THE POUR FROM AROUND
THE SITE, SURFBOARD BUILDERS STORIES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
"A Different Drummer"
"The Best of Times"
"Coastal Cruising Catamaran"
"Ed Townes Story"
"Matt Calvani Story"
"Steve Friedman Story"
"Guilhem Rainfray Story"
"As Good as Gold""
"Sailing to Rapa Nui"
"From Bay Cities to Maui"
"Foam to Koa"
"The Little Spark that Grew"
"Wind an Sea""
"The Shaper from Peru"
"In an Era that was Legendary"
"Bud Gardner Story"
"Gene Cooper Story"
"The Shaper of Shaper"
"Carl Hayward Interview"
"Sky the Limit"
"Snapshot of Duke"
"Allen White Story"
"Weekend Surf Trip"
"George Downing Story"
"A Surfing Couple"
"Shaper to Architect"
"The Road to Old Koloa Town"
O'NEILL SURFBOARDS & WETSUITS
JACK O'NEILL 1923-2017
by Thomas Takao
Jack O'Neill began body surfing in Southern California while in grade school. He soon developed a special stoke for the sea. It could have disappeared if he wanted it to, but it didn't. This special relationship with the sea has lasted through the years. From it came a program for kids, wetsuits for surfers around the world, and surfboards.
Jack moved up to San Francisco in the late 40s and resumed body surfing in the cold waters of San Francisco. Switching to board surfing and the camaraderie of other surfers, Jack was hooked on the Surfing lifestyle. "I started doing more board surfing than anything else," said Jack. Having worked as a salesman for a couple of companies. Jack O'Neill started his first Surf Shop in 1952, not far from the beach where he surfed.
He would load up on balsa from a local supplier and supply the Bay Area surfers with his boards. His only competitors were down south. The two other board builders were Dale Velzy and Hobie Alter. Jack was the only person doing wetsuits and surfboards so he coined the name Surf Shop, and was the first to do so. In 1957 Mike Eaton was stationed in the Bay Area with the Coast Guard. During a surf movie that Greg Noll was showing, Mike and Jack started talking about board building and shaping. In the summer of 1957, Mike Eaton shaped a few boards for Jack in Santa Cruz.
During 1960 Jack was doing some of the shaping but was more into wetsuit designs at this time. He would have Phil Edwards come up from Oceanside and shape some of the O'Neill boards. Jack still remembers Phil as being known as Numero Uno in the surfing community during the early 1960s. Another individual to who Jack taught board building to was Don Hansen, Don was in the Army and stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey. Doug Haut's first job in board building was with Jack O'Neill, it was late 1959 to early 1960. Doug was part-time help at the production factory, which was behind the showroom on 41st Ave. Haut remembers doing the sanding and inlaying wooden skegs and any other odd jobs that were assigned to him. Some of the other guys working there were Joe Woods, and Tom Hoyt, they were doing the glassing.
Polyurethane foam was just starting to happen says Jack. "I was up here doing it while Hobie and Clark were doing it down there, Robertson and Sweet were into it too." Then as the '60s began, Clark Foam and Walker Foam were the main suppliers of foam blanks. "We had the only Surf Shop in Northern California for years," says Jack. Jack O'Neill would eventually phase out of surfboards and concentrate on wetsuits. Surf wetsuits were in the early stages of design development when Tony Mikus started surfing. He remembered only a few older surfers were able to have a custom beaver tail jacket made by Jack O’Neill. Tony tried one on back then and recalled "You needed cornstarch to get into those early wetsuits because they did not have nylon lining."
As surfboard designs changed, so did surfing wetsuits. Through the years O'Neill's wetsuit has provided warmth for many surfers. Looking back now, that concept can be traced back to the day when a young grade school kid went body surfing.
by Bonnie Cha
Courtesy of O’Neill International
In 1952, Jack opened his first surf shop in a garage across the Great Highway in San Francisco, a dune away from his favorite bodysurfing break. There he sold his first wetsuits, a few vests he made from gluing together pieces of neoprene. From that very garage Jack expanded the average playground from Streamer Lane to J-Bay, Antarctica those fun reef breaks off the coast of Iceland. Thanks to Jack O’Neill,” It's always summer on the inside.” “Surfing in the ’50s was great,” says Jack. “You knew everybody and we all took turns on the waves.” But surfing in the 1950s also meant short sessions due to the cold water temperatures, and surfers tried anything to stay warm. “I remember one guy that tried to keep warm with a navy jumper and he put Thompson’s Water Seal on it,” recalls Jack.
“He set out in an oil slick all by himself.” Cold and sick of cutting his sessions short at Ocean Beach, Jack embarked on a mission to create the surfing wetsuit. Jack soon became a regular at surplus stores collecting old WWII frogmen suits. “These suits consisted of a thin sheet of rubber, worn over something like a long underwear,” says Jack. “The air trapped in the underwear gave the insulation. But in the rough surf, the suit would come apart at the waist entry, water would get in, displacing the air and making it hazardous.”
Working with different types of flexible foam, his first success was with polyvinylchloride (PVC). While it had good insulating properties, it was prone to a lot of wear and tear so he glued a sheet of plastic to the PVC and made a vest. Voila! his first surfing wetsuit. Yet, while PVC served it purpose, it was hard to work with and Jack went back to the drawing board. Jack finally struck gold with neoprene, which he discovered carpeting the aisle of a DC-3 passenger plane.
It was a good insulator, buoyant, and easy to bond. Soon after Jack developed designs for the shorty, long john, and long-sleeved beaver-tailed jacket wetsuits. “I got a lot of laughs,” remembers Jack. “Surfers would come up from down south and I remember one of them saying, ‘Maybe you clowns up here need a suit but never us.’ I was just trying to do more surfing, have some surfing friends, and get a little income.” Despite all the naysayers, the vests started to fly off the hangers and O’Neill was in business.
O’Neill Sea Odyssey offers a unique hands-on educational program to promote awareness and appreciation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and surrounding areas.The three-hour program is based at the Santa Cruz Harbor in the O'Neill Sea Odyssey Education Center and aboard the 65-foot "Team O'Neill" catamaran. The students are taught the program in three learning stations'.
Stations cover various topics including boat and ocean safety, sailing, navigation, marine life sampling and observation, ecology, and local history. Students also enter data into a database and observe information obtained by other classes.
The program is available to 4th through 8th grade groups free of charge through our nonprofit organizations. To participate in the programs, groups design and perform a project to benefit their communities. The project component encourages children to give something back to their communities. At an impressionable age, it teaches them a sense of responsibility towards others and our fragile earth.
by David Pu'u
The year was 1996. I had been working in and around the surfboard industry for about 20 years at that point. I had taken a good look around at prospective changes in the industry, and that inspection told me it was time to go. I had look down the barrel of turorials from countless expert board builders and shapers and an incredible compilation of firsthand knowledge about surfboard design and history and say "Oh well", time for me to leave.
The primary reason was not what one would at first suspect. Sales were through the roof. There was no real way to keep up with demand, and an influx of surfing into mainstream media was beginning to indicate a groundswell of growth for the sport that would likely continue for many years. What I saw, that made me leave was the impeding death of the craftsman in American surfboard culture. A basic fact of business, is that an industry must be able to supply income of an adequate amount not only to support the worker, but if that worker were to remain in the industry, a living of sufficient means to support a family.
In looking at the history of surfboard building, craftsmen typically started out learning their trade as either ding repairmen, or fin makers. They then worked their way up and through the various facets of the surfboard manufacturing process; polishing, finish coating, laminating, sanding, shaping and ultimately, designing. Its is a long process gleaned from practice and mastery of the various steps in the production process and generally takes quite a few years, many boards, and detailed training by master craftsmen to accomplish. At the end of the long process, the new craftsmen understands all of the details of designing and fabricating a surfboard. Details such as the performance characteristic of various resins, fabrics and foam, are all filed in the skill set of each worker who makes it through the arduous training period.
What made me leave the industry was the fact that a board craftsman working at maximum capacity would generally max out somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 in earnings a year. He would be working a 40-50 hour week assuming that not much went wrong in the skill intensive procedure, requiring extra work to bring a flawed job up to snuff. Then after factoring in things like cost of living, risk to health from daily contact with hazardous materials of varies types, healthcare etc, there just was not enough cash left to keep even a frugal family afloat fiscally. I realized that the people I was training would never support a family, no matter how hard they worked.
At the time, Santa Cruz designer-builder Randy French, was making serious inroads into molded surfboard fabrication, and rumors about China coming up to speed as a manufacturer, utilizing low daily wave workers ($3.00 per day at that time max) indicated that still more change was on tap. The risk outweighed the reward of being able to hand make equipment and have a somewhat flexible schedule that allowed for water time when the surf was good. I left. Several years later, in a conversation with Rennie Yater he told me that the income for designers had actually gone up in the ensuing years since my departure. Molded board production was supplying royalty fees to designers for use of their marquee and designs. He said things were the best they had been for him, since the early days of the industry.
The popularity of the sport grew, and serious inroads were made by surf brands into fashion apparel markets. The Entertainment industry further capitalized and fanned the flame, producing films and television shows which featured surfing in rather prominent fashion. The surf industry appeared to be snowballing with spinoffs seekers like Target, Abercrombie and others completely apeing the popular conception of surf culture being portrayed.
Demand for equipment continued to grow as a result. China having gotten it’s act together, seemed to be capable of answering the call for quality durable equipment both in molded and hand laminated foam and fiberglass construction. At this time Clark Foam closed, creating a rush by small manufacturers to fill what many perceived to be an insurmountable void due to the combination of the recent history increased demand and the loss of generations of product development via the death of Clark. What occurred after, had taken many by surprise: demand slowed. Why?
I had taken a trip to Western Java at the time, with a large crew of talented Hawaiians. We brought approximately 22 custom foam and fiberglass boards, and about 28 Surf Tech molded boards. At the end of ten days surfing in 4-8 foot Javanese barrels, only two custom boards remained intact. All but one Surftech, which I saw take a direct hit as it tombstoned in front of a ten footer at Ombak Tuju and explode, survived basically unscathed. By trips end, everyone was riding Surftech.
What this experience served to illustrate, is that should the bulk of the market convert to more durable boards and the current state of stasis in design continue (surfboards have not changed appreciably in many years) the basic impetus that had kept people streaming in the shaping room door for twenty years would be eliminated, or at best squeezed to a trickle. And this is exactly what appears to have occurred. The market for custom equipment decelerated. This had directly affected professional shapers and custom builders. There are several basic reasons that a surfer gets new equipment:
1. Because you can. You feel like something different, and can afford it. So you do.
2. Your current board is worn out.
3. A new design emerges that offers something entirely different.
Line item 2 and 3 are what keep board volume demand up for the most part. These are the key reasons for some of the recent disturbing events. “Oh but wait a minute” you may be saying. “My friend so and so is shaping and so is his friend etc… Current tax law loosely stated defines a profession as being any activity by which the bulk of ones income is derived. Hobbyists are just that. They have other occupations by which they derive their livelihood. No sport or industry that I know of exists based on the efforts of hobbyists though often as a new sport comes to life, the hobbyists/enthusiast is an integral building block.
