It was the summer of 2017 right before my favorite time of the year. The clouds were finally starting to break apart and the May gray and June gloom of San Diego was finally becoming beautiful July. The water was getting more and more bath like and that one sweet summer swell that always comes around that time of year was on the horizon; you could just feel it.
Around that same time, I was also going through a little bit of a transition in life. I was moving out of my place and into a new one, I was leaving a job I’d been at for a few years for a better one, and - with that job change - I had some extra cash burning a hole in my pocket that I knew I was going to buy a brand new board with. I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, but I planned on getting a custom board, shaped exactly to my desired specifications, painted in some funky colors that would catch the eye, and with the smooth cleanness that you can only get from a brand new board. It was only a matter of time before I went to one of the local shapers, put down my deposit, and was waiting for my brand new baby.
My usual board, and I basically only had one at the time, was in the shop after a ding that was above my pay grade for fixing. Usually when I wanted to go out and my board was in the shop, I’d ask a buddy if I could use one of his extras and he was very gracious with lending to me. There was one other option though: the duct tape covered Spyder that was sitting in my new housing quarters that had just been collecting dust for the past eight months when another buddy of mine had given it to me. He was moving out and asked if anyone wanted his old surfboard (that he had not taken out in years either as he was self admittedly not much of a surfer). It was covered in the metallic silver adhesive from nose to tail, with the tail having the most of it, but I figured it could never hurt having one more board. Like I said, I basically only had one board.
At first glance, Duck (which I affectionately would name her later), wasn’t much to look at. As you got closer though, you could see her potential like the beautiful movie star in the rom-com that is supposed to be a dork in the beginning of the movie, so they just slap glasses on her and mess up her hair. She had a good shape, solid rocker, and the fins looked to be solid. I never thought that this could be my beautiful movie star when it was all said and done, but I had no other option for the day to surf, so I figured I’d give her a shot.
(Note: this picture was taken before Drifties were created)
So on that warm summer day, I lugged her down to the beach walking past the massive summer crowds that San Diego draws feeling like the biggest kook in the whole world. One piece of duct tape on a board isn’t a great look, but having it wrapped around the tail and then all over the nose just screams that this guy has never surfed in his life before and is going to be nose diving and snaking locals’ waves left and right. It also didn’t help that there was tape covering the leash housing so I couldn’t throw on a leash even if I wanted to; I’d have to be completely under control on this thing so I wouldn’t have to make the swim to shore and look even more like the kook that I already did.
As I paddled out, I could feel all of the eyes that were rightfully drawn to me and my new companion with some people even paddling further down the beach to stay away from us. I understood. What came next though, I couldn’t fully understand. I had a pretty good day out on the water. It took some getting used to with the added volume and size that I wasn’t used to and with the extreme caution I was taking with my lack of a leash. After a little bit though I was catching some fun waves. It wasn’t my best day ever, but it was solid and I wasn’t expecting much so I was thrilled.
Later that week, with my other board still in the shop, I was more excited to take out Duck than I was the first time. This was like the scene in the rom-com where the male lead starts to realize that the dorky girl has a lot more than most people realize at first glance and is genuinely looking forward to taking her back out. That second session might have been my best surf session ever. I was catching everything now that I was more comfortable on the bigger, new (to me) board. Since there was still no leash, I was being cautious, but at the same time, everything I caught, I was able to get in and out of easily and it felt like I was really one with the board. It didn’t feel real; this thing that looked like an absolute piece of garbage shouldn’t be catching waves. It definitely shouldn’t be the catalyst for one of my best days ever, right?
Every single day for the next ten days or so, I went out with her, more and more excited every time, and each time I had more fun than the last. She could fly down the line and still had the maneuverability to carve on the waves that some larger boards lacked. By the end of the roughly two weeks that we went out every day, Duck had seen better days. Some of the duct tape was starting to peel off and I could finally see what was underneath it all on the tail. There was a gaping hole that looked like the previous owner had patched up together with some white clay and called it a day. I knew it was time to make a decision.
