(Please note, if you normally longboard, this article will make zero sense to you..)
Sometimes, just sometimes, your normal board doesn’t cut it. There are days, where no matter how fat, wide and stubby your small wave groveller is, it just doesn’t work. And if you’re like me, then you probably will try and force the issue anyway, and paddle out on your fattest, widest board, hop around on some mushy burgers of waves, waving your arms like a seagull and completely making a fool out of yourself in the process. All while not, you probably won’t really be having the greatest time. But when your quiver doesn’t have a board over 6’8”, that’s just the way you’re wired. If the shortboard doesn’t work, it isn’t worth surfing, period. This kind of mentality is actually pretty commonplace, and I’m the first one to admit that I usually fall into that trap. That’s why on a busy weekend, you can see all sorts of people, hopping, jumping, and generally kooking out trying to make their shortboard work in less than stellar waves. This goes on while a few longboarders take their pick of waves, and in turn, succeed in making everyone else look silly while frustrating the hell out of them.
Enter the Soft Top. For the common surfer with the shortboard mentality, the soft top is one of those taboo surf crafts. You may have used it once or twice way back when you started surfing, but that time is long gone. Now that foamy piece of junk is relegated to kooks and beginners only, dragging their leashes down the beach, and floating around the lineups like pieces of flotsam, wide eyed, and seemingly always in the way. However, if you are mentally able to get over the stigma surrounding soft tops, you might just be surprised at how fun they really are. And I couldn’t be more serious.
Try this the next time you rock up to the beach and the surf is small, crumbly and generally terrible. Leave your shortboard in the car. Put your ego in check, and go rent a soft top, or borrow one from a friend (more people have them then you think!). Seriously. You’ll have a blast, and you’ll forget all about the fact that the surf sucks. Here’s why:
Soft tops are kooky. There’s no getting around that fact. However if you just embrace the fact that you can’t be cool on a softie, but you can run over your buddy on his/her way back out, and all that will happen is both of you will be swimming around, tangled up and laughing your asses off, you’ll realize that it doesn’t matter. Surfing is all about having a blast, be it by yourself or by sharing it with your friends. It’s so easy to lose sight of that in this world of overstimulation and constant commercialization of what’s considered “cool” or “rad” in surfing, when the only thing that really matters is that you are having fun. Seriously. If you’re not having fun in the water, you’re not doing it right, and you’ shouldn’t be there. So next time it sucks out, go take over a lonesome peak with a pack of soft tops, and wage war on your friends. Try stuff you wouldn’t normally try because you wouldn't want to screw up a wave (because what does it really matter, you’re on a soft top anyway!). Run over your friend on their way back out. Drop in on your friends, or better yet, share the wave and try to criss cross, or transfer boards. Don’t wear a leash. Try a headstand, or a dying cockroach. Knee paddle into waves. Take off fin first. Whatever you do though, just have fun, and try not to take yourself so seriously. It might take you back a bit and remind you why you started surfing in the first place.
*Disclaimer. If it’s crowded, it’s probably not a good idea to go charging out with a crew of soft tops. Go find your own peak, and have a blast knowing you’re not ruining anyone else’s session.