A few names: Hobie Alter, Reynolds Yater, Al Merrick, Robert August, Bob Pearson, Doug Haut, Bob McTavish, Dick Brewer, Ben Aipa, Dick Van Straalen. The line item each has in common is the title of Master Craftsman. Each was trained in more or less the same fashion: by tutorials or apprenticeships under tenured predecessors. Oh and the fact that they are all breathing living examples of a rich history in surfboard development and knowledge.
The various aspects of the craft are handed down from generation to generation. What keeps the chain unbroken is the basic structure of a working healthy business based on demand. A profession needs to have steady demand and enough profit for the company to exists. For the first time in generations, the surf industry does not offer those things on any level. What is occurring as a result of recent changes, is a disconnect of sorts. It is fairly obvious that the traditions and age of the craft are at an end. We are now in a period of time similar to the Dark Ages for craftsmen, but I do not think that the market realizes it yet.
Recently, a spate of remaining custom builders have begun to close their operations, relying on smaller sub contractors who glass the shaped blanks for a dwindling number of custom orders. Their start to finish, design-build factories are simply going away due to lack of demand and profitability. Shaping as a craft is basically being moved back into the garage from whence it emerged. Board building, as a comprehensive design and manufacturing process is simply stopping in the US.
But here is the reality: the sport and retail market as a whole does not need a high end surfboard with every aspect of the design produced in great detail and control. The average surfer cannot even recognize the nuances. In fact, were most people to ride the ultimate in performance equipment, all but the delusional would have to admit that for them, the board sucked. I once had an extremely experienced volume builder (1200 a month) tell me that the average surfer really needed an average board that allowed for ease of paddle, slow and steady predictability of ride, durability, affordability, and decent resale value.
He was right apparently. Most of us are average. That is the market. The same person who wears Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, and whatever is sold at Target or Walmart, they are surfing now, and they simply do not understand or care. So there will be no new Rennie Yaters, or Hobie Alters.
Traditions steeped in the relatively years. Short time frame of our sports existence will be kept alive by websites and a few museums as the last craftsman simply stops breathing. End of story. End of an era. But as in all things, it is just part of the cycle. I have to admit though, that in reading through what I have written here, it makes makes me want to pick up my Skil planer again, for the first time in many years.
A COASTAL CRUISING CATAMARAN
by Mickey Munoz written in 1974
My ideas haven’t changed that much since its inception, which was about six years ago. There were a lot of reasons why I started it. We were surfing Pacific Catamarans off of Dana Point on a really big swell, and one of the other boats end-o-ed on a wave, and the guy that owned it was in such shock that he barely got himself in, much less his boat. His boat kinda washed in on the rocks, and I ended up savaging a bunch of stuff off of it.
And then I sort of started working on other boats and when a guy was going to throw something away. So I ended up with a hodge-podge of fittings and lines and wire and …goodies. And one day I looked at it all and I went “Hey! I’ve got enough stuff here to build a boat.” This is, of course, a joke because I ended up using none of it.
But it kinda gave me the impetus to start. That isn’t the real reason, but it helped. You know I was influenced by Joe Quigg and Carter Pyle, of course. I worked for Carter building P Cats. And then I was around Joe a lot, who had built his own boat “Gusto,” which was really the original boat that came out of the mold that I used. Though I reshaped the hull that I have so that you can hardly recognize it as a daughter of Gusto.
Over the years I had sailed with different people, and usually, they’re the ones that are making the decisions. If you’re on an owner’s boat cruising, you go where he wants to go. So I got the feeling that I wanted to make my own decisions and go where I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do. I had some ideas on how to make a boat go fast and still be comfortable.
It’s like building a surfboard. Like figuring out what kind of board to make. You know you want to go surfing, but you have to decide what you want to surf. What type of wave do you want to surf. You know, you have a style and you want a board to fit it. If you’re really into surfing, you can get two or three boards and cover most situations. But a boat is so expensive, it’s such a financial lock-in and such a physical and mental lock-in, that usually you can only have one boat. So it has to be exactly what you want.
Because there is no perfect all-around boat, and there never will be. Just like the surfboard. And so what I tried to do was make a boat that would fit my style and needs. I first started off more on the hot side. More on a racing vein. I wanted a boat that would go very fast and be competitive. But as I got into it, I realized that to compete against all the money and the technology of the really into-it racers. I just wasn’t going to be able to compete on that level.
And then as I got into it more. I decided that I really didn’t want to compete on that level. I was more interested in a boat that I could use to continue whatever my lifestyle was. Which is surfing. A boat that I would use to continue surfing the way it was 20 years ago when you could cruise the coast in your car and it was like having a boat. Quote, unquote- Phil Edwards. That statement of Phil’s really got me thinking about it. And it really is true. And it’s really kinda the way the boat came about. The need to be able to get away. A vehicle that satisfied what our car did 20 years ago.
Building the boat went hand in hand with shaping surfboards. I’d been doing nothing but surfing, and I’d shaped a few boards and glassed. You know, I’d worked around the surfboard industry for a long time, but when I started building the boat is when I started shaping. And that kinda went hand in hand, because to build the boat I had to learn more about boat design, and in turn that helped my surfboard design and shaping helped in the end product. And really… everyone reacts that six years is a long time… but I really couldn’t have finished it any sooner. I could start the boats now and finish it in a year because I know how to do it, but I didn’t know and it took me six years of learning just so I could get to the point I’m at now.
I have some drawings that Joe and I did six years ago or more when I started the boat. And I had pretty much the same basic concept. I didn’t know how I’d execute it. Let’s put it that way. And, of course, I have elaborated on some areas that I probably hadn’t considered at the time. I think I had pretty much the same concept. Two reinforced aluminum tubes hold it together for lightness and easy dismantling.
Little cutty cabins over each hull that you could get behind to protect against spray and wind while you were sailing, and you could crawl in and sleep at sea, and a trampoline in between the hulls. That was my original concept. So basically the concept is about the same. Our original drawing that Quigg and I did was more like a sketch. It wasn’t till less than a year ago that I even did a drawing of the boat. So I carried it all in my head, and as I’ve grown with knowledge and ability, it just sort of came out. It’s always been there. It took me that long to execute it.
Catamarans are inherently dangerous boats because they will turn over. I mean if they’re sailed incorrectly or if you make a mistake, they can turn over, and if they over, they stay over. Where a keelboat has a weight at the bottom, and it’s like one of those toys you can’t knock over. It’ll right itself. So for trans-ocean crossings, catamarans are really not the safest boat. It can be done and they’re very fast; in fact, their speed lends to their safety. Plus the speed makes them, in a way, a little more “sea kindly.” When you get a big, heavy, stiff object in the ocean, it gets battered around, whereas a catamaran’s more like a sea bird that’s light and can flow with the element rather than oppose it.
And so herein lies the safe ally of a catamaran. But it means that the operators must be on all the time. It’s like surfing. As soon as you break concentration, you fall off. Or you get nailed by the wave. And so sailing is surfing. It’s surfing in every sense of the word. And it’s not only surfing ocean waves, it’s surfing wind waves. And it’s flying, and it’s sailing, so it encompasses all of the feelings of getting a ride on the natural element.
So Malia (the name of Mickey’s catamaran) is basically a coastal cruiser that comes apart and can be shipped anywhere in the world. That’s what I designed it for and that’s what I’ll end up using it for. I would like to make an ocean crossing sometime, and the obvious one is the one to Hawaii. It’s a well-traveled route. And it’s a good one for a catamaran, and it gets you into warm water pretty fast, and a warm climate. And it gets you into a nice place. I think I’d like to try that. Sometime. If the boat proves worthy of that. But basically, I’m going to use it for… well, exploring the Channel Islands and the coast of Mexico. Using it like we used our cars. To get into diving, surfing, and virgin areas that couldn’t get to in any other way.
The boat is foam sandwich construction, which is light and strong. Very rigid in the sense that it does not need structural bulkheads and stringers and frames that a normally constructed boat needs. Because of the lack of inner structural parts, I essentially have big hollow tubes that lend themselves to a lot of dry storage areas.
Naturally, foam is unsinkable. I have a sub-deck compartmented into three separate watertight areas, and two of them are filled with floatation foam and the third, in the center of each hull, is on one side a 20-gallon water tank, and on the other side a 20-gallon gas tank. So the space above the sub-deck is all living area and storage area. And it’s virtually unsinkable. Then the hulls are held together with two tubes and a tramp in between which is light and strong, and the tramp fabric is porous enough to allow wind to go through it, because when a catamaran is flying a hull if it has a solid wing, it’s like literally a wing of an airplane. It tends to lift and tends to want to help tip it over.
Well, the material I used for the trampoline is porous enough to spill a certain amount of wind, so there’s a safety factor there. And then I built a little “cutty cabin” over each hull, which protects that from solid water, and it keeps your inside hull very dry. There are no exposed hatches, which in big seas and a lot of wind normally take on water. I don’t think these will at all. I’ve got dagger boards that retract straight up. A very simple, straightforward approach, so that they can be retracted for beaching.
I have spade rudders again that fit in a foam-fit trunk that retracts for beaching. So the whole boat ends up weighing less than 1800 pounds, which is manageable. With rollers, if you had to beach it, you could. It’s really a little bit. It’s not like a Hobie Cat. You just don’t run it up on the beach every day if there’s surf. If there’s no surf, there’s no reason why you can’t put it on the beach. You know, far enough up to step off on dry sand, and be able to push it off yourself.
And then I unrigged it, which means it’s generally a single sail without a jib that allows for ease of sailing. It’s still very powerful, a very fast boat. But it’s possible for one man to sail her alone. The way you would live on the boat or around the boat is kind of unique, it’s not a boat full of plush conveniences. Doesn’t have a head, doesn’t have a galley, doesn’t have a shower, doesn’t have that type of thing. It’s made for a kind of Spartan, very direct, relationship with the ocean, with the elements that you put yourself into with the boat.
It’s low to the water so you don’t need a ladder to pull yourself out when you’re driving. The only time you’d ever sleep in the hulls is at sea underway. And that would be rare, unless it’s trans-ocean or a race, or unless you had to sail at night… other than for just pure pleasure. I intend to be anchored at night, tucked into little coves, in places most people wouldn’t take a keelboat. Or couldn’t.
And then, for living, I’ll have a boom tent that will give adequate wind protection. And I have a big semicircle table that fits on the back tube. I’ll do most of my cooking there with a hibachi, eating fresh fish and food from the sea. I’d rather live that way anyway. Anybody can live in a plush camper. Why take your house? It’s not meant to be a house. It’s something else. It’s another way of living. So I’ll be cruising relatively unexplored coastal areas or normally inaccessible coastal areas. And diving and surfing, taking pictures. Just living. Living.
STEVE FRIEDMAN STORY
by Steve Friedman
I started surfing after my Grandfather showed me how to use the bus when I was 8 years old. I body-surfed at Station 2 near the POP pier in Santa Monica, California. When I turned 13, I got my first surfboard an Ole Surfboard with green comp stripes. She was a beauty! I still get chicken skin thinking about how much fun it was just getting up early and getting to the beach, waxing her up, and paddling out for a surf. I was hooked! One day my friend Ralph asked me if I wanted to ditch school and go to Malibu. It was a day that changed my life. Middle of the week, no one out but us and a bunch of seagulls, 2 to 4 foot with a light off-shore. We surfed all day! On the way home all I could think about was never going back to school again!!
