Shortboard suicide or just the beginning of an exciting new chapter?
For many surfers who grew up in the short-board obsessed 80s and 90s, purchasing a longboard had a negative stigma associated with it. Acquiring a mal was akin to joining the pensioner’s queue; an admission that you were over the hill and your best surfing days were done, and that you no longer had the energy, time or patience to ride a refined performance board in challenging waves.
However, the emergence of the Ride Everything movement in the early 2000’s, along with the release of a few eclectic films by Thomas Campbell, and the rise of surfers like Joel Tudor, Harrison Roach, Tyler Warren and Ryan Burch (amongst others) has helped regular surfers embrace the virtues of longboarding. The dynamic quartet referred to above showed you could rip on everything from a 4’2” chunk of foam to a ten-foot log, and everything else inbetween.
While gifted, high profile surfers play their part in making you feel comfortable about riding different craft your own common sense can’t be dismissed. In my case, it was acknowledging the fact that my local break often had zippering A-frames on one-foot days. Despite the perfectly shaped little waves, in such conditions, even the fattest fish wasn’t quite cutting it. The beach already had a bunch of longboard devotees plundering the ankle biters on their planks. Sure I’d fooled around on a longboard here and there, but actually purchasing one was a different matter entirely.
I realise many others are well ahead of me on the evolutionary curve here, but dropping $1290 on a longboard still felt like shaking the foundations of my surfing world. I elected for an 8’5” single fin from the racks of Stuart Paterson’s (PCC) Taren Point shaping bay.
Paterson is one of many shapers who have joined the renaissance in retro boards, making everything from mini-Simmons twins to mid-length shooters and various versions of the longboard – along with contemporary shortboards.
Now the longboard police will tell me that 8'5" is not quite a 'longboard' but it's certainly bigger than the on-trend mid-lengths. "It's kind of like a hybrid between a high-performance Mal and log," Stuart suggested. "Something I came up with." In design terms, it featured 50/50 rocker, down rails, a slight rolled V bottom and tail edge. Dubbed the "Glass Half Full" model Paterson assured me it was an ideal first, 'longer ' board for someone who'd always ridden shortboards.
View this post on Instagram
While board performance is key, Patto also prides himself on his resin tints and unique paint jobs. Every board has that work of art look to it and because of their size and elongated curves, the longboards are particularly striking. Mine featured a coral-hued resin tint, and metallic colour particles arranged in a light, roughly striped pattern on the base. Perhaps because the board was closer in size to a boat, it seemed like it warrented a name, so I immediately dubbed it 'The Coral Tiger'.
After a week of classic easterly waves inspired by Cyclone Uesi’s drift south, the swell finally subsided enough to christen the Coral Tiger. I woke one sunny morning to find clean, half a foot lines peeling over a well-formed bank. The first job was waxing 8’5” of fiberglass. I was more accustomed to a tail pad at the back and a quick brush of wax in the vicinity of my front foot. I covered it with wax as far as a foot from the nose before impatience got the better of me and I paddled out.
The first wave was memorable. As the line of swell hooked across the shallow bank, the board slipped straight into a high-speed trim. I felt compelled to do as little as possible and simply enjoy the sensation of effortless down the line speed. Mid-wave I shifted to a parallel stance and just stood there pretending I was Kevin Brennan more than half a century ago.
The next hour was a blast as I made awkward attempts at cross-stepping, kick-turning, and nose-riding; technically the latter was off-limits because of my negligent wax job, but I still found myself dashing to the front. In an hour I had well over a dozen good rides and reveled in the fact I could pick up almost anything that moved and generate trim speed. It was also satisfying to feel like you were actually getting some exercise rather than sitting around and waiting for the few waves that were rideable on smaller craft.
I admit I was probably guilty of far too much voguing and posturing as images of Midget Farrelly and Nat Young footage flashed through my mind. The body English may have been a little wide of the mark but nobody could say I wasn’t having fun. I left the water feeling like a whole new dimension to my surfing life had been opened up. No longer would I simply be looking forward to solid waves, the micro days now had a charm all of their own. Why had I waited so long?
Post Script: The next day the swell came up again and I was back on a 5’7”. The world didn’t end; I didn’t blow my first wave or surf badly because I’d been riding a longboard the day before. If anything it felt like my capacity to find the rail and trim through sections was more in tune. Surfing just got a whole lot better.