My girl Justine loves her sister Kate. They looked out for each other on the streets of NYC after their parents broke up way early. Year and a half ago, Kate married Andrew, an Australian surfer she'd met in Bali, and moved to Sydney, where they live on the beach at Maroubra. Sweet! Last Christmas was the first the sisters had ever spent apart, and it was hard. This year the two of them decided that somehow they'd get together the money for a ticket, and Justine is in Sydney now; Justine, Kate and Andrew set out yesterday for some camping and surfing along the southern coast. Justine's board, an 8' teardrop minilong, is packed up with Andrew's trusty 6-channel. The minilong is my second shape. Justine christened it in storm surf a couple of days ago...she said that before she got too thrashed she'd found that it's an awesome paddler, isn't too wide @21" for her shoulders, and that it fits perfectly under her arm. Stoke! I fell in love with Justine the day I coached her into her first wave. Maybe the fact that she's a professional dancer gave her an edge, but I could see right away that she was a natural surfer: she just had it. I never have as much fun in the water (etc!) with anybody else. When I asked Justine what she wanted this year for Christmas, she said she wanted me to paint and glass the board I'd been working on for her so she could take it with her to Oz. Of course I had to get it done, and obviously I did, but just barely. I live and work in NYC; Justine is in Baltimore now, studying acupuncture. In September I moved my tools and blanks to a garage in her neighborhood...I was there every weekend, anyway, and it was the only way I was ever going to get any shaping done. Moving would turn out to be good in ways I'd never have imagined: my first humble factory, a garage I'd rented in my neighborhood of Belle Harbor, Queens (that ring a bell?) was destroyed by the crash of flight 587. Shit!!! Like I said, Justine's board was my second shape. The foam turned out real pretty--a total gift. On my first shape, a 6'8" singlefin egg that had potential until I started "evening up the table legs," I'd made what seemed like every mistake in the book. When I finally called it quits, the rails were like knives--I call it The Blade--the intended dimensions were off by about an inch all around (and I thought JC was kidding), and the glass job was, let's say, "cosmetically imperfect." I can't believe it works at all, but it does...sort of. Though it does have a funny tendency to track right when paddled, due either to the thin rails, or maybe the slight tilt of the fin to one side...but I like to think it's the E-W sweep we usually have on Long Island. Anyway, I was sweating over the prospect of finishing Justine's board. When I mentioned my trepidation, she gave me a sly grin, elbowed me in the ribs, and said, "It's perfect! Don't f--- it up!" We mixed a batch of Caribbean seagreen acrylic. I superfine sanded and then sprayed the foam, and she painted in gold on rice paper an awesome mermaid, and from one of her acupuncture texts, the Chinese characters representing "spiritual soulgate." I put off glassing until three days before her departure. That weekend our unnaturally balmy winter suddenly turned arctic, and I had the potential of a disastrously long resin cure to deal with. Preheating with a kerosene space heater (Thanks, Herb!) gave me just enough time--with major bouts of near-panic and round-the-clock working thrown in--to be able to rough sand the still tacky hotcoat the morning of her flight. She was packing the car while I was finishing. It was far from perfect, but still a significant improvement over board #1. Small triumphs are good enough for me. We jammed from Baltimore to NY JFK and got there in time for the new 2-hour check-in. Ambling up to the check-in counter with a surfboard, we got heavy stinkeye from the clerk. Don't that most always happen? Of course the airline charged a criminal fee to agree to carry this most reviled of all oversized baggage: $200 (!#@%*) each way (UNITED) and only after a red-faced fit of righteous rage did they come down to 2 X $125...how they calculate, who knows; and of course, despite wrapping two rolls of bubble wrap around the board before stuffing it inside a heavy duty travel bag, the baggage handlers managed to punch a hole in its bottom before it ever got salt water on it. But now it's in Australia, this little ship, and Justine's dancing across the water half a world away. What a trip it is! When Justine calls, I feel guilty for rushing her through her story to get to the good part about how the board is working, and then I grill her. Just heard that Andrew rode the board yesterday in head-high waves and said it rips! He'd thought at first that maybe it didn't have enough rocker, but after putting on a show of beautiful swooping moves, he said it's perfect: he wouldn't change a thing. Maybe he's just being nice, but Justine said Andrew is fighting with her over who's going to ride it!!! I've been reading Swaylocks for a long time, wondering if I'd ever have anything to contribute. I might not ever have expert knowledge to share at the round table, but I've got this story of pure stoke. I want to take this chance to thank everybody for helping me get in on the magic of making a surfboard and sending in out into life. Peace.