This Board Is Gonna Go Soooo Good!

As if you can even tell.

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Most surfing Illusions are eroded by time and experience. One or two stick around pretty much forever. I think they stick around because they’re the Illusions based not on ego or misperception, but on hope. Who of us wants hope to die entirely from our hearts? None! I say.

And so we pull the new board from the dusty hands of the finish sander guy and gaze upon its glories, and our hearts are filled with hope. Yours has been, mine has been. God help me, mine still is.

Sure, you look on the board with a cooler eye too, assessing the lines and curves against whatever experience you possess. Oh yeah, this will do that. Maybe this is a bit funny. Maybe it’s too thin or too thick. Ideas about the board are engendered in opposition to those conjured up by the warm hopeful eye. They play against each other. It’ll do this! No it won’t! It might!

Thing is, you can’t tell. You really cannot. Look at a board all you want, with your cold eye or the hopeful warm one. Neither will do much for your understanding of the board. The only way you can tell a god damn thing about it is by taking it out and paddling it and riding it on waves.

Even THEN you can remain in thrall to Illusion. We all know surfers who have been drawn down blind alleys by their boards. That moment of hope stays with them, despite all evidence to the contrary. Just enough happens with the board — my God, it floats! — that they get another one, and another. They construct a vast theory around the Illusion, their hope perhaps now challenged by an unspoken fear that it may all be codswallop — challenged, but never defeated. For nothing can defeat human hope. Not a hundred wipeouts for seemingly no reason. Not seeing your mates go nuts on boards your Illusory theories will not permit you to ride. Nothing.

Yet even hope has its limits. Even hope breaks down. There comes a crucial point in the life of every truly committed surfer when he or she can no longer deny the evidence of his or her senses. When the Illusion of hope is finally trumped by grim Reality, in the shape of a shitty rail-catch cutback that happens too often to be mere pilot error, or a fantastic wave that we know in our deeper selves we should have made. No, this board we thought was gonna go soooo good is in fact shit.

At first we are crushed by the knowledge, then cleansed by it. We cast the board aside, maybe selling it to some other hope-infused patsy, and move on into the real world, clear-eyed, demanding better for ourselves. We enter showrooms and factories with new purpose. We won’t be fooled again. Fix that crap rocker line, we inform the designer. Fetch me better fins!

Then a board emerges. Maybe in a surf shop rack, maybe from the dusty hands of the finisher. The board has your name on it, or it might as well have. And hope is born anew! “It’s gonna go soooo good!”

Nick Carroll

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