Words and photos by MORGAN MAASSEN.
Dane stands awkwardly in front of a fresh blank. The room is hot. Stillness prevails as he eyes the block of unmolested foam. Outside it’s the hottest hour of the day and the chaparral forest simmers under the high sun. Minutes tick by, and yet nothing happens. Stark blue walls, caked in dust, add nothing but silence to the moment. The only noise comes from an English bulldog gnawing ideally on an avocado outside the door.
And then, with the swift flick of a wrist, templates are laid down. A pencil traces a hodge-podge of templates. No erasing, no mistakes noted, no stopping to think if it will work, if it will conform to industry standards set by his sponsor’s decades of research and development. Nothing stands in the way of his swift movements. Tools fly, foam is mowed. I stand in the corner, a fly on the wall. What is guiding him, I ponder to myself. How are his raw movements slowly giving birth to this clean shape? He’s only shaped a few boards… and yet, he moves with the ease and decisiveness of a seasoned veteran. Nothing slows him down. He occasionally deliberates over a small error or a possibility, but the look in his eyes shows his determination. Is he denying his rampant curiosity exploration of the foam? Is my presence overwhelming? Is he exorcising ideas, juxtapositions, demons he dare not beleaguer Channel Island’s shapers with? Is he late to dinner with Courtney?
But lo, as he pauses to guide his hands from nose to tail, as he stares at the board from one millimeter, and then ten meters… I know, He’s not a prodigy with the planer. He is not a rushed beginner. He is not attempting to be the best shaper in the world. He is shaping to understand. He is designing by feel. While he may not have logged the slightest amount of hours in the shaping room, there stands only one other person on the planet who can parallel his knowledge for what feels right. What feels like magic, what turns sharply, what harnesses speed when positioned right under one’s feet. And Dane has that knowledge. By grace of God, the stars lined up over his birthplace and this man was born with the sixth sense that no other surfer could ever fathom. But did the board work, once glassed, stickered, waxed and in the water? Did it float, did it turn, did it give the artist his paintbrush to blow our minds?
Several days later, he pops out the fins, dripping water from his suit all over his Eurovan. Second session, and he’s done with the board. Too much rocker he says. It doesn’t work. My heart sighs. Maybe haste got the best of that fine looking board. But in the swift unzipping of a boardbag, a new surfboard is procured. It looks identical, but a quick inspection shows slightly less rocker. He’s claims he shaped it while I was hiking 2 days ago. Thanks for the call. Wax is applied, he sprints into the water, pivots within seconds, and is on a solid wave. The cleanest line is drawn, a vertical backside turn destroys the virgin south swell line. Spray flies everywhere, but he is nowhere to be seen. He is one section ahead, launching higher into the air than I’ve seen any surfer go in months. He had successfully woven his own magic carpet.