Pete with the oldest board in the collection of the british surfing museum. It's a belly board from the 20's on loan from a family in Jersey and has their family crest painted on the nose. Interestingly belly boards are an almost uniquely british wavecraft, apparently Brits believed our waves were not suited to standing up to begin with!
There are plenty around and in use even today, for more ply related eccentricity check Mr Isaac's Prone to belly blog here
Every time i think i'm getting better at taking photo's i come across another super talented photographer who puts my meagre efforts to shame.
Todays subject of my admiration is Mark Choiniere who has a really rad collection of pictures on his site here, including some great stuff of Mike Vallely. Vallely used to be another of my favorite skaters. Though i know he somewhat divides opinion these days, i must have watched and tried to emulate his part in "public domain" so many times i almost wore the tape out. That and his parts in the speedfreaks video, set to dinosaur jr and his part in the world video, rubbish heap were really influential. Check out youtube if you want to see them. Vallely is still ripping today, (check out mikevallely.com) and whatever you think of him, it's a dead cert that he cares about skateboarding as much as anyone.
This photo shows Turkey Stopnik and Mitch Abshere on their way to Church with a particularly fine Captain fin company d fin. One of the many photos on Marks site that makes me want to go surfing!
Finally a few little lines to slide yesterday. Nineplus 4/3 is plenty warm still, especially with the sun in your face. After logging a few i broke out the mini sim on a whim. Once again big smiles in waist high waves, i'm seriously addicted to the smooth lateral bar of soap feel!
Just took delivery of a couple of full suits from Nineplus to try out. Out of the bag they look lovely, soft supple yamamoto neoprene, mostly single lined with stretchy double lined in the crotch area. Understated subtle logos complete the high quality look. Inside there's neat seams and furry warm looking lining on the torso.
Probably a bit cold for the 3/2 already but hopefully the 4/3 is as warm as they say. I'll report back!
I'm not sure how cool it is right now to admit to reading comics, especially at my advanced age! But.... lately i've been re-reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, a seminal moment in the history of graphic novels from the 90's and widely acclaimed as fiction that helped legitimise the artform outside the boundaries of the comics world. Nominally chronicaling Morpheus, master of the realm of dreams and his siblings, Gaiman's world is dark and nightmarish, the stories inventive, witty and multi layered. In fact they would make compelling reading whatever the medium of their telling.
While they represent the time at which the world at large first became aware of Gaiman, his catalogue reaches before and after them and includes several acclaimed childrens books and adult novels. American God's being a particularly fine example as is Stardust which recently became a well regarded film too.
So a totally non-surf related post but his stuff is well worth a look if you haven't come across it already.
Many of you will have heard, but for those that didn't..... Surf action won the ITV vote and were presented with a cheque for £50k to carry on the good work. Well done to everyone that supported to them, Russ and Rich are beyond stoked and excited about continuing their good work.
If you do one good deed this year let it be a vote for these guys !..
Surfaction is a charity working with injured and traumatised servicemen, helping them deal with the trauma they have faced through the healing power of the ocean. They are competing for lottery funding in ITV's people's millions tonight and your vote will help them continue to help others! Please check out their site and support them, tell your friends etc
Electra deluxe 3i, sunshine, devon lanes, a few curious sheep, what more could you need? The nice people at electra just featured one of my photos as their pic of the week on their blog. Very nice to be asked. See the post here.
If you're wondering, she did give the teddies back in the end!
I just came across this little clip of Mikey DeTemple riding a 5'1 mini simmons shape. I think it really shows off how the design works in junk surf, the kind of conditions we often encounter at our beachies. You can really see the effortless lateral speed generation that i raved about in my review. Early Sunday's surf was a good case in point, shoulder high, slow, beachbreak that looked a lot better from the carpark. The paddle out revealed a lot of water moving around and waves with a peaky take off but not much wall on offer. I split the session trading boards with BGA and the aforementioned mislaid mandala quad fish, which is usually a lovely surf. While the mini sim's extra foam kept it gliding over flat spots between sections, the fish struggled to get moving leading to several waves of frustrating bogged cutbacks. I'm sure a more skilled operator than i would have noticed less difference but for me the velosim maximised the fun yet again. Changing with numb fingers after the biting windswept walk up the beach was rather less fun. Least the water is still warm for now!
For one week only, your chance to get you hands on the last UK boards from If6was9. These boards are brand new and the last ones made before the label goes back to it's australian home permanently. Shaped by Neil Randall, main shaper for classic malibu in noosa for a couple of years and a true surfboard craftsman, they are stunning looking boards and speaking from personal experience, his shapes work really well!
