Tanned,a delicate nose, 21 inch mid-section and a mermaid’s tail. I fantasised about the shape of the most beautiful figure to ride waves of pure joy with. I took my time, imagining her shape and how my hands would shape her, allowing us to fit together perfectly.
I’m a woman, a surfer, and this is the short story of why and how I nearly didn’t and then did shape a surfboard.
As Dave’s partner, I had seen plenty of men coming through School of Shape and walking out with a self-made surfboard. Just like in the surf, the number of men learning or fine tuning their skills outweighed the women taking up this craft. I didn't think this was something set up for me to do, let alone enjoy and it just had never really occurred to me that it was something I would love. After all I I only started surfing in my 30’s and spent too much time worrying about surfing well or getting in other people’s way. But I discovered that the experience of handshaping your own board is just like the ocean - it's there for all of us.
So what made it happen? Maybe it was my belief that women are able to do the things that have traditionally seen as men's turf, or maybe it was seeing the highs these guys were on after shaping a board. Or maybe it was because my friend Elise had been hassling me to do it with her. I guess it was all of these that led to Elise and I walking out with foam sweat and huge grins after shaping our beauties.
That's not to say the loyal dog thoughts that made me stress about not surfing great followed me to the shaping bay. That I’m going to stuff this up, I don’t have time, I don’t really know what I want, I don’t use power tools, I can’t even surf, I have no clue about blah blah blah. And then a free weekend came up, and that was it, I said yes and took the plunge.
Two days of designing, sawing through foam, using power tools (underestimated the full joy of this bit!) and fine sanding the finishing touches, I walked away as if I'd just been picked up by a unicorn and flown around the world surfing the best breaks alone.
A whole bunch of things made it that incredible; having a patient teacher who made no assumptions about my knowledge or skills, telling Dave how I wanted to surf and what I usually surf meant he helped me design it and gave me step-by-step instruction, being made to feel comfortable to ask for instruction (even for the 10th time on the same thing) made it less intimidating. At no point did I feel like I had to know everything including the language. Seriously what the hell is a rolled concave, vees, and foils? And finally, definitely doing it with a friend made it social,fun and less intimidating.
So apart from feeling bad ass for getting all industrial with a mask in a warehouse, it's hard to describe in words what I got out of the whole experience. The first time I surfed her in Teghazout, Morocco is where I think it sunk in. Paddling and taking off on small fun waves on this board I had shaped with my heart and soul and two dusty, slightly uncoordinated hands felt like hanging out with an old friend who just gets you.