Bigger Boards Itâ€™s hard to NOT come to the conclusion that nearly all longboard surfers these days are just dressing up in the same old, tired costume. Their boards are so generic, so retro, so focused on cosmetics, so unimaginative, so truly NOT custom. Not that they realize this of course. What the average Joe is riding is so disheartening. In many ways itâ€™s only hurting them, but at least they donâ€™t know it, proof that God is kind. So, what is the problem? An insightful friend pointed out to me that most surfers today have some sort of â€˜Xâ€™ length formula burned into their brain. It states something to the effect that they feel â€˜OKâ€™ about riding a 9-0 at age 35. Itâ€™s safe, not too prone to ridiculeâ€¦All based on what the â€˜cultureâ€™ tells them is OK. At age 40, they compensate upwards to a 9-6, and continue upward. Just add 4â€ for every birthday over 40. This is the most basic situation in the ever-aging surfing population. And even with that being the case, do you EVER see anything different for this huge mass of surfers? Never. What is culturally acceptable, not personally interesting, is what determines personal board choice. If you step outside this culturally accepted â€˜normâ€™, watch out. What? A guy with something different? Take your average aging surfer, liking longer boards but not really having the skills to ride like David N. on the nose. I fall into that category. I love the glide and trim of longer boards, but Iâ€™ve never hung ten, rarely five. How about you? Anyone else want to raise their hand? So, why is it? There are few forward thinkers in the surfing world, maybe even less so in the ranks of your common shaper. Unimaginative shapers, all replicating someone elseâ€™s tired ideas from 10-30 years ago. If left to the shapers out there, your average 45 year old will be riding the same board in 2045 as he is today. If the surf culture en masse started experimenting, the average guyâ€™s surfing would improve. So too, would shapers be forced to begin a sort of design quest, and you might have 500 shapers making improvements and contributions. Read any sailing magazine and realize how skilled and educated even your basic boat designer is, and the difference between him and a surfboard shaper is almost cosmic in the distance between the two. Look at all the truly innovative boat hulls coming out, and witness an industry that is truly led by change, and willing to move forward and try new things. Thereâ€™s little thatâ€™s even close in the surfing industry. There is the shapes themselves are about as refined as theyâ€™re ever going to get. Back to the â€˜challengeâ€™. For me, over the years, after experiencing that feeling of â€˜the glideâ€™, I fell in love with it. The sensation of being so in trim, not outrunning, not falling behind the wave. Just locked in to the waves speed. Where I surf, we have a lot of beach breaks. When the seasons change from summer to fall we get a lot of swell. Combine that with some stiff offshore winds, and you have excellent conditions. One of the drawbacks to those conditions is the expanded playing field. Paddling power is paramount to getting good waves, with shifting peaks up and down, inshore and out. Shortboarders sit inside, duckdive and get quick rides. Thatâ€™s fine if you like to duckdive and get quick rides. With a more powerful paddling board, I have the vehicle in which to sit 50 â€“75 yards outside and get in the waves way early. Iâ€™m able to catch a cresting unbroken wave, drop in, set a line and speed, high and tight through where the shortboarders are and fly way further down the line, due to the speed achieved from a longer set up area. Ride fast and kick out and use the paddling advantage again to get back outside before the next waves catch you inside. The key is paddling speed. How can you ride one and NOT see the benefits of it all? The â€œaverageâ€ longboard has just too much width in the nose and middle. On waves with some juice, that width just gets in the wayâ€¦If youâ€™re not gonna really ride the nose, why have that width. It just doesnâ€™t fit the waves as well as something more streamlined. The board Iâ€™m riding I shaped a few years ago. It sat mostly unridden for a long time. But I broke it out early this summer for some very clean, empty point waves in this region. That session has hooked me on the undeniable quality of the ride these boards offer. The more I ride it, the more it makes sense. Iâ€™m not talking about 17â€™ boards or anything in that rangeâ€¦Human scale here. Whatâ€™s got me so stoked is a 12â€™ Surf/ Paddleboard. I envisioned a board that had the qualities of both genres, without compromising the better aspects of each. A tough balance, but do-able. Out of a custom cut Clark 12'3", I templated a narrow, fairly parallel outline. Maximum width 20â€. The maximum thickness is 3.75â€. I shaped a typical paddle board entry, rolled vee for the first two feet or so, running to a gentle belly roll for a few more feet (we are talking lots of board) and ending in a harder edged pulled in round tail, with a flat vee panel running up about three feet from the tail. Single fin box, thank you. The key to combining the best of both aspects of paddle / surf, is having a generously domed deck to carry the thickness, and a bottom with moderate belly that rolls out to a rail thatâ€™ll still wrap water and hold in. A full length chine can add some more bite if you need that. The rolled bottom and the large flat vee panel keep it loose rail to rail. The boards length precludes most sudden direction changes, but the early entry, and the speed available through that, allow plenty of set up time for whatâ€™s ahead. With practice some mind bending right go left ( and visa/versa) takeoffs are achievable and repeatable. It is a great riding board, it can get around falling sections and of course has a lot of drive (what would you expect from 12â€™ of rail). Besides, you can catch a ripple with it. Finally, because of their stubbornness to expand their minds, other surfers might look at my board and laugh, think Iâ€™m a wannabe big wave hero, and misunderstand the principles behind the design choice. Yet at the end of the day my wave count is almost always higher. And I guarantee that Iâ€™m the one smiling when I leave the water. You can argue it is all fun, and it all works, but it is a lot more fun when you catch more waves and at this age that is all I really want to do. Some might figure that I â€˜went bigâ€™ to compensate for my age, when in fact that has never figured into my formula. My fitness level is well above average for my years. Iâ€™ve got witnesses.My inherent surfing skills are about as refined as they are ever going to be (realistically, I've passed the peak of my inherent refined surfing skills, and at this point of my life itâ€™s mostly refinement). As has been said before "If you can't out surf â€˜em, out think â€˜em." CAUTION: Anyone with such a powerful wave catcher MUST NOT over use such an effective tool in even moderately crowded conditions. Itâ€™s just not cool to be a wave hog. Instead, smile, encourage and share.