The first board I made was for a friend Tom Remy. We were hanging at his place after a surf up the coast in Oxnard. I said I thought it would be great to build your own boards. It would really be a good way to get closer to what we do. Tom leaves the room and comes back with some cash. He hands it to me and tells me to go and build a board for him and one for me. Mahalo Tom for getting me started on this bitchen ride!
I started working for Con Surfboards in Venice Beach, gluing up blanks and polishing boards. I met a fellow named Kalian who was the fastest sander I have ever seen. We are having lunch and he tells me about Hawaii. How friendly the folks are and that I would really dig the surf. I was gone in 2 weeks bound for Maui. Living on Maui during the 70s was awesome, to say the least! Surfing Honolua Bay with only 20 or 30 of the best surfers in the world, I got to learn so much about what worked and what didn’t very quickly. Every day I lived for surf and at night I washed dishes and worked on my shaping. I still live for surf but only wash dishes at home.
I got to work with Wayno, Gerry Lopez, Eldo, John Sewl, and the master Bob “OLE” Olson, who taught me the secret of flow. Not just in surfing but in life. Mahalo Bob. Two years ago I did an HWS course with Paul Jensen. He is a master craftsman and a cool guy. After the week we made a board using his system. Two things happened. I learned how to build timber boards with a lot less waste and EPOXY resin. I can now offer lighter boards without compromising strength by using all kinds of foam and timber. And I don't feel like a walking zombie after glassing.
Since coming to Australia in 1980 I have worked for Cooper Surfboards, Rip Curl, Nat Young, Islantis Surfboards, Piping Hot, Island Surfboards, Balin, Mike Davis Surfboards, Peter Whites Classic Malibu, and Strapper Surfboards. All the time I still made boards under my own label Friedman Flyers. I’m still as stoked as I was 50 years ago and looking forward to many days at the beach riding waves with friends and family and building surfboards by hand, KUSTOM for you!
SAILING TO RAPA NUI ON
ADVENTURA WITH JIMMY CORNELL
by Thomas Takao
It was 1976 and Alan was sailing his Hereschoff H-28 ketch Escape" on a singlehanded day sail out of Callao, the Port of Lima Peru. Casually viewing 180 degrees in front of him with an occasional look back, he spotted a sail on the horizon. As it came closer Alan noticed the British flag waving at the stern of the ketch, curious to see someone from so far away he released his sheet (line) from the jam cleat and proceeded to let the boom swing over and take in the opposite sheet of the jib and do the same for the mizzen and complete the tack and gradually sailed alongside. A cordial hello and a conversation developed as the two ketches sailed toward shore on a sunny afternoon.
The captain of the boat introduced himself as Jimmy Cornell, alongside him was his wife Gwenda and their two young children Doina and Ivan, 9 and 10 yrs old as Alan waved back to the waving children. They sailed for about two hours talking back and forth about where they have been, who they were, customs, clearing immigration, and where to anchor. The Cornell's would stay around Lima for a month. When they wanted to go to the interior of South America, Alan would keep an eye on their boat "Aventura", a 34 ft. ketch that they had built up from the hull.
When they returned from their sightseeing trip they became good friends and when they were two weeks from leaving they had asked Alan what they could do for him since he had checked on their boat every day to make sure things were Ok. So, they mentioned they were going to Easter Island, (Rapa Nui) on their next leg of sailing around the world. Alan had always been curious about Rapa Nui since Thor Heyerdahl (whom he had the good fortune to meet once) and Kon Tiki, so he asked if he could go and they were pleased to oblige.
Alan had a suspicion that there had to be waves on Easter Island and to his foresight there were. Getting back on board it took them 20 days to go 2200 nautical miles, all navigation was celestial using the sextant during the noonday sighting and star shots, way before GPS mentions Alan. Also, they had a self-steering Aires wind vane that was a piece of art Alan recalls. It is a piece of equipment that steers a boat without anyone having to be at the helm.
Ivo Hanza Pico Alto Tratada
About two weeks out they had two days of relatively calm wind and glassy huge swells. They weren't going to break and by calculating using simple geometry, side angle side, they were in the hundred-foot category. When Alan returned to Peru his friend mentioned the huge waves that broke two weeks after the swells Adventura went through. As they sailed out of that window and after 48 hours the seas became normal once again. One day they spotted a pod of Orcas and would follow them for a while.
A few days out and nearing Rapa Nui, they caught some Mahi mahi on a hand line with chicken feather lures that had been made previously. When Alan was bringing in the fish next to the boat they could see the flashing colors of aquamarine blue turning to turquoise, yellow gold turning to cadmium yellow-green with tints of silver sparkling as it turned to getaway. After the hard work and preparation, a delicious fish dinner was had by all.
They never saw another sign of life on the vastness of the ocean until they reached the Island of Rapa Nui at 6 am. As they sailed down the coast they were being followed by a jeep on shore, when they rounded the point into Hanga Roa, the wind got strong, so strong that it blew out their mainsail. One moment it was a canvas mainsail, the next moment it was like a paper bag that just pop. Gwenda impressed Alan at being such a good seamstress and sewed that sail right back up in a couple of days. The reason for the blowout was the stitching had worn out on the panels and there were no rips in the cloth.
As they approached their anchorage Alan could see the swell was about ten feet, and the waves at the left point were having the tops of the wave blowing straight back. After dropping the sails, they would motor around for another two hours before anchoring in about 60ft of water. They waited for the health officials to come out and after they boarded Adventura, Jim and Alan found out that they were the ones in the Jeep.
As soon as they were cleared to go ashore, Jimmy and Alan inflated the Zodiac raft and put a 2 (two) hp outboard motor on it, and headed in. The wind was still causing white caps and the waves were stormy and the conditions were rough. There is a narrow channel next to the beach where a small cove is located with a few boats tied to a block dock. This is where Jim was told to go. With adrenaline flowing, Jim waited for the right moment to gun it in between sets.
With Alan at the bow of the Zodiac a couple of feet away from Jim, they timed it right and got pushed up on the beach at Hanga Roa small harbor. They made their way to the local harbormaster and fill out the necessary paperwork and returned to Adventura. After the rough weather, the family would visit the island and see the many Moai. Alan would spend his time near the boat and go surfing alone. He had an 8`6 pintail, and a 7`6'' pintail with wings, both were single fin surfboards.
Not to toot his own horn, but there was always a crowd there to watch him surf, while they sat on the cliffs Alan could hear them cheer after finishing a ride. (He guessed some people are easy to entertain) Hanga Roa is a bay with rocks in the middle. If you wanted to go right, you would line up on the right side of the rocks, and vice versa if you went left. When he was there it was usually about 6 to 8ft., a fun wave in Alan's option.
There were other places to surf Alan mentioned, but these were pre-leash days, and the coast is very rocky. If you fell off and lost your board, you could say adios to surfing for the remainder of the trip, so he only surfed at Hanga Roa. His stay on Rapa Nui would last two months, one month on the boat and another month at a Bed n Breakfast place. At night he would hang around with a fisherman named Arsenico, who had a guitar with 2 strings missing. Not a problem for Arsenico, he was a self-taught master. Alan surfed alone every day but was not alone with his fans onshore. Besides surfing Alan did some snorkeling and did his deepest free dive ever, 60ft, in water so clear you could see the anchor chain fade into the sand.
He would spend Easter Sunday on Easter Island listening to Easter Services in Polynesian, a moment when Alan was in balance with the people, the land, and with God. There comes a time when a chapter ends and the adventure continues. Jimmy and his family would sail off one day and Alan felt sadden about the departure. The Cornell's went on to Pitcairn Island, then to Tahiti, and around the world several more times after that. Alan would return to Lima Peru and would move to Hawaii where he would build some surfboards with his friend Ivo Hanza. Currently has his plane and is a pilot towing gliders. Occasionally shaping a few surfboards on his time off from flying.
FROM FOAM TO KOA
by Thomas Takao
Kenny Tilton grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and first started surfing Waikiki in the early 1950s. His first surfboard was made of redwood, then he moved up to a balsa surfboard. Balsa surfboards were lighter which meant it was easier to carry to the beach and out into the water. Besides being lighter it was also more maneuverable on the waves. Waikiki during the 1950s was changing and so were surfboard designs. Back then the local Beach Boys would watch over those who went out in the water and made sure no one got into trouble. They would coach the young and show them the ropes on how to surf as the summer swells rolled in. During the summer Kenny and his best friends Bobby and Leroy Achoy would work for Barry Napolean and Bobby Crewson on the beach at Waikiki. Doing the things that they were told to do.
Kenny began shaping in the mid-1950 after buying a surfboard that Allen Gomes had made. Kenny reshaped and re-glassed it. To this day he still remembers the itch that he got from that surfboard, which had an exposed fiberglass layer that his leg used to rub against. The days of youth flew by and making an income was on his mind. Surfboard building was a new industry that was developing and Kenny wanted to be a part of it. He would seek to learn the skills that would improve his craftsmanship. His mentors were notable shapers of those days, Abel Gomes, Wally Froiseth, and George Downing. He developed an eye for shaping and knew that was his calling. His friend Donald Takayama started shaping about the same time and would make it a career as well. Donald, Boogie Kalama, and Raymond Patterson lived close by to Kenny, so they would surf and do things together.
His skills as a shaper were becoming known in Waikiki and Dale Velzy heard about it. Velzy had opened a shop in Hawaii and needed a shaper. Kenny was offered the position of working for Dale and started working for him at his shop at 253 Cooke St. in Honolulu, not far from Kewalo Basin. There he would meet Richard Deese who was sent over by Velzy to show the new glassers at the shop how to glass surfboards the way the guys on the mainland were doing it. One of those new glassers at the shop was Raymond Patterson. Surfing was becoming more popular and the orders for surfboards started to increase and this was the beginning of Kenny Tilton's shaping career.
While growing up, Kenny remembers Aloha Week in the Islands. The first "Aloha Week" took place in mid-September 1946 after the war. It included a parade, pageants, hula shows, and services at Kawaiahao Church in Honolulu. The Aloha Festivals kicked off in Oahu, then each island would follow suit. There was a king, a queen, a prince, a princess, and attendants in the parade, all of whom were of Hawaiian descent. It was a colorful event, with conch shell blowers and costumes of ancient times. During this time there was night surfing where Kenny and a group of his friends would take short Kukui torches out into the lineup and light up the area and surf. After catching the wave only the white water and silhouette of their friends could be seen in the lights of the shoreline hotels and restaurants as they surfed towards the shore. They would do the same at Makaha beach, after which there would be a big bonfire. Where the flames would trail up, 10 to 15 feet high into the night sky, as people gather around and talked story.
Good friends like Mokealii and Zulu would be jamming away on their slack key guitars as Don Stroud would be pounding on his bongos. Others, like Chubby Mitchell, would be playing a sweet jazz tune on his ukulele while Himo Hollinger would be singing a Ray Charles song. At Waikiki or Makaha's there would be gatherings of people they knew, like Joey Cabell, Rabbit Kekai, Dingo, Steamboat, Jesse Crawford, and a lot of names from that era, classic times and good memories. Like many in the islands, Kenny was drawn by the emerging surfboard industry in California. Knowing a few guys from the mainland that were heading home. Kenny bought a plane ticket for $75.00 from his friend Freddy Noa. The airline he traveled on was called Pink Cloud Airline and the flight over lasted 15 hours. After the first few hours of conversation, most of the time was spent reading and sleeping. Kenny met a person on board the flight and became friends.
