It all began with my first ‘real’ surfboard. I, like many others, started on a good old Wavestorm, the cheapest, most entry-level foam surfboard available. All too soon I found myself unable to endure the kook treatment I was (deservedly) getting in the water and moved to a fiberglass surfboard to disguise my beginner status.
Procuring a longboard seemed like the easiest way to “fake it till I made it” so I found a dinged-up 8’8″ Strive mini lonboard listed for $280 on Craigslist as “watertight and ready to go.” For a few months I was in love, drying the board after each session, repairing the dings it came with and the many more dings I soon inflicted on it, but all too soon the board lost its spark. It wasn’t voluminous enough to be a “true” longboard, and was thin and kind of squirrelly compared to my Wavestorm – without even realizing it I was back on the search for the perfect board, or had I ever really left?
Now, many boards later, a normal day for me begins on the San Francisco Bay Area Craigslist. A tab, permanently open on my phone and usually open on my computer (except during times of high production or exceptional strength of will) alerts me to the newest boards on the market. Some, like my mother and girlfriend, see this obsession as unhealthy, and they’re probably not far off. I do spend an inordinate amount of time ogling surfboards both online and in stores, but I also control myself. I don’t buy every board I “favorite” on Craigslist and have gotten very good at “talking shop” in store, picking up boards I know I’ll never buy, letting my fingers trail over the bottom contours and making appreciative noises like I know what I’m feeling for with no intention of buying whatsoever.
Despite all my self control, having sold multiple boards (on Craigslist of course), and having a shortboard stolen, the sticks have begun to pile up, by my last count I’m at 10 or 11 (or so). However, much to my chagrin I’m already thinking about my next board… probably a short board, a poly fish or performance shortboard of some kind, but maybe a 9’0″ noserider is really what my quiver needs. During brief moments of rationality, I think about simplifying, agonizing over the irrationality of my surfboard obsession. The logical fallacy lies in the fact that I surf for fun, and I have less fun with so many boards. Going surfing now includes deciding which boards to take to the break by checking the waves visually and then hemming and hawing over which boards to get wet, usually only surfing one of them. So many decisions are stressful (at least to me), not to mention the amount of effort I go to lugging them up and down the stairs to my third floor apartment or the worry wasted on the boards sitting in my car while I surf. Ergo, I should give up the search for the perfect board (which doesn’t exist anyways), and cut down on my quiver. Maybe cap it at three or even (gasp) one?
But when I really think about it for a second, it’s like having to part with my cherished children. Everyone needs their obsession, something that makes them excited, or puts a smile on their face. Surfing is mine and I’ve always been a bit of a gear junkie. I love both the perfectly engineered solution to a problem and the wacky inventions. Hydrofoil boards? Who the heck thought of that? And the surf poncho has got to be the greatest thing that happened to surfing since the shortboard revolution. Which in and of itself is part of the dilemma. Surfing, as it has integrated into mainstream culture has changed dramatically from its counterculture roots in the 1900’s. Nowadays surfing is a ‘lifestyle’ with the full spectrum of products, targeted Instagram ads, and corporate brands as any other style of life. There has been so much diversification in the material side of the surfing industry in the past few years, being a surfer is synonymous with this massive accumulation of gear.
To my fellow sufferers of SAS, I have little in the way of advice. One thing I try to remind myself of (a difficult one) is doing my best to avoid ‘absolute steals’ on Craigslist. They’re never worth it. Another coping strategy I’ve learned to control the new board itch is the importance of fins. Good fins can make or break a board, and are significantly cheaper than a new shredstick. As with any life obsession, especially one as consuming as surfing, I try to remind myself to take time away from it all — tear my eyes away from the millions of board options online to read a book, do my job, or hug my significant other. As I remind myself daily (out of necessity more than anything) there’s more to life than surfing and the search for the perfect board. Or is there?