Hanging heels at malibu? Pulling in at backdoor? or both. I’ Last November, during a Hawaiian Triple Crown event at Haliewa, Bonga Perkins engineered a decimation of the notorious, shifty walls of A’lii Beach Park. On his way to a championship victory, the stocky Hawaiian put on a jaw-dropping display as he buried powerful, full-rail bottom turns, carved full-speed hook turns under the lip and fearlessly floated over thick, folding sections that resembled concrete slabs.
Perkins rode a longboard. But was he longboarding?
With the modern longboard era now into its third decade, a contentious debate that’s been percolating for just as long brims over in sandy parking lots from Leucadia to Lennox Head to Laniakea.
At the ideological extremes of this debate sit two distinct camps: traditional and modern. But this division goes way beyond mere contrasting elements of style. The rift that currently divides what many surfers view as a single genre actually exists on a deeper, more conceptual level. Forsome, the discipline involves simply surfing on a longboard,” the modern display which Perkins so effectively presented that day at Haliewa. Others, meanwhile, champion “longboarding,” the traditional version we romantically link with the mid-1960s and First Point Malibu.
Surfing is a sport that likes to measure, categorize and departmentalize virtually every aspect. Degrees of swell direction, fractions of tail rocker, minute differences in wave height; thruster versus single, big-wave versus small, tow-in versus paddle-in, sell-out versus soul. So then it’s even more surprising that one of the sport’s most obvious questions has never even been asked: What is longboarding?
But before addressing the question, it is first necessary to clarify what constitutes a longboard. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. The very definition of “longboard” reeks with ambiguity. Is it any board over nine feet? That would make a 9′ 6″ Maverick’s gun a longboard. Any board which measures three feet over your head? If so, then if you’re a 5′ 2″ grom your 8′ 2″ is a longboard.
Conventional wisdom asserts that a longboard is any board over nine feet with a full nose template. But how this arbitrary dimension was arrived at has never been fully examined. There are no “template police” out there storming from factory to factory, throwing down a Takayama outline on each shaped blank and stamping “approved” or “denied.” It’s not as though surfing anthropologists found the number nine etched in lava somewhere in the caves of Diamond Head. And how anyone decided on what exactly constitutes a full nose template is anybody’s guess.
Surprisingly, we found some of the only hard-and-fast rules ever put down on paper, but in a format no recreational surfer would ever think to look, let alone possess: the 2001 ASP Pro Tour rule book. It declares a longboard to be “a minimum of nine feet in length, with width dimensions of 47 inches aggregate. This is the total of the widest point, plus the width 12 inches up from the tail and 12 inches back from the nose.”
But an aggregate of only 47 inches turns out to be relatively narrow. Running the ASP dimensions past a number of respected manufacturers, including legendary longboard shaper Bill Stewart and Rusty’s Pete Johnson, we got a unanimous response: each said no, it wasn’t a longboard. These dimensions could be applied to a number of different designs, among them the “fun gun” and the Desert Island” model. Therefore for realistic, non-competitive purposes, we can probably dismiss the ASP’s 47-inch rule. But why nine feet?
What really comes into play here is the dramatic change in surfboard length during the shortboard revolution of the late 60s. In 1966, surfboards were virtually all 9′ 6″ or bigger. But by ’68, enlightened shapers were literally sawing an entire foot off of their boards. Then the next day they’d cut off another foot. A revolution it was. Boards dropped from 9′ 6″ to 7′ 6″, in some cases overnight. There was never a slow, incremental adaptation, and this is probably why the nine-foot mark still holds true, it being the very first major cut-off point, so to speak, between longboards and short.
A full, rounded nose, however, is arguably more of a defining attribute than length. Ask a guy who owns a 10′, pointy-nosed Maverick’s gun if his board is a longboard and he’ll laugh in your face. Again we have to fall back on conventional wisdom which tells us that the wide, full nose–and the act of riding on that nose–is a vital characteristic of longboarding. But then what about the “funboard,” the “mini-mal,” or the Steve Lis Fish, for that matter? If the width of a board’s nose is the determining factor then the very term “longboard” becomes irrelevant. Which brings the issue right back around to the application: It’s not what you ride but how you ride it.
This obscurity fuels the style argument immediately. Both comparative attributes have their point. You can not longboard ala Joel Tudor, arguably the sport’s smoothest, cleanest & most advanced traditional longboard rider, on the 47-inch aggregate surfboard. And you also cannot surf ala Bonga Perkins driving the 30-pound log that Tudor frequently glides upon. It appears clear that you either “go longboarding” or you “surf on your longboard.”
The traditionalists dispute that “modern” longboarding isn’t longboard browsing at all. As the litmus test, some purists indicate Kelly Slater. They dispute that Slater can, on his 6? 1? Al Merrick, more do the same hard rail searching as Perkins effectively, then the carving procedure doesn’t define as longboarding. However, they claim, Slater cannot, on his equipment, do the sort of browsing on that Tudor and other traditionalists do, so in retrospect what traditionalists do is longboarding.
“If you’re searching it just like a shortboard,” Tudor declares flatly, lust get a shortboard.” Tudor, with not only the best reputation in the activity but an unbeatable competitive longboarding record-including the 1998 World Longboard Championship-certainly gets the chops to get this to statement. And a valid point it could be, especially if the typical is radical, vertical browsing. But this debate assumes that, in a few fashion or another, modern longboarders are approximating shortboard maneuvers on much longer simply, more restrictive equipment, than looking for a few feeling unique to the proper execution itself alternatively. By directly comparing riding a longboard in virtually any fashion to modern-day shortboard surfing, the longer equipment can only just be observed as a drawback. But an increasing number of surfers, for whom longboards have been typical than the exclusion alternatively, driving the longer mother board is their preferred method of manifestation simply.
“My 9’0″ is my shortboard,” clarifies Scott “Soupman” Campbell, a reputed north NORTH PARK State surfer who figures his own planks, “I’m near 40, 6′ 1″ and 210 pounds. Most men who question what I trip don’t possess a hint how considerably faster I am going, how a lot more area I’m covering and exactly how much fun I’m having. EASILY was on the shortboard more than seldom, I’d be bogging, It isn’t like I’m searching Gland everyday. I surfed on the shortboard for 15 years-I was on the cover of your newspaper in 1986 over a shortboard. I can surf still; I just take action on the nine-footer now.”