"OSCAR PEDRO LARGHI STORY"
By Oscar Pedro Larghi
Reading Malcolm Gault-Williams’s Legendary Surfers website awhile back I discovered Thomas’s job with the TREE (theshaperstree.com) now Cadamaran.com. After reviewing some of the names on the site it brought back memories of how my surfboard building experiences took shape back in the early 90’s.
The first time I saw Ed Searfoss, he was patching one of Bob Lundy´s boards, using red pigmented resin thicken with aerosol. Pigments! I said as I walked into the shop. Yup, he answered. "They are not very popular nowadays, but I have some old friends who still like them, and you have to take care of your friends..., don´t you?"
This guy knows something I thought to myself and started wandering over to the enormous array of surfboards in sight: longboards with Hawaiian fabrics, guns glassed with tints, fine pin-lining work, pigmented glass jobs, all kind of stuff. I was shocked with amazement, but I couldn’t continue dreaming. Ed woke me up "If you stay here for a while you might learn something, I´ve been in this business for thirty years and I am still learning, I´ll take care of you in a minute” he said to me while he finished repairing a ding.
As a matter of fact that was the second time we spoke, the first time was earlier in the day. It was in the morning and a hot Monday morning at that. It was the beginning of August and those on the North Shore know its hot at this time of year. For anyone who witnessed a morning in Country Surfboards in those days it would be easy to understand the impossibility to have not 5 minutes, but one minute to talk to Mr. Ed Searfoss.
A horde of people swarmed around him planning the daily activities, a mechanic, a sanders, a glassers, a welder, and some other guys that looked a little scary to me... I introduced myself and mentioned we had an appointment at 8:30. "I am sorry I made you come over here so early but I am too busy now" he said to me trying to transmute his nervousness into a polite disguise using the best friendly smile available in his facial repertoire.
"Never mind" tell me when it will be ok to come back and I´ll be here, I was there with my wife Roxana, on our first day on the North Shore and we wanted to look around,( since we were tourists so to speak who had just arrived) . "what about 5:30, will that be fine, hopefully", Ok ‘Ill see you then said Ed.
The facts of that day deserve a whole story by itself, but to summarize it I went surfing for a while in trade wind bump at Ehukai Beach Park, and talking with a guy who told me his girlfriend was Brazilian, when I told him I was from Argentina. (the person whom I was talking to turned out to be Dylan Aoki, whose Fiancé Celma was Ed´s fin and hot-coat woman).
Later Roxana and I spent the afternoon at the Three Tables area across Kam Highway from Foodland chatting about the future possibilities. I already had this vision about staying in Hawaii, if Ed hires me, it would be the signal for us to stay in paradise!! With that in mind I said my wife “Lets go see him”.
The environment had changed completely, he was almost alone on the shop and the Hawaiian music that inspired him for the evening glossing sessions was already coming out the old beaten "magazine" sound system. "Well, so you are a glasser he asked and continued "For how long? “ I started three years ago, and I also know how to sand and polish" I answered.
Backing up a little when we first arrived in Hawaii, my first island that we visited was Maui and later Oahu. With the thought of trying to work for a couple of months in a shop in to learn somethings to bring back home. With the thought of improving the production of my company Jam surfboards, which I started three years earlier in a partnership with my friend and teacher Renato Tiribelli (the finest craftsman of the business in Argentina in those days).
I wasn’t very lucky though, we walked around and asked a lot of people until my quest seemed to have come to an end, when I talked to this French guy at the Planet Surf Shop in Waikiki. "Do you need some help with the boards? I can do repair I said "Not really, I am fine over here he said (another denial I thought) but he continued and said I know a guy who needs a glasser, his name is Ed, call him" he said as he wrote a telephone number in a piece of paper. "If he hires you you´ll have lots of work.
That’s how I ended calling Ed and setting an appointment for that morning. The Frenchman was Phillip and my brother Mariano latter worked for him managing his shops. "You are the good karma I received for sending your brother Oscar to work for Ed in the past" he told Mariano once. The law of karma is visualized very finely in Hawaii as everything that happens over Hawaii is so intense. The youngest place on earth where the waves are so powerful and dangerous compared to Buenos Aires one of the oldest place on earth which lays on a geological plain of 10,0000,000 years old.