Flying into the LA basin, they would land at the Burbank Airport. Kenny's new friend had a friend who pick them up and had a truck. It was winter in Southern California and the truck ride from Burbank to Santa Monica was a cold one for Kenny. He was in the back of the truck with just the clothing he brought over, basically a T-shirt, pants, and flip-flops. His stay in Santa Monica would last 2 weeks before moving in with friends that he knew from Hawaii at Hermosa Beach. There Kenny got acclimated to the surf scene and the waves in the South Bay. Hearing about Velzy's shop in San Clemente Kenny made the drive down to San Clemente. There were no freeways back then, so the only way to get there was by the Pacific Coast Highway.
But once there Kenny made friends with the crew at Velzy Jacobs Surfboard shop and became one of the crew. There he got to know Al Nelson, Carl Ekstrom, Rennie Yater, Sandy Banks, Harold Igge, Del Cannon, Bill Cooper, Bob Cooper, and Danny Brawner. Already knowing George Kapo'o, Bobby Patterson and Donald Takayama made it like he was in the old neighborhood. Besides those mentioned, there was Bruce Brown, John Severson, Bud Browne, Grant Roloff, and the boss Dale Velzy. After the breakup of Velzy Jacobs Surfboards, Kenny moved back up north to Hermosa Beach and started working for Hap Jacobs at Jacobs Surfboards. Following his stay at Jacobs, Kenny shaped at Bing Surfboards and then move on to Rick Surfboards where he was doing the Barry Kaianapuni and Dru Harrison Models.
In 1964 he moved up to Santa Barbara and worked for Yater Surfboards for a couple of years before moving up to Santa Cruz. He then worked for Doug Haut for a short time before starting Tilton Switzer Surfboards, then at Soul Fish Surfboards to round out the 1960s. Into the early 1970s, Kenny was on the North Shore of Oahu and was working for Country Surfboards and Brewer Surfboards. After that Kenny moved to the Kona side of the Big Island and made surfboards there. In the 1980s Kenny lived on Maui making windsurfers and surfboards for Jimmy Lewis.
His shaping skills took him to Japan, Germany, and Spain. But he would return home to Hawaii and start doing the first SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) with Jeff Timpone on Maui in the 1990s. Today Kenny Tilton is still making some foam surfboards but has focused mostly on Koa and Mango wooden surfboards for display in public and private collections. His surfboards are a work of art and cherished by those who own them.
by Thomas Takao
Sitting in Tony Channin's office on a Wednesday afternoon with the parking lot full and the day's business swirling all around. I happened to find a moment with Tony Channin a glasser in the surfboard industry known for his quality glass jobs. We didn't have much time this day, but I was able to get a glimpse of his achievements. We began by talking about his early beginnings and then proceeded down the line of his surfboard-building career.
Tony started surfing in the San Diego area in the mid-1950s, places like Wind an Sea, South Mission Beach, and Ocean Beach. A time when the city of San Diego was growing and vacant lots were abundant and a time when balsa ruled and foam was in its infancy. His first surfboard was an Allen Nelson Balsa Surfboard shaped by Bobby Patterson. Tony recalled that day in the shaping room watching Bobby shape the board with a drawknife. When Bobby hit a hard section and took a big chunk of balsa from the board. Bobby looked at Tony and said, " It won't hurt the ride nothing none". Afterward, the glassing room filled in the indentation and that was that. It was a great board for Tony and he liked it. The model was called the Nelson Cigarette board.
Tony began glassing in 1963 under the guidance of Frank McCleary of Challenger Surfboards. Frank was co-owner / glasser, along with Carl West who was the shaper and who would start Challenger Surfboard East in the mid-60s in New Jersey. Bill Bahne was also a co-owner / shaper of Challenger Surfboards. Bill started Bahne Surfboards shortly after Challenger and would go on to develop Fins Unlimited and KKL. Tony glassed at Challenger Surfboards for about half a year and after Challenger he would glass for Carl Ekstrom Surfboards, learning a lot from Carl a gifted craftsman and designer. It was around the spring of 1964 when Tony moved to the Island of Oahu. He was living in town and glassing for Greg Noll Surfboards at Charlie Galento's shop in Honolulu.
After being in town for about 9 months, Tony went out to the country for 3 months and was surfing the North Shore. Once there he would see a few of his fellow San Diegans that he had grown up with. Tony lived in a small bungalow that was a part of Combs court whose backyard faced Arma Hut, otherwise known today as Pupakea. During the summer of 1965, Tony made a trip over to Maui. While there he ran into Mike Diffenderfer who was shaping for Surfboards Maui. They started talking about the current state of surfing and the demand on the West and East Coasts for surfboards. Both were thinking along the same lines, that they wanted to start their own business.
After agreeing, the Channin / Diffenderfer Surfboard came to be. The first factory was located in Mission Beach where the retail store was in front and the factory was in the back. The factory soon relocated to Del Mar to accommodate the increase in orders. In 1967 Channin Diffenderfer developed the chambered balsa surfboard that improved the lightness of a balsa surfboard. After making surfboards that were well known and sought after, the partnership ended in 1970. Mike went to France and Tony started Channin Surfboards.
The new location for Channin Surfboards was located at the old auxiliary airport behind the Del Mar Race Track which is no longer there. Donald Takayama had his shop there along with Jack Popoff of Popoff foam. After one year Tony moved his operation to Encinitas and has been there since. At first Tony was glassing his boards, but after a while, the quality of his glassing became much in demand, and contract glassing developed into part of his business. Tony continued glassing full-time until the early 1980s after which he focused more on managing his business and glassed part-time.
In the latter part of the 1990s, Tony got a shaping machine and has been involved with the process of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing of surfboards. The initial investment is a substantial amount compared to a skil 100 and the learning curve of the software is much longer than squeezing the trigger of the planer. Looking back the people who Tony said influenced his glassing were Carl Ekstrom, Rennie Yater, and Dan Tarampe, "They were quality-minded guys who put their heart and soul into what they were doing". After looking around Tony's shop and seeing the quality of work that is on the racks, the same can be said about Tony Channin.
"Allen White Story"
by Allen White
There have been many talented surfboard shapers from the East Coast of the US through the years and one of them is Allen White. He started surfing, rather raft surfing at the Old Avalon Pier in the Outer Banks of North Carolina when he was 5 years old. Surfing was just beginning to take off on the East Coast and Allen, like many kids on the Eastern Seaboard was there for the ride. From here Allen will take over as he recalls how his surfing was formed by a mixture of people and places.
My grandparents had a cottage at the Old Avalon Pier in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have fond memories of when my mother would be at the front door of our home on the last day of school all packed up and ready to go to spend the summer at the beach. Looking forward to each summer was very special. My mom would do the driving as I and my older sister took in the scenery. Our father had to work so he would join us on the weekends. My sister had a lifeguard job at the Tanarama Motel next to the pier. Through family connections, I had a job as the raft boy over on the beach. This included cleaning up the beach, setting up chairs, and umbrellas, and setting up the rafts. Having my sister working there afforded me the use of a raft anytime I wanted.
There were these two lifeguards, Jimmy Koneese and Jimmy Baccus who were also surfers. They oversaw the people in the surf and have noticed my ability on the raft. They felt compelled to put me out there on a surfboard. Needless to say, I was super stoked and took to it right away, to the point where the raft was no longer the ride I was looking for. The year was 1963 and I was the only 6-year-old kid hanging around that pier surfing. The two Jimmys were showing me the ropes. This would turn out to be the summer scene for the next 6 years.
I developed a routine of cruising by the pool to help my sister get the pool ready to open and then to the beach. I would borrow a surfboard from either Jimmy K or Jimmy B and go surf. After getting out of the water, I would head over to the pier for a few games of pool if I could find someone to play against. Have lunch at the Avalon Market, then back for another surf session. For the next few years surfing became an important part of my life, the whole lifestyle thing. I got my first surfboard for Christmas which was an 8’ 6” Hobie just before turning 8 years old. This is where I began making surfing buddies and also started surfing in Virginia Beach in the spring and summer. During this era, surfing was poised to explode. But there weren’t a lot of guys in my elementary school that surfed.
There were a couple of kids there at Malibu Elementry in Virginia Beach that did. A guy named Kurt Smultz who had moved from Cocoa Beach Florida to Virginia and became a good friend. It turned out his brother Tim, his sisters Gabe and Bridget all surfed and the whole family loved the beach. There was always a bunch of boards, nice ones like a Surfboards Hawaii Model A's, a Dewey Weber Performer, a Gordie, and a Yater all in the backyard. Tim’s friends were surfers too and their house was a great place to hang out at.
I can't even tell you how many countless hours Kurt and I spent in the backyard pretending to surf on those boards. Tim and his buddies would catch us back there just tweaking the heck out of those fins and walking the nose, back and forth to the nose continuously, but for us, this was wintertime surfing. Beaver tails and long johns wetsuits were belonging to the other guys hanging under the patio, but none of them fitted me or Kurt. There were many good surf memories with the whole Smultz’s family, sharing the waves on surf travels along the East Coast and Puerto Rico.
The Outer Banks from the age of 8 to 12 is where we continued to spend summers. This was a very special time down there. There was not a single traffic signal from Kitty Hawk North Carolina thru Okracoke Island North Carolina (NC). The entire outer banks didn’t have signals. With the frequent surfing at the pier, I began to make many new surfing friends and many of them drove. So this enabled me to begin my search for waves. Some of those places are very different now. In Buxton NC at the Lighthouse where the famous jetties were not yet built and neither was the Research Pier in Duck NC. But still standing and still a premier break is the Kitty Hawk Pier. The Old Station and the 5 Mile Post were among the most heavily surfed spots back then.
It's kinda funny as I look back at the last part of that longboard era. I can't help but remember how friendly things were. We commonly shared waves and it wasn't a problem. But then again they weren't doing on waves at that time what they did on them later. At this same time, I was surfing in the spring and fall of Virginia. Beach. This was a very different setting compared to later. There were no rocks at the inlet, only the Steel Pier (original location of the East Coast Surf Contest) and a small shallow inlet that served as a little kiddie break with “Purrrrfect little waves peeling off.”
Getting into the latter part of the 1960s, the shortboard began to take over and you saw a lot of guys stripping the glass off those old longboards and reshaping their first short boards. It was 1968 when I went to Al's Surf Shop in Virginia Beach and traded my 8' 6" Hobie for my first custom order shaped by Bill Frierson and glassed by Ronnie Mellott. It was an East Side Surfboard that was inspired by the Vardeman V-bottoms that were coming over at the time. Al Snebling (the shop owner) loaned me (while I waited for my custom board to be built) a trade back from Jimbo Brothers that was his Vardeman team board. Needless to say, I was stoked and that little gesture of Als' probably was one of the most impressionable things done on my behalf. Except for a friend of the family whose name is Jimbo Ward, he talked my parents into getting me, my first board.
Getting back to Jimbo Brothers though, he was undoubtedly one of the most progressive and advanced surfers in the world at that time, having won every contest in the site including the US championships held at that time at Huntington Beach Pier. He was so radical at the time I can remember watching him do this backside bottom turn that was straight down and truly straight back up. His floater off the top was heavy considering it was 1968. Additionally, he would turn so hard and radical that his ass would drag in the face of the wave at the base of the bottom turn. Nobody was doing that then and only on occasion would you see it done today.
