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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Shaping Bay: Craig surfboards paddleboard

It's cool living in a small beach town- if you're in the right place at the right time opportunities open up for you. A couple of weeks ago I was at the Imperial Beach street end that I call "Dave's Office" checking the surf. The reason I call it Dave's Office is that every morning Dave Craig, walks across the street and checks the surf, talks shop and sips a cup of coffee. He's about as predictable as a leap year and, being in the right place at the right time, he invited me to come check out some of the boards he's doing.

Dave's been carving some stand up boards lately and they look clean. His clientelle consists of some pretty serious paddlers, guys who've got some years of experience- the shapes reflect this progression in skill. He hasn't been carving out any 12'x 30"x 4" cruise machines (I'm not bagging on these dimensions, I ride a board with a 29.5" gut) he's making 9'0" and 9'6" carving tools. As he told me, in Hawaii (where one of these boards was headed with its owner), "the shapes are evolving" even while we speak.

The board that I was invited to come take a look at was a 9'6"x 27"x (sorry can't remember the thickness) SUB with a 2+1 fin set up bound for the good and juicy waves of Hawaii. Would a board like this work in California, where our surf is just a bit different? I've got my thoughts on that but before I go popping off I'd like to try one- scaled to my personal dimensions (I'm no 145lb-er, in the words of Hendo: "I been eating". I'm at least 210lbs.). The board looked good, nice full template with the thickness just back of center along with the widepoint. Dave's idea is for surfers to paddle it and surf it pretty much from the same area on the board- maybe one small step back to the sweet spot and you're driving that thing down the line, off the bottom and back up into the lip. The board was definitely meant for lip collisions. Also, check out the green high density foam he's routered into the blank to provide extra strength in the deck- pretty slick.

I'd be interested to see how seasoned paddle surfers handle the width in the chop. In my experience, the width is the most important variable when things start to get messy. Granted these are definitely not beginner boards (my advice to beginners:"Go 30 or go home" the learning curve is so much steeper with a narrow board for a beginner). At Punta Conejo, for example, when the wind got on it, I was still able to ride. I'm going to credit this to the 29.5" width of my board. Here in Imperial Beach, I'm limited in my exposure to other more experienced riders- I have my questions about how these guys are doing on the narrower (I consider sub-28" width, narrow) boards. I'd love to take advantage of the surfing benefits that a narrower board brings but I feel comfortable with the extra width I'm on now. I'll keep you posted.

Additionally, the shop was glassing a couple of Blane Chamber's Paddlesurf Hawaii shapes- I think they were 9'0"s. Again these boards have that purpose built look of a Formula 1 car; check out the tail shapes. Somebody in Hawaii must be working out their issues on poor, unsuspecting, south shore waves. Cool looking shapes- again I'd love to try them all. What we need is the Public Board Library where we can check out the shapes for a couple of days, that or a sponsor. Any takers?

I really like visiting surfboard factories- if you've never walked in to order a custom board then you're incomplete; hollow, like some carbon fiber Aviso pop-out. There's magic in those places- visit one now while they're still accessible.

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