Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blame It on the Board (Again)

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?

27 comments:

Niegà said...

Please, please, please... Lewis Samuels, the author of that poorly written piece and also of the infamous WCT Power Rankings - according to which Kelly Slater is God and the rest are just puppets- has once again tried to stir up some cheap debate by writing smthing that belongs to a supermarket tabloid more than anywhere else. Thrusters are good and so are quads, bonzers, eggs, fishes, single fins... retro or not. And as for tube riding, if there's no tube to ride it doesn't matter what board you've got under your feet.

Niegà

Corduroy Jonz said...

nice dood. i must be completely out of the loop, i never seen this article. nice heads up.

as to getting shacked: it doesn't matter. you could get shacked on a lincoln log or ping-pong paddle. It probably does matter as the waves get exponentially bigger, but for your average head high barrel, it doesn't.

you prolly just need better waves. there's usually two scenarios for getting shacked:

1. You drop into a wave that has a nice barrel and you're too far in front, just lean on the tail a bit and you'll slip right in.

2. You can't seem to drop in to the wave. That's 'A' cuz your board is too short and you're missing the wave or 'B' subconsciously it's your balls holding you back, cuz they don't wanna get crushed if you don't make it out.

Im usually in 2B. But for the record, I've gotten mini-shacked on retro fish.

I don't think the alternatives are trends. they just look like it, from this point in history. 10 years ago, when *everyone* was riding thrusters? now that was a colossal trend. Thrusters were relatively new and everyone wanted that feeling (the porsche). Now people want different feelings. People want a breathe of different rides. I love my thruster but if I had to ride that only, I'd be bored as fuck (not to mention I'd surf 50% less due to small waves).

There is one facet of the article that speaks truth, that is: generally retros require more control and finesse than thrusters, especially with regards to foot placement. People tell me that learning on a thruster will make the transition to proper control of retros easier.

WRT the chuck norris brother in the article: if I was Donny, Chuck Norris woulda gotten a karate chop to the adam's apple.

Dan said...

I love my over foamed single fin and fish. According to the article now I need to go out an buy some tapered pants and fuzz my hair, maybe get a track bike too.

ras said...

i remember sometime around 1995 I was at the beach with my friend chuck. we just got out the water after a longboard sesh. we saw this guy getting ready to go for a surf -he was wearing short hang-tens, had a bowl cut and mustache, and a swallow tail twinnie under his arm (no leash). now this is before the 80's were cool again. the guy looked like a total extra from North Shore ten years after. "back off burkhart."

the moral of this lackluster tale? the fucking guy ripped. 360's, huge gashes and roundhouses, no leash, no problem.

getting tubed is a learned skill for sure and is less board than brains. hell, DH does 360's in the barrel at 8 foot j-bay with NO FINS! of course Mr. Hynd is one of the better surfers on the globe.

slim said...

When the waves are good, it's thruster time. Unfortunately, the waves are often not that good.

Gazelle said...

MR, Bertlemann, and Buttons got barrelled on little twinnies all the time.

Lee said...

I feel your tube pain never got more than a head dip or a lip in the ear. So now at least we can blame our boards eh, i always knew it wasnt my fault.

tres_arboles said...

Gotta read the article for sho'. Thanks for the link. For the record, last three seshies:

1) 9'4" "performance" longboard with a 2+1 set-up (chest high bowls),
2) 6'3" modern quad fish (chest high mushies),
3) 6'10" outta-shape guy thruster for easy livin' (head to slightly OH lines and peaks).

Pac NW summer surf: nary a barrel in sight. Why settle? Why worry?

David

Anonymous said...

I've gotten stand up barrels on my traditional single-fin longboard. The bulbous 50-50 rails suck into the face (instead of releasing like down rails) when you take a high line (more designed for nose riding than getting shacked) and can really lock you in--that + a forward trim position and low drag from a single fin = screaming, locked in barrels on a rare occasion. The thing you need to get barreled are (a) hollow waves, (b) guts, and (c) skill. The guts are required to acquire the skill. because you will take some poundings.

Doc said...

Since you've only been surfing 5 years I have to vibe you...

Sorry, Chum

Seriously tho...

I am no tube master...

But I can say there's only a few places that dish them out in Orygun...

And those moments seem somewhat infrequent...

There were a few barrelish waves this am...

But one would be pretty hard pressed to tuck into one beyond absolute "in the right place at the right time" luck...

All the advice is good...

Find a stood up wall...stick your arm in... or sink the tail...crouch down...and hope for the best...

All the while...

Keep your eyes open.

resintint said...

Chum, that first pic of you on the Mexican Bloopers post was looking damn close...a bit more of a tucked in/lowered crouch stance and BAM you're in the green room brother! That article was pretty funny though, but I'm with you, that Chuck Norris bit was annoying.
-fsacto

Anonymous said...

I'm no tube master either. Most of my barrels have been backdoored in small, hollow, A-frame beachbreak waves--just took off on the other side of the peak and pulled under the lip. The others were at a hollow break where it broke in the same spot every time and I could keep taking off deeper until I was in there--it helps if it isn't that crowded--otherwise you end up on the shoulder or too deep at spots like that. The number one thing that prevents people from getting barreled is avoiding getting barreled. It took me years because I kept straightening out or racing for the shoulder. Now I try to pull in whenever I can, including in a lot of unmakeable closeouts. The wipeouts aren't nearly as bad as you imagine (and in heavy waves can sometimes be less dangerous than straightening out). It's true too what someone here said, keep your eye open--that helps a lot with maneuvering into the barrel and making it out. Again, I'm no pipe master...just my 2 cents.

