Tuesday, September 04, 2007
At long last, I had the chance to meet the legendary Festus Porkmeyer last Sunday in a little beach town nestled on the CA/OR border. He's a writer, beard-grower, and wheelbarrow specialist recently transplanted from San Diego to McKinleyville. I pledged to buy a Parmenter-shaped "Occster" surfboard from him nearly a year ago, and finally made good on the purchase.
But more on the Occster later.
Porky packed (along with his lovely wife and child) a nice stack of wave riding objects for my road-weary crew to test out in those southern waters: namely a Pavel Speed Dialer, a Pavel log, a surf mat, and a Liddle Hull. The waves were only waist high at best, and I soon found myself trying out the Hull.
I had read an article on the Hull a couple years before and remembered being intrigued by the shape. Porky swapped the the board with me in the water and just said: "Your first wave will be interesting," or something to that effect. Knowing that Hulls are supposed to be surfed closer to the middle of the board, I figured that I'd have very little problem getting used to this one. I've always ridden off my front foot, with my back foot in front of my fins on traditional shortboards.
So when a little left came my way and I paddled in and hopped to my feet, I was pretty surprised at the relative instability of the craft. I leaned to turn down the line and the board just kept rolling downward until I fell flat on my face. Splat. My second wave, backside, was even worse.
But, at Porky's insistance, I stuck with it. When another, larger left came my way I paddled in and jumped up a little quicker than my previous attempts, gently angling down the line and correcting slightly when the board seemed to lose stability. As soon as I realized that I'd made the turn and was slotted in trim, I did very little else but crouch low and "feel" the wave.
From my limited experience that day, the Hull actually felt more "in tune" with the waves than other boards I've ridden. It felt like the curved bottom and tapered rails conformed to the wave's concaved face when riding in trim in the same way that rocker fits into the curve of the wave when descending from top to bottom. As a rider, I felt more sensitive to the nuances of the little peelers that I slid along the faces of. Just by gently tweaking my ankles, I could climb to the top or drop to the flats. It almost felt like I was pumping by simply moving from rail to rail. It was all very subtle.
Riding several long lefts in a row, I found myself wishing that the waves were bigger and more consistent so that I could really feel how the wafer-thin fin flexes on turns. I wanted more.
Some of you who know me will say that I'm like Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials when it comes to surfboards: I'll try anything, and usually like it. But the Hull had me genuinely intrigued because it simplified my goals on the waves I was riding. I was completely focused on the act of plugging the 7'0 stick into trim and then just tripping on the feeling.
When I got back to the blogosphere after the long weekend, I noticed that the Cabinessence blog featured a long excerpt from the Liddle website where Greg Liddle addressed surfers who were interested in Hulls after the publicity from the TSJ article. I was surprised at how many of the observations I had made in one session with the board were exactly what he intended by building them:
"...These boards are not for the onlooker. It is not meant to be a visual experience, it is for the "feel" of these boards. Not that visual observation of the ride cannot be enjoyed. To me it is quite beautiful the way they "fit" to the wave and become part of it."
For me, riding the Hull was one of the most vivid surf experiences I've had. By that, I mean that I can remember little nuances of every wave I caught on the board. I felt attuned to almost every ripple on the surface. But, then again, I never did get a chance to try out the surf mat...
Marianne Faithfull - As Tears Go By (Hullabaloo London 1965)