There’s positioning yourself in the right spots on the wave, and then there’s positioning yourself in the right spots in the lineup to connect with the best waves. Australian regular foot Beau Foster has this in spades. On an Indian Ocean boat trip a couple years ago, we pulled up to empty lineups and Beau paddled out and found exactly the right waves and drew all the right lines across them. It was old soul/sage sea captain stuff. It defied his then 23 years.
Beau has also mastered the bigger part of this aligning-with-all-the-best-waves game. He lives in northern New South Wales, not far from Byron Bay. Surf roots go deep here. In the late ‘60s, Sydney-based surfers migrated north to this rural area, took up residence in old farmhouses, grew their own vegetables, shaped their own boards, and gorged on the ever-present long point waves (think Morning of the Earth). Beau lives a modern-day version of this. He works part-time as a screen-printer so he can put in maximum water time. He shapes his own boards, many of them single fins.
“There’s no feeling quite like the length of a turn you can get with a single fin,” he told me. “Cutting those two extra fins off has given me some kind of opening. It’s made me slow down. I feel like I was over-controlling my boards before.”
I asked what he likes most about shaping. “It kind of takes you away,” he said. “It’s forever ongoing, forever surprising. I don’t always know what I’m trying to attain, and when the finished part of it is there it’s almost like I didn’t shape it. That’s such a rewarding feeling. You don’t stop learning. Shaping has so much purpose in it. It’s like the backbone of surfing to me now.”
Beau started shaping about four years ago. He talked about the profound connection that comes from riding your own shapes. “As soon as I started getting to a point where I could create the board I wanted to ride, I felt like my actual surfing was talking to the board.”
Along with surfing, shaping, and screen-printing, Beau plays drums in the band WASH. “It’s really fun finding timing with these guys who are my good mates [Creed McTaggart on bass and vocals, Ellis Ericson on guitar]. It’s also an exertion thing. Without playing music I’d be bunched up a lot more,” he told me. “It’s like surfing and shaping. It sounds cheesy, but they all come together. I feel lucky to experience those things.”
I asked Beau what he finds most exciting in today’s surf world. “Scaling back,” he said. “Just going down to the beach and seeing what’s going on is just as interesting as anything going on elsewhere in the worldwide scheme of surfing. There’s so much creativity here. And there’s outlets to create boards and go out and test them the next day. I surf with all my mates; it’s different everyday. I’m less interested in the extremities of the advancement of the sport, but more just going surfing.”