Words and image: Chris Nelson
Your first custom steed is a thing of magic. And here was mine, light beneath my hands, Hollywood smile white against the coffee coloured waters. It glided effortlessly over the wall of advancing foam as I waded out into the frigid ocean. I knew its dimensions – I had written them on the crumpled order form, memorised them while the dust-covered shaper offered up wisdom. Until that moment I’d existed on a diet of lightly battered, mostly unsuitable, second hand sticks, but then there weren’t really enough boards around in the North East of the late ‘80’s to be choosy. Now here was my brand new Nor-Easter, made in England, for England; coconut waxed and tropical scented heading out into the embrace of a malevolent North Sea. Each duck-dive drove an icy shockwave through my temple, but sitting out back, looking down at the fresh spray-job, a warm glow melted through the cold. And it definitely seemed to glide better for its reverse-vee bottom, I thought. “Like Tom Curren’s Black Beauty”, that’s what I’d asked for.
Twenty minutes later I was standing in the snow-covered car park, broken leash gripped in a neoprene fist. One wave ridden, one glorious open face, ‘Curren-esque’ I deluded myself, before the ignominy of the end section closeout. I was looking at a black tarmac square where my car had rested – waiting faithfully with the promise of a towel, a heater and a brimming flask. There was but one conclusion – my girlfriend had taken off, bored of watching dark silhouettes bobbing in a dark sea while wipers squeaked away falling flakes. I stamped my numb feet, hoping the percussion could raise some warmth or quell my frustration. I understood then that not everything is built to last, to go the distance. But more than twenty years down the line, I do still have that Nor-Easter, that magic board.
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