Film: Caleb Graham
Watch: Dakoda Walters in "Four Boards, Four Weeks"
Four surfboards, each one foot apart in length.
On a balmy Autumn evening in Angourie, I was having a barbecue with Navrin Fox, Jeremy Walters and his son Dakoda. We talked Snapchat, the joys and dreadfulness of social media as a teenage pro surfer, and his upcoming year at school. We talked about Dakoda's interest in a new surf film project this year.
As always, I dominated the conversation with an idea that would create both a narrative and perhaps a process of self-discovery: What if Dakoda spent a whole month riding only four surfboards, each of them one-foot apart in length?
This idea was built around the premise that not a single person in the world is looking forward to seeing another teen make an air reverse in an edit. Harsh, but true.
As it turned out, the prospective filming month would likely overlap with a busy contest schedule. I countered that the sum of chasing pro junior points would amount to zero in the scheme of a pro surfing career.
When Dakoda first grappled with the idea of riding only four surfboards during the month of May – the best month of surf on Australia's east coast – he wondered whether he'd grab his typical 5'7" on the best days of surf. At just 16, you don't want to be swinging a seven-foot club slowly from the bottom of a three-foot wedge while your pals are dropping "board-out, frontside hangers" on their shortboards.
But, surprisingly, he ordered the boards and the month of May was with us.
He was determined to stick out the month, and was surprised in the most unexpected ways. As it turned out, it was a gift that gave far more than it took away. The process was a forced discovery, teaching himself things that a 5'7 shortboard could not.
A 7'0 knifed into a local ledge and bought time in those critical and typically rushed moments before the tube. The added length created a forward momentum that made it breezy to exit the tube.
The 4'0 bodyboard-looking craft could actually get on rail and worked especially well on roundhouse cutbacks. This is the board that received the most questions from passersby.
The biggest discoveries however, came from the 5'0 and 6'0 boards.
The 5'0 performance twin looked better than his typical shortboards, his old boys Walt said. The preconceived thought that a twin would be without drive was also debunked. Angourie local Navrin Fox said he was making some of the best airs he'd ever seen in real life. In a crowded lineup with big names, no one could get near Dakoda he said. He also won a local schoolboy contest on the board.
The knifey 6'0 Momentum-inspired slipper added a maturity to his surfing. Despite his skinny frame, Dakoda would draw his turns out and push critically in the pocket.
When the month was finished, Dakoda reluctantly went back to his shortboards having learnt as much about himself as he had about his surfing performance. Specifically he learned that by having to make the most of what he had in front of him, improvisation can lead to evolution.