He had this down to almost a routine in contrast to everyone else who was into roller coasters back then. Soon I got that new custom short board and spent the next couple of years honing my skills and began trying a few contests. I remember my first surfing contest in 1968 at Hatteras Village on the north end of town by the ballparks. It was the Hatteras Surf & Baha festival. I had gotten a second place to a kid named Jack Barnes. His whole family surfed and he ripped. But it was this contest that created my ambition to compete. This contest thing is what created the springboard for me to get into the thick of things both in Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks. Surfing in several contests and oftentimes placing well soon landed me onto my first surf team with Al's Surf Shop & Eastside Surfboards.
This period of the 1970s was extremely energized for me (besides just getting out beyond the parental reigns at 13 years old) but the Steel Pier was a really powerful experience. To this very day, the best break Virginia Beach ever had was this spot and since it's burning down and has been removed, the spot has still been consistently the best. But never close to as good as it was prior. Back then it was the surfing hub for the Mid-Atlantic. There were always some surf celebrities around. It meant there were a lot of people to learn from to see what they rode and as I said before this was the short board design explosion. This is I think when I got my first twin fin, yea the ones with the thick and wide tails with belly in the nose. It was a 5' 4" and was a reference to when we started airbrushing color on surfboards (1970).
It was a space scene with comets stars and planets (wish I'd kept it for a wall piece). This is also when Al Snebblin asked me if I would like to be on his surf team with Eastside Surfboards. He would eventually hire me to work in the factory. I agreed and my mother went to city hall to get me a special work permit to work at that age. Working at a surf shop would be my first linkage to sustain a lifetime connection in the surfing world. Surfing in the day and working at the factory at night was just about the best deal a kid in my shoes could ever imagine falling into. But it got better; as my parents became more comfortable with this routine and knowing that Al was watching out for their boy, they would let the reigns out further. One of the most significant memories is when there was a good chance for the surf to be on and I was there. Al owned the Steel Pier and I was able to go there and after-work hang at the pier.
Get something to eat, maybe fish, and then best of all camp out on the pier (right behind the pier attendant box) waking at sunrise to at times perfection with nobody out. A quick jump from the pier a few paddles and bingo couldn't be better for a young surfer like myself. This was something I did, many times over and a very treasured experience. Back then when it was good anything of 4'+ right-handers would start breaking at the jetty. Which by this time had been extended out past the pier and was about 300 feet south of the pier.
Some of the jobs I did at the factory were ding repairs and being the rubout guy, then the polisher. My surfing was improving and Al's surf shop bought an old school bus that he modified into a team mobile home. This meant we travel to events and a place to hang out at. There were 5 of us traveling: Kim Hickman-factory shaper and team rider, Ray Shackelford-team rider, David Barbini-team rider and musician extraordinaire, Mike Pendleton team rider and myself the rubout guy and team rider, Also I was the punk grom of the crew. We traveled up and down the eastern seaboard mainly between Ocean City and Wrightsville. Surfing in contests and selling boards as we went along our way.
This was a great experience in contest surfing as it meant getting out of your small pool and surfing with new faces with different styles. The new acquaintances and friends were educational and the hospitality of the surfing world was so warming, just pure during these times. There are many people I remember Dale Shaw from Ocean City (Sundancer Surf Shop) was one of our stops and he always showed us great times. I remember he had a crew that was traveling around at that time, but I can't remember their names except for the little guy surfing in my division that ripped.
The guy was Mark Foo that made his way eventually to the North Shore. At the time he was living in Maryland somewhere and surfing Ocean City a lot. We became buddies and enjoyed surfing together and hanging out at the contest. He was a great surfer back then. I can remember the bigger it got the better he got. Lost touch with him many years before his passing and I am sure that he had many true friends that miss him dearly.
I would have liked the opportunity to rekindle the friendship we once shared. I will always remember those surf days we shared as surf rats in Ocean City. We were riding boards (1970-71) that were a little better suited for the East Coast. They were more balanced in thickness and in outline. Sort of double-ender like with rounder ends in contrast to the spears, kinda like fun shapes today but not wide and it had a single fin. Then people were trying out the first side fins as in side bites on today’s boards.
They were called stabilizers and you bought them in the glue-on retrofit kit from the surf shops. This is the beginning of the first stabilization in the shortboard revolution in terms of design slowing down. More attention was concentrated on the fine-tuning details and their contribution to the riding characteristics of the surfboard. This is something that I have noted over the years to be cyclical. Major design changes need time for fine-tuning. Testing and reviewing is where the two can be matched up in terms of what actual feedback response works. The characteristics of how a surfboard rides are affected in so many ways and no one fundamental concept are always applicable to every design.
Around 1973 it began to get wild and foggy here. But fortunately, I had surfing and being competitive is probably what keep me from getting so far off the path. I mean a lot of my friends sort of lost their way and never fully recovered. That didn't happen to me and I think that’s when I began reflecting in my surfing, it forced me back to the original path. I didn't know it at the time, but looking back at it now; it did. Just another fine example of the true gift that surfing has been to me.
There are things in this era that are vivid. I remember those Dry Ducks and then putting them on routine. Took 2 people most of the time. This is when Wes Lane begins showing up routinely on his bike before and after school and he was so into it. He had the Dry Duck put on down to a 1 person assembly. Can't tell you how many times I saw those things unroll & fill up, anybody else but a surfer would have drowned. We all watched Wes develop here and as we all know later to shape a style much like M.R. as any of us have seen and then, back to a style all his own as he began traveling the world tour.
In 1973 I went to Puerto Rico with 3 other guys: Kurt Smaltz, Jeff Duff, and Mark Therealt (who was known around the world) he had two good finishes at the Smirnoff at Sunset Beach. Mark was one of those guys that you had no idea of how well he surfed until it got big. On that trip it did get big Tres Palmas broke, I never saw it like that again. During this swell, the three of us were getting scared (as this was our first real surf trip off the east coast and Hatteras had provided the max for us). Mark was just coming alive. He was a big guy tall and thick so when he was smaller you never saw his timing and power come together. After this trip, I made it a policy to return annually and got to see, meet, and surf with many people of extraordinary talent.
Guys like Monty Smith (who owned Island Surfboards), Rick Rassmussen, Mike Oppenhimer, and David Balzerack (this guy would ride these super concept designs at about under 5' in length with concaves & channels all over the place) surfed the smallest boards in the biggest surf I have ever seen. The guy that created "Mainard" the surf cartoon character must have known "DCB" because every time I see either one of them they remind me of the other. This brings me to Jorge Machucca a resident of PR & absolutely the best surfer I saw. I had the opportunity to watch him surf on our first trip to PR & then later he showed up in Hatteras (around 75') w/Fox Surfboards. This guy was the most creative and radical surfer ever. One day at Hatteras on a huge swell at the lighthouse we watched Jorge routinely pull into a dry backdoor barrel either frontside or backside and come out the opposite end.
You couldn't tell if he was reg or goofy; anything he did one way he did just as critical the other. Surly this one day had to be one of those top 5 surf days that stay vivid in your mind for always. It was the best performance to date I have ever seen. Getting back to Hatteras it was great to surf there in the mid-seventies. The Natural Art crew showed up; They were riding a great surfboard under the leadership of Pete Dooley and Scott Busby. Also, some insane surfing was heavily documented thanks to the presence of Larry Pope (photographer) and Greg Loher (surfer). This team of Larry and Greg were probably the finest tuned duo (photographer & surfer ever to have come to this area even to date. Greg had gotten the first jetty so wired that he had this supercritical off the lip down so rhythmically that he could nail 6 to 8 straight up and straight down in succession.
With no maintenance moves in between at all....He was machine-like and like no other era that I know of that particular break (lighthouse-1st jetty) was also machine-like in character. At that time the campground was the place of choice for surfers and all year long it was the hub for surfers visiting the area. During this era, after Al’s surf shop had closed. I wandered from shop to shop looking for a comfortable place to work. Also, I had the opportunity to ride many different boards. I was working for 17th St surf shop (Lee & Harriett Jones owned it) and through that relationship, I met many new people. I met Mike Purpus who was riding for Jacobs Surfboards and was their main rider. He seemed to have taken a liking to me and helped me gain confidence and shortly thereafter I started winning contests again, several local and regional titles in my division.
Shortly after surfing in my first professional events, one of the things that I got from Mike was a good cutback. After all, he was the master of the roundhouse and for anybody looking for a tip from Purpus at that time it would be the cutback, you’d had to have been blind not to. At about 76' I worked for WRV (Wave Riding Vehicle) which is where my shaping career started. Les Shaw & Bill Frierson were the owners then and there was a slew of shapers coming and going both local and from other parts of the world. There were many influential shapers there like Marty Keesucker, Micheal Doyle, Ronnie Mellott, and Bill Frierson who probably were the most influential there. I think what I got from Bill was that surfboards.
He taught me to think about the pattern of building a board around the surfer's style and intentions. Knowing where he stands may illustrate where to put the main directional control center and where he wants to go, which will dictate the type of exit curves and release you would build into the shape. Bill is a complex thinker and one of the most three-dimensional thinkers I've known in terms of shaping. Virginia Beach was the place to work if you were into surfboard construction. In 1977 where Mark Bischoff and myself opened a factory of our own. It was called Offshore Days, we fashioned an old house on Virginia Beach Blvd to be our factory. Things went well but my partner decided it wasn't going to satisfy him. He went on to be a physician. And I agreed to sell to a local shop owner (Bears Surf Shop) David Bear and take some time off to travel (left home & didn't come home for 6 months).
Went back to work for WRV for a short period, until the following winter. Before I decided I had to go again. Went to California on a tip, that I could get work at the South Coast factory, which eventually fell thru. The guy who gave me the tip no longer worked there. At the time California was pretty stuffy about east coasters and their ability. But I surfed a lot in the San Clemente area and Baja. Leaving California, my girlfriend (wife now) and I headed for Florida on our couple of bucks to nibble around for work. Turned out to be more successful. Bumped into an old acquaintance (from my childhood past) Mike Tabeling and his wife. Mike owned Creative Shaping. They built a bunch of different labels there. They included Mike Tabeling, Jeff Crawford, Weber, Shawn Thompson, and Rabbit. This eventually would be a regular thing where each factory built its own and several other labels. This was where the numbers in my shaping experience began.
At this time the East Coast builders were the supplier for surfboards all through the Atlantic basin. Richard Munson, Michael Doyle (VA Beach), and I were the shapers, with Richard being the lead. Richard taught me to flow and balance in shaping. We would all have 50 or so orders on the wall at all times throughout the year. The 3 surfing explosion was on and the East Coast and Europe from spring to fall were going off. But in addition to that, the winter brought on Brasil, Venezuela, and the Caribbean, and these international buyers would order hundreds at a time.
This would carry on into the early '80s. Eventually, I was working for several factories including Quiet Flight and Natural Art. Ending up at Natural Art (NA) where Pete and Debbie Dooley were the owners. NA had a lot to offer with very steady work and they built the finest boards I'd seen back then. So it was prestigious to be a part of it. They were very professional and career-oriented. Which looked like a place I wanted to be. Pete gave me my label "Sea Shapes" I had my Label also "Seasoned Surfboards" and between the two things, it got very busy. This was the 80's.
The explosion was still in full force and the traveling surfboard supplier was in demand.
