"I Can’t Quit You" - Surfer's Alarming Backbeach Confession
A bittersweet love story of Brokeback Mountain proportions has been playing out in Toonalook for years, Ding Alley can report.
The couple in question, undistinguished local surfer Arty Cook, 51, and his yellowing, waterlogged 6’2” epoxy quad appear unwilling to dismantle their five-and-a-half-year co-dependent relationship, despite recognising the fact that things have long since run their healthy and natural course.
“It was pretty much love at first sight when we first met,” Cook confides to Ding Alley. “The moment I held it under my arm, it just felt right.
“Light as buggery, sneaky volume hidden through the guts and up into the fuller front third, 38 litres of forgiving epoxy buoyancy, quad set up to compensate for the lost speed of my awkward take offs and feet being eternally half an inch out of position, and with sexy carbon lines down the centre that – though I’ve never known if they serve any purpose – looked very much like something Slater would ride.
“Oh, and it was white, white as snow.”
Acquaintances confirm that initially, this was indeed a happy pairing. “The best I saw Arty surf would have been when he first got that board I reckon, about five years ago,” recalls local sparky Josh Cassidy.
“I mean, Arty’s no great shakes, but he was gettin’ on a roll, catchin’ waves, doin’ alright cutties ‘n’ floaters ‘n’ that. Yeah, he was goin’ good on that thing.”
Arty remembers the time fondly. “We had fun together. I’d never had an epoxy before and it just made everything that little bit easier. Bit of extra width in the tail and up front just gave me what I needed. Especially when it was small, which is kinda my deal.”
After a year or so seeing each other exclusively, however, Cook says he began to sense that all was not as idyllic as it seemed.
“It’s hard to put into words, but I started to feel a little held back. Like the moment it got over four foot, that wide tail’d mean I was having to nurse the board a bit, and no matter what size wave I’d ride, I’d always feel like I wasn’t really getting any rail into the water anyway.
“I may be a gumby but I know what a good turn feels like, and the buoyancy and the thickness of the rails felt like I was always sitting on top of the water, never actually sinking anything into it.
“And being a Quad, it always felt just a tiny bit like cheating, if I’m honest, all that flat-rocker straight-line speed, no old-fashioned torque.
“But the paddling and actually catching waves on the thing always made up for it, so even as it started to go yellow, then brown, and I cracked the rails and mashed the fins on God knows how many botched rockjumps, it was still my one-and-only – I wouldn’t ride anything else.”
“I’ve never been good at jumping from board to board.”
As Swellnet’s wise readership knows all too well, time has a habit of slipping by breathtakingly swiftly, while appearing not to pass by at all, and so Cook found himself ambushed by a slow-motion inertia of his own making, unable to do anything but maintain the status quo.
“I scraped the wax off once or twice, got the dings fixed down at the Toonastix factory, even bought a new set of fins, and we still had our fun together, but it was getting waterlogged, and the crew started calling me on it. One mate named it ‘The piss-stained mattress’, and even the missus said she’d be OK with it if I went and bought a new board.
“It was the first time she’d EVER said that.
“So for a year I was telling myself, ‘carn Arty, get a real board, son. You’re only 40-something. Get a thruster, PU, not quite as boxy, sink some goddamn rail while you still can’.”
Eventually, in late January this year, after an extended wait thanks to Covid-demand for all things surf, Cook found himself marching out of the ToonaStix factory with a gleaming, sleek (but still sensibly proportioned) custom shooter under his arm, bursting with pride at the fact the shaper had given him 50 dollars off the full retail, and wondering if that qualified him as some kind of brand ambassador.
The good times continued as Arty pulled his new board out the back of his Hyundai, to murmurs of approval from the Toona Point carpark, and laughed along to jokes about how the piss-stained mattress would be out on the verge come the next Council clean-up.
Indeed, possession of a refined piece of hardware under his arm gave our friend the sense that his surfing might undergo a small but welcome renaissance.
Sadly, onlookers report this promise would not become a reality.
“Yeah nah, Arty kinda went back to flailing a bit on his new shooter” reports Cassidy, “Like, he’d miss half the waves he paddled for, and the ones he DID catch he was like in slow-motion, caught in the whitewater half the time.”
Despite diligently riding his PU thruster for three weeks, moments of satisfaction were fleeting and elusive, and this morning saw Arty pull his neglected quad down from the rafters, and place it in the back of the car alongside his new purchase.
And shortly thereafter, in an empty Toona Backbeach carpark, our hapless hero stood at his opened tailgate, regarding both boards: the gleaming sleek shooter throwing the battered old board into shameful antiquated contrast, before grabbing ol’ Quaddy, while muttering the immortal ‘Can’t Quit You’ line from that at-times-hard-to-watch-movie about cowboys getting it on. Arty knew things wouldn’t end well, but for now, the hell with it.
A brisk rub of wax, and the furtive affair was reignited.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is Illustrator Davis @maccatoons McArthur, and Writer Gra Murdoch.