Control is a fascinating concept, and it’s always interested me. This fascination eventually led me to Epictetus and the rest of the Stoic Philosophers. The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t.

When it comes to surfing, this is such a great psychological tool to have in our brain’s toolbox. We have zero control over the weather, swell, wind, tides and rips. However, we do have control over when we go surfing, the boards we ride, the wetsuits we wear and our strategy once we are in the water.

When I first started surfing, I would paddle out with a board that wasn’t right for the type of swell or I would borrow a board that was clearly too small for me. I conveniently found myself blaming the waves for my lack of success. Like most new endeavours, I had to learn the hard way.

For me, my main goal of surfing is to have fun by catching waves. It’s a pretty simple task. My job as a builder is quite similar. Some tasks are rather easy but if I don’t have the right tool for that job then it can become horrible quickly. Trying to pull a nail out without a dogyu bar is almost impossible. Similarly, expecting to catch knee high waves on the east coast with a shortboard will likely cause you to curse the very being of existence.

The setup in my car is amazing: tools on one side, boards on the other. It’s the perfect beachtown scenario. I have a short performance board that is great for when the waves have some size and a 9ft longboard that I’m borrowing from my brother-in-law for the ripples that we mostly get on the east coast. While having boards on both ends of the spectrum is great, living at the extremes isn’t always healthy. To balance them out, I decided to invest into a midsized board. So, I called on my friend Barend Buekes. He’s the chef and co-owner of Port Road Project Café, but in his spare time he also shapes boards under the name Pink Zinc. Over the past few summers I have had a blast surfing my friend’s Mini Simmons style board. I wanted to make one like that. If boards could procreate, imagine a longboard and a boogie board had a wild night out and gave birth to a bastard child named Mini Simmons.

On Thursday evenings when our children were unconscious, we would head to his shaping bay. He would do all the work. My very important role was taking photos and making sure the playlist was keeping his spirits high. Turns out jazz legend Dave Brubeck brought the highest of spirits (although it may have actually been the resin we were breathing in). We also roped in Dylan Care, who is the school woodwork teacher and instigator of the Whangamatā Area School Surf Academy, and he brought his glassing knowledge from his past life of shaping surfboards under the name of 23 Surfboards.

Over a few evenings we worked on my new board. It’s been a crazy process. I underestimated the effort and time that goes into making a surfboard. It’s not easy to shape the polystyrene, to get the

 resin the right mix so the outside temperature doesn’t set it off too quick, and then to cut the fiberglass cloth to fit right. Mixing the colours into the resin was my favourite part. I based them on a Matisse painting called Polynesia, The Sea. If my part-time-surfing-in-my-lunch-break-career doesn’t work out then at least I will have a snazzy looking surfboard to brighten up a wall in our lounge.

The board still has a few more glassing and sanding sessions before I take it for its maiden voyage in the soon to be warm waters of Whangamatā. 

Through this lengthy process of making this surfboard I have realised that if not for the company I keep this would never have been a possibility. The impact of the people close to me opened me up to experience that I probably wouldn’t have pursued myself.

There is a saying that reads, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That could be in person, authors you enjoy or the philosophers you follow. There is a lot we can’t control in our life but the relationships we choose can really affect our day to day reality. Life is suffering, so picking good people to be around us can make a huge difference. Controlling the information that enters our brain is crucial. It blows my mind that I am able to learn about somebody’s life work on a subject in only a few hours while sitting on my couch. I am forever grateful to the Stoics for kindly sharing their ideas to help me understand what is in my control.

So as the weather keeps warming up and summer is in full swing, I look forward to choosing to spend my time with good people. And now I have no excuse for picking the wrong board for the swell. 

Article by: Rowan Crowe