Starting today there will be a mini auction on their blog, finishing on saturday. Check here for pictures of the three boards and more details.
I must admit to being almost childishly excited to see my words in print in a paper magazine for the first time. Corduroy Lines issue 12 is the august publication responsible for my excitement. The magazine is still available from their website
I've held off publishing the full text on here for over a month as a courtesy to them but for those unlucky enough or too far overseas to have a copy here it is now. Ironically, since i wrote the piece we have had a single event "world longboard tour" in Makaha take place. Once again sponsored by Oxbow, shockingly they couldn't manage to provide a live video feed like the other major asp events. Once again a clear illustration that longboarding is the poor relation. It's almost a chicken and egg situation. Lack of decent coverage leads to lack of exposure for the surfers and their sponsors, which makes the surfers less valuable to the brands and the brands less likely to invest in longboarding.
That said, i did make the effort to follow the scores and watch the heats on demand and from a personal point of view came away saddened by what i saw. It's probably well known i'm not a big fan of progressive longboarding and to my eyes many of the waves looked like pedestrian shortboarding. Noseriding, which is surely the thing that defines longboarding as being different from other areas of our sport, was almost an afterthought on many of the waves. Yes i know it's hard in bigger waves but from my viewpoint maybe that questions the relevance of running a longboard contest in such conditions. Several "world class" competitors seemed to struggle to hang five with toes properly over the nose, let alone ten. Worse was the shock realisation that you can make the semi finals of the world title event shuffling to the nose and back rather than cross stepping. It's a world away from the surfing i fell in love with.
Style it seems, at least in contests, is dead!
Right, step away from the soapbox!
HAS LONGBOARDING LOST IT"S IDENTITY?
Are we longboarders?
Are we surfers?
Does it matter?
Up until the late 60's, all surfers were longboarders. Before Greenough, Mctavish and friends, the average board length sat around ten feet, so surfing was longboarding and vice versa. In the years following the shortboard revoloution, longboards all but disappeared, ridden only by eccentrics and old men. The big name shapers of the era moved on to fresh pastures and board design underwent an intense period of change and experimentation, almost on a weekly basis.
It wasn't until the late eighties when shapers like Bill Stewart started to apply the concepts of high performance shortboards to longboard blanks that riding a longboard became cool again. For a short few years there was something of a "longboard" revolution. Many old shapers picked up the planer again and many youngsters pulled dads old board out of the shed. Nat Young, with backing from Oxbow, established a bona fide multi stop tour to crown an ASP sanctioned world champion. Along with the buzz came money for sponsorship and contests. The future looked bright..
As we sit here, fifteen or so years later, it almost looks as though things have gone backwards. Few longboard professionals actually manage to survive on surfing alone, prize money often barely covers the cost of travel to the contests and the ASP struggles year on year to find a backer to run even a single world title event. In contrast, the shortboard tour is awash with money, with the elite on salaries with many zeroes, some with the clout to cross into the mainstream and transcend their surfing origins to be seen as true athletes on a par with those who top more conventional sports. Despite this longboard sales regularly account for over 50% of board sales worldwide.
Shortboarding, for it's part, is easy to understand, easy to draw comparisons between surfers, in some ways easier to package. Longboarding is more multifaceted with a wider range of approaches and this lack of cohesion in it's identity may be one of the reasons for the differences. Even the participants themselves find it hard to agree. In competition terms there has always been an uneasy compromise in the judging (which is subjective anyway) between traditional and progressive approaches. In Nat Young's tour, the points were supposedly split 50-50 in rewarding the contrasting styles but as time has gone on there has been a shift.
Whatever the rulebook says, most top sufers agree that progressive surfing is presently rewarded more highly, with boards becoming ever lighter and noserides with the back foot in the middle of the board commonplace. At the cutting edge it's about trying to take to the air, something i personally think you have no business attempting on a board bigger than 6'2!
This group, who would most robustly classify themselves as longboarders in the true sense, have their "spiritual" home in the waves of Hawaii, Australia and Brazil and conforming to this model gives the only hope of progressing in the contest scene.
At the other end of the spectrum lies a different group. One that has it's roots in the point breaks of places like Malibu and Noosa and Joel Tudor's rejection of three fins and pink wetsuits in the mid nineties. For them, style is everything, aggression is replaced by smooth flow, noseriding is paramount and longboarding (or logging if you prefer) is an "under head high trip". Perhaps ironically it is the limitations of of this approach and it's heavier equipment in larger, faster waves that has pushed it's proponents to become more well rounded surfers with more open minds, pushing the riding of things like eggs and fish into the mainstream. Most would label themselves just "surfers" as a result, riding the right tool for the conditions at hand, maximising the fun in any given session and liberated from the restrictions of practicing to fit a contest format.
