It's all Ocean Therapy!
by Corky Carroll
I learned how to ride waves on a canvas “air matt.” One of those heavy-duty rental kinds that were so abrasive that they would sand the skin right off your body in a matter of minutes if you didn’t protect yourself with a t shirt or something. This was in the early 1950’s, way before “rash guards” were invented. Boy, one of those would really have come in handy back then. But then, so would a lot of other things. Everything must evolve from somewhere to somewhere else.
From my air matt I graduated to a big heavy solid balsawood surfboard. Then polyurethane foam boards came out. At first there was some resistance, guys called them “foamies” and “flexi flyers.” Didn’t take too long to get past that though and these new lighter weight boards opened up surfing for just about anybody, big or small, male or female, strong or weak. All good.
Alternative surfing equipment, other than “tandem boards,” probably realistically began with the invention of the “boogie board” by Tom Morey in the later 1960’s. Yes, before that there were “belly boards,” “skim boards,” and “Paipo Boards.” But nothing that was really widely used by masses of people as an alternative to the surfboard.
Around the same time there was a surge in “kneeboards.” This was brought on by movies of George Greenough, a reclusive innovator from Santa Barbara that would surf Rincon at night with a minors helmet on with a light so he could see. George could do amazing things on these crazy shell-like boards he made to ride while kneeling. He could get himself very deep into the “tube” condensing himself into a ball and being down low to the water. A lot of people took this up, and many were critical of them. Some thought “if you can’t stand up you are not really surfing.” Very short sighted. I do admit that I was not a big fan of them myself, but at the same time had to give that it was a valid and different way to go to ride a wave.
Very similar kinda thing happened with the emergence of the Stand Up Paddleboard, or SUP as they are commonly called. People that didn’t do it were critical and called those who did “sweepers.” And yes, being the hypocrite that I have proven myself to be on more than one occasion, I was one of those critics. I would not call myself a full on “hater,” but was also not a real fan either. My beef with them was that guys would come into a crowded lineup and most of them were not good enough to not be a danger for everybody else. And those who were good enough would take all the good waves, having a big advantage in that department. They just looked like big clunky boards to me, I didn’t get it.
Mickey Munoz changed that in one afternoon, he is the first person I saw really shred on an SUP. And it was a different and very cool kinda technique he was using. He told me that the SUP added 10 years to his surfing, and that was ten years ago… so by now it has added 20 years to his surfing. Currently somewhere into his 80’s he is still surfing at very high level.
A few years ago I hurt my back bad enough to not be able to get to my feet from a prone position any longer. Forced me to try something else if I wanted to keep surfing. There were the kneeboards, the boogie boards, surf skis and the SUPs. I went for the SUP and never looked back. It let me surf when otherwise I would have had to stop. Opened my eyes to the fact that you can still surf, and surf well, on alternative surf equipment. And they are all good.
The reason I brought this up is that this morning I ran into a pal who broke his neck a little while back. His surfing was over, done, gone and finished. But, after like a year out of the water, he couldn’t take it any longer and went out and rode a couple of waves on a long board, just laying down. The longboard was not great for that, so he took out a smaller one. I had tried to do that same thing when I had hurt my back, found that a wide and fat 7’6” that I had laying around worked pretty good for that. My pal just made a 7’2”, the same kinda thing. Now he goes out for three or four waves at a time and is super stoked he can actually ride waves again.
Point being, there are many ways to ride a wave and whichever one makes you happy is all good. Don’t let buttheads, like me, discourage you. There is no rule that says what you must ride, or if you have to stand up or not, to be “cool.” If you dig it, it’s cool. The idea is to have fun.