Saturday, February 23, 2008

Learning the Curve

Last month I talked with Mac from a bit north, who seemed almost embarrassed about his board order. "I have an emotional attraction to a certain type of board," he said sheepishly. "I just wanted to see what you thought about that..."
Turns out Mac likes curves.
I surf quite a bit with a geometry teacher who is also fascinated with curves, and traces the earliest forms of geometry to around 3000 B.C.E. One of the first geometric equations was to divide the circle into 360 degrees of 60 minutes each, creating, in a sense, ‘time.’ This equation was used to plot the courses of the planetary objects and develop the first calendars. Curves predicted rains, droughts, harvest and planting seasons, etc. The geometers were seen as spiritual leaders, the curves themselves considered sacred objects.
What am I getting at here? I have no idea, but Mac wanted an egg. Curvy as hell. Round at the nose and tail, gently curving through the middle, soft curvy rails and an even rocker along the bottom.
I have a similar attraction, and I don't know why. For some reason, I take more pictures of completed eggs and longboards than I do shortboards. I isolate the nose curve--the deepest curve on a longboard or egg or hull--and take a picture. I run my hand over it. I look at it for a really long time.
My wife comes out to the shop and goes, "ooohhh," when there's a really curvy board in there.
Sometimes I try to talk people into a roundtail or rounded pin over a squash tail. Most surfers wouldn't notice the difference, so what's the point? It's the curve. The flat line of a square tail or squash tail doesn't stir the eye (and the heart) the way a curve does.

Why have artists forever focused their attentions on the curvy female form over the male? Check out what may be the earliest yet-to-be-found example of art, Morocco's Venus of Tan Tan, dated from 300,000 to 500,000 B.C.E. The thing is pretty curvy. In this case, as with a lot of early art, the figure is believed to be some sort of fertility symbol. In the hands of the artist the link between curve and fertility, and therefore life itself, is inextricable.
Why does the curve excite us so much? Is it spiritual? Is it because of some sort of connection with the planetary objects and time?
Why are curves described as 'sexy'? Why do we love looking at surfboards? Why do we need to touch them? What does this stir in our souls?

I'm not too sure, and clearly I've had a lot of coffee this morning, so I'll offer a few pictures of Mac's new egg, curves and all. Dig.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Washington's Birthday

Question: Does it get any better than a windless, swell-filled day with no work obligations and the Little Lass in daycare?
Answer: Yes.
Perhaps our First President would have smiled had he surveyed today's coastal bounties (though perhaps not, as he was known to be a bit 'morose' in his more advanced years). Signs of freedom stretched from the coastline, where a relatively high number of surf enthusiasts enjoyed somewhat clean conditions, to the roadways, where the Amgen Tour of California passed through town preceded by every vehicle in the county with a siren, to the fields bordering the roadways where grapevines were slowly, selflessly preparing the fruits that will make us enjoy our freedoms all the more.
I think Washington would also applaud the voices of criticism on this day who speak out against a legacy of old white guys who have ruled this country from its inception. My dad's an old white guy, and I love him to pieces, but Washington was a famous advocate of change (I believe he was Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary War, for starters).
Onto the surf!
Surf was mainly leftovers from a bigger swell this weekend, but it doesn't clean up too often up here, so these chest-to-head high zippers provided a welcome meal. This girl rips!
I chose to ride the winterfish today, and now I'm smitten. A pulled in, fully-rockered quad, it does what I ask it to do. Having not surfed for some time, I didn't ask much, but I have a lot of questions for it in the future.
By the way, if you think these guys above look like seals from your angle, imagine what they must look like from below.
Actually, don't do that.
It ain't SoCal. The kid in the foreground told me it's the first time he's gone shoeless since the summer. How'd it feel?
"Bad," he said.
And now I'm imagining Washington lighting a fire right there on the beach, sitting down and motioning to this young lad to come over and warm those little piggies right up.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Modern Brometheus

"I seek the everlasting ices of the North,
where you will feel the misery of cold and fronts."
-The Monster, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus

