Show Us Your Quiver – Mark Adams
It’s November, somewhere in San Francisco. At 6 a.m. the sun hasn’t even begun to rise, but the foghorns are sounding their lonely call through the soupy mist, alerting vessels to the presence of a rough, ragged and craggy piece of the San Francisco coastline as they come into the bay.
Maybe there are a few captains listening in their boats far away, at the darkened helms of their vessels paying close attention to their surroundings at sea. But on land there are fewer still who are even awake, and none listening to this quiet concert with more intent and purpose than Mark Adams. Mark starts his day alone, standing in the cold and dark predawn fog where the only faint light is a weak amber cast from the continuously humming sodium street lights in a parking lot. There he prepares himself, listening to the waves funnel and turn, reveling in this nearly daily ritual, preparing for what is to come.
Having waxed up his board and suited up in the cold, Mark makes his way down to the water well before any other surfers have even arrived. He paddles out in the dark, with the sole intent of garnering the ocean’s first offerings to him and him alone.
There’s enough clean groundswell in the water to produce six- to nine-foot faces, but the waves are going top to bottom here, and this is exactly where Mark shines. He likes it critical, with a challenge, as if each wave he makes in these conditions is an affirmation of his long surfing past, the years spent earning the skill he uses here. Looking at the waves, it’s clear this is not for the faint at heart. On these waves, this day, it appears that most of the time you will airdrop, but Mark’s experience lends itself not only to safe landings, but also a ride into the coveted place all surfers aspire to touch and reach for: The Tube.
Some surfers are looking to make mincemeat out of their waves. They want to go top to bottom with major hacks, throwing a rooster tail at every possible moment, while others want to execute more finely executed shorter cutbacks and minor adjustments while setting up for the big payoff. That’s the kind of surfer Mark Adams is. He’s looking to make fine adjustments and really employ the performance boards he’s made so that he can stall, adjust, go rail to rail, and then pump and pounce on the tubes he has hunted. Simply put, he’s a barrel predator. He wants it, he waits for it and then he goes for it, and the tools he has tuned and crafted over the years get him exactly the accurate kills he’s looking for. Mark’s creations, and some photos of the kind of surfing they allow, can be seen at his Greenroom Surfboards website.
Here are some of Mark’s thoughts about surfing and a few of his favorite boards, in his own words:
5’9″ Rasta Quad
This is the board I use the most. This is kind of a hybrid shape combining the old Mark Richards [board]. The shape of that (pointing to the Mark Richards) but the tail of this one (pointing to a nearby David Pu’u board). It’s taken a long time to find someone to make one of these boards for me the way I envisioned it, and a few people tried and most failed. I think the guy that got the closest was Randy Cone. He was an awesome surfer and shaper. Then I just decided to do it myself. A lot of trial and error. I have 80 boards under my belt now. It’s nice to be able to make a board when you want one.
That’s a double-bump swallowtail. It allows you make a board with a lot more volume and narrow the tail with the double bumps, and once you get it on the edge and on its tail, it turns very sharply. It’s kind of like two boards in one. You can have all your volume and beef up front, but it’s nice and narrow at the tail.
Josh: So I see these are glassed on fins. Do you prefer glassed on as opposed to boxes?
Mark: You know, if you’re going to travel, sure you need boxes. You know, I remember as a kid, all the boards you got, they were either awesome or they weren’t, and it seemed to have a lot less to do with fins and switching fins, because they were static and glassed on. I find that static fins have a lot more drive down the line, they’re fast, they’re more stable and they respond differently, and I think a board is meant to have glassed-on fins. I’ve kind of switched my approach from the versatility of switching out fins to the thought, “I’ll make a board to travel with, if that’s what I want to do,” and for staying at home, surfing the beach, I want glass-on fins.
I think [a quad setup] lends itself to more of a retro style, surfing rail to rail kind of surfing style, where you’re doing big turns, you’re not really surfing top to bottom. You’re not going way to the bottom of the wave to way to the top of the wave. It has a little bit more flow, and I rode quads in high school as a kid, and kind of fell in love with them, and stuck with my surfing style. I tried thrusters all the time, and really enjoy the difference, but I find myself always wanting to go back to the quad. I had a 7’2” gun that had glassed-on fins that I chopped off because I wanted to turn into a quad that I could travel with, and take it to Bali because I wanted a bigger board. Quads are a lot of fun. …
It depends on what kind of board you’re riding and what kind of tail you ride. But yes, there’s one extra fin there, you kind kind of side-slip the face. When it’s small and rippable, a quad is a nice thing to have.
6’7” 19 ⅝ x 2 ½. I made the 2 ½ kind of full, I made it a little thicker out to the rails, I didn’t give it a flat deck, but it’s not domed either. Decent amount of rocker, and a little bit of a kick in the tail, The thinned-out tail helps lay it out on the edge and turn a lot faster. As you can see even with a larger-wave board, and the thruster, I still go with my traditional bottom which is a V and a concave in the V as well with nice hard edges. This goes back to my surfing style, which is more rail to rail, a little retro … speed down the line kind of style, looking for the big sections, to do what you gotta do.
Josh: So you’re not looking for monster cutties off the lip?
Mark: Yeah for the most part, I’m a tube hound, yes, but when the opportunity presents itself cutties will be done. This is a new board, hasn’t been ridden yet. I’m looking forward to riding this on some big beach.
Josh: How do you fit into the OB community?
Mark: I’m not in need of a lot of community and friendship, really. I’m kind of a loner in that respect. I have a lot of tight friends, but I pretty much keep to myself. I fit into the community throughout the years by surfing a lot, and being seen around and when it’s good, I’m out there. I tend to let my surfing talk for me. There’s always going to be a crew in town that either like you or don’t, that comes with any territory you’re in, so yeah I have some interesting relationships with some people around town, but most of them are very good.
Josh: What drives you to OB and surfing?
Mark: It’s a special place to be, we’re all from the ocean. One of my favorite things to do is surf early, in the ocean and surf all by myself, because that’s when you’re alone and there’s no distractions. It’s just you and the waves and the ocean and hopefully some dolphins. It calms me down, because living in the city can be a little stressful sometimes, so it’s my therapy.
Josh: Are you married, do you want to talk about your family?
Mark: I have a lovely wife, Jessica, whom I’ve been with 21 years. We have two young daughters, Petra aged 3, Athena aged 7. We had kids later in life, and we enjoyed ourselves when we came to town. We didn’t get married and have kids right away.
We are always on the hunt for interesting people who love interesting boards, so if you know of someone who might be a good fit for the next installment of “Show Us Your Quiver,” let us know by sending an email to email@example.com
Editor’s Note: Josh Teitelbaum is an avid San Francisco surfer and cyclist. He lives on 47th Avenue, breathes San Francisco fog, listens to the Melvins and pretends to be a writer.
All photos: Tom Prete / Ocean Beach Bulletin