Saturday, 16 November 2013

So Long and Thanks for all the Slides

written by alaia shaper and surfer Andrew Strode
Muizenberg winters – colder than ex wives hearts, darker than corporate lawyers' souls, bank accounts drain as dam waters rise, kitchen cupboards are evacuated until they resemble the echoing interiors of beauty queens’ heads. I’m no stranger to a bit of poverty, the wolves have been at my door since it was just a door frame and there is no shame in being poor but when the southern ocean swells are lining up past the horizon to take their turns at running full tilt, mouths wide open down the length of the Eastern Cape points and I’m stuck in the city, well then it gets a little inconvenient.

So when the opportunity came along to earn a small pile of filthy lucre in the arms trade, faster than you can say “so Satan, where do I sign?”, I was in.

Cut to a double volume workshop space hidden behind a non-descript garage door in the labarinthine Salt River, wailing grinders, the hiss and flicker of welding machines, cold rainy days that pass unseen, nothing exists aside from metal – cutting, bending, welding… Now cut again to the red eye bus to J Bay, it’s just me, Trav from the great unwashed. Out boards are in the belly of the beast and I’ getting gently lulled into rigamortis but the evangelical Christian TV that the bus hostess is battering us with. Finally the pot of gold at the end of the red eye rainbow materialises in front of us as we stand shivering on the beach while the sun crawls out from under its Indian Ocean duvet to reveal 4-5ft supers looking every bit like the best right hand point break in the world.

I paddled out on my little 3’7” agave planing hull, not too sure at how that experiment was going to end, only knowing that I’d rather hang around the frontier towns of my surfing than revisit the roads of my youth. It took me a while to get my first one but as soon as I realized it was possible I relaxed into a rhythm of high speed sliding. Derek Hynd, the master at left field surfing appeared and dissolved our brains in a display of a possible future. He is so far ahead of the curve that the language barely exists to describe his performance.

For my second suf we go down to the point and I paddle out on my alaia. The waves down here, run at the perfect speed for alaias. About 40 minutes into the surf I snag a wide set, taking off in a blizzard of foam, unfortunately the wave closes out and I nose dive as I try to straighten out. With no leash on, my board disappears off and I wait for a good wave to bodysurf. It’s a long swim in and I’m hoping my board will be waiting there in the shallows for me like a faithful dog. But no luck, I get in and search the beach, a fisherman spots my board and I swim in its direction but my arms are heavy and the rip is strong, the sun is sinking and I’m too blind to find anything that doesn’t want to find me.
I go back to shore and the fisherman spots my board. It’s 500m out and heading north fast. I let go. So long and thanks for the slides.

I’m left with the daydream of the gods delivering by board to a young kid somewhere. Hopefully a kid that recognises it’s potential as a wave sliding platform.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Heaven and Hull

Like seeing a two headed dog ollieing a skate board or accidently smoking DMT in a traffic jam, stand up paipo surfing is a strange and wonderful  thing.
About the least you can have under your feet while still being able to slide across wave faces without being a carpenter from Gallilee, paipo’s take the wave sliding middle man and put him on a vegan raw food diet until he can pigdog the eye of a needle. They’re magic carpets for people who would prefer a magic tea towel. I first fell in love with the idea of riding paipos standing up when I saw the footage of Valentine Chang surfing off the wall on Oahu’s south side on his little red plywood single fin. The surfing is like summer distilled in a moonshiners copper kettle, the board, that little red piece of driftwood from the fountain of youth is pure do it yourself punk. Not long after seeing that I stayed up all night in a blur of Jazz and sawdust and seisemelia smoke and gave birth to the board I named Dr. Strangelove. A 3’ something solid wood planning hull, a blend of Greenoughs  Velo, the mini Simms and Valentines paipos, a dual keel finned piece of my soul to slide on.
Sufing rocky points on the good doctor, mostly without a leash to amp up the adrenaline (without consequences where’s the thrill?), opened up new worlds, good waves felt like magic tricks. The board was so fast and so small that you had to virtually bodysurf onto the wave but once you got to your feet and set trim it was like you had hitched a ride on a bullet.
Last Sunday I was surfing a beautifully formed and apparently rare sandbar up the coast. The waves were small but clean and perfect, like little Kirra bar snacks. I was riding a 3’7” agave and foam composite board, a sort of mini, mini Simmons when one of the local groms asked if him and his mate could have a go. The first grom didn’t do too well, on his 2nd wave the lip went sall Old Testament on him and he came up holding his head and crying. Grom no. 2 though had already learnt the fine art of riding alaias and within a couple goes was looking like a young Derek Hynd, taking off late, keeping low and centred and just flying. I don’t know who was more stoked, me or him.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Ode to Simplicity

It was early on a Friday evening, the sun was ambling good naturedly down the back of the mountain, sharks were swimming about in their kitchens pondering dinner and I was standing in my wetsuit, in front of my boards, aquatic lovin on my mind, momentarily confounded by choice, like a polygamous president on date night. Now, while it is still true that on the whole, cobblers’ kids go barefoot, I have, nonetheless accumulated a small, rather strange and wonderful quiver.

