The push towards more environmentally friendly surfing has had me thinking.
Down here in Oz, to the best of my knowledge, the only attempts to produce boards with less reliance on materials sourced from the petro chemical industry involve wood or bamboo laminates, which are then either finished with epoxy or common garden variety resins.
The exception to this is Chris Garret, who is varnishing the wood laminate. His boards are quite beautiful, Dave Rastovich sings their praises, but very obviously there is a need for much greater care.
No one is making contemporary wooden boards in the style of the wonderful Grain Surfboards, or 42 in Oregon, Hess, Paul Jenson, Ocean Green in Nicaragua or Plywood in Brazil...go to phoresia for a list of what delights are offered in the Northern Hemisphere.
That being said, there are beacons down here for what is possible.
Paul and Sage Joske of Valla Surfboards in Nambucca heads have explored the koko'o. This shape features a flat deck and rounded bottom, and was originally made from willi willi wood.
Sage made one from a light wood found near his home, and glassed it for durabiltiy and strength. He loves this board, and took it and one other koko'o on a boat trip to the Maldives recently.
A seriously hot surfer, for someone like Sage to opt for his koko'o's is saying something powerful about the ability of ancient boards to fuel the fun.
I was lucky enough to get to know Tom Wegener while filming the Musica Surfica event on King Island.
As many of you know, Tom is a wonderful old school longboarder with a delightful, happy style. I have to say happy because Tom lives with a permanent grin, a grin I think erasable only by a thermonuclear warhead.
The one time I saw him down in the dumps was one morning after a call home...he was missing the family.
Tom's boards are, with the exception of a Fish, classic D fin paulownia longboards ranging from around 9 to 16 feet. In addition he has begun a range of boards in the style of the ancient hawaiian alaia. Shaped paulownia planks, these are about as environmentally friendly as a surfboard can get. A saw, a sander or sanding block, and a spoke shave or draw knife. No resin, no glass, and the residue can go on the garden.
The boards are sealed with a mixture of gum turpentine and linseed oil, and don't need waxing.
Now all this might sound like an ad for Tom, and you could take it that way.
But think about it.
These boards worked.
Sure... mostly straight line trimmers, very fast ones at that, but I did see basic bottom turns, rebounds and rudimentary cutbacks being achieved. They were viable surfboards, sourced from a timber yard. Tom is starting to experiment with variations on the original shapes, and he tells me some of the kids around Noosa are getting to a fair level of performance on them.
Even Tom Carrol has been seen riding a Wegener alaia at Newport, following on on his Musica Surfica experience.
So why not shape one yourself? Try some variations.. slot's, concaves, shape in some channels.. who knows? My point is the experimentation is so easy, and if it all goes wrong, whittle it down to a couple of boogie sized alaia's.
The belly board versions of them are body surfing with a double shot of caffeine.
How satisfying would it be to ride a wave on a simple piece of wood, holding the purest of trims imaginable?
I know I'm going to give it a go.