While the path for these "lifestyle" pro's is not necessarily easier, their scene is linked with pop culture with a degree of crossover into art, music and fashion allowing a multi factorial approach to their career as well as their quiver. Surfing is less an athletic endeavor, more a lifestyle to aspire to. While naysayers would dismiss them as "artfers" their influence on both longboarding and surf culture as a whole cannot be ignored.
Sitting in the middle is a group, probably the majority, for whom the distinctions are somewhat academic, irrelevant musings in magazines such as this one. They are the dads, the weekend warriors, those who would love to be fit enough/ young enough/ talented enough or time rich enough to ride a high performance shortboard. People who's surfing references are still Kelly, Bruce an Mick, who think little about the surfing they actually partake in and more about the "dream tour" that the mainstream surf media cover. For them, riding a longboard is less of a considered stylistic choice and more a way to maximise wavecount and enjoyment.
Sadly their existence is a big reason for the state of professional longboarding. Their lack of interest in longboard specific media or surf media in general and their willingness to be influenced by the shortboard world means there is no need for quiksilver and co. to target their demographic with their advertising money. The big brands figure they will buy the stuff anyway and concentrate on influencing their children in the more fickle teenage market. As a result, the big brands see no need to waste their money on sponsoring longboarders or longboard competition and longboarding stays the poor relation.
The situation has been like this for the last few years and, especially in the current climate, is unlikely to change. Whether that actually matters to you as much as it does to those attempting to make surfing their career is unclear. Despite being partially ignored by the mainstream surf industry, our niche of surfing is alive and kicking, relevant to multitudes worldwide. longboarding may have not quite decided what it wants to be when it grows up, perhaps it may never decide but holding on to the joy we felt in pure play as children is part of what draws us in. When you reach the bottom line, it's all surfing and we are all surfers.
A few of you might know that Robbie Kegel of Gato Heroi made a flying visit to our shores a couple of weeks ago. Hosted by the Squire himself, it was a week of merriment, mayhem and manufacture in equal measure by all accounts. Luckily John locked Robbie in the factory long enough to shape these boards and burn through 60kg of resin! They are all spoken for already as far as i know and to quote John are the bladiest things you ever saw! Personally i've found RK's approach to longboard design really interesting when spied from afar and i jumped at the chance to get hold of a board from this trip.
Mines third from the left, just waiting on fins to make it across the pond then she's good to go. Full ride report to follow soon-ish!
Yet again clock watching at work waiting for yet another flake with a poor sense of following through on commitments made, i came across this little gem from shaun freeman and the crew from Rake clothing and surfboards. As if i wasn't dreaming of righthand pointbreaks enough already
I'm super stoked as i write this. Not only did i score a really glassy session at lunchtime with a handful of others but my latest piece for drift is now live. A conversation with the very talented photographer Mark Leary about his latest book, Salt and Wax, available now (nearly!)
check the piece out and get a taste of the book here
Behind the scenes, work on getting the surfing museum off and running by next summer is in full swing. At the moment the collection is housed in a store at a secret location. Last week i spent a couple of hours lugging boards around helping out on a photo shoot. It's the first time i've been to the store and seen the whole collection, the place is a true Aladdin's cave of surfing memorabilia. There are some beautiful vintage and not so vintage boards and loads of posters, newspaper clippings, belly boards, old boardshorts and wetsuits.
The pic above (not mine i might add) shows an old Tiki board catalogue and an old photo from Putsborough in May 1965. It's a weirdly timeless image, a longboarder in forward trim in shorts and a neoprene jacket, it could just have believably been taken this week & posted on a blog from So Cal!
Hopefully everyone got some waves this weekend. There was plenty of swell around up here on friday and saturday but plenty of wind and plenty of people. Still there was some fun and some beatings to be had if you were in the right (or the wrong) place at the right time. I saw one friend who suffered a scary post leash breaking swim in at croyde and another local that has an arm in plaster after an incident at Saunton on friday evening!
Sunday brought some really fun logging waves despite the kooks and it was fun to get back on a board over 6 foot for a few. Pretty much flat today unfortunately but at least it's sunny.
The green gulfstream below still needs a good home.....
Big public thanks to "buttons" for picking up the aforementioned lost mandala and getting in touch with it's very very grateful owner to return it. A pleasantly suprising and happy outcome to what i had very much assumed was a sorry tale!
