The View from Down and Low
SOLID IS HONORED TO BE A TITLE SPONSOR OF THE 2018 KSUSA CHAMPIONSHIPS TAKING PLACE ON 2/16 AT HUNTINGTON BEACH PIER. KNEEBOARDING HAS PLAYED AN INTEGRAL ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF ALL TYPES OF MODERN WAVE RIDING. IT’S HIGH TIME THIS BAND OF RENEGADES AND VISIONARIES GETS THE CREDIT THAT IT DESERVES. THANKS FOR BEING SOLID, KNEEBOARDERS.
HERE’S A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE OF AN ANCIENT WAVE RIDING ART BY BRAD COLWELL OF KSUSA:
“Is that a kneeboard?” As a long-time kneerider this is the question I most commonly hear while out surfing and, usually it’s coming from a younger surfer who may have just seen a kneerider for the first time. In most cases, the one asking this question or maybe, “why do you kneeboard?” has never ridden a kneeboard, nor given a thought to trying one. When these questions come our way, deep down, most kneeboarders have the same satisfying thought, something along the lines of “If you only knew….!”
So, what’s it like to ride a kneeboard? Jack Beresford of San Diego is a five-time US Kneeboard Titles Champion and has described kneeboarding like this, “Riding a kneeboard is all about riding in the barrel. There's no better feeling in the world than making a late drop and backdooring the section. Once you've set your line, it's just a matter of holding on and enjoying the view! The only thing better is if your buddies are on the shoulder watching!” Sam Coyne was runner-up in both the 2017 US Kneeboard Titles and in the Pro Junior Division at the ISA World Kneeboard Championship held in October in Spain. Sam grew up surfing Blacks and the La Jolla Reefs and had this to say, “Kneeboard surfing is the most intimate way for me to interact with nature. Being low, down on the wave while surfing a board that is made for speed, gives me an extreme, dynamic interaction, that releases a feeling of bliss that has no words.”
To me, I like the combination of speed that you sense by being so close to the wave, along with the maneuverability that a kneeboard provides. Certainly, traditional stand up surfers get close to the wave on hard bottom turns and tube riding, and there are no limits to the turns, carves, and airs that they can perform. And, bodyboarders are always intimately close to the wave and do their own carves and airs--and then some! But, a kneeboard blends the best of all, speed, intimate/close to the wave, and ability to carve. The topper is that it’s almost always “overhead,” so that coming off a hard bottom turn aiming for the lip, means that you’re usually looking up as you approach your next big turn.
Now, regarding speed, there is the perceived speed a kneerider senses from being close to the wave, and real speed that is surfer-generated, helps you to make critical sections, and is easily identified by other surfers. Like most other kneeriders, I watch the same standup surfing edits and WSL events week-in, week-out, allowing us to see “good surfing” on a regular basis. Yet, many years ago I realized that if I compared my surfing, and that of many kneeriders, with what I was watching, there was a big disconnect. This was a gradual realization, that occupied my thoughts increasingly, and even began to accompany me into the lineup. “How can I draw cleaner, more powerful lines?” “How can I tighten that bottom turn and get more vertical as I head up to the lip?” I believe the key is speed. Generating speed on a kneeboard is inherently more difficult compared to standup surfing, where surfers have their entire body available to compress and work their board. True speed, when generated, presents the opportunity for the most radical moves to be performed. Be it the hard carve off the top under the lip, the proper uninterrupted figure-eight roundhouse cutback, or the perfect bottom turn from way back as you pull into that critical section.
Many years into my kneeboarding experience I had a chance to finally see this “perfect bottom turn” in person. I grew up surfing Huntington and Newport and had seen images of Rex Huffman and the rest of the La Jolla kneeboard crew charging Big Rock…. legendary stuff to impressionable young kneerider! Once I moved to San Diego I had a chance to finally surf this spot myself. The day that will forever stand out to me was the best I had ever surfed it. Rex was out and getting plenty of waves (I was getting scraps!) But, after one of my waves I said, “I’m just going to sit here in the channel and watch Rex catch one.” He was sitting alone, way deeper than anyone else, and when his next wave came he simply angled down on the drop into a perfectly timed bottom turn which projected him up into the tube, just under the lip for an insane barrel that he cleanly made. I could not stop smiling as I slowly shook my head back and forth thinking, “that’s Rex!”
So, speed, barrels, and big moves aside, the underlying truth that’s hopefully obvious, is that riding a kneeboard is fun! That’s what motivates all surfers, regardless of the type of board they choose to ride. Throw in the camaraderie that is ever present in the small but vibrant worldwide kneeboard surfing community and you have a true brotherhood.
- Bradford Colwell, San Diego