Local surf diehard Brent is my new hero. Born and raised in Sonoma County (heretofore referred to as SoCo), father, enviro-champion, and stoked beyond belief, whether it be freezing cold dawn patrol or freezing cold anytime else. Actually, I've never heard the guy complain about the cold, which leaves him almost peerless in this most unwelcome of surf destinations.
And he shows up with beers.
Many of those beers are represented in the design concept of this board.
The Frankenfish stands at 7'9" (the champagne of board lengths), is longboardy wide, fishy tailed and ???? nosed. It's a quad, and features a single wing at the rear of the front fins.
The wing creates a pivot point right at the spot where I dropped a Tecate on the nearly completed shape. My bad.
Of course, no Frankenfish would be complete without the beak nose--a feature I feel really ties the shape together.
This crisp Ice9 blank will get a stellar full board tint from Fatty in the weeks to come. Color? I'm not going to spoil the surprise, but let's just say it rhymes with 'yellow with a blue pinline.'
On a more gastrointestinal note, remember that soup my wife reminded me to buy last week when she was feeling ill? Well, I bought a ton of the stuff (can you ever have enough soup around?), and it really paid off this week as we both got really sick. The roasted corn and pepper is our current favorite--sweet and spicy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Long of It

Enough jibba-jabba, here's a longboard for Bodega Bay surf enthusiast Mike.
Mike is famously hard on his boards. Despite the hefty glass job on this 9'6" noseridin' special, I drew up a Bill of Longboard Rights upon order that looked something like this:
I, Mike, hereby pledge to take care of this surfboard most beautifully glassed by Fatty. I promise not to leave it on the top of my car, uncovered, when I spontaneously decide to drive to Tahoe for the weekend. I promise not to paddle out at Bobo with my dog perched on the deck. I also give my word that I will not attempt any ding repairs, as I have proven to suck at this, and instead I assure that I will bring my freshly damaged board straight to an industry professional."
The comp band is to prove that he's full of it when he claims a cheater five.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

As traffic to my blog continues to blow up (last week I got three hits in a SINGLE DAY, more than doubling my previous record), I've been getting the inevitable email requests for a head shot. One female corresponder (and you know who you are*) was quite graphic in her demands. My first instinct was to stave off the hordes--to keep the focus on my body of work rather than my body of flesh and lots of hair. To preserve the fourth wall, as it were, between surfblogger and surfblog audience.
But I am just a man, and every man has his breaking point (not sure about this with women, as I've witnessed natural childbirth).
The following is a candid shot of me in my shop, taking a break by resting on top of a fresh blank, as I'm wont to do when the weather turns. It's not the best shot--my mustache is usually fashioned into a more impressive 'handlebar' style, and my nose is actually a much bolder color of red--but it's one of my only non-boudoir images. And to anticipate a question: yes, I do have a T-Band stringer. It adds strength, but mostly it's for aesthetics.
On a side note, it's been pointed out to me on several occasions that my nose has a striking resemblance to the Channel Island keel fin template for Lokbox, a similarity I cannot deny. I have no idea if it this is coincidence or a breach of surf industry ethics, but Al has been spotted in Northern California in the past, and I'm a notoriously sound sleeper...
*You don't, since I just made you up. My wife's been grooving on her ceramics lately. From shape formation to glazing to actually using, the more she talks about it the more I'm convinced we are actually engaged in the same pursuit when I'm in my shop and she's at the studio. I'm reminded of this connection when strangers ask me about surfboards--many times they don't even surf, but they are curious about the shape and the process. Upon investigation, they almost always have something they are passionate about. Something that broadens and deepens their curiosity, makes them see form where others see formlessness, sense where there only appears to be material.
An eighty-two year old man, a friend of a friend over for dinner one night, asked me the most pointed, articulate questions about surfboard design I'd ever heard. He had been a professional photographer and currently spends his time making beautiful, intricate wooden jewelery boxes. He'd never seen a surfboard in person.
My third grade piano teacher told me that if you can master one instrument you have, in a sense, mastered all instruments. I think this holds true for anything we are passionate about--if we have learned to look at something closely, really closely, we can start looking at other things closely. Soon, we are looking at everything closely, and the world is a more vivid place.
Below is one of my wife's mochi desert bowls. To me, this rivals the best resin swirls out there. To a science geek, it might look like the formation of the universe. To my wife, it's just what happens when impurities in pigment meet heat.

I hope you're out there doing something you love.