So you decide that you need a new board. It happens quite a lot to people that live away from the sea. You can’t go surfing, you’re feeling twitchy, and so you convince yourself that you need a new board. I’ve been there; I’ve got a garage full of them.
It’s mostly bollocks of course. When I was young and lived by the sea I only ever had one surfboard at a time. I couldn’t afford more than one for starters, but it didn’t even occur to me that I needed any more. On the extremely rare occasion that we got a big swell, I either paddled out on my 6’3”, or was too scared and watched from the beach. Mostly I watched from the beach. The rest of the time the standard short board was just fine.
So you don’t NEED a huge quiver of boards. Surfing is about having fun and you can have fun riding an ancient old plank, a spongy beginner’s board, hell, even a bodyboard if you’re desperate. Feel free to lie to your wife, but don’t kid yourself. That said, we are weekend warriors and wage slaves – we are older, we’ve got bad backs, but we’ve also got disposable income and we can buy as many bloody boards as we want to! Who cares if we can’t really ride them – it’s the only perk! And anyway, they look great lined up in the garage; all shiny and smelling of wax – it’s my happy place!
Kidding aside, there are some practical advantages to owning a bunch of boards. You’re not the same surfer after your two week summer holiday as you are in the middle of a long UK winter. The board you choose for gutless Saunton on a frigid January morning when you’re dressed like a gimp, probably isn’t going to be the right stick at a perfect tropical point break when you are at the top of your game.
Between those extremes you’ve got the odd day when you catch Croyde doing its thing, or those days when Trev says its ‘just about rideable on the pushing tide’ and you really have to get in. And let’s not forget Puts in a howling southerly. We have to make the most of every surf, and happily that means more boards!
I’m not here to preach, but if you are just starting out on this road, here are a few observations from someone with a long standing fiberglass habit…
A balanced quiver
I have no idea what that means, but If I had Bill Gates’ platinum card and a garage the size of Ikea I would probably have a thousand boards – I just love them. Subconsciously, I probably think that there is a magic stick out there that will make me surf like Slater. I know it’s not true of course, but that doesn’t stop me. But say I had to do a cull and limit myself to four boards – this is what I would probably go for:
1. Every day short board: This isn’t Hawaii – UK surfers mostly surf knee to head high waves ranging from mushy to slightly powerful. This board covers all those options. Be honest with yourself and your shaper – you’re not going to be surfing Shipstern’s Bluff and you’re probably not going to be doing Rodeo flips – this is your bread and butter board, so get one that matches your ability.
2. Travel board – a bit longer, a bit sleeker, it’s the board you optimistically take on holiday with you, even though you end up riding the short board. You call it your travel board but you will mostly ride it on the odd day when your home break gets epic. You will own it for years and you will get the best waves of your life in it. Mine is called Brian.
3. Fun board: You will ride this one more the older you get– it’s a bit longer, a bit fatter, catches waves like a dream, but you can still throw it around when the urge takes you. Every time you ride it you will smile from ear to ear. You won’t admit it, but it’s your favourite board – it’s your antidote for getting old.
4. Longboard: Some days, if it’s just about flat but you just have to surf, it will have to be a log. Also useful if you run out of petrol on the way to Croyde and you’re forced to surf Saunton, or if your ironing board breaks before an important job interview and you have to iron a shirt.
It’s nice to have one in your quiver, and fun to ride on occasion, but if you are only going to own one board then its madness for it to be a fat old retro classic – it’s like rubbing sticks together every time you want to light a cigarette. All those crusty, dusty old shapers didn’t sacrifice their health and lung capacity so that you can ride the same boards your grand daddy did!
Surf Shop Assistants
So you are after a new board and you walk into a surf shop that has a bunch of them. The shaggy assistant may be a mellow and friendly chap, but remember this – he is in the business of selling boards to people like YOU! I guarantee that there will be one on the rack that is just PERFECT for you. It will probably be the black Kevlar one with the £650 price tag. And don’t be hurt when Shaggy ignores you in the lineup the next day – he‘s not your best mate anymore once the cash is in the till…
You’re not an 18 year old….
But that doesn’t mean you can’t ride their boards – the latest trend for shorter wider boards may have been started by young upstarts wanting to do Reverse Ollie-Shoves, but with all that width and extra foam they are a good option for us Warriors.
If you get boards custom made for you then I heartily recommend that you get the same spray job every time. You can get a new board every six months and your wife won’t notice! Semi-gun , Egg, Stubby fish – it doesn’t matter as long as it’s the same colour! My mate Matt’s wife thinks he’s been riding the same board since 1998.
Buying and Selling…
If you use EBay, here’s a little tip for you – sell surfboards during hot weather in summer. Trust me – its peak time for Surfer’s Twitch and the bids will soar. Conversely, buy your boards in February when there is snow on the ground.
One Board Quiver
This is a dangerous term that you hear a lot these days. Like the unicorn, it is a myth and doesn’t really exist – but just to be safe, make sure that your wife never hears it!