The Robert August Longboard That Broke my Heart

 

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Westport Winter, January 2014 on my beloved Robert August Precision Longboard

 

Six years ago I bought a longboard off of Craigslist. It was a Robert August Precision longboard, 9’6″ in length. I bought it from a salty sea princess who lived on a boat in Gig Harbor. She kept the board on the deck of her ship, perhaps a reminder of her better days. In any case, I bought the sun damaged board for about $ 200 and crossed my fingers it would not snap in two on my first wave. Turns out, it was the best board I have ever owned. I caught so many waves on it. Overhead, knee high, etc. I have never had as much fun on a surfboard than that one. The beauty of the board was that it was such a beater, but it was rock solid. Then, two years ago, I sold it.

Why did I sell it? I was in a “Surfers Journal” mood and concluded that my surfing had come to a standstill and that I needed to sell that board in order to advance my surfing. At the time I felt so mature and beyond most of my surfing peers. I replaced it with a solid 10′ Dewey Weber longboard that was in mint condition that would surely advance my surfing. It was from the 60’s and I found it in the rafters of a building in downtown Seattle. Score! My first session on that gem resulted in me falling hard and having that board drive into the side of my thigh giving me a charlie horse that lasted two weeks. Da Bull I was not. It was at that very moment that I realized I made a huge mistake selling the Robert August. Immediately I searched for the number of the person who I sold the Robert August to and could not locate it anywhere. I was heartbroken.

I needed to find something similar, fast. I set up a Craigslist alert and started obsessing about replacing my board. I could not remember the shape of the Robert August (Precision) at the time, all I knew is that it was a Robert August and that it had two red stripes in the design. Searching Google I found the Robert August Wingnut board and decided this was the closest thing to my dearly missed R.A. The shape was more narrow than my memory of my board and the reviews I had read suggested it was not going to be a similar experience than I had. However, the reviews also said that the Wingnut version was easier to turn and went rail to rail effortlessly, so I narrowed down a replacement to this shape.

I am going to spare you the failed eBay and Craigslist transactions (there were many). The biggest hurdle was finding this specific longboard in Washington (nearly impossible). I called Big Al at The Westport Surf Shop and asked if he had a Robert August for sale. He tried to talk me into a similar shape for a less price that “works just like a Robert August.” I know he was just trying to save me money which I appreciate but HE JUST DOES NOT UNDERSTAND!  The other challenge was shipping a board to Seattle (if I were lucky enough to find one). A longboard exceeds many familiar shipping companies (Fed Ex, etc) maximum length policies. Shipping direct with air cargo (Alaska Airlines, etc) is not an option unless you go through a freight forwarder (aka middleman “known shipper”). So you have to first find the board, then convince the seller to help you identify a shipper who can facilitate the delivery, have them pack it, etc. I got lucky. I found the board on Craiglist Orange County and it just so happens that the seller has a relationship with Hobie in Orange County and was able to ship it via their resource. After the dust settled, I paid $875 (shipping included) for the Robert August Wingnut I Longboard (in mint condition) that included a fin and a day bag. At that point, the cost did not matter. I was like a junkie needing a fix.

 

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Westport, August 2016, Wingnut I’s Maiden Voyage

 

Earlier this month I took my new board to Westport for my first surf. The surf was liquid glass and small which provided the perfect testing ground for my new board. The Wingnut I was much lighter than my previous R.A. and it turned on a dime with little effort. The lighter weight also made it a little harder to paddle into waves (vs a more traditional longboard). It feels like it can handle bigger surf better due to its agility. It paddled fine, but not great. The lack of float and volume is compensated by its ability to turn quickly and go rail to rail with little effort. In time, I bet that this board will win my heart. To be fair, I was not immediately warm and fuzzy with my first Robert August longboard. Speaking of my first Robert August Longboard, as I was exiting the water, my attention was drawn to the jetty about 500 yards away. I saw that familiar golden hue that I had been searching for. Could it be? The closer I got, the more my heart started to smile. It was in fact, the woman who bought my board!

 

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It was like seeing a child that I gave up for adoption!

 

We talked story for a bit and she confirmed what I already knew, that she was catching a ton of waves and loved the board. It was then that I saw the smile on her face. It was a similar smile that I had when I carried the same board under my arm. The story should end there and the sun should set right? Closure obtained? Hells no! I got her number and immediately texted her, making her promise to sell the board to me when she was ready to. I hope to one day be reunited with the one longboard that brought me so much joy. Until then I will learn to love my new Wingnut.

