For every surfing breakthrough, like the leash, tri-fin or inflatable life vest, there are a thousand ideas that didn’t quite make the grade. Here are our top-five picks for surfing’s lead balloons.
1.Front-foot deck grip
Deck grip, invented by Herbie Fletcher in the late ’70s, has been one of the great accessory technology leaps of our time. It meant there was no need to reapply wax and it provided both consistent grip and tail-pad protection.
Perhaps that’s the reason why, for the latter part of the 1980s, there was no reason to think that this revolutionary piece of surfing genius couldn’t be applied to the whole board. The catch was that, unfortunately, not only did it provide grip for your front foot, but it also was a fantastic (and painful) adhesive to your stomach.
The resulting cheese-grater-like rash meant front-foot deck grip died out in the early ’90s, just after Australians Barton Lynch and Damien Hardman both won world titles on it. They have the trophies, and the abdominal scars, to prove it.
2.Spray-on surf wax
Unfortunately, while it was clean and easy, it didn’t tend to be very sticky. A quick blast was akin to spraying on a thin layer of slippery film to the board. Despite numerous brands’ attempts, the last being Venom in the 1990s, it is now consigned, thankfully, to the surf-history dustbin.
In theory, webbed paddling gloves could have revolutionized one of the dullest, yet most important, parts of surfing. Through increasing surface area, the gloves were supposed to push more water and add up to 25 percent paddling power.
In reality, they also made you feel like you were paddling through quicksand. A 30-minute session at your local beachbreak gave you jelly arms akin to a five-hour session at Malibu.
That may be true — until the board was caught by a wave and the leash suddenly became 23 feet long before springing back at warp speed (with your board connected) to its usual size. They were both largely impractical and potentially deadly. It is now only on SUPs that you the see the lethal coils.
Is there any other surfcraft that is so ill-equipped for surf? They tend be very heavy surf equipment that a) you are forced to be tethered to, b) are incapable of going underwater and c) require you to sit on them.
And for every madman who can actually get tubed (see Ben John, above), there are 150 who seem to spend most of their surf inverted with their head underwater.