Finally, here’s my review of my favourite toy at the moment, a Walden 9’2″ Magic Model longboard (yes, a surfboard, despite Google’s tendency to give the nod to skateboards as the true definition of “longboard”. Which is longer, I ask you? I thought so).

The Environment

In Barbados, official surf season is between November and May, but it tapers off slowly, so you’ll still have something to do up until late June. From July until November, there will be a subset of the local populace secretly wishing for hurricanes to form in the Atlantic. We know who we are. Terrible I know, but there’s no denying it. It’s about the only way we’ll reliably get a fix here for a good four months. Of course, one doesn’t always know the whim of Poseidon, and occasionally there will be the odd swells not accompanied by other weather features which imperil life and limb.

Many of the breaks here are reef breaks, meaning the main reason the waves curl is the texture of the surface under the sea. I haven’t yet encountered a sandy seafloor with decent waves; it’s often all coral, rock and sometimes sea urchins where you most want to place your tender tootsies. Suck it up, son.

The Surfer

First off, I’m no expert. I started at the positively geriatric age of 37 (in surf years, that’s about 127 with asthma, dementia and a broken hip).

I learned to surf on an NSP 11 foot-plus board, AKA “The Mattress of the Sea”, for its Brobdignagian length and hydrophobic buoyancy. (You know you’re a beginner when hot surfer chicks look at you rockin’ on your ride and say things like “Yeah, I think that’s a stand-up paddleboard”.)

I’m a “goofy”-footer. Right-foot forward, as intended by nature, as opposed to the misnamed “natural” left-foot forward abomination of a stance that apparently represents the style of a significant majority of surfers. Mutants, the lot of ye, no offense. I learned to surf on a left break (facing the shore, the waves break from your right to your left) and still haven’t wrapped my head around this notion of going right, with the wave over my right shoulder. I learn these newfangled tricks slower than most. Maybe by my 50s.

Off the lip? Well, off somebody’s lip at any rate, if they aren’t paying attention when I’m coming through. You take your life into your hands when you enter the water when I’m in it on this baby. No, I can’t stop that quickly. Or turn. No, I wasn’t actually chasing you down deliberately and yes, that does look like it hurts quite a lot, but would you please not bleed on my board, you’re making it slippery, thanks.

The Board

The Good

  1. Looks great, lots of white space to get creative with wax graphics and / or Hubris stickers.IMG_9638
    the Walden, seen hanging from the… uh, floor…hubris-sticker
    We rockses the Hub, we do.

    Abandon hope all ye who peel off this sticker and gaze beneath…

    Presented at a small size to reduce discomfort.


    Some earlier designs.

  2. Dangerously-heavy-looking-enough that wiser surfers will make room (or try to) when they sense the presence of greatness. Or great stupidity; I didn’t quite catch what that last guy said.
  3. Not so long that the ladies think I’m compensating for something (despite all other evidence to the contrary).
  4. Can take a bit of abuse. That main fin? I refer to it as a “reef brake”. It’s the chief reason the bottom of the board isn’t ripped all to hell on Neptune’s own cheese grater of a shoreline (South Point, we love you). Oddly enough, I need a new main fin.
  5. I have bounced the board off more interior obstacles than outdoor obstacles, but it’s only got about three patches after 2 years of heavy use. Takes a licking and keeps on damaging other peoples’ furnishings.
  6. When you magically execute three manoeuvres on the same wave and don’t end by falling off. This is bliss.

The Bad

  1. Marketed as a good “nose-rider”, the Walden folks may not have been specific enough in mentioning that this trick may only work well on this particular board for people significantly below 180 lbs. I’ve never been able to manage this feet (ha!), instead demonstrating the “nose-diver” methodology, so clearly, this is misleading advertising. Or maybe I’m doing it wrong?*
  2. It doesn’t turn easily without a significant shift of my weight to the back of the board. This may come as no surprise to riders of longer, even more obstinate boards, but I’m spoiled in this regard as I’ve ridden boards this length (and longer) that were more responsive, even with the rider standing almost over the middle of the board. One model that stands out is an Ocean Magic 9′ 2″ which seemed like an almost telepathic turner, the one time I rode it.** Left! I would think, and left it would turn. Right! I would conjure and thus it would orient, with nary a struggle for balance.Not so the Walden, for it is a board for the strict education of the would-be surfer. In much the same manner by which you more quickly become a better driver when you’re forced to learn by driving a stick shift with no power steering, this board forces you to master technique to achieve results. It harbours no space for creative interpretations of the Rules of Longboarding. There is one way to do a particular move, and one way only. Everything else is a wipeout in progress. “Ah, what a great wave!” You may think, just because you managed to catch it. “Left foot isn’t at exactly the right spot for executing a bottom turn, but what’s a millimeter between friends?”It’s the difference between making the turn or colliding with that dude looking at you like you have no idea what you’re doing.***

The Ugly

  1. If you use the Algerian typeface on anything created after the reign of Ramesses II, you have chosen to refute all principles of style and taste established in the period thereafter. If you use it in black on red… I had to cover up the words “Magic Model” with opaque layers of wax for a few months until the nausea settled down enough that I could actually paddle with the words mere inches from my face, for entire minutes at a time. Still have to be careful not to glance down while doing this.
  2. Seriously misproportioned logo details that only a graphic designer would notice.

The Last Word

It may sound as though I’m disparaging the board, when really, I’m not. I’m sure I’m a better surfer because I have to pay so much attention to the rudiments of the skill on this board, no question, and will be better still if I keep at it.

What fails for me is obviously not the going experience; I haven’t seen many, if any, bad reviews of Waldens out there. Makes me think I’m doing it wrong or something.****

Intolerant devices in theory enable swifter progress, like arson convictions promote safer kitchen practices. The danger is that you’ll succumb to frustration and take up swimming, if the surf bug has not already invaded your bloodstream. Astonishingly to me, I have met, in my short career, many people who Used to Surf.

I can’t help but wonder, did they start on a Walden?

I’m probably doing it wrong.

** I was probably doing it wrong.

*** He’s probably right.

**** Pretty sure I’m doing it wrong.