So I finally had the chance to read the article “The 40-year-old Barrel Virgin” on Surfline last week and was interested in the story on many levels:
1. Because at age 35 I haven’t gotten a legit, witnessed, in-n-out tube and...
2. Because I mostly ride what might be considered “retro” surfboards by the author.
3. Because three people have mentioned the article to me in the last week.
It’s no secret that I’ve only been surfing for 5 years and I’ve been chronicling my quest to get shacked on this blog, in the process getting comments from readers that I should try a tri-fin thruster to help me go slow enough to allow the lip to throw over my head. Someone even recently brought up the article in one of my blog posts a few weeks ago.
The story basically claims that “retro” boards are anything that diverges from the 3-fin potato chip-style surfboard professional surfers favor, stating that the design features of quads, keels, Bonzers and single fins are not only ill-suited to good waves (the kind that barrel), but are essentially just a passing fad.
Granted, it seems pretty obvious that this piece was written to ruffle feathers and instigate a war of words between “alternative” surf craft enthusiasts and “traditional” thruster advocates. Controversy equals traffic. Initially published in Water Magazine, Surfline's re-publication was definitely successful in that regard: They had to shut off comments on the story at over 200 responses, some of which were pretty inflammatory and others downright hilarious. The argument degenerated to jocks vs. hipsters, rockers vs. mods, Jets vs. Sharks.
Despite the fact that this kind of polarization of the surf community based on what people ride, or even wear, is one of the things I hate most about surf culture, I have a take on the sentiments expressed in the article and would be interested in hearing yours.
First, the classification of boards with resin tints and fin configurations that aren’t a thruster setup as simply “retro” is a complete generalization that is mostly wrong. In my understanding, recent iterations of alternative surfboards, whether quad-fin or twinny, bonzers or eggs, are shapes that have evolved over the last 20 years to incorporate new design philosophies into the mix. Certainly, templates, contours and fin configurations engineered for speed and early entry into waves will require that surfers figure out a way to get back to the curl, whether it be to “brake” or stall by applying backfoot pressure, dragging a hand, or simply delaying or extending a longer bottom turn to position yourself under the throwing lip.
But once under the lip, speed becomes your friend again and it helps to be able to quickly outrace the foamball. This is where you see guys on traditional thrusters having to pump like hell to get out of the tube.
My understanding of these techniques comes from watching experienced waveriders on video (and not just in Sprout) and also from a lesson taught to me by a guy a met in Nicaragua who was getting numerous barrels on his Pavel-shaped Speed Dialer. His advice for getting tubes boiled down to two methods:
1. Drop in late and get up into the wave's sweet-spot immediately.
2. Drop into a wave that you see is going to throw ahead, bottom turn back up the face, then jacknife the board back at a downward angle in a quick pivot motion under the lip as it is throwing. It almost looked like he was "hooking" himself in the wall under the curtain.
Seemed to work for him.
The article makes it sound like a tri-fin has the perfect amount of drag via a center fin to place you into the greenroom without much additional skill or technique. Just drop into a hollow wave, bend your knees, and enjoy that sick liquid tunnel until you miraculously shoot out in an explosion of spit, shaking shakas over your head.
Perhaps the funniest thing about the article is that the author claims that he's been surfing with his retro-loving friend for "decades" and that the guy has never been shacked. Seems strange that the equipment is to blame, since the whole "retro revolution" in surfing only started about 5 years ago. What was his friend, with 20 years surfing under his belt, riding before?
But then again, upon reading the story a second time, with it's artificial dialogue (e.g. the annoying Chuck Norris quips) and exaggerations (organic pine tar glassing?) it became obvious that this is a work of fiction anyway and meant to be taken as such. A satire, if you will, on the emergence of hipster surfers... He almost got me fired up.
Now where's my thruster?