Even though I had a tight group of friends in La Jolla who regularly surfed Windansea, Carl Ekstrom’s home break since the late ‘40s, I had never met the man himself until 1983 when my roommate at the time, Eric Shelky, had one of the first longboard contests on the coast. He asked me to narrate the event and Carl to be one of the judges. Ekstrom and I became immediate friends, hanging out more and more often, until I found a regular spot on his lunch roster, and together we haunted La Especial at least once a week for years.
Conversation would drift from old friends to whatever he or I was working on. One recurring theme was my love of the Fish Surfboard design, saying how I liked the way those boards drove out of the first turn, but hated their limited backside characteristics. I mentioned at the time that I thought the Fish was the perfect application for asymmetry, since the tail was split and lent itself to two different outlines, the frontside rail being longer and stiffer, the backside rounder and shorter. The only contribution I recall making to that two-year conversation was saying that I felt the backside rail should have a little more rocker in it.
It was a little over a year ago that Carl showed up at lunch with a model of an asymmetrical Fish. As with everything he touches, it was perfect. That week, he bought a blank from Mitch’s. After serious consideration, Carl Ekstrom began shaping his first board in 20 years. I watched the outline cut, the glass applied, the hot coat, the gloss, the rub out and the handmade logo. This was the type of art that Andy Warhol had recognized years earlier when he purchased two Ekstrom Surfboards as art museum pieces. That first board came in a bit short for me and a bit long for one of Windansea’s all-time best surfers, Richard Kenvin, who put it through its paces on a solid 6-foot swell, deeming it one of the best he had ever ridden.
On May 7, I picked up my first new board in six years, and honestly, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The swell was up but uneven when I paddled out, caught a wave and found that my new board was way ahead of me, going right, it seems, while I was still contemplating that first turn. I made a mess of that first session, but subsequent days would prove more fruitful.
At this writing I have ridden my new board four times in seven days. My only fear with this new joy is that surfing will overtake all my waking thoughts, just as it did through my teens and 20s. I love my new board. I love it. I love it. Thanks Carl. If I don’t see you at lunch, you’ll know where to find me.
P.S. These boards are complicated and anyone considering making one should contact Carl Ekstrom, who invented the design in 1964. Direct all inquires to [email protected]
Filed Under: Sea Notes