Picking Your Dream Board

The Search for Perfection and the Pitfalls of Surf Shop Seduction

Be weary of temptation while perusing your local surfshop. Photo: Van Swae

We make thousands of decisions every day. Some of them are trivial (e.g., paper or plastic), while some that have far-reaching effects on our lives, like an unscheduled stop at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Vegas. Deciding which board you are going to spend your hard-earned money on may not be as life-altering, but can be just as thrilling--partly because of where you think it will take you, and partly because you are terrified that you will be seduced by a pearly white nymph that actually rides worse than a screen door. So how do you find that magic craft?

"The first thing you need to ask yourself is, 'Are you building a quiver, or do you want one versatile board?'" says Dave Cropper, the owner of New Hampshire's Cinnamon Rainbows surf shop. "We often see people build quivers and end up with three similar boards. Don't overlap your quiver. Spread it out so you have all conditions covered."

Knowing which void in your quiver needs to be filled gives you a clear idea of what you need, and what you need depends on the waves you're planning to surf.

"When I go to my shapers, I'm definitely thinking about the waves I'm going to ride," says Tanner Gudauskas from the qualifying trenches. "But you also have to think about what kind of surfing you want to do. If I want to do full power-rail surfing and stay on the wave, then maybe I'll throw a little bit more rocker in the board. Or if I want just a train-ride, rocket ship speed-line, then maybe I'll just make it like an ironing board and try to go flatter with it."

But all the planning in the world may not prepare you for what will catch your eye in the board rack. "I'm not sure it can really be explained, it's just a feeling," says Channel Islands Team/Marketing Director Travis Lee. "The rails in your hands, the balance, the weight--it just all gets summed up in one grab or glimpse by your hands, and you either know it's the one or it's not."

In the end, it seems, finding that perfect board is just like falling in love: you may know exactly what you are looking for until you are standing there slack-jawed, unable to remember if you ever had a type. Be wary, because you will be better off sticking to your plan and getting the board you need, instead of the one you impulsively want. But ultimately your favorite board in your quiver will most likely be a combination of the two--equal parts head and heart. "Finding the right board for the right day with the right type of surfing is just epic," confirms Tanner Gudauskas. "When you find it, you're like, 'Holy shit, this thing is like a magical cocktail, and I'm drinking it down, getting loose, happy-hour-style.'"