You can't deny they're having fun.
Any surfer who has put in some water-time in Oz, Hawaii or mainland USA in the last year will be aware of the foamy phenomenon that is taking over lineups.
When I was a kid your McCoy ‘Cool light’ was like a bike with training wheels; you rode in your surfing apprenticeship before graduating to a fibreglass board.
The transition from foamie to fibro was a major rite of passage and once you’d made the step you didn’t really want to look back.
Times have changed and the foamie is now often the board of choice for surfers of all ability levels. Jamie O’Brien’s antics on his Catch Surf rides have helped legitimise the foamie and I’ve personally witnessed him school the chest-beating Pipe pack on a bright pink, Catch surf min-mal. More recently Mick Fanning and Mark Mathews have got in on the act, releasing a signature foamie, which has since become a fixture at breaks all over Australia.
However, there is obviously more to this soft-centred, cultural shift than simply following Jamie and Mick down the rabbit hole. One theory is that the foamie is so popular because it marginally diminishes your expectations. While the soft boards have definitely improved greatly in recent years, they are still a few increments of speed and manoeuvrability behind a high quality epoxy or PU shape. However, there in lies the rub. Any turn you pull on a foamie delivers an immediate sense of accomplishment because you are innately aware that the craft is more challenging to ride. A decent cuttie or turn feels like the equivalent of a ten-point ride on a regular board.
Meanwhile, the minute you jump on a high-performance hard board your self-esteem can take a hit because you immediately compare yourself with the preternaturally gifted Pros who operate in a different surfing stratosphere.
On the foamie there is some of that original buzz you felt when learning to surf in the first place.
Of course even the foamie devotees have their sub-groups. There’s the finless gliders who love to spin and twirl, the mini-mullet crew who you will likely find kick-flipping in an impossible shorey and the regulation foamie lovers who are often just looking to exploit the fact that many beaches in Oz allow you to ride them in flagged areas. Likewise in California they often offer a loophole for the infamous ‘black-ball’, which prohibits the riding of hard boards between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on many beaches.
Foamies also generally paddle like a dream, are hard to ding and make dropping in on mates and going doubles more of a game than something to get all worked up about. Maybe someone will conduct a survey on why so many surfers are turning to foam or at least including one in their quiver (there are currently four on my balcony given my girlfriend rides them too), however perhaps the simple reason we have a hard-on for the softie is that sometimes they are just more fun. That’s certainly the philosophy at the annual Tamarama Mullet comp, where ostentatious fashion is coupled with crazy dance moves and killer tunes to create an event where the rigidity of modern competition is cast aside. Tama’, on Sydney’s sth side, is arguably the Nth Shore (minus the machismo) of the foamie movement and thus a fitting location for the contest.
This year’s men’s event was taken out by Pama Davies, who is more regularly seen launching airs on his trusty Rustys, while the girl’s division was won by Lucy Ruffy.
Watch the clip, embrace the carefree frivolity and, if you haven’t already, you might just fall in love with foamie culture.