Which meant shaping, managing, selling, traveling, and surfing. Life was on the fast track here. Where it only made sense to surf the East Coast pro tour and take anything along to sell that would also fit in the truck. So I added Astrodeck to my ammunition and did very well as you probably remember Herbie had the only game in town and everybody wanted it I even sold it to hardware stores that sold it to people that wanted it in the bathtub.
This is where I met wild man Greg at NA, Natural Art was great because I got to learn things from Greg Loher, He offered conceptual experience technically, placement of abrupt changes in curve and shape configuration. What they were doing and more importantly, how they would apply to a certain wave and style. The professional surfing thing was more about justifying my existence as a shaper than winning a contest at this point. The guys winning contests at this point where getting more sophisticated now. It was what I think was the beginning of the era where a guy would decide he wanted to be a pro surfer and not a jack of all trades guy. That earned his living in and around all available opportunities in the surf world that mostly entailed surfboard construction.
These guys winning were ripping!. Nonetheless, I did have a couple of years there where I ranked 8th in the standings, having placed in the money in several events. This was a difficult time for me. My schedule was three to five days of massive shape production, then all-night travel with an early rise, and two to three days of contest surfing. It wasn't just hard to get your head in it but was even harder to feel confident. I think also that shapers in general make poor contest surfers because they inherently are testing while surfing contest or not.
When a turn doesn't feel pure especially big critical direction changes we feel it right away and kinda lose concentration. It takes quick reflexes to adapt and grind through it anyway. That is for sure what contest surfing was like for me. During these years the East Coast blew up for my SB company. Many states were great for me including South & North Carolina where Mark Allison and Roy Turner of Surf City were very influential and Virginia where 17th St Surf Shop and Laderburgs did a fine job. In 83' eventually, I partnered up with a few buds that include Doc, My Dad, Gary "Smitty" Smith, and Niel Lessard.
I opened a shop in Virginia Beach and called it Sea Level Surf Shop. Shortly afterward I moved my board building business up there and once again tried living in Virginia Beach with my wife Valerie. The business was great and grew rapidly through the rest of the 80s. At the time I took in a new surfboard factory partner David "Barney" Barnes. David was one of those guys that quickly took to anything he was taught and was a great guy to train to build boards. Soon he took over management of the factory and this loosened me up to manage the shop and shape boards.
In 1993 I sold off all the business I owned in V.B. and moved to Cocoa Beach, Fl. I had become a firefighter for eleven years and continued to shape for several entities & my label ("Allen White Custom Surfboards"), still in Cocoa Beach and making boards.
Bud Gardner 1948-2019
"Bud Gardner Story"
by Bud Gardner
For the Love of Surfboards, over 50 years creating in foam, wood, fiberglass, and resin. I've owned thousands of surfboards but never bought any of them. I've made them all except one. That was my first surfboard and I got it when I was a junior in high school back in 1964. While in wood shop class, I made a miniature surfboard 3' long. It was made out of Walnut and Ash complete with 3 stringers, tail block, and a laminated checkerboard skeg. I made a clock out of it. The local surf shop owner, Norman Ritchie of West Coast East Surf Shop, liked it so much that he swapped me a brand new custom surfboard for it.
While watching Dick Catri and Gene Eschenbrenner, two of the hot shapers of the area, shaping Walker Foam surfboard blanks into West Coast East surfboards, I realized that I was really stoked seeing surfboards being created before my eyes. I wanted to be able to do that too! Gene was a great and talented guy and taught me a lot. He would make up names for the building process and I would write them down so I wouldn't forget. Dick, who had recently come from Hawaii knew all of the current ways that the surfboards were being built in the Islands. Slowly, I too learned how to do all the different phases of surfboard construction. About a year after high school, I started my own surfboard shop and have been officially building Bud Gardner Surfboards since May 6, 1966.
Bud Gardner 60's
At first, like many other surfboard builders before me, I built the whole surfboard myself, but as custom orders started to stack up, I had to have help so I taught and trained guys how to fiberglass, sand, and finish surfboards like the way I was taught, passing the building process along. I have personally shaped and colored every Bud Gardner Surfboard ever made and I had a lot of talented craftsmen help me build them for more than 40 years, guys like Joel "Red" Raff, Fred Grosskreutz, Dave "Davo" Dedrick, and Ed "ET" Townes, some of the best fiberglass laminators in the industry, Larry Pope of LP Glass, perhaps the best surfboard sander in the world, Joe "J.R." Roberts, one of the best surfboard polishers that ever buffed a board, to name a few.
To stay in the surfboard industry for more than 4 decades, one has to adapt and diversify. Although I now specialize in building the fanciest longboards which usually wind up hanging on the wall as art, through the years, I've built every shape and size that the custom customer could imagine. I am currently taking custom orders for a limited, very classic special board with every option available. It's hard to beat my impressively equipped, "Bitchin' Edition" model. This special five-stringer surfboard has four ¼" side stringers and a 2" Balsawood center stringer with matching nose and tail blocks, fiberglass tips, and a wood removable fin. I do all the construction on the "Bitchin' Edition" models just so I can give each one that little extra TLC and personal attention.
It's just about impossible to get a Clark Foam blank with this stringer combination today so replacement of the blank is not an option. I still have a nice supply of Clark Foam blanks, sizes from 9' 3" to 10' 3", but only 5 of them have the "Bitchin' Edition" stringers. These are the last of the fabulous Clark Foam blanks made before they went out of business. When they are gone, they are gone forever. Over the years I've spun off other products that are surfboard oriented, 2' scaled and detailed miniature surfboards, surfboard clocks, 5' scaled and detailed longboard tables, and even turned hatch covers off of old World War II Liberty ships into nautical resin coated tables. My proudest spin-off is my paintings, my resin on fiberglass art. When I started building surfboards back in 1966, the surfboard industry had only one way of applying color and that was by brushing colored resin on the sanded fiberglass surface of the surfboard.
To do this, one had to know how to have control over the hardening of the resin. After the catalyst (hardener) is added to the colored resin, there is only a few minutes time before the liquid resin hardens completely. If the right amount of catalyst is not added and mixed properly, the colored resin will not harden. After the design was painted on the surfboard, the board was then coated with clear gloss resin and polished. The surfboard industry no longer paints its designs with colored resin. Surfboards are now sprayed with latex paint on the finished shaped blank under the fiberglass. Painting with colored resin is now practically a lost art. I mastered this lost art media and first started making resin on fiberglass paintings in 1972. I start with my own designed "fiberglass canvas". They have beveled edges, and rounded corners and are 1 ½" thick. To paint the art on them, I apply the same techniques I learned when painting surfboards with colored resin. I use both opaque and transparent tint pigments mixed with polyester resin.
After all the art is applied, my paintings are then glossed with clear resin and polished. My paintings have a look and feel that is unique and all their own. Some of my paintings have been on display at the Melbourne Beach, Florida public library since the first day it opened. To see my paintings, go to Google.com and then type in Bud Gardner Surfboards. The site shows not only my surfboards and paintings but many of the other beautiful items that I create in my "Green Room Art Studio", where everything created is made out of foam, wood, fiberglass, and resin. My latest resin on fiberglass paintings is the bar tops in the Longdoggers Restaurants in the Melbourne area and the newest one in Daytona Beach. Each section of the 35' bar has detailed renditions of my surfboards painted in colored resin, glossed and polished.
I really get stoked when I make my fancy classic longboards. It is my passion and my tradition. Making surfboards with all the bells and whistles is a challenge to my creativity and eliminates the boring part of this filthy, hazardous to my health career. The harder and fancier the custom customer wants it made, the better I like it and the less it's like work to me. That must have been the attitude of the original surfboard craftsman, the ones that came before me because those guys sure produced a lot of beautiful longboards that are the classic collectibles of today. Bud Gardner's motto is "To Ride Great, To Look Bitchin' and to be Treasured for a Long Time".
CARL HAYWARD 1956-2005
Interview May 2002
by Thomas Takao
I happen to have had the opportunity to know Carl Hayward since his days of surfing the southside of Huntington Beach in the early 70s, his days at the RC shop on 17th st. near PCH in Huntington Beach, and after. So one day at the Hurley complex in May of 2002 we talked about his surfing and shaping. Tom Takao (TT)
Carl: I was fifteen years old and Walden twin fins were happening. Then when I was 16 which would have been 73’ I would have been riding Petrillo Surfboards. Everyone was riding single fins and the twin fins thing kinda went away. I was making a lot of single fins and oh; that’s when David started riding the nose before the full round fishes around 73’. Dyno came in and Dyno was big.
This guy named Dick Lippencott bought Dyno, which was located on 3rd Street. David had just come out riding the Rainbow and he was getting Rainbow surfboards and those guys were making Dynos too. Then the Dyno factory burned down in December during the Holidays. Dyno kinda went into a tailspin and guys were still not, you know fishes were around, and not that big a deal. Ah, then for about a year, so I was about, that covered about 73’ 74’ 75 ish, somewhere around there. About 75’ is ah, I went to work, I was hanging out at, let see, I was 16, 17 old and I went to work for Dyno, he moved to Santa Ana up here. So I went and did my first maybe fifty boards, eighty boards, hundred boards.
Then I went up and shaped some boards at the Dyno shop but there was Steve Braum, he was the shaper at Dyno. Steve Braum was best buddies with Clyde Beatty and all of the same time I was hanging up here shaping and ah think Clyde was making some of the first, I guess Rocket fishes and so I was seeing some of the first ones made. But Dyno was making; just making a single fin called Dynomites, there were like fun shape, egg nose thing. So I was shaping some of that stuff. I did that for Oh, ah about 6 to 8 months. Wayne Brown opened his shop and I went to work with my friends and ah my roommate Randy Steingard who was a salesman had gone to work for Wayne Brown. So we worked for Wayne Brown and at that time that’s when I made the first Rocket Fishes, really in that transition, ah that would have to be about 75’, 76’.
TT: Were you riding shortboards back then?
Carl: Yeah I was riding, yeah I was riding I would say 6’4’s, and I was 6’4” most guys were riding shortboards about their height. I’d say give or take a couple of inches longer, some guys couple inches shorter. But I think I was riding a diamond tail, the last single fin I had was a diamond tail. But I was riding some longer boards too, I mean ah before I was riding fishes. But when I was over eighteen and I would have a diamond tail gun; (laughter) I think everyone had a diamond tail then.
Not really a square tail, usually everyone rode pin tails or diamond tails. Then at that time when I was at Wayne Brown still doing a lot of single fins. Then ah the tail end of Wayne Brown, I went, I did a skateboard deal with this guy making skateboards. I went off making skateboards for about 6 months of the year, but that closed down. I went back to Wayne Brown and then I was pretty much full court twin fins and rocket fishes, but still, twin fins and rocket fishes were only 20% and 80% still rode single fins boards at that point. It wasn’t until I open my own store and that was in 70 let's see 67, dating myself here.
TT: You and Dwight had the old Dyno retail shop which was the old Chuck Dent shop?
Carl: Yeah we opened that store in 1979. And ah in the middle of that is when I was shaping Lightning Bolt boards, I was making ah, shaping production; like stingers, fishes, and everything for Sunline boards and Lightning Bolt. That’s when I met Harpo, at that time and I was shaping a little bit, still a lot of single fins at that point. But when I open my store that was in 79’ I was full bore. 50 % of the boards I did were Rocket fishes.
