Who else comes surfing with you every day? Who shares all those moments that you cherish above all others? Who is there for you when the chips are down and who do you put your faith and trust in not to let you down on those solid days? No, I am not talking about a person but strangely, an inanimate object. Your favourite surfboard.
Most of us have a quiver of surfboards in our garage covering a range of potential isobar related variances but there will be one piece of foam and glass that we cherish above all others. It has been this way since the beginning of time, as much as you have a favourite pair of pants, or a favourite shirt so it is this way with wave riding vehicles. Often logic does not determine why a particular board has wormed its way into our number one spot, it just is so. When the conditions are perfect, you imagine ripping the harris (bum) out of a wave on one surfboard above all others. It is this relationship about which I now wish to discuss. The worst segment in any relationship, the ‘break up’.
The moment of realization that the everyday romance has to end is the worst. For some, it will firstly involve denial. For these unlucky folk that do not recognise the moment has come to start grooming a new apprentice, the end could be the sourest. A short, sharp slap in the face when your good buddy finally gives in and dies, never to be repaired, leaving you with a gaping hole in your everyday life.
Having been in this situation before I surmised it might be a good idea to compose some key strokes, helping others not to make the same mistake.
Acceptance is part of any grieving and is the first step, if we are clever we can recognise when our closest pal might be getting tired. The tell-tale signs are there to read on your stick if you know what to look for. More soft and yellow patches visible, some stress fractures might start to appear and one that a lot of people might not notice unless pointed out would be board 'warping'.
Warping occurs when the surfboard might have been subjected to heat from being left on the beach or in the car under extreme temperatures (sun). If you hold your board flat (belly down) and look from the tail to the nose you might notice a bend or warp either slightly left or right. The first time a shaper friend pointed out that two of the boards in my quiver were warped, I immediately said, no they are not. But they were.
Noticing that your surfboard might have deteriorated quite a lot is difficult. It's kind of like knowing you need a new mattress on your bed. Until you sleep on a new one, yours seems just okay, the change and deterioration is so gradual it hard to notice. Yellowing of the foam is going to happen over time but its hard to notice until you hold it next to a new shiny white board.
This is the moment of truth when you have seen the signs your best surfing compadre might be slowing up a bit. Some people (me included) find it hard to believe and for those sentimental sods I would suggest partial retirement.
Get a new board and start training you and him/her up to become the new favourite, don't get a copy of the one you where riding as the chances are it won't live up to the hype of old faithful, that and life is too short not to experiment a bit. Use him/her intermittently being careful to still surf your 'old chum' but as you get more confident and familiar with your new board, start to gradually phase out your best buddy. eventually, you will end up with a new board that is your 'everyday' partner and your old mate in the garage, only to be whipped out on those most perfect of all days.
Full retirement could be relevant if the new surfboard you get is just amazing out of the gates (doesn't often happen), in this case just ramp up the new kid on the block and go for full retirement.
There are different types of people in the world and some would read these words and think "what and I saying?, A surfboard is an inanimate object, just surf it till it breaks then get a new one", I used to be this way. That is until I found a good mate, had the special relationship. If you haven't experienced this yet, don't stop searching, there is a special board out there for everyone. You will know when you know.
It might seem obvious to some of you but the agony of being without a board that works the way you are used to, that feels as if it is fused to your feet is an underrated aspect of our sport. As a famous surfer said to me recently, surfing is 80%, your board, 20% stoke but if you have a good board that increases your stoke and that's the romance explained a little easier.
If you have ever watched anyone surfing at over 100% I bet you the GDP of a small nation that the courtship with the foam under their feet is an integral part of their froth. Thanks for indulging me and this possibly pointless article. I am off to rewax and polish old buddy.