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 BeachGrit readers 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.)