Warning: this post is only of the remotest interest to surfers. Everyone else, move on please; nothing to see here.
It’s a poignant thing when a much-loved surfboard leaves you. Surfers and their boards go through a lot together. Nightmare sessions when you couldn’t catch a single wave, or the locals were ganging you, or your leash broke and you had to swim in and see whether the board had come to rest on rocks or sand. Epic sessions where you seemed to hoover up everything that came through, or you caught just that one wave that made it worth paddling out, and which stuck in your mind for a long while. Most of all, those regular go-outs – onshore, crunchy, too small, closing out, dirty, cold, rainy, foul-tasting, shivery, aggro – which make up the median life of a British surfer.
The Fat-Assed Wombat and I experienced it all. It was a pretty short board for me at the time I bought it – 6’4”. No one ever believed it was that short though, because it was so, well, fat-assed. It looked more like a longboard than a shortboard, and latched on to waves like one, too. I took it to the Outer Hebrides for the best-ever (so far) surf trip. It endured many skunky sessions huddling away from southwesterly gales in the lee of Brighton Marina (and once got blown along the undercliff path by a wicked gust). I lent it to my friend Bonga, and he dropped his microwave oven on it. Portugal and Morocco both saw the Wombat making me look a much better surfer than I really am, by virtue of its design. And now it’s gone; gone to the second-hand rack at 58 Surf in Baleal, though probably not for long. Someone will snap it up, and André’s immense turnover of boards will continue.
Disloyal to say it – but I’m glad. The Wombat, you see, had become a bit of a crutch. It worked in just about every kind of surf, from knee-high to a little bit overhead. It always caught waves, performed reliably, resisted airline baggage handling’s every attempt to crush it (I once saw it being thrown nose-first to the ground from the top of a teetering luggage stack, then having a load of prams and golf carts chucked on top: not a mark). But if it did everything well, it didn’t do anything brilliantly. It was slower down the line than my twin-fin; harder to turn on steep faces than my 6’7”; didn’t ride bigger waves as well as my 7’6” – all in all, a bit of a Ford Focus.
So, we’ve both moved on. No hard feelings, on my part at least, only gratitude for all the things I learnt while we were together. The Wombat will find someone new: a neo surfer from one of the schools in Baleal, perhaps, keen to change up after an intensive couple of weeks learning. It’ll be a bit much at first, but they’ll grow together. Ride on, Fat Ass – ride on.