An Open Letter to Ding Alley from Local Soul Guy Shane Reid
Dear Ding Alley,
Though your schoolyard humour and year-10 level creative-writing occasionally delivers a vaguely interesting perspective on the coastal zeitgeist, it remains a welcome fact any resonance a Ding Alley piece might hold evaporates the moment the next Tim Bonython clip lands on the Swellnet home page.
By the time Tim’s doing his pre-dawn piece to camera, you’re forgotten.
With this in mind, I’m not sure if its wise to hold you to account for your recent ‘Local Surfer Has No Idea What Long Twin Fin Doing Under Arm’ article – because criticising it will only give oxygen to something that deserves to sink into the archives like a stone.
But here’s the thing, Ding, you need to be called out on this one. Usually your gear’s harmless enough – I quite enjoyed that piece you wrote about me back in the day, but this latest article reveals a mean-spirited ignorance that blinds you to one of the finer points of this whole surfing caper.
You make the argument that because these long-railed twin fins can be tricky to surf, and that even the fellows peddling them appear to struggle sometimes, that this invalidates these boards, and renders anyone riding ‘em a mug who’s fallen for some fairly low-grade marketing hype.
I could take the low road here, Murdoch, and ask how YOUR surfing's going? I’ve seen you, with your Steven Hawking back arm and reflex barrel-avoidance.
(You’re excused, Macca, I have no quarrel with you, old man, I know you go alright.)
But rather than stoop to your level, Ding Alley, let me instead ask – oh self-appointed arbiter of surfing hardware – at what length, exactly, does a twin fin go from being acceptable to the object of ridicule in your eyes?
What’s that you say? It varies from surfer to surfer?
Well that’s interesting, isn’t it..?
Here’s an analogy that might help you begin to understand.
So, the pro’s shooters, they’re your Formula One cars: fine-tuned to burn round the track like nobody’s business. All fast-twitch stuff. And if you think the pros are ripping on the webcast, they’re going twice as fast and critically in real life. It’s astounding. Good for them.
Us mortals, well, we’ve got our SUVs, sedans, hatches: more variety, choice, and quality than ever before in the vehicles we use to drop the kids off at school, do grocery runs, commute. We lumber to our feet, sensibly drive to conditions, maybe get a bit squirrely down the back road if there’s no cars or roos around.
We’ve got our twin-fin fishes, our quaddies, and Thrusters with a bit of meat in ‘em. A look in anyone’s Ments-trip triple-board bag tells a fairly common story: the go-to sandwiched between the step-up and the lil’ guy for the fun days.
Coming back to the laboured car analogy and the long-railed twinny, well, that’s your hotted-up ice-cream van right there.
Picture the Great Ocean Road, that glorious, scenic, winding motherfucker. You can drive your auto SUV or sedan from, say, Lorne to Apollo Bay and be all brake, accelerator, brake, accelerator, brake, accelerator, the whole way. Nicely insulated, climate control. Safe, sensible, maybe feeling edgy ‘cos you’re listening to a Joe Rogan podcast or something.
But if you want to actually DRIVE that road. If you want to FEEL the thing, you want an old-school VW Kombi, or an ancient Bug you have to pump the brakes on. You want the windows down, a co-pilot packing cones, perhaps, and an old favourite album you haven’t heard for ages blaring at top volume, ‘cos the sound system’s worth more than the rest of the vehicle.
NOW you’re driving! You’re in constant calculations of weight, resistance, and velocity. Every time you gear down into the curves, and every time you power up through and out of them, is a chance to do it more smoothly, efficiently, and artistically than the last time. (If you’re in a Kombi, the rattling in the cutlery drawer is your smoothness gauge.) That old van might require more out of you, but that’s the point! You’re completely engaged in the drive. What looks like nursing those turns is actually pushing it hard as you can.
100 percent there’s an artistry and pleasure to driving that road in a legit, eccentric old manual that you’ll never come close to with a sensible auto.
With modern rocker templates and machine-shape repeatability, a good, long-railed Twinny, that’s your hotted-up Ice Cream Van – it’ll fang down the straights, you’ve got half a ton of gelato and rum ‘n’ raisin in the freezer, so you’ll need a deft touch into the S-turns, and if you want to throw in a bit of a soul arch or jazz hands, well, that’s the equivalent of playing Greensleeves at full volume through the loudspeaker mounted on the roof, just because you can.
It’s a free world, Vive la différence, so knock yourself out!
// SHANE REID
(Ding Alley is Illustrator David @maccatoons McArthur, and writer Gra Murdoch)