For the past month I’ve been surfing a 6.5 single fin and a 7.8 mini-malibu that I built out of wood. Last week Monday I had an awesome session on the mini-mal, at one of my favourite reefs – it has a ledgy A-frame take-off when it’s good and then links up onto a long wall.
The waves were 4-6 foot and I was able to take off really deep on the mini-mal and go into an arcing bottom turn that ended with the board locked into the wave face under the lip and perfectly set up for the race down the line. Stoked!
So on Sunday I decided to try out my “old -tech” foam thruster. And what a difference.
I guess in my mind I’ve always thought that foam is better, thrusters the ultimate. But I don’t believe that any longer.
Being on single fins for a month and then going back to a thruster crystallized something that I haven’t been able to figure out up until now.
Here’s my theory: With a super-light, wafer-thin foam thruster, the focus of surfing tends to be out in front of the wave – aiming for the lip, aiming for the rail jam out in front of the wave. But with a retro single fin, my experience is that surfing takes place far more IN the wave – an arcing bottom turn in front of the lip, for example, or a rail locked in under the lip. As the wave breaks and unfolds on itself, I find that I am more often than not in that tight zone, the place where the wave is steepest, where it spins around on itself, where the lip explodes as it hits the bottom.
It’s not to say one type of surfing is better or worse than the other. Both are different approaches to riding waves. Both take an enormous amount of skill to master. And one can benefit the other. Try bottom turning on a thruster when you’ve been bottom turning on a single fin, for example, and you’ll realise that if you’ve spent your whole life bottom turning on a thruster you haven’t actually been bottom turning at all!
Surfing wood boards has made me appreciate being IN the wave more, being closer to the energy centre of the wave, surfing with the wave as opposed to against it. It’s a different kind of stoke, but a stoke that I’m glad to have more of. Something summed it up for me perfect during that afore-mentioned session on the mini-malibu last Monday. I’d just had a cooking wave and some guy paddled up to me and said as much. I said I was stoked and was having a great session, to which he replied: “Ja, we can all see, you’ve got the biggest grin on your face out of everyone out here.”