I never really appreciated surfboards until I saw Andrew Kidman’s quiver. In that moment I understood the spectrum of experience available in experimentation. He was very generous and lent me a Parmenter, which I instantly dinged trying to take off behind the rock at the pass. Twenty years on and a small but important part of my life has been evolving and refining quivers of surfboards. Boards to suit many moods. While this gives me great pleasure, it also causes me concern.
As well as having spent the equivalent of a house deposit on them, surfboards are an environmental disaster. The times I have slimmed down the quiver feel good, lighter. I can afford to buy clothes for my child. This is sort of a joke, but it also isn’t. I am addicted to buying surfboards. But I like the idea of disrupting the model of surfboard ownership, with boards becoming communal property, better able to serve more surfers in their functional life. For a recent trip, rather than simply pulling a few boards out of the rack, I joined Open's board club.
Even for someone with a board habit like mine, Open already has a huge abundance and diversity of boards. I chose a 6’4” Beau Young Wombat. I’d been wanting to ride one again since a month at the superbank on the first ever Wombat. It came at the end of a long year of pointbreaks and I loved the simple lines and flow of the board. I also borrowed two from Neal Purchase Junior, a 6’2” Quartet and a sleek 7’0” Single Fin. Having talked through fin options and placements, I bundled them into a coffin and a few hours later boarded the 02.45 ferry from Pembroke to Rosslare.
We rolled into ten days of perfection. The wombat was as I remembered, fast and fluid in the pocket at the right in front of the castle. Volume enough to poach waves from pack, which included a grumpy mat surfer, something I’d never encountered. You could tell the single would work before even waxing it up, perfect wide point and a tail built for hanging out in the pocket. It was a joy to ride. We bathed in the fast-running light, drove down a hundred tracks, built our entire existence around the tides.
The little right among the giant lefts is how someone described where we ended up. I love the wave but it demands you sit with the pack, you cant hunt scraps. This dismantles my only tactic in crowds, which is to forage on the leftovers. So in the end I sell a talented goofy footer called CJ on a run up to North Donegal. What happens in the north stays in the north, of course. Twenty years on from my first trip there, Ireland is much the same. More people in the water, but still golden green.
Thoroughly stoked, we head home into one of the best beachbreak days I’ve ever seen in Cornwall. Long-period groundswell that jumps from two to four to six foot plus in an hour. We rescue some kids sucked out to sea in a rip. The usually flabby sandbars are firing. The sets start to pulse, no matter how you scramble you get clipped by giant, golden walls. Bowden is charging on his self-shaped single fin, hunting down the sets. While paddling out I see him pull back on a wave that blows itself inside out. The Purchase single-fin feels small but handles it perfectly until I get cocky. A wedge sneaks under the three people left out, swings violently towards me. I put my head down, get caught in the lip, fall for what feels like forever. My leash snaps and I end up wearing a dozen waves on the head before getting pushed out of the impact zone. The board is washed up on the sand thankfully. It’s a fitting goodbye and I hand the board back the next day, a temporary custodian, stoked on the experience.