Corky on Surf Machines
by Corky Carroll
It looks like the age of technology is catching up with the surfing world, or maybe it’s the other way around. I’m not really sure about that. Surfing, and surfboards, have always been based on equipment that was handmade and personally designed by a shaper / designer. Then, not all that long ago really, came molded boards and the “shaping machine.” The shaping machine pretty much does all the work and the shaper just has to finish the board off a little bit. They have board designs that are on computer chips these days. Who would have every thought this would happen back when Hobie and Grubby Clark were mixing up the first batches of polyurethane foam? The molded boards speak for themselves; they are made in a mold. We used to call these “pop outs” back in the dinosaur days. That’s back when we had to fight off T-Rexes and Raptors to get to the surf. Most of you weren’t born yet. The modern molded boards are generally lighter and more ding resistant than normal boards, but they do break in half easier for the most part. There are those who love them and those who hate them. My opinion is that, like most things, it all depends on the particular board you are talking about. My surfboards are all handmade but my stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) are molded.
Recently there have been more changes. Right off the top one of the most controversial and talked about changes are man made waves. Wave machines and wave pools. The most notable is Kelly Slaters “Wave Ranch” up in Central California. When I first saw video of this I was amazed. My first thought, and I am sure many others had the same one, was, “wow, I wanna ride that.” I can remember doing a surfing exhibition at the first wave pool back in Tempe, Arizona in 1969. It was called “Big Surf.” I can testify that Kelly Slaters wave is far far beyond the mush-burgers at Big Surf. It is so good, in fact, that they are now holding world rated surfing events there. You have stands, concessions, parking and the whole 9 yards. Just like going to most any other sporting event. To actually ride a wave there costs both arms, both legs and those of all your pals too.
Taking this even further we have all kinds of powered boards coming out right and left. A few years ago a company put out a powered surfboard that moved about three times the speed that a person could paddle. Made it easier to get into the lineup and to catch waves. The thing was really heavy though and that was a drawback. And the fact that the battery life was pretty short. There have been others that have almost made the market but for one reason or another, probably funding, haven’t. I was all into designing a board that would surf good and had a motor that actually had some speed to it a few years back. But the company didn’t have the resources and it never happened.
Recently a powered “foil” hit the market. Thing looks pretty cool but costs a lot. And I am not sure I wanna be around in the lineup when some beginner comes screaming along on a powered foil. Just normal ones are pretty dangerous, can you imagine getting hit by a foil going really fast? Ouch. But the concept is really interesting. Then recently I got a press release for a new powered “fin.” It’s a surfboard fin with a propeller on the back of it. Like the powered board this fin only adds a slight increase in speed. Catch waves easier for sure, I would have to try one to say how it effects the riding of the board. So far I have not had the chance to try one.
So here we have it. We show up at Kelly's Wave Ranch with a powered foil and one of those new watches that can tell you how far you ride, how fast you go and if you are cool or a kuk. Put on a battery heated wetsuit, waterproof iPod, set your watch and jump in. About as “mod” as you can get I guess. I have no idea how much this is all gonna cost, but it’s probably more than most of us can muster up for a few rides in fresh water.
Or, we show up at our local beach with a decent board and a normal watch that tells the time and maybe the tide but has no idea if you are cool or a kuk. Slip on your mildew smelling old wetsuit and paddle out. Total cost very low and it’s mostly all natural. You do have a bar of that new “glutton free” surf wax I assume.
What an age we live in.