The Mother Teresa of Surf Gear / by daniel hamlin

 The life of a board bag. Nicaragua 2011. Photo:  Chris Burkard

The life of a board bag. Nicaragua 2011. Photo: Chris Burkard

I’ve found in life that it is often the things that go unnoticed and underappreciated that have the most impact. Whether it is kindness from a stranger or the leash string that attaches your board to your leash, it’s often the little things that count. Take for example my board bag. I never would have thought that such a forgettable piece of equipment could mean so much to me. When I first started surfing I didn’t even consider owning one. But as I got more involved in riding waves and realized how precious a good board is, I wanted to protect my prized surfing possession, so I invested in a board bag. I had no idea it would end up being much more than just a surfboard transporter.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I realized what a significant part of my surfing life my board bags have played. They have literally been there with me on every surf trip I’ve ever taken. On my first trip to Costa Rica my friends and I found ourselves getting denied at just about every hotel we went to. We finally found one that had a room available for us, but the only problem was the room didn’t have enough beds. Not to worry, my board bag made a perfectly comfortable bed. This would be the first of many nights that my board bag would double as a mattress. In Panama, when my Panamanian friend told us we could stay with him at his “rancho” we thought he meant his house. It turned out by “rancho” he simply meant we could camp on his land. Without any camping gear, once again my board bag proved an invaluable piece of equipment.

            On another occasion, my friend and I were taking a road trip along the Oregon and California coasts. Somewhere in Mendocino County we decided to save some money and just sleep on the beach instead of getting a campsite or hotel room. It didn’t seem like a big deal as we had a truck full of camping supplies. We went to sleep under a sky of countless stars. At some point in the middle of the night I awoke to dew soaking through my sleeping bag. I lay there thinking how I was too tired to put up my tent when I saw my board lying next to me in the sand. And just like that, the problem was solved. My board came out of the board bag and my sleeping bag and I crawled into it, a perfectly water resistant cocoon to get me through the night.

            Board bags aren’t just useful as a sleeping bag/mattress/tent. They make great makeshift tarps in scorching tropical sun when shade proves elusive. They also make perfect changing mats, and can even be used in place of a forgotten towel in a crowded parking lot when changing “au natural” is not an option. With all these other uses, it’s easy to forget their original purpose—to protect your valuable surfboard. The surfboard is arguably the most important piece of surfing equipment there is and the board bag protects it. The whole purpose of the board bag is to protect it. It’s kind of like the Secret Service for the surfboard—protect the board at all costs without any thought for itself. I know without a trusty board bag, my boards would be a lot worse for the wear and I’d have a lot more sleepless nights on surf trips. The board bag does all this without any hoopla or demand for recognition; it puts the surfboard’s welfare before its own. Mother Teresa once said, “It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Who would have thought my board bag could teach me such a lesson. 

(Originally published in DEEP Magazine)