The pic, by the way, is of our newly restored 73 bay making her maiden voyage to Putsborough. Apparently it's too nice for me to put sandy wetsuits and boards in so the trusty rusty T4 is staying as a mobile board store for now!
My friend accidentally left his lovely 5'11 mandala quad fish at the roadside near a semi secret spot south of westward ho on saturday and drove off. It was gone when he returned. Any help recovering it would make him feel a lot happier! It's seafoam green opaque tint, clear fins, white logo, andy davis free sticker on the bottom. There are probably only a handful of these in the country so it should stick out if you see it. Leave a comment if you see it please.
She'll hate that i posted this but i think it's a cool portrait.
Happy 6th Birthday to my beautiful daughter today too. You fill our lives with so much happiness!
Corduroy lines has it's first ever paper issue out now. It's been a labour of love for Simon and each issue has gone from strength to strength. It's a real treat to be able to hold a copy rather than read it online. Check here and order yourself a copy!
Anyone with even half an idea of current trends in surfing outside the all encompassing thruster movement will doubtless be aware of the emergence of the mini simmons as a new branch on the board design tree. Coming out of the work of Simmons in the late 50's and his adherence to the principles of even earlier boat hull theory, the concepts were rediscovered by Richard Kenvin as part of his Hydrodynamica project. Working with Joe Baugess from much longer simmons originals and apocryphal stories of simmons riding a styrofoam 6 footer til the windansea shorebreak destroyed it they first made a 9 foot replica in balsa that Kenvin and co. successfully rode in large waves in California and the Galapagos. Then they went shorter..
The result was an epoxy 6 footer quite unlike anything else out there, a seemingly simple shape with decpetive subtleties. This first board was named "casper" after the friendly ghost and started to pop up in photos and videos around the net a couple of years ago. Having been ridden by a number of high profile surfers, all well documented with glowing ride reports the idea caught on and quickly many different shapers began to take the idea and put their own spin on it.
I think it's pretty safe to say that few people in the UK have actually seen one of Baugess original shapes though there are a few UK shapers who are making a version. For the past 6 weeks or so i've been riding the little 5'8 in the pictures and it's very quickly become my favorite board. This one is a Point Concept Velo sim, designed by Ryan Lovelace in Santa Barbara but loving shaped over here by Tim Mason off Ryan's templates.
Tim actually does a very fine copy of the Baugess which is shorter and thicker than this with a more pronounced s deck and has a slightly more complicated bottom shape. My board is bellied to flat to concave through the fins, 5'8 x 22 x 3 but foiled out through the rails. The fins are wood keels but more semi-circular in shape than those for a classic fish.
So after digesting all the hype i was keen to get a feel for the shape people are raving about, and let me tell you it's a hell of a lot of fun!! It's definatley a board that draws lateral lines rather than truly vertical ones on the wave. The feel is probably best described as being like riding a bar of soap. It rolls from rail to rail smoothly and cuts through the water much like the feel of a hull. It's a board you need to get low on as you bottom turn and it feels great in a high line trim. Where it differs from the hull is in turning.The fins are set well back, only a few centimetres from the tail and the board will pivot off the bottom or the top much like a normal twin keel fish. Once you outrun a section it cuts back like a skatey loose fish so you can set up for the next speed run, then repeat til your grinning like a loon and hooting yourself!
It's much friendlier on your backhand than a hull too. Like a hull, the roll in the bottom gives it a slightly "unsafe" feel as you put it into a bottom turn. It requires a bit of practice to get the right amount of weight on the rail as you start the turn, you almost need to gently but progressively weight the rail but once you have that figured it performs backside too.
Like any board, it loves a clean down the line wave, i've had it out in headhigh and under surf so far and the speed it generates is awesome. Where it really excels, however, is in junk surf. I can honestly say that a couple of weeks ago i had the best surf ever in 1-2ft sloppy windswell. The combination of effortless speed generation and quick direction change facilitated by the bottom contour and short length respectively give you the ability to chase the open face through, over and around whitewater and maximise the fun in poor conditions. It could be the ultimate junk wave design, as long as you're not a died in the wool shortboarder desperate to live out your slater fantasy for every surf.
While Tim obviously isn't the only shaper who will make you one of these, i honestly think few shapers in the UK understand boards derived from hull principles as well as he does and for something like this you want someone with that knowledge. Ryan, whose original design this is, has a proven track record in these types of shapes with a group of like minded test pilots and Rincon to work out the flaws. Once again not it's not going to be everyones cup of tea but it is a MUCH more functional daily driver than a hull while still retaining the smooth feel and different enough from a Lis style fish to warrant having both in your quiver.
