Monday, August 20, 2012

An Egg is an Egg is an Egg is an Egg

The Problem of Universals is an ageless philosophical dilemma. It asks, quite innocently, do universals exist?
This simple question is peppered with brain-busting convolutions, and all the mathematical and philosophical heavies have weighed in on the dilemma since Plato first proposed it two-and-a-half thousand years ago.
Basically, it points out that in order to have a universal, there must be an ideal, and the closer you examine the ideal, the further from the ideal you get.
Example: we all have an image of a triangle that pops into our heads when someone says triangle. What does it look like? For some it’s an isosceles (at least two sides equal), for some a scalene (no two sides equal), and others an equilateral (all sides equal). Three very different triangles, so an ideal triangle would have to be all three, which is impossible.
Dan's new 6'5 Egg
Most things in the world confuse me, and I try to make sense of them through surfboards. So let’s use surfboard design—specifically, the Egg shape—to explore The Problem of Universals.
First, we need an ideal egg surfboard. Without opening up the argument about who first designed the egg, let’s just say, for efficiency’s sake, the ideal is a 7’0” Skip Frye.
What, then, does the ideal look like besides being seven feet long? Round tail. Roundish bottom, single fin, flat rocker, 50/50 ‘egg’ rails all the way around. The ideal egg.
Let’s look closely. What if one of the rails were a fraction of a millimeter thicker than the other? Would it still be an ideal? Is symmetry part of the ideal egg surfboard? I assume that it is, but we all know the more closely we inspect a surfboard, the further from symmetrical it becomes. So can an ideal be flawed?
If so, what about other ‘flaws’? What if it were a 7’1” instead of a 7’0”, can we no longer consider it an egg? What about adding another fin? Or two? Three? Four? What if we shrunk it and increased the nose rocker? What if we lengthened it and flattened the tail rocker, narrowed the widepoint and moved it aft? Squared the tail? Put a pointy nose on? Made asymetrical?
If we open the door to variation, then all variations must be eggs, and, therefore, everything could be considered an egg. The term Egg, itself, would become meaningless.
Nose isn't quite as shovel-y in real life
How about another one: a fish, according so a certain sect of surfers and surfboard designers, must be in accordance with Steve Lis’ ideal—the 5’6 twin fin, deep swallow tail, flat, thick, wide, downrailed, beaknosed, glassed-on fins with no cant and no toe and foiled from marine plywood.
Cool, but a lot has happened in the forty years since the ‘ideal’ was born, including major adjustments in volume, width, outline, rocker, rails, foil, and number and placement of fins.
Every single design aspect has changed, and all refinements are currently being enjoyed by Lis’ current customers.
So if he created the ideal, then changed it, do we still have an ideal? If an ideal is fluid, how can we use it as a foundation?
When surfboards begin to confuse me I turn to poetry. Poets tend to stick their fingers deep into the swirling masses of gray area that upset mathematicians and philosophers and make me feel better about being a dimwit.
Thruster. Thumby-dummy tail.
In her 1913 poem Sacred Emily, Gertrude Stein wrote, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” A wonderfully elegant entry into the Problem of Universals discussion.
Stein repeats “rose” with the existence-confirming preposition, “is.” This suggests that a rose “is” many things. Many roses exist, and there is no single ideal. A rose is a red flower. A rose is a yellow flower. A white flower. A rose symbolizes life. A rose symbolizes death. It can symbolize both change and constancy, life and death, nature and man.
And then, finally, it becomes just a mindless syllable that means absolutely nothing but a reminder that words themselves are just rough tools—that by meaning one thing, and its opposite, they can mean nothing.
This is why surfboards are such fascinating objects—they are most certainly a thing. Plastic. Round, flat, and sharp. And they are most certainly not things—ideas, concepts, promises, hopes. Art.
A surfboard is a surfboard is a surfboard is a surfboard.
Or in the case of this post, an egg is an egg is an egg is an egg. This is Dan’s Salmon Egg, which is different than a Pleasure Point Egg, or Swami’s Egg, San Juanico Egg. Nauset Egg. Nobadeer Egg. Matunick, Ogunquit, Tofino, Maunganui, Vanuatu, Yallingup, Kewalos.
Foiled tail and cedar stringer.
Dan ordered this board and had a baby boy on the same day, so the dude clearly goes huge. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Crow

This is a clear 8'something Broadsword with five fin boxes and a cedar stringer and a big black resin crow on the deck for NorthCoast ripper, family man, fish-and-chips fan, and generally stoked outdoor dude Jean (as in Van Damme, not Billie King).
Why a big black resin crow?
No idea. I don't ask the questions. I just make the boards.

Now that I've written that, I realize that in shaping boards I do, indeed, ask a lot of questions. So I guess I don't ask a lot of personal questions. Sometimes I do, though, like weight and foot size and, "what's your favorite sexytime website?" and good ideas for ceviche recipes.
 Basically, I've lost control of this post and will end it here.