Words: Dave Swan
Ahh yes the phrase American President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt made famous. In full it was, “Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far,” and it inferred that diplomacy and non-aggression are best, but be ready to back it up with force if needed.
Well, when the swell climbs above 10ft, you need something with a fair bit of bloody force — a big stick just like these magnificent big wave guns, and these quietly spoken gentlemen are the guys to talk to about that.
Now most of you would be aware, Mark Riley is a good friend of mine. My friendship is nearly as strong as my love for his boards. Jokes aside, Mark’s boards are exquisite, particularly his big wave guns. Sleek, beautiful and precision-engineered, they are like Formula One racing cars.
If Mark’s guns are like a McLaren, the board I recently received from Stephen Halpin to test is like the big wave equivalent of a Dodge Ram. It is a big solid brute built to tackle some serious swell. My only concern is that as I get older, I get more chicken, but I shall wait in readiness until some cyclone wells arrive later this year.
Following is a bit of a rundown on these two beautiful boards.
This 9ft classic balsa beauty was created and hand-built by Mark Riley for the American market. It’s the first Riley board to be built for the US market since Mark started building balsa boards in 1996.
The surfboard features seven Australian redwood stringers with matching cedar balsa combination blocks to finish off the nose and tail with incredible workmanship. It has a recycled polystyrene core with the total weight coming in at just 5kgs.
The board has been signed and numbered No. 1 by Mark for surfers or collectors in the USA.
It has a matching wood-coloured fin box and a hand-foiled balsa and cedar laminated fin that shines and sparkles just as brilliantly as the board itself.
Mark worked on this board for countless hours, blending balsa from South America and Papua New Guinea with Australian red cedar stringers.
Shaped to classic Hawaiian templates, at 9’0” x 19” x 3” it’s a proven big-wave plan shape and rocker and is sure to go like the clappers. This gun is a one-off and a labour of love for Mark and is most definitely in the collector’s category. The pride in his creation is clearly evident.
“In our 25 years of building Riley Balsawood Surfboards this is the first of its kind for the USA. It was built with passion and solely by hand. Laid up with custom redwood/balsa nose and tail blocks, it has 7 stringers using gorgeous deep red Aussie cedar. Yes, gorgeous! It’s fitted with a hand-made cedar/balsa fin with the sunrise and wave design.
“There is no denying the sensation of gliding through the water with a wooden surfboard like this is truly unique and cannot be replicated by any other material. The natural beauty and organic connection to the environment make handmade boards crafted from sustainable materials a top choice for surfers looking for a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Mark has even crafted some handmade timber wall racks to match along with a signed framed photograph of Mark and the board. Someone in the US is sure to receive one hell of a Christmas present this year.