension, the only question a surfer should ask themselves is whether or not they should ride a mini-mal.
Think about it. A seven-foot, round-nose thruster with shortboard profile is essentially the ultimate vehicle for ninety per cent of the conditions an everyday surfer finds themselves in.
Paddle power. Speed. Responsiveness. Glide.
It’s everything any surfer really, truly wants for a midweek scrap amongst the pack. The absurd answer to our absurd existence.
The PT Cruiser of the surf world.
But, just like sticking a hot one in the mainline ain’t always the best way to deal with such fundamental questions, nor will speed-hopping a McCoy or a Meyerhoffer ever really satisfy your deep-seated surfing desires.
So too it goes with the current glut of mid-lengths.
Attn: Sam George.
Yeah, mid-lengths work.
Yes, volume is your friend. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to enjoying pleasures found above forty litres.
But, the path to enlightenment ain’t meant to be easy.
We obtain it through trial, struggle, self-flagellation.
Knifing under a guillotine lip, while razor-toothed coral heads sing sweet nothings to your skin in preparation for the upcoming feast. Engaging the heelside rail on a warpspeed, wedging hook only to be obliterated by the oncoming foamball. Learning how to get into waves using your positioning and strength, not “some sneaky extra volume hidden up front.”
Rinse, repeat it all. Again and again. Sisyphus and his rock.
Yesterday, which feels like an eternity ago, it was reported right here that ABC’s new reality show “Ultimate Surfer” is rumored to be so fun, so enjoyable, so downright wonderful that it might be enough to save the thoroughly wilted World Surf League.
You believed and thrilled but, today, a darker, more ominous picture emerges from behind the gates of Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California. A place known by many experts to be “literally the worst of them in the world.”
According to Nicholas Caprio, the Chief Content Officer at Pilgrim Media, who spoke recently at a “virtual panel”:
“Every person who came up was put in a hotel and tested. When they got negative, they could go inside the ranch and tested them again a week later. That included anyone who came in whether it was a judge or talent. It was really tough because it was really hot and really dusty. Just because they had two clean tests, we still had to take all of the precautions with masks and stations.”
Inside the Ranch, contestants and staff lived in what was called a “tent city.”
Many experts wonder if both Lemoore’s surrounding hotels and then being cloistered behind the branded wooden walls of Kelly Slater’s facility constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The nearby Tachi Palace does not serve delicious cocktails and also serves them in small plastic cups.
It is unclear if Michelob Gold Ultra was the only beverage on offer inside the Ranch.
Kelly Slater could not be reached for comment as he blocked me on Instagram.
Watch: Once peaceful Humpback Whales turn on VALs, crushing two in Western Australia, getting “uncomfortably close” to others off Manly Beach!
There is much to worry over in these days etc. Documented, vicious encounters between masked and unmasked peoples in various Walmarts. “Bad Grandpa” United States of America presidential hopeful Joe Biden rounding on a kind African-American journalist, accusing him of “taking cocaine” while calling him a “junkie.”
Humpback whales, once the “poster animals of the left”, crushing vulnerable adult learners in Western Australia where Tahnee Pitman and her friend Sharnee Pannell had just finished their second snorkelling expedition when the mammals struck a 29-year-old woman, leaving her with internal bleeding and broken ribs.
Apparently the mother creature became “protective” and “aggressive” towards the snorkellers in the water without warning.
“We were all in shock, I really thought it was going to end a lot worse than it did,” Ms Pitman said.
“I was with a friend (Ms Pannell) and we all just kind of sat in silence waiting for the ambulance to come on board as there was nothing we could do to help the injured. She (the injured woman) was in a lot of pain.”
Meanwhile, on Australia’s other side, butthole Humpbacks charged other VALs in a never-before-witnessed attack.
One boardrider, Josh, told the press that he had never seen a whale, particularly a calf, come so close to the beach at Manly.
“There was a bit of pointing going on and I looked round and the little one was just there,” Josh said.
“Then mum came in pretty quick smart, I think when she realized how close people were.
“You often see [whales] further out the back but this one just came right up to where people were hanging on their boards.”
Sharks are one thing. Whales, much larger and with a history of swallowing itinerant preachers whole, are quite another.
You should be.
We all should be.
More as the story develops.
Sam George, pictured here, says, "Unlike the pro model boards, with their anorexic volume, wide-point-back, narrow-nosed templates and demanding fin-clusters — each designed to be ridden in a manner you never have and most probably never will — today’s new mids, with their continuous curve templates, generous width and foil and sensible fin setups let you do all the things you’re trying to do now, only better." Matt George
Sam George’s important message to BeachGrit readers: “You’re riding the wrong surfboard…you rarely do an actual bottom turn…can’t paddle, can’t takeoff…you run ahead of the curl etc”
Here’s the thing: you’re riding the wrong surfboard.
The wrong surfboard, that is, if you have no surf contest trophies in your well-stocked boardroom, no sponsorship deals, less than six stickers top and bottom and only family and friends subscribing to your vlog.
Forget what all the promo clips on various websites try to get you to believe, because you perform like none of the super-hot surfers featured in those “test rides”, with their tail slides, vertical backside hacks and aerial antics.
