Part Three – Choosing a Board
Since most of my sources suggested starting out with a foamie – which offered the combination of greater floatation and safety – I started looking around. Soon I discovered that Costco actually sells a 8 footer (x 22 x 18 x 14 x 3), 2+1 and a sort of a small squash tail. Believe it or not this board – called the Wavestorm – actually sells for just $99, and at 8 ft is more a funboard. Still some of the surf schools seem to use them. Good enough for now I thought, but to be fair I was still heavily under the influence of Wingnut and his book (see part two).
According to Wingnut, beginners really need a notably longer board, and specifically recommended Robert August’s What I Ride, 9’6”, and 23 x 18 x 15 x 3, 2+1, smaller square tail, with “forgiving 60/40 rails” and August’s now famous teardrop concave. According to August this a board you can enjoy in a wide variety of conditions and is a kind of all-around, compromise board. Wingnut felt it surfs well in Surftech, the kind of sturdy construction that tends to last, important for a retired guy. I found all manner of fairly positive reviews, and well, there’s Wingnut’s undeniable influence.
I was sold, and I’m the kind of guy that needs to make a commitment. And $99 is not one. I knew that if I dropped around $1000 on a board, well THAT would be the kind of commitment and incentive that would make it hard for me to swim away from. So after many nights of web searching, I found the $1300 WIR on sale for $849 plus shipping, delivered for $999. Best deal on the net. Unfortunately the seller had made an error – the WIR was not available – but agreed to honor the price and promised to deliver in just another month.
Then one month turned into two, then three. Meanwhile I found a used WIR for $750, but by then I’d started to consider other alternatives. I ran across a good resource called LonboardReview.com who’d published a number of really good longboard guidelines. In sum, they identified four basic types of longboards:
First: All Around longboards like the WIR, boards that they felt suited for beginners, and under most conditions. Second: the High Performance longboards – thinner, faster, with speed and agility, for bigger waves but sacrificing glide and noseriding. Not for me. Third: the Cruisers longboards – long logs with parallel rails but with narrowed noses and very flat rocker – features which they cautioned as more challenging for beginners. Last but not least were…
Noseriders. These longboards were noted for their wide noses, great glide, easy paddling, easy wave catching and that promoted cross-stepping and of course – noseriding. The holy grail of surfers, and after Wingnut and the Endless Summer videos, branded in my mind as a spiritual and soulful style. Elegant and designed for a greyhair like me. These boards are especially known for catching and performing on small waves. Further, the website recommended:
“Surfers looking to throw all types of maneuvers with quick turns and big maneuvers are best suited with high performance boards.
Surfers looking to get up and set the board gliding along with the wave are best suited with a Cruiser.
Surfers looking to ride on the nose and surf a more “classic” style walking up to the nose and walking back to the tail to turn are best suited with a Noserider.
Surfers looking for a little bit of everything are best suited with an All-Around board”
“Smaller, slower waves in the waist high are best suited for Cruiser and Noserider longboards. Relatively bigger waves in the waist to head high range are better suited for All Around or High Performance longboards.”
That did it. Classic? Board walking? Turning from the tail? Smaller and slower waves? A noserider started to look pretty good to me. I began to think that having my WIR deal fall through might have been a favor, and started researching noseriders.
Finally, I was left with three finalists:
- The WIR, 9’6”. Why? It’s hard to ignore Robert Wingnut Weaver or Robert August. An all arounder with a good reputation for beginners and a board you can grow into, remained attractive and on my short list. Usually sell for around $1200 plus shipping, not cheap.
- The Walden Magic, also 9’6”. Why? This is Bob Walden’s personal ride, and are very, very big over here on Florida’s 700 mile east coast. It too is an all-around board featuring Walden’s once trendsetting single into double concave, highly adjustable 2+1 fins, and rails designed for both stability and turning, go figure. The reviews confirm this, and they are available for around $950 plus shipping. Still though, a definite all-arounder, and a relatively high performing one at that, although it too is recommended for beginners due to those special rails.
- Last was the Pearson Arrow CJ Nelson’s very well known 10 footer. This board features a wide, deep and long front concave blending into a slight vee tail and a large 10 inch single fin. This board is famous for its width (24 x 22 x 19 x 2-7/8), and relatively hard edges, but enough of a tail kick to facilitate turning. It was widely reviewed as perhaps THE noserider, but one that could be steered from the front, middle and back (!) and that was surprisingly turnable for its length. It was known for catching almost any bump and seemed really quite perfect for our Florida waters. About $1150.
Only the Walden is widely available in Florida, but then one day I walked into our famous Ron Jon Surf Shops and saw a lone CJ Nelson being sold for – can that be right? – for $799? Naturally, I thought this must surely be the poly version, so I ignored it, but on my next trip to the store I lifted it and found it noticeably lighter than all the other longboards. So I looked carefully and to my great surprise, discovered that it really was the $1050 Surftech Tufflite. Yes there were a few minor demoing scuffs, and one tiny chip of paint, but at $850 including tax, the Pearson Arrow was mine for $350 less than its normal delivered cost of $1200. A no brainer, and I bought it - this is the board that will make me or break me. My research is over and its now time to put up or shut up. BTW it’s the board pictured in Part Two. I bought a nice FCS bag, and a 10 foot calf leash, and finally was set to face the music.
Next up… Part Four - first lesson.