Issue 80 – Q2 2015
Is it possible to call a surfboard the best in the world?
The Stab in the Dark project.
Julian Wilson is everything high performance that is Mick Fanning; the stalking bottom turn, the round fig-eights, and the timing of learned tradition. They’re the nuts and bolts which win heats. But, there’s a zest of lime to Julian’s vanillas; it’s his skate-inspired variation and combos. There’s the feeling that if Julian wanted to, he could turn down jersey and make incredible digital edits.
There were three reasons why Julian was chosen for the Stab in the Dark project. Rewind six-to-eight months and we did a throwaway story on Stab’s digital portal about which board models Julian likes best. He was the perfect surfer to ask because he’s unsponsored and selects his boards based on what he wants to ride and not because he is paid to do so. The second reason is because when it came to breaking down board models, he was wildly articulate. And, the final knocker was this: It’s still one of the most read articles that has ever lived on Stab.
What’s notable about Julian is the fact he can analyse a board’s performance in just one wave. He says the ultimate board gives “feedback”. He says that a board gives you time when you stand up. Like in The Matrix, where Neo dodges bullets in slow motion? “Not exactly,” says Jules. “But, it’s close.”
For instance, despite the fact that Jules broke the JS board first wave, turns out still he reckons he could tell the board was going to work.
The overriding goal in this project was to see if we could answer the question: Is it possible to call a board the best in the world? Sure, I’m a surfer and there’s boards which I love that you’ll hate. And vice versa. But acknowledging this, we invited 12 of the world’s best shapers to each create a board for an unidentified 6’0”, 80-kilo, CT surfer. Fast-forward some months and Julian Wilson was standing in the garage of a West Oz rental, opening two coffins full of cleanskin boards, one from California, the other direct from Sydney.
But, one was missing. Jon Pyzel’s board didn’t make the delivery date, a loss for the project’s sake. When we saw him in the water on the Gold Coast and told him a) his board didn’t make it and b) Julian was the surfer, he was relieved that his board didn’t make the LAX > SYD > PER flight.
Why? The shapers have a lot to lose, and they’re so proud of their craft. Julian is also known for being hyper-critical.
“I wasn’t happy with the full rails,” said Pyzel. “I don’t think it was the best board I could have shaped. It was a lot of pressure to get this right.” Our Los Angeles office now has an unmarked 6’0” Pyzel board, resting in a corner.
It wasn’t the only mishap. Stab sent the first JS board back to Coolangatta, thanks to the inclusion of a trademark glassing feature that would have certainly given up the board’s anonymity. Meanwhile, Darren Handley was stewing on whether to base his board on Mick Fanning or Jack Freestone’s signature model. He was adamant the 6’0” and 80 kilos belonged to Dion Atkinson. For real. John Robertson, a shaper from California you’re probably less familiar with, shaped and glassed three blanks before he was satisfied. Marcio Zouvi, the founder of Sharp Eye surfboards (now under the feet of Filipe Toledo) created two and chose what he thought was best.
And so, the blank knife collection landed in West Oz, one round tail among them. We had 36 coloured stickers created by artist Paul McNeil and we included surplus colours and numbers just in case Jules was superstitious around any digits or shades. And, Julian’s 10-day game of Who’s Who began. Four photographers, three filmers and one producer were tasked with the story telling, part one of which you’ll read on page 36. We’ll be telling more stories on stabmag.com as we drop the documentary series about the shapers, and the surfing, well, is a perfect example of the output Julian Wilson could deliver if he ever went without jersey (and his own boards, for that matter).
What else is happening this issue? Well, as I type, Sage Erickson is lying outstretched in front of me on the floor in Sunstudio, Cremorne, a hip(ish) suburb of Melbourne. She is naked but for a long-sleeve denim shirt draped over her hips as a camera flash detonates. Sage is also the perfect contrast to darker moments in this magazine. Tonino Benson was earning $200k a year as a teenager, and was sitting pretty on the coattails of Shane Dorian as The Big Island’s wunderkind. Then he wound up in a Kona jail cell, $11,000 his bail and rumours of drug use circled the exit sign (page 118).
Dane Reynolds spent time with Stab on the Gold Coast, joining us for beers most afternoons on our balcony in Eden Avenue, a street back from Rainbow Bay. We rolled tape and what we got was the musings of one of this generation’s realest, about to engage in the amazingly normal act of fatherhood. Among other things, Dane tells Stab that he was fat a few months ago, and that he can’t believe we care he’s becoming a dad. Sorry Mr Reynolds, but you’re famous (page 26).
This magazine is filled with light, dark, and vivid colour in between.