As recently as last month a New York Times feature covering our sport’s Covid-truncated entry into the Olympics, asserted that surfing’s three fundamentals were airs, turns and barrels.
Yeah, right, and you get your boards for free, too.
Whole quivers, like little Jackson Dorian, whose grasp of those fundamentals is on display every time he hits the water, fresh or otherwise. But he’s not you, so while Baby D might actually tick each of those boxes on every Waco pulse he rides, let me tell you how you surf, if you’re old enough to have read this far and still insist on riding any surfboard that even remotely resembles a pro’s.
You thrash your way into most waves, paddling furiously, occasionally kicking.
Most of your drops are late, because you have to take off under the lip.
After getting to your feet you immediately start back-foot pushing against your fin cluster, rather than applying pressure to the inside rail, in an effort to get the board moving down the line.
You rarely do an actual bottom turn, but for the most part just push the board ahead of you across the middle of the wave face, seldom, if ever, achieving enough planing speed to apply the rhythmic weighting/unweighting that defines true rail-to-rail surfing.
After running ahead of the curl, and if you’re lucky enough to find an accommodating shoulder, with the board flat on the wave face you lean, not carve, into a cutback, not engaging the rail but simply re-directing the nose of the board toward the curl or advancing whitewater.
Slowing down considerably, you then step on the tail, lift the nose, swing the board back around and begin the fin-pushing process all over again.
And that’s if you’re lucky.
A more typical ride sees you pushing your board flat across the wave face, trying desperately to generate and maintain speed until the wave inevitably closes out and you crank the nose of your board up above the lip and then swing it back down in the whitewater in a classic “roller-coaster” maneuver that Mike Purpus would’ve been proud of…in 1969.
Is all this to say that you’re a bad surfer?
No, simply that you’re riding the wrong surfboard.
Just like fundamentals for the vast majority of surfers today do not include airs or barrels (we’ll give you the turns, however feeble), an equally vast majority take advantage of absolutely none of the design/performance qualities built into boards ridden by professional grade surfers.
These boards, primarily thrusters with various, subtle variations, are designed to do exactly what all thrusters have been designed to do since Simon’s first incarnation in 1981: go vertical and then back down, with alternating pressure on the side fins, carving turns on-rail.
Now be honest: is that how you surf?
So here’s your problem… and the solution, all in two sentences.
Problem: you’re riding a pro model thruster like you’re on a mid-size.
Solution: Ride a mid-size.
Have you seen that video of Torren Martyn in Iceland?
Or Rob Machado on his Stretched Seaside?
Go ahead, scrounge up any of the latest CI-Mid clips and ask yourself this: who do you surf more like, Italo Ferreira or Devon Howard?
Of course, and why do you think that’s so?
Because mid-masters like Howard, Martyn and Machado ride boards that are designed to accommodate the needs of, I’d say, 99% of all of the world’s competent surfers — you included.
Unlike the pro model boards, with their anorexic volume, wide-point-back, narrow-nosed templates and demanding fin-clusters — each designed to be ridden in a manner you never have and most probably never will — today’s new mids, with their continuous curve templates, generous width and foil and sensible fin setups let you do all the things you’re trying to do now, only better.
Not sticking trampoline aerials or GoPro-ing fifty-eight-second barrels, but getting into the waves that you regularly surf early and with authority. Immediately achieving trim, then flowing, not fighting, from top to bottom and back again. Generating speed with the rail, not scrubbing it off with the fins. Carrying that speed through a legitimate figure-eight, not rectangular, cutback. Catching more waves, making more waves, riding faster, cleaner, stronger.
Your own surfing experience reflecting those additional core values that in the same NYT story they assign as if solely applicable to professional competitive performance: speed, power and flow.
Forget the New York Times — that could be you.
But only if you’d stop riding the wrong surfboard, and get yourself a mid.
(Oh, and for those particular BeachGritreaders out there who, after reading this, are no doubt feverishly working up some predictably caustic response—some variation of “Fuck that guy, I don’t need a mid-size.” — I have only one word: bullshit.)
Rumor: “The soon-to-air reality series ‘Ultimate Surfer’ is so good that it will save our World Surf League from otherwise certain oblivion!”
Now, I’ve been on a rumor heater of late dishing up one truth about our professional surfing after another before those truths are “official.” Secrets that I share with you, only you, much to our World Surf League’s chagrin.
Often they paint Santa Monica in a… less-than-flattering light. Much bumbling etc. Missteps and a clear lack of leadership running all the way to the tippy-top but today’s rumor could buoy the League’s few remaining workers.
It should provide hope.
For I have heard from someone who knows someone who knows who won the soon-to-air reality series “Ultimate Surfer” and, apparently, the whole thing is so wonderfully enjoyable that it will save professional surfing as we know it.
Difficult to believe?
The show was shot at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, as you know, a place so void of intrigue as to be suicidally dull (unless Kelly Slater’s guru and spiritual advisor Charlie Goldsmith is present and/or Kelly Slater’s Chinese girlfriend) and early leaked potential invitees (Zeke Lau, Seabass Zietz) did not arouse.
But my source is… good. Good enough, at least, and this is BeachGrit where anti-depressiveness reigns supreme.