A fast ride down south.
The plan was to pick up the new custom order and then shoot down the coast for the afternoon with the shaper. I jumped in the car, brimming with new board anticipation and marvelling at the fact that more than thirty years after waxing up my first board, getting a new one still made me feel like that same excited kid. I knew there was four- five foot of south swell running and driving down the highway my head was somewhere else – visualising that first bottom turn when you feel out all the virginal idiosyncrasies of the new ride.
“Ahhhh, nooo!” The dashboard brought me screeching back to reality as the orange light flashed and the telltale dial drifted towards the dreaded big E¬ – no petrol.
I pulled over at the nearest gas station and hastily flung the nozzle into the petrol tank like some kind of sharpshooter reaching for a quick draw.
As I listened to the rhythmical chug of the petrol and willed it to hurry, the Ferrari slid in to the adjacent bay like some kind of giant, amphibious stingray. It was a jet-black, convertible model, designed with those seductive curves that try as you might, you can’t ignore. “Do you ever get a chance to really open it up?” I asked the owner as
he approached the bowser for the premium brand of petrol. “Yeah, about once a month I go out to the racetrack,” he indicated with pride. “There’s no point owning a car like this if you don’t get to use it properly,” he said matter of factly.
“How fast do you go?” “At about two hundred kilometres an hour it really starts to feel like it
might rip your head off – maybe because it’s a convertible model.” It was apparent that Ferrari guy wasn’t going to quiz me about the specifics of my Toyota or ask what the surf was doing, so I slotted the nozzle back in the bowser and said, “See ya later mate,” in the classic Aussie way that
puts everyone on equal footing. The shaper, Patto, was somewhere in the resin-dripped back-quarters of
the bay when I arrived, so I wandered around the showroom. There were three racks of boards – an enticing liquorice allsorts of colours and designs – but my eyes were immediately drawn to a speckled black and white spray job that created a marble affect. What a sweet looking ride I thought and desperately hoped it was mine.
Moments later Patto marched out with foam-dust sprinkled like dandruff through his mane of wild hair.
“So I guess you want to see your board?” he asked earnestly, sensing my eagerness to have the new shape gripped firmly under my arm.
“That one there’s yours,” he said encouragingly while pointing to the marbled 5’9” I’d set my heart on. I ripped it out of the rack and instantly began to caress the rails, stare
down the stringer line and feel the weight of it under my wing. Patto watched closely, trying to gauge my initial response for an indication of what I thought.
We were mates, but I was still a customer and pleasing the customer is the crux of any shaper’s business¬. He was well aware that first impressions can determine your whole attitude to a board.
“What do you reckon?” he asked, doing his best to disguise his anxiety.
“Let’s get down the coast!” I exclaimed enthusiastically, making my sentiments clear.
An hour later, three of us were standing on the headland watching six-foot swells crumble and cap beneath a stiff side-shore breeze. Patto’s apprentice had joined us, aware that a demonstration of his eagerness to surf after a long day at work was an important part of proving his worth.
It looked a fraction too big for the set up, but the tide was coming in and already the point was grabbing the rolling wash-throughs and re-sculpting them into slinking lines through the wind-shadowed inside section. It was a little rogue, but there were definitely moments and the best part was the crowd – one other guy out.
By the time we suited up and hit the water the wind was abating and the tide had moved in just enough to transform the wash-throughs into thick double ups that throttled across the inside with the lip arching at an angle that invited you to hit it with everything you had. Patto took the first wave on the twinny he’d made himself and from behind I watched him become a shimmer of down the line speed and spray. The apprentice stroked in soon after, throwing the ns out the back on consecutive turns, making Patto grin as he paddled out because it looks good for business if the guys working for you can are up in the surf on your boards.
I didn’t want to over-amp and taint the first ride, so I waited patiently until one lined up just right. The chosen wave jacked harder than I expected, forcing me to dig the toes in and momentarily freefall, but the round tail held in on landing and once safely off the bottom, I knew the board was loaded up and ready to let go. I set my sites on the falling lip and held on as the marbled deck took off down the line – RRRRRRRoooouuuu! No need to turn just go as fast as you can along the inside racetrack and try not to rip your head-off. Ha. Eventually the wave tapered making it easier to swing from top to bottom in rhythmical arcs and by the time I kicked off, I was hooting. The ride had been a blast and it felt like my new board had that perfect alchemy.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur of hurtling walls and hard turns, of high lines and late drops, of knowing smiles and contented souls. We scrambled up the rocks and got changed just before dark. Standing on the point in the dusk’s brilliant half-light we slugged a beer each and mind-surfed the zippering walls as they bent towards nightfall.
Dripping with memories of the waves ridden we rounded the headland on the long walk back. The stiff nor’easter kicked in and with the new board tucked firmly under my arm I laughed, and screamed ecstatically into the wind, ‘Who needs a Ferrari?’