Now that I'm getting older, I find I'm becoming less certain or definite about a lot of things. A little slower to make absolute, finite, best-ever kind of calls. Like for instance "this is my all-time favourite surfboard". But I thought it might make for an interesting post.
To begin, I considered my first ever board. It was a pre-loved 6'1" Sam Egan thruster (complete with the dinged rails from my first attempt at balancing on it in a backyard pool). After all, those first rides will remain some of my most memorable. Or perhaps my favourite board was my first custom, shaped by Brett Warner at Brookvale when I was not long out of high school? However, these are both fairly conventional thrusters which I haven't ridden so much in the past few years.
Then I thought about my funky purple double-ender—a thick, short and wide Chris Brock number complete with a deep single Ben Lexcen winged keel fin. My first summer riding that board was super fun. But then, I've also had massive amounts of stoke in recent years riding longboards. So, what about my first custom McTavish malibu that I picked up second hand for a song at sleepy Evans Head? Or maybe one of my sweet single-finned Valla longboards by Paul and Sage Joske?
I'm tempted in my old age to temper the absoluteness of my initial quest and tweak it to "favourite shortboard" or "favourite fish". But that just won't do. I've gotta say it loud and proud: the Valla fish pictured below is a dream board. I just love it! Now I sound like a teenage girl...
It was hand crafted by Paul Joske over 8 years ago now. After my first surf on it I wrote to him gushing that I felt "destined to ride this board". Unlike a lot of the closer-to-a-thruster "fishes" that get around, it's a traditional, timber keel finned, wide swallow tail fish—far closer to the original design that came out of California in the 1970s.
For a few years previous I'd been mesmerised by the footage of Curren riding a true fish at Jeffreys Bay. The high-line speed runs and massive drawn out cutbacks looked like so much fun, and so different to how a thruster would have performed in the same waves. Paul's been building all kinds of boards for over 40 years, and when I saw his son Heath ripping on a fish his dad had made him, it finally dawned on me I could have one under my feet too.
As with a lot of good things in life, you have to wait for them. I'm sure it was at least 6 months before I paddled the fish out for it's maiden voyage at the south end of Mona Vale in October 2003. It was a dawn session and I quickly took these board photos before heading out. It was only small, but I was alone and just so stoked on the unique way it rode. Still am. The surfing shots are from a great afternoon session a few winters back—at least 6 years on and the fish is still going strong.
So there you have it, my favourite board ever. So far at least...
5' 8 1/2" X 21" X 2 7/16"