When I asked what to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner she said, "just bring beer." Being quite handy in the kitchen this is a hard task for me to comprehend. Beer is easy, right? Go to convenience store and buy beer, preferably cold, and bring to family gathering. I like to cook and holidays that involve cooking whether it's a 4th of July Cookout or baking Christmas cookies are my favorite (make fun of me if you like) so when my sister told me to "just bring beer," I was not having it.
On Thanksgiving morning I started my insubordination by beginning to cook a banana nut bread. It is 11 a.m. and the meeting time at my sister's house is 1 p.m. My cell phone beeps with a text message and it's Dees telling me how great the surf is at New Smyrna Beach Inlet. It says, "Wind offshore, clean long period sets head high bring blue board." The blue board is my 9'0" Walden performance longboard that's great for sectiony powerful waves. It's fast and turns quickly.
Now I have a decision to make. There's not enough time to bake some bread and go surfing.
For about .5 seconds I'm really torn so I think hard and then make a decision. . . GO SURFING!
The roommate recently bought a longboard on Criag's list where the seller threw in a 5'10" twin fin fish. The Fish is totally sick. It's very retro, super wide and 3" thick. I've been eyeing that board since Day 1 wondering if I can ride it being 6'6" tall. I mean, seriously, this board is so small that when I paddle it my head is at the nose and my knees are at the tail. It might as well be a hard bodyboard!
Well, when the roommate heard I was going surfing he wanted in too and since his new longboard is getting some glass work done he grabbed the Fish. Now the roommate is learning to surf (I let him borrow one of my wetsuits) and I've already had him out on a classic-super-fun-glassy-small day with a lot of friends in the line up so he's hooked now that he knows how fun surfing can be. However, as we get on the beach the wind has shifted to a side shore wind causing semi-choppy conditions. The waves are good on the outside break, but the inside is a small washing machine with a south-pulling current.
Dees is waiting for us as I pull up and ready for his second session. I'm stoked to get some waves to ride. The Roommate looks anxious and makes a comment about how hard it's going to be to paddle out on the Fish and it would be easier on a longboard. In my book that's a loaded statement. Yes, I'll paddle out a longboard any day in most conditions, but I don't think it's always easier to get a longboard to the outside in some conditions without having a lot of experience points on your side, which the Roommate is seriously lacking. I tell the Roommate to give the Fish a try and we'll keep an eye on him. If he's struggling he can simply give us the Team America secret signal and I'll bring him my longboard. We can switch and I'll paddle the fish out and we can switch back once we're all on the outside.
We start our paddle out and I find myself sitting in the slew watching the roommate struggle to get through the first break. Dees waits as well, but is a little further out. After a few minutes the roommate is completely exhausted looking. It's not the Team America super secret signal, but the delusional look upon his face is enough for me. I paddle over and ask how it's going. He just gives me a look and with no words, I toss him my leash and board and we switch in the slew between sets. He starts paddling out the longboard and I let him go. It's my first time laying on the fish in the water. It's surprisingly buoyant, but definitely NOT a longboard. I start to paddle and it feels more like swimming.
It's not long before I pass the roommate. I wasn't trying hard or meaning to belittle him, but I hear him yell out in an exhausted tone something like, "how are you paddling that faster than me!?!" I look back and try and explain that he needs to dig deeper in his strokes and not thrash the surface of the water so much and for God's sake pace himself. I duck dive the fish under three waves, paddle past the fourth wave, sit up and turn around. The roommate is a good hundred feet away drifting quickly south and taking wave after wave on the head. I've instructed him how to turtle roll and how to duck dive, but today I don't think he's accomplishing neither.
By the way, as thick as the fish is, it still duck dives very easily. It wasn't long before I found myself sitting next to Dees on the outside watching the Roommate doing the walk of shame up the beach back to the Jeep. He never made it out and he's completely defeated and exhausted. Hey, it's happened to all surfers and I feel for him, but now I'm way out here and my longboard is up on the beach. I guess I'll just have to see if it's possible for a 6'6" guy to ride a 5'10" fish!
Dees takes a wave and as he's paddling back out I spy a wave coming my way. It's peaking up perfectly. If I was on a longboard I'd paddle past it, but guessing that this fish is going to be a late takeoff board I wait for it and at the last second turn into it paddle three times and it takes me! I hear Dees screaming encouragement in the background as I pop up. Both feet land on the board right where they should be, but I'm so high up on the lip I free fall a couple feet before hitting the bottom of the wave. The first thing I notice is how fast this board is and its ability to turn on a dime. The bottom turn is a little slow, but once I'm up on the wave face it goes! It goes so fast I shoot way out far down the line and attempt a fade away, but it turns so fast I fly off the board from the shift of momentum.
Several years ago I attempted to ride a 6'2" thruster. I failed big time and could never get my footing right on that board. Now I'm riding a fish that is 4-inches shorter and I'm nailing it! Nothing.... NOTHING makes you feel better than concrete proof that you're improving in your sport no matter what it may be. I get in about a dozen more decent rides before it's time for that Thanksgiving feast and I can honestly say I ripped it up on a fish! Twice I did have trouble with my back foot initially landing on the fish tail section of the board and slipping off, but once I corrected for that it was not a problem. I just may be in the market for a fish as my next board. Or maybe something like a Rusty Dwart... maybe 5'11" or 6'0" ???
Here is the famous fish next to my 9'0" Walden epoxy performance longboard to give it some scale.
In all fairness to longboarding, I did not feel like the Fish compared to the same awesome feeling I get from trimming up a longboard down a perfect line, or ripping up the lip with a monster board. But, what really got me was the challenge. Can I ride this board? Yes, and it was fun. It kind of felt like a skateboard, but in the right conditions I think it would be sick. I can already tell this little fish will ride smaller waves than my 6'8" shortboard.
And don't worry about the Roommate. He'll get it. He's got the addiction. I can see it in his eyes. Now all he needs is time and experience and perhaps a little stronger paddling arms.
Riding that fish really made my Thanksgiving. Of course seeing family and friends was awesome too, but what better way to go to a family gathering than already being stoked about a fun surf session?
So in the end I just brought some beer.