These shapes are a different branch of the tree than conventional concave bottom shortboards and if you believe Kenvin, are the true ancestors of the modern high perfomance board as well as both skateboarding and snowboarding. Big claims but the proof as they say, is in the eating!
The south side of the point at La Torche is littered with hundreds and hundreds of these little piles of stones, like some kind of ancient offerings to the gods of the sea. Makes for a slightly surreal landscape, especially in the dawn half light.
Full of stoke from an uncrowded twilight session in zippy small p-land. Back in love with my Dano and it's ridiculous section beating capabilities from the tip and cruising the net for further logging stimulation i turned this up.
It's a sweet little promo video of tudor's noseriding thing at the US open. Made for pacifico by Dana Morris, a talented young filmmaker and the guy who made "way of life", my most played surf dvd for a long time.
Enjoy wasting a few minutes of someone else's time....
The last couple of months i've been testing this Nineplus stylist wetsuit and so far i'm very impressed. The latest generation of suits seem a real step up in quality from the last nineplus suit i had a couple of years ago. Mostly single lined 3mm Yamamoto neoprene, it's soft, fits like a glove and is supple and flexible too. Seams are glued blindstitched and spot taped on stress points. The "shorts" area in particular feels very flexible, you aren't aware of the seams in this area at all.
Closure is with a back zip and a generously sized "batwing" collar underneath to keep it watertight. It's a warm suit and i'm looking forward to getting my full leg version soon which i'm sure will be even warmer!
The big problem with the Nineplus suits i've owned in the past has been durability but so far it doesn't look like an issue thats going to affect this suit. All in all, stylish, warm, flexible and good value for money.
Being the assiduous student of surf culture that i am, and secretly enjoying shopping more than most blokes, we visited plenty of shops on our trip. Probably the raddest was "the captains helm" in Oceanside. Owned by Mitch Abshere of captain fin fame, it's best described as newquays revolver on a US scale with motorbikes instead of tattoos!
A little further north in Laguna is Thalia Street Surf shop, somewhere i was keen to visit having ordered boxes of t shirts on a couple of occasions in the past. It's a cool little shop with a friendly owner, Nick and stocked to the gills with todays cool brands of clothes & boards. In pride of place on the counter was Dan Crocketts "the kook" surf newspaper. Really cool to see something thats pretty english in it's inception and style being loved by the so cal locals
9'4 Anderson Breakwater model with C street in the background. I rented this board from mollusc in venice for the first three days of the trip. It's a classic paralell template noserider 19 x 23 x 16 x 3 ish with a nice foil, plenty of foam but not too big and blocky, pretty flat with nose concave and a decent kick in the tail. Really pretty similar to my favorite gulfstream and a board i really enjoyed surfing.
Interestingly (to me at least) was that it came with a 9.75 inch greenough 4a fin. Not the template i would instinctively put in at home on a noserider, but one that worked really well, held on the tail but loosened the board up nicely especially in the slightly faster point style waves.
Really i shouldn't have been so suprised, after all, greenough is a genius and the 4a is pretty much the template he encouraged Nat Young to use in the famous magic sam, the board he used to take the 66 world title and usher in the whole involvement school of surfing that led to the shortboard revolution etc.
Scored some super fun waves in Brittany last week, while everyone was scoring at home. Couple of days on the log before it was time to break out a shorter board. This was Tuesday morning, we were the only ones out at first light for about 40 minutes.
Massive thanks and apologies to the random french photgrapher, who took the pics, sadly i have no idea of his contact details to post as these were taken from a forum, but cheers Benoit!
Just post dawn patrol glass and pre pancake breakfast at San O. Sadly the perfect little waves at old mans are burnt out of the background. We were so lucky to spend a day with the Threadgills there. They used up a precious day of annual leave to show us a classic san o beach day of surf, cookout and stomp rocket fun. I've already thanked them on here once but, thanks again guys, you showed us an awesome time.
San O was definately somewhere the average level of surfing was pretty high. Plenty of my surfs in California left me feeling pretty good. I left San O feeling distinctly average having witnessed some really great logging by pint size rippers, Josh Baxter put on one of the best displays of prog longboarding i've seen in real life and an unamed hero hang ten like i dream, of on a soft top!
Course they all have some super good consistent waves to get good on. One interesting thing about San O is that SUP's are banished to their own peak, way south by the (slightly pornographically shaped) power station. A pretty good thing in the opinion of everyone i talked to.