Thursday, 7 April 2016

Beautiful Boards!

Surfboards make me happy.  Of course I love riding them and watching good surfing is something that I never tire of, and probably never will. But just looking at surfboards gives me so much stoke, this has been true to say for thirty years now, although in recent years I find that the boards I prefer are those that are based on the classic shapes of the 60's and 70's.  While I love longboards, traditional designs and styles at least, I especially admire the boards that derive from the shapes that emerged when it all went short.  The boards of this era just lend themselves so well towards style and grace, they have enough volume to be able to glide effortlessly, carving out long and drawn out turns, all connected with a fluidity that is so lacking in modern surfing.

These are the boards that I like, and this is the style of surfing that gives me the most stoke. For while I enjoy riding all types of surfboard, as described in the previous post, I like everything that there is to like, when it comes to the array of surfboards that come from Bing, Ryan Lovelace, Christenson and so many other board makers that demonstrate  a distinct nod towards days gone past, adopting the styles, colours and sheer class of a different era, not to mention the shaping mastery and out-and-out craftsmanship that is somewhat lacking when it come to modern and more mainstream boards.

When I walk in to a good surf shop these days, I am drawn straight to the section where such boards live, better still, when I find a board shop that sells nothing but these boards, the latter are a rare entity, but they do exist.  This is funny, because as a true grom of the eighties, I have in the past, had a tendency to go for the boards that are more main stream, as ridden by my favourite surfers of the time, a theme that continued for 20 years or more of my surfing life.

Maybe it's me getting older, or possibly it is because modern boards are rapidly becoming more a kin to sporting equipment, mass produced, highly designed with cutting edge performance in mind.  The modern boards of this nature are by no means cheap, for they have price tags that often require a second glance, but I can't help but feel that they are moving towards consumer items that are intended to be used for a while, then replaced with the latest model. This might be a slightly cynical view, and I am not wholly against the modern board thing, per-say (as my previous post demonstrates).  But truth be told, I much prefer the design aesthetic and style of boards that are based more upon the classic designs.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Magic Board.

A short time ago I took ownership of what I can only describe as being a magic board. And it cost me a mere hundred and fifty pounds too.

Realising that my Donald Takayama was getting a bit too much use as my daily board, I made the decision to find something new. These days I tend to shy away from cutting edge modern design, preferring fish and long boards. But I figured what the heck, let's find out how these modern craft go.  

Being on a bit of a tight budget I set myself the challenge of finding a decent used example. After trawling the various sources of second hand boards, it didn't take too long to realise that anything that was any good was getting snapped up immediately, or else it was dramatically over priced. I began to loose my enthusiasm and looked at some of the fleet of old boards that I have with different eyes. One of those was going to have to do.

Then, just as I was going to give up the chase I found a board that was pretty much what I was looking for. I contacted the seller, made my offer and arrangements were made to collect my 5'10" Simon Anderson 5 Spark. (The story of how the purchase went down is fantastic in itself, one day I will share those shenanigans, but you couldn't make it up!).
Anyway, the board is truly fantastic, I have used it quite a lot in recent months, in a diverse range of conditions and it goes so well in anything in the under head high category of waves.  

Immediately as I took off on my first wave I realised that it was special, for it does exactly what I want it to do, moves in every direction that could wish for, feels as though it is glued to my feet and it is sooooo much fun! It has made me realise just how great modern boards are, they are designed so well to work in the conditions that they were intended for. 

Now, I have to say that I pride myself in my ability to ride boards of different shapes and styles, but I can't help but wish that I had found something like this years ago. I might even have said to my wife that had I owned a board like this when I was eighteen, I would have turned pro. This was very much a tongue-in-cheek statement, but one that illustrates the point, very well!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Collecting Wood.

I first entered the world of skateboard collecting about a year and a half ago, when I purchased my first re issue board, a Powell Peralta Cab mini street.  I made this decision independently and while it felt a little extravagant this was a board that I have always coveted, but never owned.  At this time I had every intention of setting it up to use, as such it was fully justifiable.  My decision was made, I ordered the deck and that's where it all began.