 

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Surfing on Whidbey Island Fort Ebey State Park

 

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The view from the Tower

Can you surf on Whidbey Island? Is it worth the drive from Seattle? Are their locals to contend with? What is the surf break situation? How consistent are the waves? What are the best conditions? Read on to find out!

How to get there: Whidbey Island is a short jaunt from Seattle. From Seattle, you take I-5 northbound to the Mulkiteo Ferry (about 40 minutes North of Seattle). The Ferry ride to Whidbey Island is about a 15-minute ride. Once on the island, it is about a 40-minute scenic drive to Fort Ebey (watch out for deer and speed traps!). Ignore Google Maps trying to take you all the way north on I-5. Seattle-Mulkiteo Ferry-Whidbey Island is the way (unless you are coming from Bellingham or north). Fort Ebey State Park is well marked from the main highway. When you enter the park, you will pass by the ranger station where you will present your Discover Pass (if you do not have one, there is a station to purchase a daily pass ($10.00 at the time of this writing) in the parking lot. If you do not have a Discover Pass you will get a $ 99.00 ticket, guaranteed, so don’t chance it.

How to get to the Surf Break: There are two parking lots, an upper and a lower. The upper parking lot has decent bathroom facilities and access to the coast but is less desirable than the lower parking lot, which is a short walk to the surf break. The lower parking lot has about 12 spaces so it is best to get there early and claim one for the day. If the lower lot is full then the upper will do just fine. From the lower lot, you will be able to see the water. Walk straight out from the lot to the waters edge. From there you will go left about 75 yards to the point. This is where the left point is (there is also a shipping marker up the cliff that marks the spot you will sit while in the line up). About 300 or so yards to the north is a right point.

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This is the tower you use to line up on the point

 

The Surf: The left is a left point over a rocky reef. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to slice your feet off if you touch the rocks lol. Also don’t get intimidated by the rocky bottom, just respect it and be aware. Don’t fall head first. When you fall, fall backwards or sideways. Don’t ride a wave all the way in, kick out (or fall smartly) before that point. The best swell for this spot is an 8’+ WNW swell on the incoming tide (though my last surf was on a solid W swell and it was just fine). The water was 47 degrees. I wore a 4/3 full suit, booties, gloves, and a hood and if it were not for my leaky booties I would have remained warm the whole time. The take-off zone for the left depends on the tide/swell but you can use the shipping lane marker as a guide and line up there or just a smidge north of the marker. With the right swell, the waves are super fun, consistent, and have an excellent shape. On an 8′ swell, you can expect shoulder high sets. You may even happen upon a small barrel towards the inside section. The right point had some nice sets coming in as well but I surf goofy foot and I was having too much fun riding the lefts. There were a few regular footed surfers surfing the left point too so perhaps the left is the better of the two. You can check the swell, wind, and tide forecast here. I would not make the trip unless it were a W or WNW swell direction with a minimum of 8′ but I would gladly welcome a larger swell. During my session, the wind was 15-20kts and a combo of side shore and offshore. At one point the conditions seemed completely blown out, but as I was waiting for a set wave to ride in, the winds changed back to offshore and I surfed for another hour. In summary, if you go when the conditions are such, you are going to catch some fun waves. Important to note, this is not a spot for beginners. A beginner will have a miserable time here solely because the rocks. You should only surf this spot if you can consistently pop up on a wave and ride it. Otherwise, you are not going to have fun here.

The Locals: If you do a quick search on Google you will get misinformation about localism on Whidbey Island. In short, there are no locals. There are just a bunch of friendly surfers that welcome you with open arms. During my session, there were 3 obvious locals surfing. One local in particular, I think his name was Rob (surfed a fun board with several strips of tape on the nose, regular footed), went out of his way to make me feel welcome. Rob was cheering me into waves and complimenting me on my surfing. He chatted with me about the surf break and was perplexed that more Seattle surfers did not come to share the spot. When you do come to surf Fort Ebey, please make sure to keep an eye out for Rob and give him a big hello from his new Seattle friend!

Grinds: Not a lot of obvious options for after surf grinds. However, the espresso business just south of Fort Ebey (in the gas station) had an array of organic and healthy treats in addition to tasty coffee. There are also a few grocery stores. Otherwise, pack it in, you are not going to find many fast food choices here.

Final verdict: If you live in Seattle you should be surfing Fort Ebey, Whidey Island, every chance you get. It is a short drive from Seattle, and the trip is a mini surfari. Fort Ebey State Park has numerous trails with amazing views. There are also many options for picnic’s and the State Park is dog-friendly (keep them on their leashes though).

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Gus approves of this surf destination