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Original Issue


The fact that there are now punk surfers doesn't mean that New Wave has anything to do with the ocean; it's merely proof of surfing's broad appeal and continuing change. The sport is different from what it was 20 years ago; not only have surfers changed, but their boards have also undergone modification—radically, as a surfer would say.

Forget the 15-foot, 150-pound surfboards of old. Some boards today are shorter than six feet and weigh only seven pounds, and one can do tricks with them. There are also offshoots: bellyboards, skimboards and softboards. And now, the Sofski.

Sofski is the offspring of surfboard and kayak; it can be used either in waves or white-water streams and is easier to use than either of its folks. It comes in lengths of seven, eight and nine feet and looks like a surfboard, but the rider sits on it as if it were a kayak. He nestles his buttocks and heels into indentations, and nylon loops hold his feet down. He propels himself and steers with a lightweight paddle, which is leashed to the Sofski.

Catching a wave is easier than with a surfboard; neither the timing nor balance is anywhere near as critical on a Sofski. Anyone can do it, though it might take an hour or so to get the control down pat. And if the rider does teeter over, all he has to do is hang on to the paddle, and the Sofski will stay at his side.

The Sofski is made of a soft, space-age substance called ethafoam and weighs only 15, 16 or 17 pounds, depending on its length. The foam is more resilient than fiber glass and will bounce off rocks all day long without crunching or chipping. Another important quality of the foam, especially in crowded bathing areas, is that it will also bounce harmlessly off skulls, not crack them.

At a retail price of $270, $285 or $300, again depending on length, Sofski is a few dollars more than an average surfboard, ethafoam being an expensive material. It can be bought from the manufacturer, Surf Skis USA, 1212 Kona St., Honolulu, Hawaii 96814.