Out of these I usually, at any one time, have a favourite, often a board that I find challenging, that I will ride obsessively in a bull terrierish - I won’t let go until I learn to ride this goddamn thing - manner. Of late that board has been the 9’6” D-finned longboard that my neighbour John Bramwell of Evenflow Surfboards made. I grew up riding a short board and it’s second nature to me. Logging, on the other hand, is a whole new language and one that, as I now live in Muizenberg, it seems appropriate to learn. But, I wasn’t feeling it on that afternoon, it was an older love that was calling me, it was my finless, rockerless, leash-less, waxless alaia that I wanted, my reincarnated 1000year old speed demon, my ode to simplicity.

Alaias, for me, are at their most fun on clean, small days with running waves and minimal crowds. This was one of those days. Perfect little lefts were laughing all the way to the bank. From my first wave I knew I had chosen the right board. I took off and set trim as the wave bowled along the bank. The board picks up momentum effortlessly and soon you’re going so fast that you feel you ought to do something radical - 360 reverse into the pocket?

I love everything about riding these boards, the absurd minimalism, the utterly addictive speed, the feeling that you are accessing sensations from an ancient past, I love the skill needed to catch a wave, I even love getting dropped in on by shortboarders, I love standing still as a mountain and speeding past them as they bounce and flap and sink…

Josh Redman at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bays doing what he does best on our 'ode to simplicity' made out of agave and recycled foam. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Further Agave Planing Hell

I shaped the Agave blank last week, a task I performed with all the existential angst of a bird wearing eau de corpse cleaning the teeth of a dozing croc.
I learnt a few things though…firstly a good respirator is a wonderful thing and a few simple precautions (working outdoors, wearing a long sleeve shirt etc.) go a long way in making the work more pleasant.
Working with this wood again distilled my existing thoughts on the intricacies of harvesting and milling Agave. Making a good quality, even density blank requires a certain amount of knowledge and timing.
A couple of years ago a carpenter friend of mine harvested and milled some Agave. He picked only the vigorous, green, crazy horny, springtime-of-their-lives, stems; planked them immediately and dried them. The resulting wood was, to extend a metaphor, virginal white, rot free, as light weight as foam and evenly dense. My new blank was less virtuous, more Mary Magdalene than Mary mother of God. It united the pale rot free planks with dense brown strips cut from close to the surface as well as red and grey planks where the decay had set in. Trying to shape the latter with a block plane was like attempting to plane a sponge and although the resulting combination of colours is deeply pleasing, the lack of uniformity in desity made shaping trickier than it needed to be.

Still, I think it all worked out of in the end. My new board is a slight departure from my usual, single concave, planing hull obsession. Its a 4’9” quagg. Flat bottomed stand up paipo.  Flat bottomed girls make the rockin world go round!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Agave Planing Hell

Lighter than an anorexic helium balloon and about as benign as a mine dump sized lung full of asbestos dust, my new agave blank has left the runaway train of my paranoid brain, seesawing on the edge of a cliff. 

On one hand Agave is the perfect local surfboard building material, as light as Balsa with beautiful colouring and freely available everywhere from Bellville to Ballitto. I’ve driven through parts of the Karoo, the old tequila plantations, where the gargantuan flowering stems of these Mexican immigrants stretch off ad infinitum, looking like nothing less than a B-movie sized army of asparagus, freshly escaped from the evil Monsanto’s lab and on the march, ready to take over the world and make all of our pee smell funny. By harvesting these flowering stems before the seed sets (as you must to obtain rot free, A grade wood) you slow the invaders progress, a happy side effect. But like every too-good-to-be-true story since Moses split the red sea, working with Agave has its drawbacks. The sawdust from the wood is a major irritant, on your skin it’s about as soothing as napalm infused aftersun lotion and in your lungs, well, I can feel my lungs composing their Dear John letter as I write.

So it’s with shopping trolleys full of procrastination that I approach my new paipo project – Dr. Evil, the planing hell cometh.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Kalk Bay Reef action

Building a sustainable future, while surfing

Building a sustainable future, while surfing

At Wawa we believe in being a ‘localist’, being proudly local and supporting the local community. Not too long ago our shopping habits were very different from what they are today. We used to go to the butcher to get our weekly meat, we used to grow our own vegetables, and our clothes where made by the tailor down the road.  These days we don't know who makes our clothes, what happened to the meat we eat, or how the vegetables were grown.

By not knowing, and not demanding to know, we are trusting that what we are paying for has been produced fairly and safely, but we are in fact leaving this up to chance. As most products these days are imported, we are not only buying something 'blindly', but we also seem to forget that by importing we’re increasing our environmental impact, as well as effectively exporting our money. As consumers we have more control over what is available to us to buy than we might think. As consumers we collectively choose to keep products and services available on the market as we create the demand. However we often seem to forget this incredible power that we have. With this power we can control the economy and also create jobs, by the simple act of being a ‘localist’. 

By buying locally we not only contribute to our own communities immediate economy, but we are also ensuring that our communities 'spirits' and unique qualities live on.

There’s something really nice about personally knowing the carpenter that made the chair that you sit on everyday, you know he took his time to create it with love and care, and these qualities matter. You also hope and are pretty sure that the money that went to him will be circulated back into the local community. For a sustainable future we need to start caring for our local community and that means supporting the businesses within it too.

Be proudly local, support local businesses and let’s grow our local community together.

Wawa is a surfboard company based in Muizenberg, producing locally made wooden surfboards, celebrating the old craft whilst riding the waves towards a sustainable future.