Cornish photographer Karl Mackie took this photo of his Australian friend Tim Crabtree when they had a Cornish summer staycation in 2011, when rather than going off on a trip they stayed put at home and shaped a stack of boards each.
A shipment of fresh joistiks upon arrival in Cornwall after the long journey from Australia, about to be divvied out to some excited surfers.
On most of the rare occasions that I end up in an ice cream parlour I get vanilla ice cream. My friends used to call me Mr Plain when I did this, but I disagreed. Vanilla's a flavour after all; plain ice cream would just be milk flavour. It wasn't that I only ever chose vanilla ice cream, it's just that vanilla was my go-to flavour. I'd tried other flavours but preferred vanilla, and every now and then if I felt like something different then I'd have that instead and mix it up a bit. I'd claim that exactly the same thing applies to surfboards.
If you only ever surfed the same surfboard then there's no doubt that in one way or another you'd be restricting your surfing. If your board was ideally suited to your local surf spot then the chances are that if you went to a different spot, either home or abroad, your surfboard wouldn't be the best horse for that course. And what about when the surf is ankle-slappingly small? Or terrifyingly huge? Then what? Your 6'2" x 18 1/2" x 2 1/4" squash tail probably wouldn't be doing you any favours; you'd be grovelling and flapping around in the small stuff and paddling yourself into a too-little too-late air drop straight to oblivion when it got big. Surfing the same surfboard all the time isn't as good as surfing the same surfboard most of the time and surfing other boards every now and then when the conditions call for it.
That's why I think it's worthwhile, over time, collecting a few different surfboards to give you a range of options. You might choose a fully functional but minimal travel quiver with a small wave weapon, a standard shortboard and a semi-gun for when it starts to intimidate (because if you go away for a surf trip with just one surfboard then in reality you're probably kidding yourself and you're going on a holiday but you might sneak a surf in, unless you're travelling really light), or you could set yourself up for every eventuality at home. You might want to try out all of the different feelings that you can get from riding waves by getting your hands on every weird and wonderful wave riding vehicle or fad that you can. It depends on a a variety of factors.
Former ASP world champion (1982 & 1984) Tom Carrol once claimed that he couldn't tell the difference between a squash tail, a square tail and a swallow tail when he was surfing and defied most surfers to be able to notice a difference. So unless you're a tour chasing professional who doesn't have to pay for their sticks and snaps them within the first week, there seems little point in getting a stack of for all intents and purposes identical boards with a 16th of an inch added here or shaved off there. Having a couple of different boards to cater for a variety of circumstances, from tiny summer beachbreak surf or a trip to peak season Indo, would surely be a bit wiser and allow you to surf to the very best of your ability with confidence in what's under your feet, whatever the Ocean throws at you. Horses for courses, even if you do choose vanilla most of the time.
At least, that's the excuse that I use for being so cash poor and surfboard rich.
When I joined my friends from Surfing Dubai for an exploratory trip down the Arabian Peninsula we piled every single surfboard under the sun into the back of Scott's enormous truck (Scott's not particularly pint sized, that Chevrolet is truly massive) - everything from hand planes through shortboards, an alaia, a 70's single fin and a stand-up paddle board - planning for every eventuality and not leaving a whole lot of space for camping gear.
My friend Harry from Surf Simply: 6’0 x 185 lbs, then from left to right:
- 6’1 x 18 3/4 x 2 1/4, 28.5 liters
Round pin, single concave, thruster
- 6’0 x 19 x 2 3/8, 27 liters
Round Diamond, single to double
5 boxes, quad fins set inboard
- 5’10 x 19 3/4 x 2 3/8, 29 liters
Double wing pin, single to double
5 boxes, quad fins on rail
Small wave ripper
- 5’10 x 21 1/4 x 2 5/8, lots of liters
Big swallow, Flat to Vee
Keel fin twin
When my friend Alex spent the winter of 2010 on the North Shore of Oahu he called in some Hawaii contacts and was put up by a friend of a friend who was a pillar of the North Shore surfing community. How's the ceiling of the guy's living room?
The contents of my stable, Autumn 2011. Cash poor, surfboard rich and totally ok with it.