Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's in a Name: Defending 'Big' in the Modern Age

Last summer the family relocated to some cliffs in Baja for a few weeks. One absolutely windless evening, as the sun began to whisper sweet nothings to the the horizon, my wife handed me the baby, shotgunned a Tecate, and paddled out. I was smitten.
So were the rest of the surfers, dug into their camps and well into their post-surf rituals. Their hoots echoed off the cliff walls as she paddled toward the empty peak in the silvery light, spun, and glided into the first wave that presented itself. She found a high trim line and stuck to it, swooping and gliding all the way to the channel. Hooting ensued. A fellow camper came over to chat.
"Your wife rips."
"What's she riding?"
"Big Fish*."
"How big?"
My new friend scratched at his twelve-day beard. "That's not a fish," he said, squinting into the setting sun.
I could have sworn it was. I shaped it for her, and the order card read, "Big Fish."
"That's a twin-keel funboard," he said. I had never heard of anything so horrifying, and certainly didn't want to claim it when he asked who the shaper was, so I told him it was a Rusty.
He nodded and lit a cigarette. "Typical," he said, then walked back to his camp site.

*The above board is the 'fish' in question.
As teachers on spring break burned out on paper-grading and poorly-formed sandbars, my wife and I have the spent last four days sampling some of Northern California's excellent pointbreaks.
Waves have been scored.
The other day, while watching locals dismantle their gorgeous wave from a safe distance, my wife pointed out that they were all on big boards.
Not guns, mind you, but big boards. Longboards. And this spot is nothing to trifle with, even on an 'average' day. I had trifled with it earlier that day on a 5'11" disc, and I had become intimate with the reef in a way that could have gotten me investigated had the reef been an page and me a member of congress.
The next day we returned, but this time I was equipped with this big-ass 7 foot egg in all of her thick, low-rockered, wide-nosed-and-tailed, flexie-finned wonder:
I've blogged about this board before here. I know it's weird looking.
Long story short, I was enthused. Score another point for big boards.
And score again for das Frankenfish, the 7'9 mutant conceived by Brent, Lagunitas IPA, and standard case of DS squared (Daddy Sleep Deprivation Syndrome).
As per tradition, said surfer waived the glasser-suggested 'curing time' and got to work putting this big quad fish through its paces. But first he put his kid to work polishing her up. Them's resin pinlines, son!
Is it a fish? Who cares? What's in a name? Tell my wife, or passengers on the Frankenfish, or the locals we saw yesterday what defines them or their board, and they could tell you it's not important. They could tell you what is important is the swoop and the glide. The high trim line, the rail-burying bottom turn, the fall down the face, legs burning, heart flying.
But they probably wouldn't. They would most likely just paddle quietly back to the peak and grab another.
Or, if you were my wife, you might pause for a Tecate first.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wine Country Colors

It takes a while to get to the Fattyshack. Sometimes, as Bob Dylan tells us, the distance is not near. Wind, rain, and even snow have proven formidable obstacles, but, like the mail, boards must be delivered.
Mostly, though, the drive is a much-needed retreat. Highway 101 carves a graceful line through Sonoma County's hills, vineyards, and redwoods, and each season presents something that never fails to inspire me to pull over and snap a few shots.
Last fall a personal board had made it into the minivan bound for Fatty's. Usually, I ask for clear glassjobs for quick curing and faster immersion into our chilly waters. But something about the fall--the green and red foliage, the crisp blue sky--conspired against this, and the words 'Fall Foliage' made their way onto the order card.
As per usual, Leslie's interpretation of the order was spot-on. Burnt red deck and bottom rails, a light green bottom, and a bold pinline in blue.

I've been surfing this little disc (6'0x20.5 with five fin boxes for quad, 2+1, single, 1+2 options) for a few weeks now, digging its ride. The other day, when walking past a patch of iceplant, I was struck by the same color palate from the fall--the reds and greens set off by a powder blue sky. Nature repeating itself.
So, if nature repeats itself, doesn't it then anticipate itself? 'Pre-peat' itself? Spring colors influencing the fall, which are then reflected in the spring, only to be reabsorbed into the fall.
Either way, the board rides great as a 2+1 with a flexie center fin. It also rides well as a quad. haven't tried any other setups, but check out Fatty's patented 'hourglass' laps on the bottom--Kelsey thinks it looks like a bowling pin. It incorporates fin patches into the lamination, which (in my mind) preserves the directional flex in the tail.
Or looks like a bowling pin.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I call this little blue number the Sheriff's Special, after the Colt snub-nose revolver of the same name.
McQueen rocked one in the sixties as 'Bullitt,' a scowling detective with a general disdain for criminal activity of any stripe, and timeless sexy badass James Garner was seldom seen without his in the modern era.
A snubbie was taped to the bathroom wall in 'The Godfather,' then untaped by a sneaky, diminutive Al Pacino for a dastardly, unlawful act.
The point of the snubby is that it gets the job done as well as its longer-barreled brethren, but takes up half the space.
And it looks weird.
I don't like guns, but I do like surfboards.
The Sheriff's Special is a spiritual sister of the snub-nose revolver, but instead of sinister deeds, the board's purpose is to maximize fun and nose-riding possibilities.
This particular stick is still in process at the Fattyshack, and is designed for smaller, lighter surfers (under 150 lbs) who want to spend some time on the front third of the board. Its sawed-off nose and diamond tail extend the rail line, but tighten the turning radius. Glide and snap.
The bottom is rolled throughout for maximum smoothness and extended time in the pocket. This one still needs to get sanded, pinlined, glossed, and polished, but I just couldn't wait to, um, pull the trigger.
Sorry about that.

