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Cruisy Way to Surf

Courtesy of Ansett Airlines Magazine 1996.

The revival of longboarding is not just another nostalgiated trend. To it’s fans, longboarding is more graceful, aesthetically pleasing and easier style of surfing.

Longboards are back, proving that if you wait long enough, everything comes back into fashion, longboarding has taken off again in surfing. Longboards currently account for 60% of surfing sales worldwide. Seven years ago, just 5% of all the surfboards made in Australia were longboards, today longboards account for 50% of production, with local surfboard manufacturers churning out 60,000 longboards a year.

Another baby boomer-led trend, the surfing equivalent of the revival of Motown music? No, its not just the old fellas who are longboarding, but also young kids keen to take surfing back to it’s roots. Longboarders range in age from 8 to 80 and cover all walks of life – business owners, executives, artists, designers, professional athletes, scientists and entrepreneurs – everyone is embracing the return of longboard surfing.

What’s the appeal? Older people are drawn to the longboard as a way to keep fit and to satisfy a desire to return to the roots of surfing younger people are flocking to the sports because of the aesthetic appeal of wave riding in a more graceful style than short boarding can offer.

For many people, longboarding triggers memories of a special time in the history of surfing: beach luaus, camping, 70 pound surfboards and a sense of health and vibrance centred around the ocean. One longboard maker recently told a newspaper reporter “We’ve had people into retro cars, retro fashion and retro music, so why not revise the idyllic time in surfing, when there was no pollution, no crowds and no violence”.

But the revival of longboarding is not driven soley by nostalgia. The son and daughter of former surfing greats, such as Nat Young’s son Beau and Midget Farrelly’s daughter Johanna are now some of the young guns of the sport. The youngsters are attracted by the sport’s heritage and the individuality of working their boards through various timeless manoeuvres; walking the board, hang five, hang ten and drop knee turns.

The popularity of longboard surfing waned during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, as the shortboard revolution took hold. The longboarding resurgence started in the early 1980’s more specifically, in 1981, when the Dewy Weber Longboard Classic competition started in California. The current trend back to longboarding is mainly the result of technological advances in surfboard design, which have made longboards almost as manoeuvrable as shortboards, but much easier to paddle.

Capitalizing on longboarding’s new found popularity the fast food chain Hog’s Breath Café has set up a Longboarding legends tour, with events to be staged along Australia’s eastern seaboard over the next 6 months. Longboard surfing tours are now also springing up, including a new Indonesian surfing safari spectacular for well-heeled longboarders, who want a surfing and fishing trip in style and comfort.

Professional longboarding has recently witnessed a split. In one camp are the traditionalists, who are attracted to the aesthetics and traditions of longboarding: walking back and forth on the board, hanging ten and turning helicopters (standing on one end of the board and rotating it 360 degrees while on a wave). In the other corner are the progressive longboarders, who ride lighter versions of the traditional longboards in much the same way that the short boarders use their boards, executing floaters, sharp turn re-entries and cutbacks.

Having surfed for more than 25 years, I have been around for the development stages of short board design right through to the rebirth of the longboard. For many years, my time was spent racing malibu boards and longboards and I was fortunate enough to be part of the “speed” development , that is the growth of the shortboards. But I have to say that the comeback of the longboard is the best development I have seen, because it has opened up this great sport to so many people.

Many shortboard surfers will disagree, because the waves are now more crowded than ever, but I think it’s great to see people of all ages in the ocean and really enjoying themselves. I like to ride both shortboards and longboards, but the appeal of the longboard is obvious, they are easy to paddle. On a longboard it is easy to stand up and easy to catch waves.

Longboarding is a really cruisy way of surfing. For older guys who want to get back into surfing, but have let their fitness deteriorate over the years and have put on a few unnecessary kilograms, longboards are the only way to get back into stand up surfing.

Longboard clubs are being established all over Australia if you are just starting out, I suggest you borrow or buy a second hand board, as a new longboard will set you back between $600 and $1000, depending on the length, graphic design and quality.

The best way to begin surfing on a longboard is to find an uncrowded spot, with relatively deep water, in such a location, the waves will break softly, rather than dump, and it will be easier to control the board. You don’t need nicely; shaped waves, that is, waves breaking to the left or right, to begin with – just small, soft waves that you can practice paddling on to, then standing up, then maybe making some little turns in the whitewash.

Once you have mastered those basic manoeuvres, you can progress to cutting across the face of waves. The world of longboarding will then start to open up. Before too long, you will be turning, carving, and hanging five, hanging ten. You will be a longboarder !!!