Justin Quintal just finished a custom longboard order for his new surfboard brand, Black Rose MFG, when we spoke on the phone this week. “Dialing in board dimensions for surfers is one of the best parts about my job,” said the 26-year-old Floridian, and winner of the 2014 Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational. “The process of asking questions can offer a fresh perspective on different elements of surfboard design, and what each particular person needs.”
Chances are fair that those designs will look different for most of the nation’s coastline in the coming fall, when El Niño finally exits into the sunset and La Niña — the atmospheric foil to our past winter, meaning colder water, drier coastal air, and smaller waves — makes herself comfortable in the Pacific. As he offered his take on how to appropriately stock your quiver for what looks to be a milder season, my mind went to the surf report for my local break: knee-high dribblers. Quintal’s combination of alternative-craft moxie and his tutelage under Ricky Carroll, whom Quintal has watched since he was 15, has a lot to teach anyone trying to outwit smaller conditions this year. Read up on Quintal’s suggestions to ensure you’re ready for La Niña with a robust grovel quiver.
Ditch The High-Performance Modern Shortboard
“Surf design has been largely driven forward by professional athletes; Kelly can surf a door. Most professional shortboarders can surf modern-shortboards in nearly any conditions, but this misrepresents the majority of surfers. You don't have to pump down the line until you're red in the face. You have options. Instead of getting frustrated and cursing the guy on a bigger board because he's catching more waves and having a better time then you, consider, for a moment, diversifying your quiver.”
Get Yourself A Log
“[Northern California surfer] Chris Klopf once told me, ‘Take the training wheels off and learn how to ride a real longboard.’ A real longboard is relatively heavy—12 pounds at least—with 50-50 rails (maybe 60-40 depending on the board), and it has one fin. When riding a lighter "high-performance" longboard, it is nearly impossible to tap into trim, glide, and lift. Those characteristics are what truly define longboarding.
“If you are patient and put in a little time with the board, it will teach you the nuances of timing, weight distribution, and a more in-depth knowledge of reading the line of a wave. While in many ways you are going faster and covering more water on a log, the stable platform and bigger fin allow you to slow down, focus, settle into the ride, and develop your style. You simply have more time on the wave and aren’t rushing to fit as much shit into one wave as possible. Learning how to slow down and take your time is a very important lesson in surfing that many never learn.
“Logs are a bitch to travel with — Believe me, I've been all around the world with them — but the thing that justifies the hassle is knowing that wherever you go, no matter how small it is, you'll be able to surf. And if you're going to put forth the effort to travel to surf, you might as well do it right and bring a well-rounded quiver. There is nothing worse than finally making it to a location through hours and maybe even days of transit and not being prepared for the best, or the worst, conditions.”
“This is possibly the most underestimated board ever developed. If you’re able to find a balanced outline for an egg (not too wide, not too narrow, wide point in the right spot), it can be the most versatile board in your quiver. These boards are great in waves from knee-high to double-overhead-plus conditions. I almost always bring one when I travel. Great for points, beachies, and even some slabs and reef breaks.”
You Need A Fish
“I categorize conditions for fishes into two groups: mushy and steep. Unless the surf is in the threshold of actual big waves, the size of the wave isn't necessarily the main factor. I recommend having at least two types of fishes in your quiver.
“The first is a more traditional fish with large keel fins, a full wide outline, and a nice, deep swallow tail. This is your board for when the waves are more on the mushy side. The extra width will bring you up to speed the moment you get to your feet, and the large keel fins will give you the drive to carry that speed through your turns. If you find the right balance between pulling the swallow tail in deep enough and having a wide enough base on the keel fins, these boards can still retain a lot of drive in steeper waves. If you're an expert at riding fishes and know the subtle details in how they respond, you can get very tubed on these boards and ride them in relatively critical conditions. But still, for most surfers, softer, flatter-faced waves are when you are going to want to capitalize on a board like this.
“The other type of fish I would recommend is something more refined and pulled in. Pull the nose in a little, pull the tail in a little, utilize a shallower swallow tail, but still leave the board relatively wide. Pair this outline with a more upright twin-fin set. A good reference for this type of setup would be a board similar to something Mark Richards rode in the late ’70s/early ’80s. These boards tend to fit tighter pockets better. With either of these boards, you will have more fun in smaller waves.”
Grab A Skateboard
“When the waves are simply terrible or nonexistent, there are other outlets to maintain that connection with the water. Go skateboard. With a little imagination, a concrete bank can be surfed all day. I had a Sector 9 longboard skateboard when I was younger, and I can't fathom how many hours I spent practicing cross-stepping and doing drop knees on that thing.”