I’m no fan of fads even if I sometimes partake in them. To me, the alaia is a fad but I’m beginning to see and understand why people like to ride these and am beginning to bend to it. On the below surf trip I paddled out on my plywood skimboard and had a blast. easily as much fun as I would have had on a surfboard. Riding a small, thin, finless board has its advantages.
Number one is how easy it is to duck waves. I’m used to riding overly thick, overly long boards that are pretty much impossible to duck-dive. My normal tactic is to slide forward, grab the nose, and try to pull the thing through the wave. If it’s a bigger day — like head high or above — this usually winds up in me losing the board and relying on my leash. With a less buoyant board you can just kind of sink under the wave and then use the board to direct yourself back up.
Number two would be the more intimate connection to the wave. There are some days when the conditions are bad or when I’m surfing kookier than normal, when the prone ride back in is the funnest ride of the day. So, why not make them all prone rides? Or, if standing on the alaia, the needed crouch puts you in closer contact with the wave. The closer you are, the more fun you have ad infinitum.
And, yes, there’s the simplicity. No dings, no fins, and most importantly, no pretenses to worry about. That last point is why I may be grossed out by the faddishness. As soon as there is a “way” to ride any given board, there arises all of this social construction about doing it “right” or doing it “wrong”. In longboarding you are doing it “wrong” if you aren’t side stepping to the nose. You are doing it “wrong” if you rail grab on non critical waves. You are doing it “wrong” if you are pumping the board rather than trimming for speed. Wrongness and rightness just take away from the experience. I have my most fun sessions when I’m out alone or with a group of people who are simply stoked. In both these cases there’s no worry.
Dane Reynolds just posted a blurb about Derek Hynd and about his own travails with riding a finless board in front of a hungry media and more so about doing it so “wrong” that he’s doing it “right” according to the surf industry that just wants more flash and buzz to sell unnecessary things (as an aside, I think Dane won’t be able to stomach being a part of the machine too much longer). Along with that post is a video of Derek riding a finless but channelled board on a big day at J-bay. This has been going around for a while, but I’ll put it here anyway. I’m not saying that this is doing it “right” but it’s just damn amazing to look at. This guy is so in-tune with the wave and about 9 light years ahead of the thruster-or-maybe-a-quad pack of “pros” that you just have to laugh.