TT: Did your boards have your decals?
Carl: Ah that was through my brother-in-law Bill Denny, Sunline Surfboards. he use to own part of Plastic Fantastic. Bill and a couple of other guys started Sunline Surfboards (on Main Street, Huntington Beach) and at that time I had been just a shaper around town and Bill goes man they really want your boards, why don’t you make your own logo. That was around 77’, 78’.
TT: Your logo, the same one that?
Carl: The same one, always had boomerangs. The first, the very first ones, that that logo actually, how that logo started was I was shaping Lightning Bolt surfboards and there was a guy name, can’t remember his name, he owns, he opened a shop on Beach Blvd. in Buena Park that was called Zags Surf Center. He was an engineer and kids wanted to surf. So, he wanted to open Zags. His first kid’s name was Zag and his last kid’s name was Zag that’s why Zags.
Carl: He says Carl, let's make some boards!!! So I made my very first Carl Hayward surfboards for him. A really nice guy and I didn’t even have a laminate (decal), my friend Michael Rice was my pinliner and glosser, he was the one who said here let's do an offset, and you know everyone was doing those tinted pin lines, you know ink lines. My first logo was actually him pin lining, inking my logo which was the boomerang, whatever you call it. He would sign my name in ink, in the middle of the logo. So my first 20 to 30 boards were done like that for Zag.
Carl: Then I had Sniffer, do you remember Sniffer?
Carl: He designed my first logo, he was a local guy, a local artist who lived above the bar. He did my first logo and I had my first laminates done. So, Bill Denny, I use to shape boards for Sunline and I would do my own logo. So I was a contract shaper at the time. At that same time Dwight Dunn left Infinity Surfboards, he had been store manager for 3 or 4 years. He came up to the shop and Harpo taught Dwight how to hot coat and fin boards ah cause Dwight wanted to make boards. So he was at the Glass Shop and all at the same time, so it was like 6 months, Dwight working at the Glass Shop hot coating, boxing, and finning. At that time I was dating Bill Denny’s sister, my wife, ah and we got married, and Bill, they bought Bill out at Sunline. So, all of a sudden I didn’t have a relationship with Sunline Surfboards anymore.
TT: That was located by…?
Carl: There was Jack’s, International Bizarre, Dyno, then the alley, and then Sunlines which use to be a gay bar years ago and it burned out. Bill and his buddies went in there and fixed it up, Oh it was actually Pacific Surfboards cause I use to hang out there.
TT: Was Plastic Fantastic there too?
Carl: Plastic was around the corner, the original Plastic Fantastic was on the north the next street over from Main St. which was 5th. The original was on the corner building which is still an open lot next to El Don’s liquor. That was the original one I remember.
Oh my brother-in-law says I can’t compete with Sunline, but you should go rent the Dyno store next door, they have been closed for 6 months. They never reopened and ah here's the guy's name. So go call him, so Dwight and I go talk to this Dick Lippincott guy. After which nothing happened. Bill goes "I have the name of the owners of the building, why don’t you call them." So I called the lady who lived in Irvine and she rented us the shop. I sold my wife’s Volkswagen bug, and I put in 3 grand and Dwight put in 3 thousand bucks and we opened the store in 79’.
TT: That was a great shop for you guys?
Carl: That was great, it was awesome, so it was a great store. It was the good days, it was the good days I mean we sold 30 boards a month, we made 60 dollars a board you know. We had 300 a month overhead, I shaped them, Dwight hot coated them you know. We sold wax, surfboards, and leashes, leashes were just coming around then. You didn’t sell too much else and you didn’t worry you know. Fur Cat used to surf and work for me and his younger brother. Smiley was one of our first salespeople. There was Smiley, then there was Bill Ward later. Mostly I remember Bill and Smiley there until the end. About 2 years later Dwight decided to get married and at that time he decided to sell his interest in the shop.
Then the store was mine and (Carl had a shaping room on 17 St. at the RC shop ) things were good, still good for quite a few years you know. Until all the downtown, they started tearing up the street and all that garbage just killed the business. Downtown was just deteriorating. So in 86’ it was so bad in Huntington that I said I’m going to open a store in San Clemente. So I kept the store in Huntington until late 88’. Then in the late 88’ and early 89’, I opened a store in San Clemente. I put all my heart and soul and money into it, then the Gulf War began and business went flat. Then I started working for Bob after that. His office phone rang and Carl answered it “Hi Bob” and would continue their conversation as I waved goodbye and he did the same.
"The Best of Times"
by Thomas Takao
It started as a voyage to adventure and turned into an experience that would change the outlook of surfing in a country steep in quality craftsmen who built surf skis. Two Americans and a surf club of New Zealanders, together they catalyzed a new beginning. Bing Copeland and Rick Stoner with the help of Peter Byers and the Piha Surf Club built the first foam surfboards in New Zealand and by doing so, made a milestone in surfboard building history. Building their first surfboards didn't seem all that important when it happened, but now looking back after three generations of surfboard builders made that moment more significant than before.
Their story exemplified the spirit of the surfboard builders. To go, to surf, and to build a better surfboard and build they did. After returning from New Zealand Bing and Rick would go on and start their own surfboard companies. From those companies came board builders who would teach others and they, in turn, would continue to teach the craft. Back in New Zealand men such as Peter Byers, Jock Carson, Charles Lake, Jim Mowtell, Peter Waye and others would do the same for their fellow countrymen. This story began in the 1950s, which many from that era believed to be the best of times.
Where redwood surfboards had given way to the balsa surfboards and the smell of polyurethane was soon to be. Going back to that time will refresh the memories of those who were there and give insight into those who weren't. The sail to New Zealand by way of Polynesia is also around the corner, so grab a shroud and come on aboard with Bing and Rick as they begin their voyage in Hawaii. It was late summer of 1958 and a mild offshore wind was blowing through palm fronds with a few surfers out at Ala Moana. The waves were breaking across a reef that was altered by the Army Corp of Engineers. With the white water breaking behind and a wall of water rolling in front, the surfer was balancing the moment.
The wave ends and fades into the channel. In the channel we have Jinni, the double-ender sloop sailboat leaving Oahu with its crew waving to the guys in the water. Onboard, we have the owners of the boat, Bill and Jean Schallenberg with their one-year-old son Billy and their crew of Bing Copeland and Rick Stoner. Teeming with the resources of youth and the spirit of adventure the two Southern Californians were looking forward to the downhill sail and another summer within the same year. Putting away the fenders as they motored out of the channel, Bing would hoist the mainsail while Rick got the jib in place as Jinni slowly motored out past the channel buoys. With their surfboards, trunks, T-shirt, and a few other items the two friends were beginning their civilian life with an adventure to the South Seas to see the jewels of Polynesia where these islands have lured many an artist, sailors, writers, doctors, and the full spectrum of individuals seeking a change in the tropics.
They had fulfilled their duties in the US Coast Guard on Oahu where for the past 2 years Rick and Bing had reported to duty on board the "Bering Strait" a 311 foot Coast Guard Cutter which was tied up at the Sand Island Coast Guard Base across the harbor from the Aloha Tower. Living aboard the ship when they were in port and occasionally camping out in their woody and surfing local breaks on weekends. Their daily routine consisted of their assigned tasks and at 4 p.m. would be off work and leave the ship in uniform. While one of them drove their woody station wagon, the other would change into his trunks in the back. At one of the signals along Nimitz Highway when the light was red they would switch places. By 4:30 they would be in the water surfing Ala Moana until dark, then returned to the ship before curfew and start all over again the next morning. At times they would go out to sea and cruise the outer Hawaiian waters.
The Bering Strait was originally stationed in Seattle, Washington, from 1948 to 1954. She was used for law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue operations in the Pacific. From 1954 to January 1971, she was stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. Before enlisting in the Coast Guard in October of 1955 Bing, Rick, Mike Bright, Sonny Vardeman, Steve Voorhees, and George Kepo'o came to Hawaii in the summer. (George was born in Hawaii and was returning after a couple of years of being on the mainland to visit family)
They flew over from the mainland after having heard the many stories from the legendary Dale Velzy. He would captivate his young audience with his travels to Hawaii. Standing around with their eyes and mouths open, listening to Dale tell his stories of large waves that could envelop you like a room of water. The water was so warm, it was like taking a bath while surfing. After high school was out for Sonny, Mike and Rick, (Bing had graduated the year before) the hot days of summer took over and the waves of Hawaii were on their minds. They were going for sure. The day before the departure the guys stopped by the shop and said their courtesy farewells to the man who was like a father to them. They were joking around, laughing, and having a good time with Dale. In Dale's mind, they were his test pilots flying off to new horizons. Telling them he wished he could go, but somebody had to mind the store.
They were off and flying and flying and flying, Mike Bright recalls the flight seemed like they were flying at 30 feet off the ground and traveling at 10 miles per hour. The flight lasted 12 plus hours before the island of Oahu appeared in their cabin windows. After landing they walked down the portable gangway adjusting to the humidity while their minds were still rattling and rolling from the flight. Their stewardess greeted them with an Aloha and thanked them for flying Trans Ocean Airlines as they headed for the terminal and their baggage.
Going by Steve's direction the guys found a place about half a mile from Makaha Point. The Quonset type house they rented was located on Holt Street. While living at Makaha the guys bought a 1937 Plymouth sedan. One day they drove around Kaena Point to get to the North Shore. Following the tank tracks, the dirt road went along the side of the mountain. The side of the road became a cliff and plunges into the breaking waves below. At one point making a turn around a corner, one of the wheels hung over the side of the cliff while making the turn. Nervously they all shifted their weight to the mountainside as the Plymouth slowly rounded the corner.
The dirt road turned paved as they made it to Waialua. Around the traffic circle at Haleiwa and out to Sunset Beach, stopping frequently at every gas station along the way to re-supply the car with reused oil. Whenever they drove over a puddle of water, the hole in the rear floorboard acted like a blowhole and the muddy water would splash the guys inside. They arrived at Sunset Beach in one piece. To capture the achievement of getting there, a picture was taken, and then they all went surfing. On the returned trip they took a long way around.
Bing and Rick liked the Hawaiian lifestyle so much that they decided to go into the Coast Guard on Oahu and Sonny Vardeman and Steve Voorhees would enlist in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. Mike Bright had moved into town and prepared for the first Catalina to Manhattan Beach Pier paddleboard race in California later that year. After enlisting Bing and Rick pitched in and bought a woody station wagon. The woody served as a motorhome, it had two-foot lockers on one side of the back area and a mattress on top of the footlockers. There was another mattress on the floor next to the lockers. That way they both could sleep in the back of the woody without disturbing the other. For privacy, there were rolled-down blinds made of reed placed on the rear window and behind the seat. During their tour of duty, many of their friends would fly over and visit. Some would stay and find jobs while others would surf and go home.
All of the surf spots that are ridden today on the North Shore were new back then and some of the spots hadn't been ridden before, such places like Waimea Bay weren't ridden until November 5, 1957. Bing Copeland, Greg Noll, Mike Stange, Pat Curren, Mickey Munoz, Del Cannon, and Bob Bermel paddled out into the lineup at Waimea Bay for the first time and rode the waves. As they pass the Channel Buoy a loud "HEYYY" could be heard from their friend Bill Coleman who was sitting in the lineup at Ala Moana. With their memories of the last few years and Waikiki behind them, they were on their way to Tahiti and places beyond.