While the Cab was set up, to this day it has never been used.  And I am fine with this, more than fine in fact, for since this first re issue related purchase I have obtained many more, while my collection is fairly slow when compared to other peoples, it is something that I extremely proud of nonetheless.  They are simply beautiful things to own and I get a great deal of enjoyment from just looking at them.  I have no desire to make any money from them, I am in no rush to own each and every board that I once owned, or want to own.  They are something that I treat myself to every once in a while, a fun purchase in a world of bills and mundane consumerism.  It isn't easy to describe the exact feeling of getting a new board, for it is partly the aesthetic element of the shape, the graphic and overall look and feel of it, a degree of nostalgia also entry in to it.  But there is something else too, a feeling of buying something incredibly special to me.

Since making my first board purchase, I have discovered that there are many, many people (mainly guys, of a similar age to me) doing just the same.  I follow quite a few groups on Facebook, and a couple of friends have the same enjoyment for old skateboards too.  It seems to me that there are many collectors who are obsessional about the whole thing, chasing holy grails, different colour ways, and entire series of boards. This is great and I would do the same if I hade both the space, not to mention the financial resources to do so.  But since I have neither of these things, not right now at least I am more than happy to admire other peoples collections, gaining inspiration to get a new one of my own every once in a while.

Aside the pleasure that I gain from buying boards I have also begun skateboarding again too, albeit in a very small way.  This was after all the whole point of buying that Cab in the first place, but rather than use an old style board, I made the decision to get something new (I think the main reason for doing so is that I simply wouldn’t want to use an old one, for fear of damaging it).  I don’t go all that often, and to be honest the prospect of injury scares me quite a lot, so I am not what you would call committed.  That said I love doing it, I found that once I had gained some confidence it all came back and in no time at all I was riding a small bowl and having a whole heap of fun doing it.  I tend to pick my times so that I get the places to myself, and in doing so it feels like surfing without having to wait for waves or hassle.  I can take as many runs as I want when it’s quiet, and not have to think about my lack of ability, I am doing it purely for the joy that I get from riding a skateboard on smooth, transitioned concrete.

Anyway, the point of me writing this was to share the fact that I am so super stoked to have gotten back in to something that I loved so many years ago (a quarter of a century, no less), but put on hold for a heap of reasons as presented by life. I along with countless other people around the world are having a second go at skateboarding and I am immensely happy to be a part of this movement.  One of the main reasons I stopped (aside having a healthy fear of pain) can be attributed to the perceived stigma that was attached to skateboarding, ie a gown man can’t possibly be seen on a skateboard.   I now know that the main part of this notion was imagined, rather than real. That said, it suddenly feels acceptable to skate, and to talk about doing so to those who don’t, or never will be a part of this world.  I have to say that I really enjoy doing so.

A whole new scene has emerged off the back of collecting boards and to be honest this fascinates me.  For in my view it really does seem as though this latest carnation of skateboarding is a natural progression of the culture whereby those who formed the scene the first time around, are now having another go at I,t and in doing so are shaping the culture again. Okay this emergence is happening in a fairly small way, but fundamentally we are taking ownership of the culture that we helped to grow all those years ago.  I love the fact that at the time I bought that Cab because it just felt right, so many others were doing the same thing.

I will continue to collect boards, and will ride too, for as long as it gives me the enjoyment that it has done thus far I will count myself as being very much a part of the culture that went so far to define me in my youth.

Photos will follow, when I get the time to take some decent ones!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Far From The Sodding Crowd.

While surfing the other day, in a line up that was so ridiculously crowded, that it resembled an uncontrolled zoo where the animals were just left to their own devices.  A scene that was a free for all, where the usual etiquette and rules that everyone should at least have a inkling of are being totally ignored or simply not being applied.  Anyway, it occurred to me (after I had been dropped in on multiple times) that there has to be a different way.  I want to surf without the crowds of kooks, the aggro, unfriendly people, and the down right clueless.  I want a different version of surfing to be my reality, no crowds, and attitude, but near solitude where smiles are plentiful, the vibe friendly, and space.  I think that latter is the thing that I crave the most, for lately it would seem that personal space is something that is no longer observed in the line up, any more than it is on the land.   For it is so busy, dodging flotsam and jetsam in the impact zone, being drooped in on, and jostling the whole time has become de rigueur lately.

No more.  I just want to enjoy the simple act of surfing, being in amongst the beauty of the nature and just having the time and space to take it all in.  The space to ride waves, try different boards, attempt new things and just surf, without any of the BS.

