POWAY, Calif. – A beginning surfer is humiliated often.
A novice skateboarder is bruised often.
A rookie snowboarder finds himself on his backside often.
Someone new to GolfBoarding? He smiles often.
Or at least that was my experience recently when I went out to play on a GolfBoard for the first time.
For someone who has attempted (though hardly mastered) all of the above board sports, there was a certain giddy anticipation to trying a GolfBoard when a shipment of four of them arrived in March at Maderas Golf Club in Poway.
I'd heard some buzz about the boards since they were named the "Best New Product" at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show. I'd seen big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton demonstrate one in a video. He gave them immediate "gnarly" street cred.
Golf can always use ways to be cooler, and this seemed like the ticket.
The call here is that you'll hardly be disappointed if you give them a try. In fact, after playing back-to-back GolfBoard rounds at Maderas and then Rams Hill in Borrego Springs – the other San Diego County course with them – I wish I could play every round on them; the experience was that good.
Brent Duclos predicted as much. He is the San Diego and Ventura sales rep for GolfBoard, a San Diego State grad and good stick as a golfer who also looks the part because of his long red hair and laid-back surfer vibe. City golfers might recognize him because he's been a starter at Torrey Pines and Mission Bay.
Duclos saw GolfBoard's Kickstarter campaign that raised $100,000, was immediately stoked by it and called the company. He wanted in. Now he's been with GolfBoard 2 1/2 years and believes he's on the front end of one of the biggest equipment breakthroughs in golf since the graphite shaft.
"We definitely see this as a product that is like golf carts were in the '50s," Duclos said. "Back then you had traditionalists say, 'Hell, no. This is not going to happen.' Then they see this GolfBoard and they think X Games. They think everybody is going to break their neck.
"We're getting over those fears. Courses at slowly starting to come around. For places like Maderas, they can say they were the trendsetters."
Change arrives slowly – which seems doubly true in such a traditional game like golf. Before Maderas General Manager Michael Flickinger could sway the course's ownership that the boards could bring in business, he had to convince them they were safe.
Board. Motor. Steep hills. Uneven surfaces. Who wouldn't pair the words "disaster" and "lawsuit"?
"It was a hard sell to our ownership," Flickinger said. "Brett was really the one who closed the deal. He was able to convince a 76-year-old man and a 45-year-old man that these were the wave of the future."
The safety records have spoken for themselves. Duclos maintains that not one serious accident has happened in more than 1.8 million rentals of GolfBoards.
The board is regulated to a maximum of 12 mph, and the thumb throttle control is sensitive. As soon as you release it, you stop. Dismounting is no harder than stepping off a curb.
Using a board does require golfers to view a safety video and sign a waiver, and that spooked a couple of my golfing buddies when we played at Rams Hill. Both are in their early 60s and decently fit, but they couldn't get past their trepidation.
Said one, "I'm going to be thinking more about trying to stay on this thing than playing golf."
In some ways, that's the point. It added another dimension to playing that was pure pleasure for me. GolfBoard's slogan is "surf the earth," and the longer I was on the board the more I aimed myself at mounds that allowed me to flow with the fairway. It was a workout, too, as my rubbery legs told me after the round.
Beyond the fun, there are the practical advantages. The clubs are mounted to the front, so grabbing what you need for the next shot is easy. The pace at which you can play is tremendous. Because you ride straight to your ball, it takes less than a minute from one shot to the next, and you can park within feet of the tees and green.
I'm proud to be a fast player anyway, so I know I could comfortably play a round in 90 minutes if given an open course. And if there were more people riding GolfBoards the chances for that would be greater.
Duclos admitted to maybe one failed assumption by the GolfBoard makers. They figured their initial target audience would be millennials. What they've found is a lot of frustrated former surfers and skateboarders willing to give it a try. The average age for rental: 51.
"You see guys," he said, "out there taking selfies and sending them to their grandkids – 'Hey, look what I'm doing.'"
No bumps. No bruises. No ice.
This article was written by Tod Leonard from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.