In my mind I had still planned on getting the brand new custom board from a local shaper. It would set me back about seven hundred bucks and would be a much cooler thing to show off to all of my friends than the patched up thing I had been speaking so glowingly of for weeks. There was another piece of me that thought, why would I get another board? I love this thing, what if I just get it fixed up instead of getting that new shiny board. I decided I would at the very least take her in to the shop, see how much it would cost and then make my decision weighing the pros and cons.
I went in to the local repair shop and asked the guy to give it to me straight, was this thing even worth getting fixed, or would I be better off getting a new board for a little bit more? He was an older, salty dude that had skin that looked like the leather chair in my living room, wearing board shorts and the surf shop shirt. He looked like a guy that I could trust to give me an honest, knowledgeable opinion. We peeled off the duct tape together and stared down at Duck in her most raw, natural form. He gave it a quick assessment and said in that local surfer accent, “I mean, it’s a bitchin’ Spyder man, great rocker, it’s just seen some better days and could use some work. I’d fix it, but it’s up to you.” It was going to run me about a buck fifty, but to be honest with you, I had already made my mind up: I was going to fix her up no matter what it took.
A few weeks later, I went back to the shop to pick Duck up and had the same type of nerves pulling into that parking lot that you get when you go to pick up a girl for a first date. Was she going to be as pristine as I was hoping for? Would she ride the same even without the duct tape or was that part of the funky magic? What would she look like without the jumbled mess she had on before? I walked in and when my salty old surf shop buddy went to the back and grabbed Duck to bring her back up to me, I was smiling from ear to ear seeing her. All of the dings were fixed up cleanly and since I didn’t get the color match, you could see exactly where those dings used to be. The board was mostly a gold color, but the dings were all flat white and now looked like a cheetah with the amount of spots there were from the repairs. I loved how it looked, it gave Duck even more character and would always remind me of our magical first days together. It wasn’t the bright, shiny, custom colored board that I was thinking that I would get with my new influx of cash, but it was the most beautiful thing in the world to me. This was like when the main character goes to pick up the dorky girl for prom and she now had her glasses off and her hair down and she goes from being the girl that nobody noticed to the most beautiful girl in the school. Maybe nobody saw Duck through the same eyes that I did, but to me, she was perfect.
For the next year, I’ve pretty much rode one board exclusively. Yep, you guessed it: Duck. We’ve caught some of my favorite waves, my longest rides, and had to take a couple of other trips to the shop for little dings. Each time it was worth every penny.
All of this brings me to last night, almost a year after the initial session with Duck. Wes, one of the founders of Driftline, and a good buddy of mine has often given Duck a hard time as he doesn’t exactly see things through the same eyes that I do regarding all things Duck. It wasn’t until recently that he started to appreciate her for all that she was (and even all that she wasn’t), probably because he’s seen how consistently stoked I’ve been on the whole thing and he and I have had some all-time sessions with him riding his favorite boards and me riding Duck. So, last night as we went out to close out the weekend with a sunset surf session, he finally let me put a Driftline board sticker on Duck, and she looked better than ever; she had her first sponsor! It was another great night with close friends and beloved boards to close out one hell of a weekend. It was that same wonderful time of year that I had spoken about earlier where the May gray starts to break and it is nothing but blue skies and the water is just starting to warm up. I went out in just Drifties trunks and felt better than ever. After I caught a wave and was paddling back out, our buddy Ryan said to me, “Wes and I were just saying that you’ve got some great style with the Drifties, the tank, and the flowing hair as you take off on a wave.” He didn’t say anything about Duck, but that’s where all the style starts because without her none of the rest is possible. It was more proof to me that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and it’s underneath what counts the most; be it the beautiful girl that nobody else sees everything that she has or the duct taped board that turns out to be better than the shiny, clean, expensive board that you wanted.