Stab Magazine | Maybe Longboarding Isn’t That Bad?
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Maybe Longboarding Isn’t That Bad?

“The best surfer has never been and never will be the one having the most fun, but that doesn’t mean we have to be allergic to it.”

style // Aug 5, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

On a Saturday in July, my first weekend into a trip to the land of seemingly free weed and low wages, our Editor in Chief, Ashton Goggans, forced me to attend a longboarding contest at Malibu.

Now, when I say “forced,” I mean he said I “might have fun,” and when I say “contest” I mean basically the furthest thing I could imagine from the standard thruster filled singlet fest.

I’m not typically a proponent of longboarding. Or sleeping in vans. Or saying things like “Leashes? We’re not dog’s,bro!”

Back home in the ex-con land of Oz, I’m averse to touching anything which could be regarded as a mid-length, fun board, log, and certainly not resembling or being referred to as a ‘mini-mal’.

Unless you’re surfing waist high Lennox, the Pass, or another innocuous point, in my books, there’s little to be achieved or accomplished on a longboard, and I’d never previously considered competitive longboarding to be a worthwhile pursuit. I was much a fun of Buckley’s anti-mono-fin propaganda and often relish in the opportunity to vilify those who disagree.

And there’s no one who does longboarding better than women! Photo. Julien Roubinet

But what I witnessed at Malibu was a far-cry from the self-absorbed single-fin clusterfuck I’d imagined.

There was no pretentiousness, few altercations, and for a surf contest, an unfathomable sense of funa true rarity in 21st century surfing! The best surfer has never been and never will be the one having the most fun, but that doesn’t mean we have to be allergic to fun.  

I’m not sure what the vibe of shortboarding contests are like in the US, but other than teams challenges, events back home are taken way too seriously, by both the organisers and surfers. They are complained about. Suffered through. Overall, they are a “grind.”

At Malibu, tents were peppered across the 100 or so metre stretch, and though the waves looked like and were utter shit, all I heard was that it was “fun out there.” People on the beach were genuinely psyched to see someone ride a 2-foot line up onto the sand. Ashton even divied out a tinnie to every dude coming up in the last heat of the day, and they weren’t the only mind-altering substances being consumed prior to heats either.

Not that doing drugs is particularly ‘cool’ and noteworthy, but it points out how little similarities there are to the yoga, spinach smoothie, F45 fitness regime that is standard competition.

Of course, from a high performance standpoint, the surfing is shit.

Sure hanging heels constitutes at least a 5-point wave, and cross-stepping is their equivalent of a solid top turn, but at least they factor in style to their system…

One of the kids, who was a self-proclaimed  ‘longboard expert judge’ even gave me an unwanted rundown on the intricacies of their criteria; the difference between a ‘functional maneuver’ and ‘trick’, plus a short tale on his qualms with the uneducated “overlord” running the judging that day.

Oh, and there was a aggressive game of verbal table-tennis going down in the carpark too caused by a mid-heat backpaddle; it was quite interesting watching two blokes go verbal blow for blow without uttering the surprisingly derogatory term, “mate”, nor the half-complimentary term, ‘cunt’ – they do it differently over here in California.  

Other than this briefly aggressive intermission, everyone there was amped; making a heat was less motivated by competitive drive and more driven around getting the opportunity to surf first point again with only three other dudes. And while I’m not sure whether this was just an American thing, but people were genuinely happy to have a chat. Fuck, people even say “hey!” when you walk past, and the only time I’ve heard that from an estranged surfer back home is when I’m about to unrightfully fade them.

People won heats, people lost, and even after having a debatable interference held against him, our insatiably stoked editor, Ashton wasn’t all that bummed. Those who won in their first rounds were stoked simply to surf again, and the rest were arguably more excited knowing they could blow themselves up at the bar that night, as opposed to semi-keeping a lid on it.

The comp wrapped up, the stench of legal weed waft around, and just as the sun dipped behind the valley, half of us flocked out for a dusk squirt, with the remainder solidly establishing themselves in the makeshift venue that is the first point car park.

I don’t know whether it was the beers to blame, the fact I was back in trunks amidst a cold Australian Winter, or whether Ashton’s impenetrable positivity was actually borderline transmissible. Regardless, as hard as it is to admit, riding a log was kind of fucking fun. For once I wasn’t engrossed with what my weird jazz hands were doing, or racing to the end for a flailed air, I was just simply happy to be gliding along without a single shred of ‘performance anxiety’.

Well, other than the very likely chance of my untethered and borrowed board cracking open mine or some kids skull…

I’d hate to ever come across as the logging type, but maybe it ain’t that bad after all*.

*Performance longboarding is exempt from this bout of elongated craft interest.

Note: This piece was written prior to my experiences of trying to compete against a plethora of 10’ boards on my square tailed 5’2” when the waves reached near-tsunami heights for California’s standard few days later. 

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