Foulweather... said...

I thought it was a confused, poorly written article but I do agree with some of its contentions.

For one, there are a lot of very expensive pretty looking boards out there and a lot of surfboard worship that could be interpreted as fashion over function.

But what is a "Hipster Surfer?" Alex Knost? While critics of 'hipster culture' are keen to point out no one admits to being a 'hipster,' they are also unable to define what one is.

Again, anyone who places a surfboards fashion over function is a fool but there seems to be a time and place for every design to thrive.

Ultimately, who gives a fuck? I'm going to ride boards that let me find a balance between catching waves with ease and surfing as radically (including pulling in) as my very limited abilities allow me.

I pulled in on a quad the other day. Didn't make it out, of course, but then I went home and ate fucking bagel. Surf 'culture' largely sucks. This is barely worth the effort.

Doc said...

Grumpy Foul One?

Lori said...

I can't really get why people are not happy with surfing and waste their time criticizing the preferences of other surfers it much more fun in the water

Chuck Norris said...

Hook Line Sinker WAAAAAAPAP! Now go surf.

patrick said...

Why is "fashion" being bandied about with the word "surfboard"? It is a craft, pure and simple, regardless of shape, fins, and color. It is what we ride. The appreciation for the surfboard you ride is yours alone. If someone else is digging on your board, rad. I'm a board whore without shame and I love other people's boards as much as I like mine. I don't understand all the hating and criticism involved in that article of trash.

tres_arboles said...

Read the article. Jocks versus nerds? Pshaw. The internet equivalent of talk radio: find an issue, drive a wedge, start a controversy. Blah, blah, blah.

David

PS--No need to look at Water Magazine anymore.

woolwoodandwhiskey said...

Seems like there's a lot of skullduggery like this going on these days, it's unfortunate. Having learned to surf in OR eating up the Cali-style thruster mania, I can attest to starting my years in the water sans barrels and style. It took picking up a 3" thick '74 singlefin for me to learn about flow.
Now, after a stint getting pained at OB in SF, seeing guys take the thruster to town, I do understand what the design is capable of. The thing is that I've just moved again to Maine, a place with perfect lines and not much juice. The single is perfect here, and it's sad to watch as people miss wave after wave and get jaded because they bought what kelly/andy/mick rides. Check out the newest surfer's journal to see exactly what I'm talking about.

Lori said...

Tried to find your contact info to suggest blogroll link swap but couldn't find it
If you can please contact me

soho71 said...

hey chum. my friend terry sowers wrote to lewis samuels. he even took the time to write back. let me know if you wanna read it. i'll email it to you. great blog too.

Chum said...

Hey there my addy is:

sissyfish -at- gmail dot com.

Soho, I'd love to see that letter!

Thanks for stopping by...

jdog77 said...

Yeah I read the article. I took most of it as satire.

Here is the link for those still looking for it

http://www.surfline.com/surfnews/article_bamp_400_v03.cfm?id=17437

Barrels are hard to come by and not as easy or common as we might think. I think we expect them more since we see so much of it in mags and vids. The consistent reef barrel spots get crowded and the beach breaks are inconsistent. If you really want to get barreled leave the board and go bodysurf a small hollow beach break. Used to do this a lot when I was a kid a I have gotten way more that way than on any board. One could also argue that a knee-board is the best "surf-board" for getting barreled. There is a youtube of Obama bodysurfing that surfline has up on there front page fight now!

Agreed that just because something does not have three-fins does not make it retro. Funny thing is that shapers like Mandala, Zamora, Hess, Pavel are not making "retro boards". They are not copying old designs exactly. These guys are applying new concepts and contours, rails, materials, fin designs. I have a 5'6" 70's vintage fish twin keel I bought for $20 bucks and it is really much different in terms of rails and concave than a modern fish. Sure its fun to ride something different but does not work as well as other new twin keels I have rode from Zippy or others.

Ironic thing is- Al Merrick CI makes more "retro" boards than most. See Red Beauty, MSF, CI Fish, Black Beauty. He is pretty much just reproducing his old templates on these. My best surf buddy has a bit of a Curren obsession and picked up a Red Beauty that ended up not working very well. I said "Well Curren's not riding that these days ...."

Variety is the spice ...
Have fun mix it up ...

bill p said...

see neal purchase jr in "glass love", see shaun tomson in "free ride", see gerry lopez in anything in the 70's. all of the above are tube masters on boards other than thrusters.
and here's a tip from a long time tube dodger: find a pitching beachbreak. drop in backside, late, alot. eventually, you will get tubed by mistake!

Totor said...

The ironic and deliberately extremist tone of the article sounds obvious to me, and english is not my native language...
You're right, Chum, this is just a satire...
How could it be taken seriously by english speaking people?
Just check the comments under the photo of the author on page 3!!!

Toddy said...

I have been riding hand-me-down boards for about 15 years. I have been really, truly, irrefutably shacked only a handful of times.
But every time was on a totally different board and oddly, never on a shorty thruster.
But jeez, whatever.

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