Words: Dave Swan
Rather than a controversial topic per say, or my regular rant as this column has so often become depending on my mood, the topic of conversation this time around is more of a personal observation. I believe surfers today, in the main, are averse to new things. By ‘things’ I mean new approaches to surfboard design, technology, fins and basically anything out of the mainstream. Essentially, if it’s not endorsed by a pro surfer, it isn’t any good.
What makes this stance quite intriguing is that the whole evolution of surfing, and indeed surfboard design, including the shortboard revolution and so on, were brought about by a free-thinking, exploratory, free-spirited approach to almost everything related to surfing. Alternatives were imagined, considered and trialled regarding surfboard design, whether it be length, plan shape, deck profile, bottom profile, concave, rocker, materials employed, fins, fin systems, deck pads, leashes and more.
Some might argue that this is proof it has all been trialled before and we’ve stuck with what’s proven. However, have surfing styles not progressed since back when these various creations were developed? Maybe they’re more relevant to today’s varied surfing styles?
With regards to pro-surfer endorsements, these certainly validate the effectiveness of a said product. The question remains however, how much can that product benefit an everyday surfer? Will it make a bee’s d*ck of difference to Joe or Josy Average? I don’t know about you, but I don’t surf like a pro surfer and am not going to anytime soon. One could argue, “If you best want to emulate how a pro surfer surfs, you would be well placed to buy the boards and equipment they do.” Personally, I think that perspective is bollocks. I don’t have their ability, nor their stature, so maybe I am better served by looking into equipment that will help compensate for my shortcomings, things that will serve to enhance my strengths. Plus, maybe I am not trying to just go fast and pull off a massive air or cutback. Maybe I just want to drift and slide the ass of my board out as I attempt a bottom turn or slowly draw out a massive arc on the wave face.
Getting back to this risk averse observation of mine, think to yourself how many times you have heard your mates when they’ve seen something new go, “Oh, that won’t work. Oh, that’s for kooks. That’s just weird.” This is despite the fact that they may have never tried the product. What ever happened to our good old Australian saying, “You’ll never know unless you give it a go.” It should now be replaced with, “Yeah nah, I don’t try anything new for fear of being labelled uncool or a kook.”
Some people might not believe this statement to be true, but allow me to give you a little insight into the last 14 years of Smorgasboarder. Through this time, we have come to know of, hear about and subsequently trial so many new/ reinvigorated/reimagined surfboard designs, products and technologies. I couldn’t count how many times we were stopped in the street and questioned as to whether they worked. Although I should rephrase that, by “questioned” I should say the way in which the question was asked, along with the facial expression, inferred part scorn, part belittlement and part bemusement, as if to say, “Surely that doesn’t work”. My reply would always be, “I don’t know, but there is only one way to find out and it will be fun all the same.”
So, what are some of these creations? Adorned on this spread is but a few. Each heightened a certain aspect of surfing I love but not necessarily all at once — from speed to glide drifting, manoeuvrability, mellow cruising and noseriding. Surfing to me is a bit like music. I like everything from thrash metal through to classical, jazz, rap, reggae, rock, country and everything else in between. It just depends on my mood.
So, what led me to pen this article? It was a recent conversation I had with Jack Field of Surfoilz who has been trialling his boards with the FoilDrive system, which basically speeds up the whole learn-to-foil process. This bit of tech enables you to get up on foil (the hardest part) and then, it is all up to you.
Jack mentioned how reticent surfers were to try new things, like foiling and new technologies like the FoilDrive. I was trying to convince him that was not the case. However, the more I thought about it, the more I questioned my conviction. I then reconsidered my stance somewhat in light of the little community we have got going thanks to Smorgasboarder.
In some small way, I would like to think we have influenced a shift in narrative and encouraged more people to try new things and simply go out there and have fun. Screw the naysayers. Just consider the revolution that is going on with Keith “Robbo” Robinson’s Gut Slider of late reintroducing those whose knees have given up long ago to the joys of surfing once more.
Anyhow, I argued that may be the case with surfers in the main, but Smorgasboarders are a different breed. We follow the beat of a different drum. Through the years of us trialling the weird and wonderful, we have hopefully opened our reader’s minds to the endless possibilities for fun out on the water. Surfing everything and anything is a Smorgasboarder’s mantra – it’s our creed. Continue to open your minds to the endless possibilities good people.