In this day and age of nearly shameless retro exploitation and imitation, the Fish Fry, a gathering of Fish fans set for May 1st at the North Jetty in Oceanside, Calif., would appear to be just another excuse for followers of the current trend to get together, cruise some fatter-than-average foam, and talk about how groovy their new psychedelically splashed ride really is. And it probably would be, were it in the hands of someone less responsible and less in touch with legitimate surf roots than the man at the helm, Sean Mattison.
A sales manager and top board expert for Surfride in Oceanside, Mattison sits on the shop's floor surrounded by what he calls "The Fish Market," a dazzling array of beautifully colored swallow-tailed glass. Once described by the legendary Michael Hynson as "the kind of guy who is on top of the pulse to the point where he might even be making it," Mattison certainly has a sensitivity for surfing's cutting edge, and without a doubt possesses the credentials and credibility necessary to soulfully pull off something like this.
From his cross-legged perch, he explains why "The Fry" will be more than just a congregation of trendy kooks. "We're going to actually get the shapers together with some people who ride the boards and really appreciate them," he says, "to sort of check things out and discuss design. I mean, the Fish is such a San Diego hallmark, I figured it would be rad to come together to share something that is both so old and so new. We want it to be like a hot-rod show. You'll bring out your Fish, show it off, we'll hang on the beach, and then we'll put the boards out there on the test track to see who can do the fastest half-mile," he says with a laugh. "It's not for monetary purposes or anything like that. It's grassroots, and it's about having fun. We want nothing but a good vibe down there so we can show appreciation for the shape and bring attention to the guys who really know how to build them."
And while gabbing with the likes of Fish shapers Rich Pavel and Mike Hynson, who both plan on attending, is certainly a draw, what may be most exciting about the event is the opportunity it affords the public to check out what exactly the equipment is capable of. Recent video and images of Mattison and his cadre of Oceanside "Fishermen" reveal absolutely stunning progressive surfing on a shape that is constantly evolving in step with the flow of the sport. A demonstration by the crew at the Fish Fry could serve to strengthen the legitimacy of the retro boom, and may also force some jaded critics to reevaluate their perceptions of the movement and its current contributions to surfing's state of the art.
"Hopefully all the grumpy guys are off selling bait somewhere," says Mattison lightheartedly. "This is more about bridging the gaps between old and new, and we're just gonna have some fun." Clearly not out to make a statement, the culturally in-tune beach BBQ that Mattison has proposed may do just that. An event that connects legitimate figures from the Fish world with fans of the shape, and offers a forum to showcase the equipment's potential, may offer a touch of substance to a trend that many feel is drifting toward fashion rather than function.
Latent potential aside, the Fish Fry at the very least should be a quality Sunday for like-minded surfers to compare notes and share some waves, so if you're in the area and like to Fish, grab a twinny and drop on by.
For more information, click on the “Fish Fry” link on the Events Calendar at Surfermag.com.