I can't quite believe that he's gone. I mean I never knew Al Byrne so don't have any stories, but his accidental passing in Bali, both shocked me (sad face) but also reminded me of my first channel bottom surfboard and the impact of AB and the other "channel guys" have had on me and my surfing over the years - guys like Simon Jones and Jim Pollard who pioneered and persevered with the whole cumbersome craft of goughing clinkers and channels into surfboard foam and somehow glassing the the buggers.
My first channel bottom board was shaped by another Byrne - Phil of the Wooloongong crew - a six foot, post-punk twinnie bought from Kirra Surf, just before Big Simon got us all on thrusters.
Even today, when I'm driving down a certain street I'm still reminded of the day my older brother, "Bandit" drove me down to buy it in his Falcon "shaggin wagon".
It was around the time our folks sold up and moved to a small place at Broadbeach. "Bandit" and I lived together in a dingey post-war house that seemed to have a good collection of vinyl albums and 10oz beer glasses. My car was probably getting repaired after I rolled it. I can still see Bandit's ridiculously long locks blowing in the pre-air-con highway slipstream, while his cassette player cranked out my first attempt at double tracking my own guitar.
That twinnie was a speed demon on points from Lennox to Noosa. Both me and the board were pretty hopeless in the barrel but for speed and reo's, we were UNBEATABLE. This last statement has never been tested empirically, but that's my position, OK? Let me dream.
A yankee surfer we got to know back then once said he'd never seen anybody go so fast on a board. Somewhere in the Brinecave there's a few spools of Super 8 showing me what I used to surf like. I'm almost tempted to bust them out. "Dream until you can dream no more" - Simon Jones
That red and white checkered twinnie also witnessed the famous Coolum pub brawl and the equally memorable keg-in-a-tent episode as well as helping me court the love of my life. And even though it never had a cover and usually just got chucked in the back window of my Holden Gemini, it had nary a ding in it when I passed it on to Bandit's stepson, after I moved to three fins (albeit still with channels).
My affair with channels continues thanks to Mr Jones of Byron Bay, who crafted me a wonderful board, that's launched me along the reefs of Cokes and Sultans, the rocky ledges of Moffatt's and the sandy points of Noosa. Thank you Channel Guys for stoking a surfer through the decades.