Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Magic Board by Jools

The Magic Board 

Embarking on a quest to identify the essence of a magic surfboard is not an effortless assignment. The ingredients of a personal wave sled must primarily, and obviously meet personal needs. In essence this pursuit can take many years, it can become an addiction with the likely possibility of never really finding the solution and a guaranteed certainty of always craving another. In my mind the magic board has a function and purpose, one to be taken out when it’s necessary, when a certain wave, feeling or emotion transpires, or it presents its calling becomes evidently clear. In any quiver there can be many magic boards but right now i've found one.

My magic board is a 9’8” Triple Stringer Rounded Pintail. The design of this board needed to be simple with clean lines and no breaks in the flow. The pintail is a beautiful representation of this.  Tip to tail there is a single beautiful rail line that flows to the tail and returns gracefully to the nose again. When you look at the outline of a pintail it seems to scream smooth surfing and, although I’m partial to the pivoting characteristics of a square tail, nothing compares to the smoothness of a successful drop knee turn on a pintail.  Pleasing to the eye, pintails are not for everyone, but everyone should try one.

The Triple Stringer design is a classic, a 60’s icon, strength and aesthetics combined with a craftsman’s touch. Phil Edwards rode his with finesse, Lance Carson seemed to hang on the nose for an age at waist high Malibu, whilst Ron Stoner produced images of the surfer and the boards in a such a way that they have become part of surfing heritage. One of Stoner’s most iconic images was his first cover shot for Surfer Magazine of Bill Andrews sliding across a Blacks wall, shot from the cliffs above. The caption in his book read that ‘it was to Stoner’s great advantage that he worked in a time before surfers and their boards were covered in stickers and logos’. But the image has remained with me, the lack of stickers is a bonus, but it’s also the beauty of the Triple Stringer, the faint redwood stringers seem to fit perfectly with the pose of the surfer, the lines of the wave, and all seem to blend and fit.

Today, young modern shapers like Californian shaper John Wesley are recreating this timeless classic. People must love triple stringers. Wesley’s neo-model the Cali ’66 is a sight to behold, The Harbour Trestle Special (now discontinued) but being resold as the TS Shape, Bing’s Pipeliner Model, Mike Hynsons Red Fin Model (a personal favourite) were designed for a particular wave as the names often suggest but visually they are timeless classics.

Aesthetics and heritage aside, a key feature of my magic board had to be an element of sustainability in both materials and production, and a level of sustainability that I was happy with by combining an eco-blank and a British shaper.

When first having conversations about this board I approached a person that knows how to make a difference, founder of Surfers Against Sewage Chris Hines . Now Director of his own project,  A Grain of Sand’ Chris screamed, “why should we import blanks from the US or Australia when we have blanks being produced only a few miles from the majority of shapers in the UK, the Californians don’t import, nor do Australians. We should be proud to support a local business, shops are full of imports, let us start supporting our local craftsmen”. 

The support of the local shaper was next and in this case North Devon shaper Jools at Gulf Stream Surfboards was by far my first choice. Possibly, one of the countries finest shapers, he can replicate the classics if needed, develop the obscure, and is proud of the entire process from shape to finish. The blank was to be created specifically for this magic board by Tris at Homeblown near Portreath, Cornwall and as far as resin and cloth, I’m afraid this came from France.

If finding magic boards were easy we could simply grab one from the ‘magic board rack’ in the local would-be surf shop.  Whatever size, long or short, the boards we tend to see before our eyes are commonly computer-generated surfboards.  In many cases these surfboards are aesthetically attractive, have the combined ingredients of brilliance of mind, knowledge and feedback from the worlds best shapers and surfers; in some cases they may not. 

The numbers that are punched into the main frame can be cloned, and duplicated thousands of times, but a board that is shaped for you and not someone else should be special. This board can be functional for your needs, sustainable if you want it to be, but be proud of this board from start to finish, proud of its ingredients and its roots and to this end the numbers for your magic board should be easy. A simple formula would be local products + local shaper + local waves = the right board.

If not yet convinced to visit your local craftsman, consider this, hand shaping is an art form. A piece of individual sculpture deservedly requires a price tag to meet the hours and skill associated with this. To commission a bespoke dining table, a portrait of a family member, or a tailored suit would cost a small fortune. A locally shaped, glassed and finished surfboard should always hold more value than a machine shaped container shipped board, or a plastic, lifeless pop out from china, but the local shaper still struggles to make any profit and just about survives.

Part of this sustainability means that there is a multiplier effect attached to purchasing a board from the local shaper, meaning that for every pound invested with a local shaper, much of this will ultimately be reinvested time and time again within the local community.  Supporting your local shapers has economic benefits to primary and secondary businesses. Unfortunately there may also be some monetary leakage due to the materials, like cloth and resin, and sadly these are often imported meaning some profits must leave the country.

If you feel like making a small difference, simply starting with the blank. Asking your shaper to use Homeblown, stipulate that its your magic board their shaping and if you want sustainability then start here, shapers want your business and want you to return again and again.  Develop your surfing, develop a relationship with your chosen shaper and develop your magic board. Whether a tooth pick thruster, quad speed dialer or a ten foot cruiser, it should make sense, it cuts out the middle man and will empower you to feel great about that board.

"Support Your Local Shaper" (in this case local being the South West, UK but still very much British)

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