With this in mind I am determined to make my vision of surfing utopia a reality. I know it is possible, with a bit of planning and selective sessions I can get away from the hoards. And when I do, I will keep it a secret, for I do not want my peaceful little corner of the surfing world to be spoiled, again.

Photo credit: Mike Coots, via The Inertia.

Like finger nails on a blackboard.

While it is true to say that the commodification of surfing has been taking place for quite some time, it would appear that the suits within the corridors of power at many of the companies who have a vested interest in surfing have seriosuley upped their game.

Okay, let's start with the shark 'attack' during the comp at Jeffrey's Bay, okay, it wasn't orchestrated, but the whole incident was given far more coverage than was actually needed.  Surfing, and indeed Mick Fanning, received unprecedented amount of media coverage (someone correctly pointed out that Fanning will be remembered more for this, than for anything he has ever done in surfing), at all levels throughout the world. Suddenly surfing was in the spot light, not because of anything to do with surfing, but the fact that a shark was perceived to attack one of the competitors, but was fought off, thus thwarting the shark and saving his ass.  Now don't get me wrong, I don't wish for a second that Fanning was actually injured by the shark, but it really bugged me that surfing was suddenly, albeit briefly in everyones realm in such a sensationalist way.   I bet those sponsors were jumping for joy for the free brand exposure that they received.

While the above was an example of man versus beast, that just happened to be in a comp and being televised at the time, a freak incident, that could have been worse, but wasn't, so we can all move on.  The same cannot be said about the ridiculous stunt as set-up by Red Bull, DC et-al, that involved a guy (don't know his name, don't care to either) riding a motorcycle derived contraption at Teahupo'o.  That just wound me up so much when I read about it, I haven't watched the clip, for I do not see any point in doing so, but I know that it was set up purely as a means of focussing the attention of the masses towards surfing.  I hate that so much.  It is bad enough that these companies are destroying the very soul of surfing in the quest for increased profits, but this just takes the prize, hands down.

I would love to think that because Red Bull are resorting to such pointless novelty acts, they are beginning to tire of surfing, and acting in desperation before moving on to the next thing that they can plunder.  I hope so, but only time will tell.

And then there is Jamie O'Brien, or J.O.B, as he has been branded.  This guy seems to know no boundaries when it comes to self promotion and a quest for notoriety, for all the wrong reasons.  The guy can surf, and surf incredibly well, shut I fail to see what the appeal is with his stunts, that are constantly given exposure in the surf media.  The latest being time setting himself alight while surfing, again at Teahupo'o, I haven't seen it, but I can only imagine how the crowds went wild when they saw the little stunt.  Really?

I know that the genie is out of the bottle as far as surfing, or rather the revenue that it provides goes, but lately things have gone just that little bit too far.  I have always hated the involvement of crap drinks companies in the surfing world, but to witness them turning it in to a circus like this, just grates, like the proverbial finger nails.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Getting Heavy.

After a run of fun but slightly mediocre surfs, last weekend yielded something that I had been craving for quite some time.  Fast, racy, heavy shore break. Praa Sands style!

I love surfing here in these conditions, it was the beach where I grew up, as such I have put enough time in over the years so that I have got it more or less wired.  Because it was the place where I predominantly surfed during my formative years, it no doubt shaped my style and approach towards surfing.  I have surfed it a lot throughout my surfing life, taking a fair few knocks in the sand along the way, broken some lovely boards too, but I do love these waves. And I am truly in my element when the tide gets high and things get a bit heavy!

This past Saturday as soon as I saw what was happening, that shift from the outside banks to the ones just below the high tide line, I knew that I was in for a treat.  And I realised that because I am no stranger to these conditions, instinct kicked in and I was picking off the ones that I knew wouldn't close out.  The walled up beasts that offer the fast, albeit short race to the finish, providing plenty of scope for speed and big make-or-break moves, all in ankle to knee deep water, this is definitely not for the faint of heart.  As soon as you take off on one of these you are committed, pulling out would undoubtedly put you straight over the falls and on a trajectory with the sand, and straightening out would be equally disastrous.

It was fun. My only regret was that I was on my favourite and newish Donald Takayama.  For as I have mentioned, I have snapped a number of boards in these conditions over the years, I didn't want this one to meet the same fate, plus it really isn't the ideal board for such conditions.  So I held back a little, whereas I would have taken more risks had a been on a board that I wasn't so fond of, I surfed it with a degree of caution. Although many of the other guys didn't not, so at least I was able to witness to some big moves.

