RETURN TO THE PAST – mid North Coast
Road trip with my mates always feels like a nostalgic time reliving the past, but with all the restrictions that comes with advancing years and social responsibility.
In other words a low key affair with moderate levels of froth.
But I like the idea of getting together with a basic schedule and the common goal of finding the best possible surf with the least amount of other surfers.
We are locking in on a mid-north coast trip each year in association with a local Mal Surfing Contest.
Usually as a shortboarder you wouldn’t go within a 100 miles of any sort of gathering of a longboard fraternity.
But for us it has been working well.
Like hiding in close proximity to the crime.
The presence of this event has a deterrent factor that keeps the crowds at bay, with the Mal Contestants generally sticking to the event site the other breaks can be free.
Well at least this has seemed to be the case, particularly last year. We had the best trip ever with a big south east swell right in the middle of our trip window and good looking bank formations on several of the back beaches and tucked away point breaks.
Alas this year not so idyllic.
We had the big south swell again on schedule that kept giving, but the swell direction remained too south so the tucked away little points either had a big sweep to contend with, or the swell was just pushing straight past.
And the open beaches were too big for our crew, plus the crowds seemed to have arrived.
The back-beach road was busy with surf vehicles of all types.
Has this area become a popular surf haven?
It seems so.
The main break is ideal for longboards and has been crowded almost like Noosa or Byron Bay Pass for many years.
This year the back roads had a variety of surfing groups including some locals and long boarders, young guy rippers, hipsters, girls on tour, old guys (including us), travelling surfer campers and there seems to be a burgeoning backpacker presence clogging up some of the breaks.
I don’t see this as a big problem, just an observation of the current situation effecting our short lived utopia.
There are big things happening in the world of surfing.
Like big wave tow & paddle surfing, the WSL has gone to a pool in the dessert, and right now we have seen the most amazing performance surfing, (since Andy and Kelly at J Bay), going down at the WSL event in Keramas.
But hey, we still gotta take care of the smaller things in our own surfing and base this as our direct link to the broader surfing world, and connect in a very personal way.
Everyone has a day-to-day relationship with the ocean and surfing linked by surfboards.
That day-to-day may be a before or after work surf, or a weekend blitz after a hard week or whatever.
Point being you need to take care of your own surfing world, big waves or small, and if you have the luxury just like a pro on the tour (within reason) keep improving, or matching your boards to your current situation or surf mission.
That’s what this little surf trip is for me.
A chance to try out a few new boards in like a surf camp environment.
Surf/eat/rest, then repeat that if the wind holds up or the tide is favourable.
Have fun in the surf, test boards, move forward.
To help me with this and verify and/or confirm my findings it’s good to have another guy in my age group on hand.
Eris O’Brien is sometimes up to try the odd new design of mine.
In this case we were trialing a few Heritage vee bottom variations.
Also in the touring party was Mac Channon. Mac is recuperating from neck surgery and if we drive the unsealed roads slowly he kindly will take a few surfing shots. Which is great. You don’t always witness your surfing mates wave of the day and if Mac doesn’t shoot it – it never happened.
From the shots of Eris it confirms to me the vee bottom allows you to get on a rail nicely.
And the old style volume works better in association with vee.
If you’re surfing a concave bottom board the effect of the concave is a lifting sensation so you actually have to be careful with the amount of volume you incorporate.
Too much volume, particularly in the rail and you can’t sink the rail.
Whereas with a vee bottom, you can have the volume in the rail, nose and tail and still get on a rail and hold the line in your turn.
I got Eris on the 6’6 20 1/4 2 11/16 38.26 litre roundtail Heritage board, and Mac captured Eris in a nice ageless throwback cutty.
Eris would normally surf 6’2 to 6’4 boards at 36.5 litres, so the length and volume helped him in the wave catching process, but he was still able to lay down some satisfying turns on the face.
Let me say right here that these Heritage style boards are no revelation, but it is interesting to go down the path of board design from the 1980’s.
There are a lot of surfers who’s best memories of their surfing come from experiences on that era board design.
So what I’m doing is revisiting this, adding some flair with current concepts to produce a ready to surf, functional fun board.
As it turns out, not unlike the boards from that era 1980’s, the Heritage boards are potential single board quiver all-rounders.
They work best in 2 to 5 feet.
I surfed the 6’6 briefly and a couple of 6’2 ’s both at 20 1/2 2 11/16.
The red spray 6’2 is 37.25 litres and has a thinner tail than standard boards in this series.
For why I hear you ask.
I wanted to add an element from my very early days of shaping and produce a thickness distribution going from thicker nose to thinner at the tail.
The result is a board that comes alive with a little more size and holds well in rail turns, but maybe is not as responsive in 2 to 3 feet surf.
The clear 6’2 Flyer Rounded Pin has 37.07 litres and as a Rounded tail feels pretty small for me but doable.
Both boards have the medium depth vee bottom.
My early Thrusters had very flat rocker thru the tail with super deep vee.
In these boards I have increased the amount of tail rocker and made the vee a little shallower.
The nose entry is roughly the same and if anything slightly flatter.
So the balance of rocker has shifted to give a little more front foot speed, but back foot in the pocket carve capability.
On this trip I was surfing my way into a little bit of form, which is great in order to analyse boards properly.
We had glorious weather initially which was a good thing considering we were forced to camp due to no vacancies available with other accommodation options.
The weather did turn on the fourth night, testing my ability to endure discomfort and suffer slightly for my art/work. My dislike of being wet and cold outdid my determination to continue the surf camp experience.
Add to this the south swell was refusing to go a little more East or drop in size to open up the back beach possibilities.
So, knowing that a perfectly warm and dry residence with a fully stacked fridge was attainable if only I threw everything back in the Nissan and just left proved too tempting and I found myself heading south on the main highway leaving Eris, Mac and Walshy to their fate.
Thanks Mac for the shots taken under duress, that is with a bit of neck pain and a slight hangover.
Thanks Eris for being an ace team rider/board tester.
Thanks Walshy for making up the numbers and the good company.
See you in Sydney