Most people will be familiar with the concept of having a "magic board". It's a much used phrase in connection with the ASP world tour and most surfers will feel like they have owned one at some point over the course of their surfing life.
The board in the picture above is one of mine. I pulled it out of the shed the other day and paddled out on it for the first time in ages. Sure enough, once i'd dodged the crowd enough to slide into a head high reeler, my feet found the sweet spot and i started a session full of smooth carves and cutbacks that only a true twin keel will give. Although the design has moved from being "new" (again) into being almost a standard "summer shape" they really are versatile boards and will handle most things the UK can throw at you.
This one is a 5'8 classic keel shaped by Larry Mabile that i brought back from the US four or five years ago (back in the glory days of $2 to the pound!). It's got a more 70's influenced template and bottom contour than the heavily concave bottomed ones that the likes of gulfstream and christenson make. Larry is not that well known world wide but incredibly well respected around san diego and is one of the best fish shapers you could go to having learnt his craft under Skip Frye at the G&S label many moons ago. He also makes a lovely version of skip's eagle gliders but i think even virgin would baulk at flying one of those back!
I can honestly say i've never had a bad surf on this board, ever! In fact from where i'm typing it is the first "magic board" i've owned. The Bar of soap could be the second, but i digress....... It got me thinking about how much of the magic is in the shape and how much is in the eyes of the beholder? I mean how much of my love for it is in the fact that it suits me, my surfing and the waves i surf beautifully, how much is in the foam? Would it be magic for anyone, everyone?
Proponents of moulded or computer shaped boards will rave about how the technology allows mass production of a perfect prototype with all the flaws ground out by testing but it isn't entirely true since either process only replicates to a certain level of accuracy and the hand finishing, whether by surfer or chinese labor is still influential. In fact, i've heard quite a few people voice the opinion that it's the imperfections in a hand shape/ finished shape that will make a board magic and another of seemingly identical shape a dog.
For the record my fish was a custom order of a "model" Larmo has made for years, i have no idea if a computer was involved!!