The answer is yes, you should undoubtedly buy a fish. This advice comes to you from a self-confessed ‘board-aholic’. I have a problem when it comes to surfboards, a weak spot in my otherwise frugal existence. I can’t resist buying surfboards, something that drives my wife nuts. Circumstances are made worse as my ‘job’ (for want of a better word) is that I write about, test and touch these beloved mixtures of glass and foam on a daily basis. Hard life, I know…
I tell you these things purely as a means of getting some context of my frame of mind. If I have a real area of weakness when it comes to fishing out notes from my wallet to pay for wave vehicles, it would be the Fish shape. Something about the lines of a twin fin fish makes my hand subconsciously reach for my back pocket which houses my leather cash holder. (never any cash in it.)
So why the Fish?
I am at a point in my life when I am not looking to progress in surfing skills. What I mean by this is that I am not trying to add an extra rotation to my airs (or even do airs at all), I am not looking to throw tail, get the nose of my board at 12 o'clock and throw fins. Nope, the days of dreaming about WSL qualification are well behind me. What I want to do now is something that has always been far closer to my heart. Enhance my ‘style’.
Something that has always fascinated me is the skilled waveriders that make riding a wave look easy. No windmilling arms, no wide stance and ultimately, no effort. It just looks natural, a form of acceptance and being in rhythm with the energy in a wave. Minimum resistance, minimum effort equals maximum style.
The Fish shape, for me, has been a staple ‘go-to’ over the years, it forces me to concentrate on doing less to achieve more and for that I love it. Fishes are good for your surfing, that's just a fact in my book. So should you buy a fish? Should you embark on the greatest journey you will ever have? Yes, with cherries on top. Yes, yes and more yes.
What sort of Fish should you buy?
Even as long in the tooth as one might be, one never stops learning. I recently had a chance to test a fish that threw all that I thought into question. I now have a lot more questions to ask myself as regards to the surfboard subset of the Fish.
Having ridden a fair amount of twin fins and fishes over the years, I have ended up with a board that is my ‘shanghai’. A Wavegliders 5’11 Codfish. It has a blackwood stringer, Volan glass job and twin glassed on wooden keels. The rails and fins are parallel and the whole thing is built for speed, swooping turns and the ‘highline’. I love it.
Having shunned the more performance-based models for a while, I was surprised to see one of such ilk take my fancy. It was called the ‘Disco’ and made by Gero from Fatum surfboards. Gero has a full rack of test boards waiting to be surfed and this ‘Disco’ was fresh from the glassing room. It was test time.
The Revelation of two Fishes
Testing day came, early morning, sunrise and the normal perfection that comes with a fresh shiny new swell. Nic (SB Editor) was up for the early morning call and he decided to take the Disco, I would be on my old faithful Wavegliders, the idea being that we would swap in boards in the lineup and get an idea as to the difference in these beasts. And boy, there was a difference.
I had a few waves on my codfish, being a heavy Volan beast, this thing flies down the line, there is no section it can't get around, no swoop to long and drawn out it can't execute. It was the perfect morning. I looked over my shoulder and Nic was doing ‘mac 10’ on the Disco, spray and smiles radiating from his visage. It was time to swap.
The ‘Disco’ was smaller, 5’6 and thinner with a more drawn in tail. It has a set of large keels in which were a little more towed in. Being a heavy individual and used to the extra foam in my codfish I struggled to get into a few waves, adjustments were made and I was on my first wave.
Ziiiip, I took off, fast. I went to bottom turn and the thing came around on a dime, I overturned it and went flying off the back of the wave. This was a different beast and I mean entirely. It was the opposite end of the spectrum… My next wave and I was ready for it, bottom turn into a rio and it hit the lip so hard I thought I had broken my ankle. This was going to take some getting used to. Many waves later and much swapping back and forth of boards and I had a lot to think about.
The Fish Revelation
These two boards do not look that different. To the untrained eye, there would be little separate them, one being slightly bigger. If you look hard you could notice the subtle differences but they are not obvious. When riding them however they are like chalk and cheese, both brilliant but in an entirely different way.
The best analogy I can think of to describe them would be to say that the heavier codfish was like an American muscle car. Fast, powerful and unstoppable. The Disco was like a Japanese import, quick, manoeuvrable and responsive.
So should you buy a fish?
Steering this juggernaut of an article towards a conclusion, the question should not be ‘should you buy a fish?’ (already answered that one) but instead, ‘what sort of fish should you buy’.
All I can say is you should try before you buy. Get some test boards in the water, try other peoples boards, listen to shapers and other fish loving surfers because one thing is for certain. There is a fish out there for everyone.