Kolohe Andino, The Round Nose Fish Retro, And Surfboards As Antidepressants
“Free your mind and your ass will follow” – Matt Biolos
Can a new surfboard make you truly, capital-H, Happy? Like, in the Aristotelian sense of the word?
Can a board significantly improve your mood, add some much needed joy, shine a little light in a dark place, etc.? Fucking absolutely.
Last month, Kolohe Andino—after gritting his teeth through a Kafka-esque European leg this year, wherein he was more or less bested by the limits of the Speed of Sound in France, and trumped in a Round 3 tie-break in Portugal—returned home borderline clinically depressed, and understandably so.
But his lifelong shaper, Matt Biolos had just the experimental elixir Brother needed, a Five Funboard Quiver that included a Maysym—a new asymetrical model Matt’s introducing, but that’s literally an entire other story, for later in Matt’s residency—and the 5’6″ Round Nose Fish Retro featured in the clip above.
Here’s Matt and Brother, on the subject of surfboards as antidepressants, and the day-glo number seen below.
Matt Biolos: After barnstorming so well through Europe in 2017—making back to back semis, and literally looking like the best regular foot on that leg—Kolohe returned from Europe this season (2018) feeling dejected. Although he’s still ranked just above 10th in the entire world (a position most professional surfers would kill for) he knows he has much more to offer.
Kolohe: I came back from Europe, after losing with an interference after the heat in France, and in Portugal I tied with Zeke in Round 3. It was a rough couple weeks for me, and I came back and just had like a three-day bout of depression. Just so bummed and tripped out.
Matt: I’d been working on various new “fun” models through the summer. Developing some for release in 2019. I decided to build him a little collection of toys to play with and maybe forget his frustration. Hoping to simultaneously remind him why we surf in general…for fun.
I gave him a RNF_Retro and showed him the Dane Reynolds clips from Acid Test. Saying “If this beautiful fat ass can rip it like this, I’d love to see what you can do with it. Pretty much everyone who rides this new Retro Fish loves it. I love it. You’ll love it.”
Kolohe: Lowers had been breaking a lot, and it was one of those mid-week, midday swells where it’s really pretty. But I was still kind of bummed, just a dark state of mind, and I grabbed that board—and it was pink and yellow, really cool looking, four fins, and the fins were weird on it. My dad had been trying to get me to move my foot forward when I’m surfing, and I usually wedge my back foot against the kick tail out of habit, so I didn’t put a kick on the fish, I just put flat traction, so I would get my foot forward and focus on drive.
Matt: We also made him an “Evil Twin”, a “Retro Ripper” an “Uber Driver” and a “MAYSYM”. All of them 1/2″ to 1″ or more, wider, and significantly thicker than his norm.
Kolohe: I had a couple waves and just thought, “Oh, my god—this board works absolutely insane.” I wasn’t filming, sort of just soul surfing with my dad, and it was offshore, really beautiful and blue. All of a sudden I was throwing the thing on rail, just thinking, Holy shit, with the four fins I was carving like I never had before.”
Matt: Within a week, as I’d make my way down to the beach for a late morning or afternoon surf, I’d get rampant reports of people walking up from surfing about how “Kolohe was going ape shit on some fish all morning”, or “Brother just did about 20 gnarly in airs a row on some weird Asymmetric board”.
I’d missed the show, but liked what I was hearing. Most of the surfs were with no video guy. Kolohe was off the grid. Surfing for himself, with no judges, photogs or video guy in tow. Hiding in plain sight.
I’d get a few texts. “That Fish is pretty fun!” Did you film? “No”
OK, keep having fun.
We finally got some clips on the fish. Then Dino comes by the shop. “Fuck man, Brother was so bummed when he got home from Europe, but he’s been going bananas on that fish. There’s something about that thing.”
Now if Dino is on board with this sort of frivolous fun, we know we are in a good place.
Kolohe: I took the board in three days later, and told Matt, “I’ve never felt like I could push so hard on a small, bowly wave, in my life.”
I’ve been really trying to smooth out my surfing, I think that’s something I need the most help with, linking turns on points. The Retro Fish was a four fin, and had more liters, and so much drive… I was watching the footage, and I actually texted Matt: “What’s going on? These boards look really polished, I look powerful and strong like I’ve been trying to get from my shortboards… but I’m on a fun board.”
Matt: We finally got a couple sessions documented on the fish. As a designer and businessman, I’m obviously stoked to have my pinnacle athlete motivated and documenting riding these alternative, retail-friendly designs. But as a friend, I’m even more stoked to feel the brevity in his demeanor and his carefree attitude.
Watching him surf these boards was a pleasure. Akin to when Wardo would go out on a Fish and lay down world-class lines. It’s rare to see such a polished surfer of his level taking the time to ride alternative craft.
Refreshing, and spontaneous, yet mature at the same time.
Kolohe: Something I’ve learned from watching Griffin—he has just that natural, smooth rhythm, so even when he’s not doing the craziest maneuver, it looks really good. I wanted to get back to that classic, Californian point break surfing. That’s what I felt like I needed the most.
Pumping, and really trying, it gets ugly after a while. What those little boards do really well, was just driving through turns, and just allowing me to basically just stand there and turn when I want to. That’s what I want in my normal performance shortboards for the tour next year. Especially for places like J-Bay and Bells and all the right points on tour.
I asked him, “Hey, what’s the deal with these boards, my surfing looks the way I want it to, but I’m on a fun board..”
He said, “Maybe it’s not the boards, it’s a state of mind.”
Matt: Last week, Kolohe texts me again. “I’ve been watching the clips from home last month on these little fun boards (Retro Fish, Maysym, etc). What’s the deal with those things? My surfing looks smooth and relaxed on them. Why do you think that is?”
He challenged me to build some of that magic into his smaller wave world tour boards. But where do you start?
The added width and built-in glide really helps, of course, but I honestly feel there’s a mental factor as well. The Tour is a relentless grind that can wear these kids down. Coming home, riding alternative equipment, choosing your own lines on waves, and not surfing for a required score, or to be judged by someone else is a huge release. “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”
And as far as design goes, I truly think we can focus on implementing some of these design elements into our smaller wave Pro-Formance competitive short boards. It may not be the answer to a World Tour quiver, but there’s always something to be learned from going outside the box and studying alternative designs, especially when you have such a gifted athlete, operating at the top of his physical game.
I’m relishing the extra month off this season. With the Tour starting in April, instead of March, there’s more time for the surfers to take care of themselves and get a complete re-boot, and more time for us designers to develop boards and come out of the gate with new ideas and progress the sport together, with the surfers.
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