The smoking gun effect comes standard with the Sheriff's Special.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Le Flying Cigare

On October 28th, 1954, the French grape-growing hamlet of Chateauneuf-du-Pape passed a law forbidding any type of cigare volant, or flying cigar, from landing in any vineyard. Article one of the decree states: the take-off, landing, and overhead flight of the aircraft known as flying saucers, or flying cigars, whatever their nationality, are prohibited in the territory of the commune.
Up here in Northern California, the legislative vibe is a bit different from le commune, so no such law exists. This is fortunate for local surf enthusiast T, who is clearly stoked to introduce his new Cigare Volant to our chilly waters.
Full board, Martian-green opaque resin work with a cigar band complete the aesthetics of the cigare theme. The bladed-out rails, single wing in the tail, and flexie fin provide the space-age engine.
The obligatory rocker/foil check.
If you see T squirting around on his Flying Cigar along the California coast, feel free to push him of and take it for a spin. He likes to share!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

That Guy in the Parking Lot

My mom's a serial shopper. She even loves to return things, as it's basically an extension of the shopping process. When she hands over a gift, she usually begins, "You know, it's really not perfect for you, and it's probably not your color. If you'd like, I could return it..."
There's something about her hopeful expression that, no matter how awesome the gift, makes you nod and hand it back over.
There's a guy like this at my local spot. Let's call him Steve (to protect Dave's real identity). Every time I see Steve in the parking lot or in the water, he orders a board. Usually, he'll paddle back over after a half hour or so and cancel. Sometimes he'll find me in the parking lot after the session and cancel. A few times he's called and canceled. He always apologizes.
Steve likes colors, and always spends a few minutes throwing out suggestions from the "you ever do a..." school.
"You ever do a reverse lime-green tint with an avocado opaque bottom and red horizontal pigment stripes on the deck?" he asked me around Thanksgiving.
Steve looked proud of his idea promptly ordered it. He found me in the parking lot later and canceled, looking embarrassed. "My wife..."
"You ever do an egg that looks like an actual egg?" he asked last month. "You know, in fried-egg colors?"
"That's what I want," he said, then paddled for a wave, stoked. He called later that day: "Um, about that board..."
Steve found me the other day in the parking lot. "Hey," he said. "You ever do a board that looks like my dog?"
"It would be brown with white spots," he began, pointing down at Diesel, his blotchy-furred terrier, a stick permanently dangling from the corner of his mouth. "I want it to be a pintail tri-fin, just like him." Diesel has three legs.
Steve shook my hand before pulling his hood over his head and trotting off over the dunes toward the breaking waves. Diesel bobbed behind, stick wedged firmly in mouth.

I love Steve.
He fantasizes about boards as much as I do, maps them out in his head, dreams about riding them. Instead of simply imagining himself on the boards he peeps online or in the water, he takes it to the next level. He orders one.
It is my mother's art: shop-then-return, and I don't blame Steve one bit.
The waves weren't speaking to me that day, so I headed home and shaped Steve's board. I knew he'd be calling later to cancel, but that didn't stop me.
And instead of imagining the completed board at its logical next residence--propped in the racks of Ft. Bragg's The Surf Shop (a fine establishment)--I envisioned it darting across one of our local beachbreak waves, Steve marking a high trim line, swooping down to beat a section, then rocketing back up onto the face. I imagined Steve padding back up to the parking lot, triumphant, crisp new 8'4" pintail tucked under his arm. Reaching his truck, he would bend down to take the stick from the mouth of his buzzing, leaping, dancing three-legged wirehaired terrier, and throw it into deep into the dunes. Mad with purpose, the tiny animal would blaze after it, a brown-and-white spotted blur against the sand. Later, they would climb in the truck together and head for home, one dreaming about ordering a board the color of iceplant blooms in the spring, the other a smooth, weighty stick and an endless supply of human arms to launch it into the dunes beyond.

Anyway, The above two photos are of Steve's 8'4" pintail, and it's up for grabs if you're interested. The blank is by Surfblanks, the shape is a solid all-rounder, has a 2+1 fin setup, and is sitting on a rack at Fatty's right now awaiting her life-giving talents.
On a side note, it has been pointed out to me on several occasions that I resemble White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. While I'm sure Ms. Perino would be flattered by this odious comparison, I must point out that first, I'm a dude, and second, my frosty 'do is a classic flapper bob, whereas Ms. Perino's is clearly a trussed-up pageboy.
Nuff said.