Note to self; take two boards next time it's on and go all out!

Still Rolling.

Lately I have found myself being drawn more and more towards skateboarding.  The magnetism began some time ago when I bought the first of my re-issue desks, a Powell Peralta Caballero street.   This was bought as a treat, based upon how it looked, as-well-as with a tinge of nostalgia, as this was one of the boards that I coveted when it was first issued, many years ago.  Being a child of the Bones Brigade era, Animal Chin was the film that really sparked my interest, so really it was the natural choice. Anyway, while I had every intention of getting out and using it, once I had set it up I just couldn't bring myself to do so.  My rationale has always been that I have older, well used boards, so why mess up a new one?  Whilst it was never bought with the intention of re selling it, I simply wanted to keep it pristine. A wall hanger, the first one of my collection.

So, fast forward eighteen months or so, and I find myself at a vert comp, with a whole heap of guys of a similar age to me.  And this is where things took a different turn.  For while I didn't feel the urge to take on the vert stuff (although, it was so good to watch), my stoke from just being there was enough to make me want to start skateboarding in a real way.

After some thought I decided that if I'm going to do it then I want to skate parks, rather than street, there are some really good ones around and if I time things right I can avoid the youth and the hoards of scooter riding kids(!).  Early mornings and later evenings were what I had in mind.  Based upon my reluctance to use my precious collectibles, I also decided to buy a new set up - although initially I was just going to treat myself to wheels, trucks and a few bits, a trip to the local skate shop was all it took to go fully new-school with my choice of desk also.  The friendly advice from the guy that runs it saw me walk away with an Anti Hero, Tony Mioriana.  This model is of a decent size, a really great shape, and an awesome graphic too!  I left that shop a very happy chap and ready to session those parks.

I get the feeling that the journey that I have taken to get back in to skateboarding, well in to my forties is by no-means a unique.  For while there are lots of guys that never stopped, or if they did it wasn't for very long, I know that many more have ventured back in to the culture by way of collecting, and then having the same what the hell moment that I did.  This is great, for the fact that there is now a much older scene bolsters my enthusiasm, not to mention confidence, plus it just feels good to be a part of something, sharing the experience.  For many years I held back thinking that I was too old, it would hurt if I slammed, in fact the list of reasons for not going was a long one.  But you know, it is all to easy to talk yourself out of doing something, based upon reasons that don't pass close scrutiny (apart from the hurting myself bit, that really I do take as a serious threat!).

In general, the view taken by society is that skateboarding is something for kids, nothing more.  The scathing and badly researched pieces of sloppy journalism that I have read recently can only reinforce peoples prejudice towards older guys skateboarding.  But the reality is that age is not a factor when it comes to such things, and it is awesome that so many people have realised this and are ignoring the sneers and sniggers from the general populous.  The result is a shoal new scene, guys, and girls too, are doing something that is a whole lot of fun, and offering a lot of encouragement to those, who would love to I did.

It would be easy to take the criticisms as offered by the main stream media to heart, but I am so glad that this has not dampened the energy and enthusiasm that is being generated in older skateboarding right now.  I find it really interesting that skateboarding culture is going through this latest stage, for in real terms it is still young, so there are no previous generations to follow.  I, like so many others were a part of the Bones Brigade to H-Street era, a critical few years that saw skateboarding change in a massive way.  Boards evolved, tricks got bigger and way more technical, and the culture altered at an incredibly fast pace.  Driven by the thriving industry and the fact that it was skateboarder owned at the time, innovation was given providence and the scene flourshed. But then as with many things, money took over and things took a turn for the worse, in my opinion anyway.   It was at this stage in the early 90's that I stepped away from it, not in a conscious way, I just got more in to surfing, which was always my main thing.  But I have always kept an eye on what is happening in skateboarding, it's great to watch good skateboarding in any of its forms, and while a part of me does regret not keeping it up, I can't change that.  But I am so stoked to have re discovered it, and that I am able to share the whole experience with a group of people who were also there the first time around.  I think the effect of this is that feeling is one of familiarity, but on the whole very fresh.

The groms of the eighties are re-emerging, a little bit grey, slightly slower maybe, but certainly full of stoke!

The journey started here, the first of many!