Three Boards That'll Make The Mediocre Surfer Feel, Er, Good?
A quiver courtesy of Album Surfboards for those who’ve finally accepted nobody is calling their performance “high”.
There comes a time in the Average Surfer’s life when they're forced to accept that guy (or gal!) on every set, leaving behind a trail of tears in a fins-out-flurry, will never be them.
And by “Average Surfer” I’m speaking of those who have spent the majority of their lives surfing and have never reached the point of a brand caring to plaster a sticker on the nose of their surfboard. Those who enjoy burgers, burritos, and beer, but believe eating a poke bowl and a salad once a week is, in fact, a well-balanced diet. Not semi-pros like our dear Michael Ciaramella who claim their surfing is “average”.
In the upper echelons, there’s a lot of that…
We tapped one of San Clemente’s finest board builders, Matt Parker of Album Surfboards, for three crafts that will keep us wet in (almost) any condition. Matt produces some of the most aesthetically pleasing surfboards in California. His boards occupy the small space of alternative shapes that, when under the right surfer's feet, turn high-performance.
Remember that bright, multi-colored asymm Dane Reynolds went mad on in the first Electric Acid Surfboard Test? That was an Album. Matt's sleds can also be seen beneath Josh Kerr, Eric Geiselman, and even Filipe Toledo’s feet on any given day.
However, almost all of Matt's boards have an air of "user-friendly" to them.
"I think under most people's feet, boards that would be categorized as 'high performance' are not being performed upon very highly," laughs Matt. "At least not in day-to-day, average surf!”
“So to me, the alternative way of looking at it is: what can I add to or do differently that's going to unlock a freer feeling, more speed, a new line, more fun. That's the goal with my boards, to make a board that gets you excited and really makes you want to go surf and have fun, whatever the waves are doing."
So, here are three boards for those willing to accept your Hi-Fi thruster isn’t turned on by your constant attempts at asphyxiation, and those open-minded enough to realize that something non-symmetrical and voluptuous may be your new kink.
More cush for the push.
Meet the Townsend Twin.
“This is the only board you’re going to want to ride,” is what Matt told me when he handed off this 6’7 asymmetrical Twin Fin.
It looked cool; Matt possesses an uncanny knack for building a surfboard that’s pleasing to the eye. But at the time, I was more interested in the other two, sub-six-foot boards that appeared more, dare I say, rippable, than this beefcake with a funny tail.
I took it to Malibu on an inconsistent, waist high-plus day–a day I typically wouldn’t have surfed the northern points of LA because I don’t really like riding a longboard, and there wasn't quite enough push for a fish.
The Townsend Twin glides into waves with ease. It picks up speed down the line and is responsive. At the first section that called for a turn, I nursed a cutback and the board whipped with the tweak of a sub-six foot thruster. The next turn, I pushed a little harder, the fins broke free and the board slid around in the pocket.
While it may not have looked pretty, it felt nice and since then, the Townsend has become motivation to surf on days around home that would typically frustrate. Suddenly, I found myself stroking my mustache, shopping for Birkenstocks, wide-brim hats, sleeping in the shell of my truck and preaching the mid-lengh-ish twin fin asymm to my friends like gospel.
"The Townsend Twin came about when I was making boards for Jay Nelson [San Francisco-based artist, designer and more than capable surfer]," says Matt. "He loves old beat up, eggy single fin style boards. My friend Mike Townsend thought it would be cool to take an eggier, mid-length shape and do it as a twin and then we thought, why not offset the twins a bit and add some asymmetry to the outline and bottom?
“We made a 6'9" as a little project for Jay. Ultimately, Jay didn't click with that first version but Mike just fell in love with it and rode it everywhere. I come from a shortboard background and it's just wild because I ride a 6'8" Townsend all the time now. Too much fun. They paddle and glide in like a bigger board but they have the speed generation and liveliness of a shorter twin.
“It’s such an epic feeling to bury that much rail, and zip around with that much speed. The rocker comes from my UTF Fish and then it borrows from my Dissasym [the model Dane surfed in EAST] and Darkness models. It's always the biggest eye opener for people when they try one. Such unexpected fun."
Asymmetrical boards aren’t just for pointbreaks.
Meet the Fascination.
It’s long been believed that an asymmetrical surfboard should be delegated only to pointbreaks and only ridden one direction.
This isn’t true; they work on your backhand. The feeling just takes a little adjusting to. While a reeling point is where the boards reign supreme, taking one out to a shifty beach break isn’t the worst idea. When your foot is in the sweet spot between the fins, the control you have feels next level to that of a thruster or quad.
After sampling Ashton’s essentially same asymm fish on the North Shore (at V-Land), I became obsessed with asymms. Like, assyms literally entered my dreams, when I returned home from Hawaii: I woke up around four am, shooting up in bed thinking, I need one.
I stand around 6'2 and weigh roughly 180/190 pounds (depending on my beer:surf ratio). I've found that when redirecting asymms, they seem to fit better in the wave's face. I was speaking with Dooma Fahrenfort, a gentleman a few inches taller than me, who said he and Jordy Smith had a relatively simple theory: 5'10-plus surfboards are too long and unwieldy to seamlessly transition across waves shoulder high and under. The asymm allows for the same volume of a 5'10 to 6'2 shortboard to be condensed into a 5'6/5’8 frame. Due to the off-kilter nose and tail, none of the board is sacrificed making them feel better for under the feet of a lankier, taller surfer.
Think Bryce Young and Ryan Burch.
"I think the biggest misconception with an asymmetrical board is that they just go one way; that they're just for pointbreaks, going right or something," Matt tells. "One of the best things about asymms actually is how good they go backside. Like, generally people love the classic twin-fin fish on their forehand for speed, freedom, etc. But backside these boards can be a little more limiting as they want to project more laterally down the line. Tightening up that heel side curve and adding quad side fins under your heel opens up a different line of attack that you can take in a pocket."
Everyone needs a Swiss Army knife.
Meet the Insanity.
When I approached Matt for this piece, I laid the goal out as a three-board quiver designed to get you in the water any day of the year. Something for slop. Something for point breaks or when the waves are decent. And something for when the waves get proper.
The Insanity, I've found, works quite well in anything ranging chest-high plus.
The Insanity's got a beaked nose and a good amount of volume throughout the middle of the board. The tail pulls into a baby swallow. I've been riding it as a twin fin with a trailer. I've yet to surf it in anything consequential, but it's got good weight and feels like it'll hold in solid hollow surf.
Turns out, it's Josh Kerr's go-to model; in fact, Kerrzy has almost sworn off traditional high-performance thrusters since leaving the tour. While in Cabo for a soft top event (that Josh won), we were chatting about the model and he likes riding it in hollow, well-overhead waves, and if that's the case, to switch the fin set up from a two-plus-one to a quad, for extra hold and control.
"I made a little 5'6" pintail version for Kerrzy to take to Hawaii as a fun little tube shooter thing with a little beak nose, pack in some foam into a tight little package," Matt says of the Insanity. "Josh pretty much blew my mind with what he was able to do on that first one. Charging pipe, boosting at Rocky point, took it to Indo, all over. Josh loved it and wanted to apply it to a board that would work in California as well, and that would ultimately kind of replace a shortboard for him. So I adjusted the outline, pulled in the nose width a bit, brought the wide point back and gave it a swallow tail with 5 fin set up. It still paddles like a bigger board but is maneuverable and lively.
“Josh rides it day to day at home as a twin + trailer. If the waves get good he'll go with quad. It's probably the best travel board I've made, It's like 3-4 boards in one."