FASHION: FALL ISSUE : Changes Afoot : Sportswear: Neon is out for the board set. Everybody who is anybody wants to get into 'subdued, post-nuclear colors.'

Feineman is managing editor of Beach Culture magazine

If Richard III had been a Californian, he would have offered his kingdom for a board, not a horse. Whether you are talking land, sea or snow, there's a board for every surface this winter season.

And some interesting fashion options to go with it.

However, surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding looks have been so mass-marketed that the purists feel betrayed.

Mark Richards, owner of Val Surf and Sports, a three-store San Fernando Valley chain, said: "In response, the hard-core are piecing their wardrobes together from a variety of sources, including thrift shops, and searching for a new identity." Among amateur board-sportsmen (and women) who take that route are members of the Los Angeles band Mary's Danish, pictured here.

If not thrift wear, the attention shifts to well-designed, technical performance gear. O'Neill's eagerly awaited Animal wet suit, for instance, at $500, is double the price of a standard wet suit. But Richards said the all-black, Terminator-like suit, which is lighter and more flexible than traditional models, is a "dramatic breakthrough."

"We have been restyling the same old thing for years. This suit is different because it is molded, rather than glued or pasted together. That makes it fit better and provides the surfer with a much more complete range of motion," he said.

These traits make the suit particularly attractive to the older surfer, whose continued involvement in the sport can also be seen in the resurgence of longboards, which are easier to paddle and catch waves.

Like their skateboarding counterparts, surfers now want nothing to do with neon. Instead, said Jim McDowell, co-owner of Rip City Skates, a landmark Santa Monica skate shop, everyone wants to wear "subdued, post-nuclear colors," such as dark blue and black.

The skate and surf shops are getting a strong reaction to labels like Limpy and Powell for loose fitting, oversized shorts and pants, and to new lines like Biotribe, Soul, Platt and Pirate Surf. But for status, the market still belongs to Stussy. "No one can touch him," said McDowell. "His clothes sell out across the board, to young and to old."

It is too early to tell which skateboard will be the bestseller this year, but one by Santa Monica Airline company, called the Julian Stranger board, sold faster in its first week than any other board in Rip City's history. It features a graphic of a hypodermic needle with wheels. Like today's rap records, it comes with a disclaimer, explaining that the picture depicts "skating is my high" rather than a pro-drug message.

It is already apparent that the season's skate shoe of choice is the patterned black-on-black, low-cut Airwalk Disaster high-top. The comfortable ankle, flexible soles and strategic use of soft rubber make it ideal for street-skating as well as image-conscious general streetwear.

Snowboarding, the beach's sister sport, is also backing off its rad image. According to Doug Palladini, editor of Snowboarder Magazine, "Snowboarders are becoming more interested in performance gear, such as Nike ACG or North Face (available at stores like Frontrunners in the Westside, Go Sport's various locations and REI in Carson), and in underground colors such as black and olive. The wild neons and graphics photograph well, which explains why they are worn by the professional riders. But the muted, dark colors are more representative of their personal tastes."

As far as the snowboards themselves, the big shift seems to be toward an asymmetrical board. Virtually every major manufacturer has one because they have a great edge on hard-packed, well groomed runs. Available at most ski shops as well as some sports shops, they usually cost between $400 and $500.

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