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Longtime surfer Dan Dunlop with his Tomo Cymatic. Photo by Chris Ahrens
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Surfing in the middle ages

My first surfboard (if you could call it a surfboard) was a piece of rudely hacked out plywood made with my neighbor’s electric saw after we saw “Gidget” together in 1959.

It would be three more years before I owned a proper glass and foam surfboard, a 9 foot, 6 inch Wardy purchased with 45 of my hard-earned paper route dollars.

From there it was a series of boards in the mid-9-foot range until the so-called “Shortboard Revolution,” a baby and bathwater event in the late ’60s that destroyed all things longboard.

Surfers are not as independent minded as we like to believe, and it would take nearly a decade for longboards to come around again. When they did, many of us jumped onto the nostalgic bandwagon. We loved it until we rediscovered the limitations that made us hack them down in the first place.

To put it simply, longboards don’t turn as quickly and don’t fit in the pocket as well as their shorter counterparts.

Not to be critical of longboard surfing, but it does seem a little stagnant for people under the age of 30 to be devoted to a board that has changed little over the last 40 years. It would be like the ’60s generation abandoning foam surfboards and hopping on boards made of redwood.

I wonder if collectively our youth are fearful of the future and find security in the past when 25-pound single-finned noseriders ruled the coast.

Many of us who had surfed through the decades have grown tired of lugging “logs” (gosh I hate that word when it’s applied to somebody’s craft) to the beach. We want to continue surfing but realize that we won’t be doing it on microchips like those employed by John John and company.

The alternative for us is either prone to the bone surfmats, bodyboards, kneeboards or Alias (I am a fan of all of them) or shorter boards with flatter rocker and more volume. Fishes, mini Simmons and Eggs have all contributed to getting older surfers into the ocean on more maneuverable surf craft.

You might have noticed the Tomo label in your local lineup. Daniel “Tomo” Thomson, the brain behind that brand, has teamed up with Firewire to create a variety of brilliant surfboard models to enhance the surfing experience for everyone from Kelly Slater to guys my age.

My close friend Dan Dunlop began surfing in the ’60s, around the same time I did. Like many of us, Dan grew weary of lugging “logs” to the water. His solution is a 6 x 20, 40.2-liter Firewire Slater Tomo Cymatic.

According to Dunlop, “It’s the fastest board I’ve ever ridden and because of the volume I can catch waves nearly as easily as I can on a longboard.” Like the first cellphones or electric cars, the future always looks a little strange at first and the multi-concaved, double-winged Cymatic is no exception.

You are, of course entitled to ride whatever feels good, whether it anchors you to the distant past or rockets you into the future. If the past becomes a revolving door of maneuvers, however, you might just try something shorter and racier.

Then again, this rant may be nothing but a poor man’s midlife (or in my case late life) crisis. Whatever.  I’m borrowing Dan’s Cymatic and paddling it out during the next swell.

Either I will make a complete fool of myself in the process, or find a resurgence of the same stoke I felt after running home from seeing “Gidget” all those years ago. I’m betting on the latter.

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