Tracks - - BITSA -

The plan was to pick up the new cus­tom or­der and then shoot down the coast for the af­ter­noon with the shaper. I jumped in the car, brim­ming with new board an­tic­i­pa­tion and mar­vel­ling at the fact that more than thirty years af­ter waxing up my first board, get­ting a new one still made me feel like that same ex­cited kid. I knew there was four-five foot of south swell run­ning and driv­ing down the high­way my head was some­where else – vi­su­al­is­ing that first bot­tom turn when you feel out all the vir­ginal idio­syn­cra­sies of the new ride.

“Ah­hhh, nooo!” The dash­board brought me screech­ing back to re­al­ity as the or­ange light flashed and the tell­tale dial drifted to­wards the dreaded big E¬ – no petrol.

I pulled over at the near­est gas sta­tion and hastily flung the noz­zle into the petrol tank like some kind of sharp­shooter reach­ing for a quick draw.

As I lis­tened to the rhyth­mi­cal chug of the petrol and willed it to hurry, the Fer­rari slid in to the ad­ja­cent bay like some kind of gi­ant, am­phibi­ous stingray.

It was a jet-black, con­vert­ible model, de­signed with those se­duc­tive curves that try as you might, you can’t ig­nore.

“Do you ever get a chance to re­ally open it up?” I asked the owner as he ap­proached the bowser for the pre­mium brand of petrol. “Yeah, about once a month I go out to the race­track,” he in­di­cated with pride. “There’s no point own­ing a car like this if you don’t get to use it prop­erly,” he said mat­ter of factly. “How fast do you go?”

“At about two hun­dred kilo­me­tres an hour it re­ally starts to feel like it might rip your head off – maybe be­cause it’s a con­vert­ible model.”

It was ap­par­ent that Fer­rari guy wasn’t go­ing to quiz me about the specifics of my Toy­ota or ask what the surf was do­ing, so I slot­ted the noz­zle back in the bowser and said, “See ya later mate,” in the clas­sic Aussie way that puts ev­ery­one on equal foot­ing.

The shaper,Patto, was some­where in the resin-dripped back-quar­ters of the bay when I ar­rived, so I wan­dered around the show­room. There were three racks of boards – an en­tic­ing liquorice all­sorts of colours and de­signs – but my eyes were im­me­di­ately drawn to a speck­led black and white spray job that cre­ated a mar­ble af­fect. What a sweet look­ing ride I thought and des­per­ately hoped it was mine.

Mo­ments later Patto marched out with foam-dust sprin­kled like dan­druff through his mane of wild hair.

“So I guess you want to see your board?” he asked earnestly, sens­ing my ea­ger­ness to have the new shape gripped firmly un­der my arm. “That one there’s yours,” he said en­cour­ag­ingly while point­ing to the mar­bled 5’9” I’d set my heart on. I ripped it out of the rack and in­stantly be­gan to ca­ress the rails, stare down the stringer line and feel the weight of it un­der my wing. Patto watched closely, try­ing to gauge my ini­tial re­sponse for an in­di­ca­tion of what I thought. We were mates, but I was still a cus­tomer and pleas­ing the cus­tomer is the crux of any shaper’s busi­ness¬. He was well aware that first im­pres­sions can de­ter­mine your whole at­ti­tude to a board. “What do you reckon?” he asked, do­ing his best to dis­guise his anx­i­ety. “Let’s get down the coast!” I ex­claimed en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, mak­ing my sen­ti­ments clear.

An hour later, three of us were stand­ing on the head­land watch­ing six-foot swells crum­ble and cap be­neath a stiff side-shore breeze. Patto’s ap­pren­tice had joined us, aware that a demon­stra­tion of his ea­ger­ness to surf af­ter a long day at work was an im­por­tant part of prov­ing his worth.

It looked a frac­tion too big for the set up, but the tide was com­ing in and al­ready the point was grab­bing the rolling wash-throughs and re-sculpt­ing them into slink­ing lines through the wind-shad­owed in­side sec­tion. It was a lit­tle rogue, but there were def­i­nitely mo­ments and the best part was the crowd – one other guy out.

By the time we suited up and hit the wa­ter the wind was abat­ing and the tide had moved in just enough to trans­form the wash-throughs into thick dou­ble ups that throt­tled across the in­side with the lip arch­ing at an an­gle that in­vited you to hit it with ev­ery­thing you had. Patto took the first wave on the twinny he’d made him­self and from be­hind I watched him be­come a shimmer of down the line speed and spray. The ap­pren­tice stroked in soon af­ter, throw­ing the fins out the back on con­sec­u­tive turns, mak­ing Patto grin as he pad­dled out be­cause it looks good for busi­ness if the guys work­ing for you can flare up in the surf on your boards.

I didn’t want to over-amp and taint the first ride, so I waited pa­tiently un­til one lined up just right. The cho­sen wave jacked harder than I ex­pected, forc­ing me to dig the toes in and mo­men­tar­ily freefall, but the round tail held in on land­ing and once safely off the bot­tom, I knew the board was loaded up and ready to let go. I set my sites on the fall­ing lip and held on as the mar­bled deck took off down the line – RRRRRRRoooou­uuu! No need to turn just go as fast as you can along the in­side race­track and try not to rip your head-off. Ha. Even­tu­ally the wave ta­pered mak­ing it eas­ier to swing from top to bot­tom in rhyth­mi­cal arcs and by the time I kicked off, I was hoot­ing. The ride had been a blast and it felt like my new board had that per­fect alchemy.

The rest of the af­ter­noon was a blur of hurtling walls and hard turns, of high lines and late drops, of know­ing smiles and con­tented souls. We scram­bled up the rocks and got changed just be­fore dark. Stand­ing on the point in the dusk’s bril­liant half-light we slugged a beer each and mind-surfed the zip­per­ing walls as they bent to­wards night­fall.

Drip­ping with mem­o­ries of the waves rid­den we rounded the head­land on the long walk back. The stiff nor’easter kicked in and with the new board tucked firmly un­der my arm I laughed, and screamed ec­stat­i­cally into the wind, ‘Who needs a Fer­rari?’

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