Fast forward and back at the shop " I only need a glasser" Ed said. " My brother in law that worked for me, left for the mainland for good, problems with his family... and the other ones that promised to show up are not here yet. I can’t wait any longer". I finally got lucky I thought, thank God those guys never showed up. "I´ll hire you as a professional, we pay over here by the piece, (I think that at that time I would have worked for free just to be there... ) When do you want to start?" he asked me.
Well I have to take my wife to the doctor tomorrow in the morning, but I can definitively be here on Wednesday. "Don’t worry, take care of you wife first, I have waited this long, one more day is nothing” I wasn’t believing it, working on the North Shore making boards and the best part was the location of Ed’s shop, which was across from Sunset Beach. Kind of behind the beach park they built some years ago.
That’s how I ended glassing for Ed. My glass jobs weren’t bad but today I can say that in a 1 to 10 scale they were just a 6, passing mark at least. I was really slow and still kind of untidy. The first personal lesson came one day when Ed told me to be there early the next morning.
"A guy that you want to see is coming to glass a board." The guy was Tomahawk, Sam Hawk's brother who did fins for Jack Reeves. He owed some money to one of the North Shore big characters and was going to glass aboard for the guy. A longboard shaped by BK. Tom played with the resin and dipped the whole laminates in the buckets with resin before placing them on the board trying to remember in which direction Mr. Bottom turn Kanaiaipuni wanted his laminates.
I still remember how his slippers stuck to the resin on the floor as he danced around the board, one even stretched so much that it broke the toe divider and left Tom semi barefoot stepping on resin. Though he cursed alot, he never lost his good humor and had time to fix the slipper and finish the job before the resin went off. I was amazed and watching him, definitively helped me to improve my act alot.
But the real definitive change came some months later when this guy, Keith Swanson showed up. We were never introduced formally, but it seemed to me he was an ex-employee that came from the mainland when thes low winter season arrived. it was around December and Keith started glassing a couple of boards in the room besides mine where Celma and I worked. All I could hear was the NOISE of his scissors cutting the glass constant even and FAST, really fast! Celma and I stared at each other, speechless I had to see how he was doing that!
So I started visiting the room next door to sneak a peek . Keith was really friendly he used his time to show me openly the tricks of his art. Cutting the fabric evenly and strait and showing me how to tuck the laps without pulling out the strings. Cleaning the laps by taking away the extra resin and using a file to sand out the bottom lap before glassing the deck. These were some of the tips he gave me and I still use in my every day duty. He was the man to follow and if my glass jobs are compared to his, I would be more than proud. Thanks Perico!!!
Little by little I gained confidence and expertise so I ended doing all those special jobs and when Ed showed me the Pele´s fire acid splash.At the same time Ed also taught me his trade, taping the boards, the pigments, tints and fabric inlays. I wanted to learn everything. I glassed my first Sunset gun with panels of Hawaiian prints and used red fins on it to match. Received some compliments on the line-up for her. Imagine that, this guy from Buenos Aires, Argentina, that is not even by the sea, working and surfing with the legends!!!
I jumped into them passionately and even invented my own splashes, the Red Shift ( as Ed baptized it) and the Fireball (if they weren´t invented earlier). I think I ended being quite good, my little laminate (racso glass) appeared on the tail of Aipa’s, Bradshaw’s, Brewer’s, Rarick’s, Diffenderfer’s & Vicente’s just to mention some of the shapers who trusted on my labor. I learned so much from them and rediscovered the pride of surfboard manufacturing as a real legacy. Which I was losing back home, bored with the clear sanded hot coats, skinny pro da kine boards with clothing companies laminates that the market was demanding more and more.
The last step was to start shaping. I was so respectful to that duty that I left it for the last. I made my first complete boards and my family board in the summer of 96’. It was a tandem board with which I entered the Sunset to Waimea Bay 4th of July Paddleboard Race. It came in third in my category!!! Ed told me "It is a show board" so I put on her everything I had learnt.
On one of the walls of Ed´s shop was a poster from Surfing Magazine that had some kind of genealogical tree of shapers. I always thought that all the members of the industry should be given the same credit, especially the glassers who´s job from my point of view is the hardest of the trade.
You can leave a half shaped board for tomorrow or for whenever you are inspired to correct any mistakes, sanders can do the same, but once you shoot the catalyst on the resin you only have 15 minutes to do your act, and it must be done perfect!! This is a little piece of my life as a surfboard manufacturer and an homage to the guys who meant something in my career.
Mahalo and Aloha to them! Oscar Pedro Larghi