The boat sailed south, cutting the afternoon glare on a starboard tack. As evening approached and the kerosene lantern turned on, everyone settled in on their routines. The couple and child in the Vee berth in the forward part of the boat with Bing and Rick in the main salon make-shift settee. Each would have a watch of 3 hours while maintaining the helm. With morning’s light to the east, Maui was 20 miles to the stern and Hilo Harbor of the Big Island was 12 hours away. The group spent the afternoon around old town Hilo picking up additional items for the trip, laying over till morning before saying Aloha to Hawaii, Jinni sailed down the Puna Coast before entering the vastness of the Pacific. After leaving Hilo Jinni would not see land again until 29 days later. The first week and a half was steady sailing, adjusting the sheets and boom occasionally. No sign of civilization except for a light-bulb floating by one day. Just open ocean in every direction, no other boat was seen on the way down.
The balsa Velzy "pig" surfboards had been lashed onto the canvas dodger that shaded the helmsman from the tropical sun. Having time to think about anything that came to mind, Bing stares out to the horizon while steering the course. Looking just above forward he sees the two skegs from the Velzy surfboards pointing up. The glass bead around the wooden skeg shines in the afternoon sun. Bing starts remembering the days when he first started surfing in 1949 when he was 13 years old at the Manhattan Beach Pier with friend and fellow board builder Greg Noll. Learning how to paddle and catching a wave. Standing up and falling backwards. Catching his first wave and standing up and riding.
Then in 1950 noticing a surfboard shop opening under the pier Bing was drawn to the shop by the surfboards on display. Talking to the owner of the shop and asking if he could clean up around the shop and watch how he built surfboards. Dale Velzy looks at Bing and replies: Sure kid, cleanup the balsa shaving and put them in the trash. Go to the store and get me a soda and after that I'll have more for you to do. That was the beginning of Bing Copeland and Dale Velzy's relationship. Going over to the shop after school was out, check the surf and hang around, Velzy's shop was Bing second home.
Dale started teaching Bing how to cut the outline of the shapes, taught him how to sand, repair surfboards, and some glassing. Through his teen years Dale taught him things his real father thought he really didn't need to know. By this time Dale had moved up from the pier and had a shop on the hill. There Bing would work and sleep in the office at times while in High School. One Friday night the door was locked and Bing wanted to get in. He was climbing through the window when the police came and took him to jail. The police called Dale to let him know what had happened. Dale explained Bing was his worker and he had permission, a scary moment for Bing. A wind shift and the mainsail flutters. Bing adjusts the course after recollecting his time working for Dale. He settles back and looks towards the horizon.
Each day at high noon Bill would get out his sextant and walked to the bow. The routine of celestial navigation was important Bill needed to know where they were in the ocean. After making the adjustment he lined his sextant and proceeded to shoot the sun. With the sighting recorded in the log and on the chart, the day's sail continued. Near the Equator, Jinni enter the doldrums and drifted for 8 days due to the auxiliary motor being out of order. To pass the time away during those boring days, Captain Bill (who was a radio announcer in Honolulu who had the booming voice to prove it) read great stories from his collection of books, as they drifted along the Equator.
Once out of the doldrums Jinni started sailing again. The bow lunged forward as the speed increased. The wave from the bow moved along the hull and the wake disappeared into miles made good. Days became weeks and still on a starboard tack, with the island of Tahiti getting closer. An occasional bath routine was called for now and then. Going up front and taking turns, it was Bing's turn to have a refreshing rinse on the bowsprit net, leaving Rick holding onto the forestay of the jib while taking a picture of the moment. At night the star-filled sky and the Milky Way flowed over the horizon. The Southern Cross greeted their arrival to the Southern Hemisphere. With the Marquesas to the east, the crew of the Jinni sailed on knowing they were near to their destination.
Going over the charts and double-checking the course made good, Bill scheduled his arrival for mid-morning. Off in the distance, a speck of land appears, with each hour it raises on the horizon. Until its distinct landscape says you have arrived. Going over the chart for reefs and shoals, Bill steers Jinni into Papeete Harbor. After Med-mooring their lines to the dock at Papeete Harbor, Bing and Rick let their legs reacquaint with the land. The rocking sensation as they walked from being out at sea, would soon disappear. After the procedure of protocol was done, Bing and Rick started planning where to go and how to get there from the harbor. They would spend 2 months taking in the sights, seeing a movie once in a while, and get acclimated to the French way of doing things.
During their stay at Papeete Harbor, the two met a 65-year-old retired harbor pilot from Brisbane, Australia. He had built a schooner "Windsong" and had sailed it to Tahiti with a crew of 3 Australian lads. The crew of Windsong called him Skipper and that was the only name Bing and Rick would know him by. After a long day of seeing Papeete, the guys would go over to Windsong to visit, exchanging stories and enjoying each other's companies in a faraway port.
It was turning summer when they left Tahiti for the island of Moorea, where many people think of it as the most beautiful place on earth. The jagged peaks of its mountains skirted by tropical vegetation and laced by white sand beaches flowing into lagoons of multi-hues of blue. There, Bing and Rick spent their days paddling from the boat to a reef at the harbor entrance to catch some waves. Riding the waves just the two of them, during a lull (the time when there are no waves) they sat on their boards and viewed the surrounding scenery discussing how the guys in the South Bay were missing out. Going in for lunch and back out for an evening session made for a dream come true.
Soon it was time to leave the island of Moorea, after motoring out past the reefs, they put up the mainsail and were on their way. Not far from Moorea Bill notices the spruce mast had cracked. He decides to return to Tahiti for repairs. Making Tahiti by nightfall they waited till morning to take care of the mast. The couple decided to stay in Tahiti and would continue sailing on at a later date. Luck would have it, Bing and Rick's Australian friends on the schooner were leaving for home the following day.
So Bing and Rick sign-on and placed their boards on the cabin top and lashed them downed to the handrails that went around the cabin. Windsong would sail to Bora Bora, to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, then to Fiji, and on to New Zealand before returning home to Australia. Sailing into Bora Bora surrounded by the magical allure of the landscape with its vivid pastel sky, sharp defining peaks, and turquoise blue lagoons. There to greet them was a crystal clear sandy bottom of the lagoon as they dropped anchor. Relaxing on the deck and gazing at the landscape that entrenches their mind like a spell. Time standing still as the island's beauty inspires the stay.
After taking on water and picking up supplies at the local market. On the counter is a faded sun-bleached postcard. Walking down the dirt road to the lagoon the skipper says "Rarotonga, that's where we're going next."Arriving a week later at the harbor of Avarua the crew did some sightseeing around town. The island is surrounded by a lagoon that extends out a few hundred yards to the barrier reef. The local people were friendly and the crew of Windsong reflected the same.
Word spread among the local young women, that some good-looking guys from America and Australia had arrived on a boat. Before Rick, Bing and the three Aussie knew it, the young women were on the dock giggling and smiling and the guys smile back. The Skipper was disturbed by the whole situation and decided to take a different tack. So on the second day in Rarotonga, he put water in between the gals and guys, by moving the boat from the dock to anchoring out in the bay. They would stay a couple of days more before Windsong would weigh anchor and leave with the tide.
After Rarotonga, it was off to Fiji. It would be years before anyone would surf Tavarua's Restaurant and Cloud Breaks. So the thought never entered Rick and Bing's mind while they made the stop in Fiji. The last leg of their trip ended in Auckland, New Zealand on November 27th, 1958. A change for New Zealand surfing was soon to happen. Tied up to the docks at Auckland Harbor, the guys started their cleanup around the boat. It would take most of the afternoon to stow away the sails and washed down the deck. Settling in for the night the two waited for the next day to find surf.
The next day they met 2 guys and asked where the surf was. The 2 locals told them the waves were on the Tasman side of the Island and offered to take them the next day. After talking it over the two yanks decided to stay in New Zealand. Getting their gears ready for the ride to the other side. Bing and Rick thanked their skipper and mates for the time aboard the schooner and the places they shared.
The following morning the car was parked out front of the dock. The two gathered their gear and surfboards and were off. At first, the guys were getting in from the driver's side before noticing the steering wheel. It would take a few times before getting used to the change of where the driver sat and driving on the opposite side of the road. A mountain range separated Auckland from Piha, their destination. Driving down the hill to the Surf Club at Piha the two noticed the waves breaking and Bing figured the size was around 4 to 6 feet. The car pulled up to the parking lot of the Piha Surf Club. There were a few of its members there to welcome the strangers to their Club. The club members were friendly and cordial. One of the members was Peter Byer who would show the two yanks around during their stay at Piha. The guys gathered around their visiting guest and looked over the Velzy pig boards that they had brought. Some might have seen a Malibu board on film at a movie, going back a couple of years before Bing and Rick showed up at the Club. Wayne Warwick writes in the mid '60s about Bud Browne visiting the country in 1956 to show his film the "Cavalcade of Surfing".
Wayne goes on to say the only people interested in such a film were the lifesavers, who went to the Berkeley Theatre at Mission Bay in Auckland. Curious to see how to surf riding was done on the other side of the world. Wayne goes on to recall how many in the audience laughed at the way the surfers were riding along the waves. Instead of riding straight into shore the way they did it, those in the movie walked up and down their short ten-foot Malibu boards and did bottom turns and cutbacks.
Some even suggested that such a style was not practical on New Zealand waves. It must be remembered, however, that New Zealanders were still riding hard to maneuverable fourteen-foot boards and to turn and ride along a wave was a considerable achievement. To shed more light on the events before and after Bing and Rick's visit, the Piha Surf Life Saving Club wrote in their history journal: In the early 1950s, several builders were constructing hollow boards in the fourteen-foot range. Jock Carson of Mt. Maunganui was one such person and his boards were regarded as some of the best on the market. Peter Waye of Auckland, still an active surf rider and lifesaver, had his first plywood board built for him in 1956 by Donald Mcleod of Takapuna.
Peter Waye is the son of Barbara and Hadyn Waye. Hadyn was a huge man, a former wrestler, and a legend at the Piha Surf Club for his tough-man ways. Peter was just as tall but lanky and the epitome of the wild-man surfer. Peter was a member of the North Piha Surf Club and a successful competitor at body-shooting and surf skis. His prowess and confidence at riding big surf on boards are legendary. He won the senior men's section in the inaugural national surfing champs in 1963. He represented New Zealand in Puerto Rico in 1968. Whom I met him, Alan Byrnes and Wayne Parks, and gave a ride back to Rincon after the awards ceremony.
Waye also took up board building, first in his parent's backyard at Sandringham, using blanks supplied by Peter Byers. Returning to the parking lot at Piha Surf Club, Rick and Bing told them they would like to try out their waves. They responded by saying the waves were dangerous. Rick and Bing looked at each other with a slight smile on their face as the members suggested sending a couple of their guys with surf skis to look after them while they surfed. So Rick and Bing paddled out and proceeded to amaze the guys in the water with them and the others on the beach. Each rode eight to ten waves, doing bottom turning up the face of the wave, walking up towards the nose, dropping back down, and doing another turn before a cutback. If the wave started to close out, the guys in the lineup would see a flying kick out, something unseen before, a truly radical maneuver in their eyes.
Letting the other know when either were to go in, Bing and Rick caught the same wave and went in, expressing the fun they had while riding the white water in a prone position next to each other. Upon returning to the beach, they were surrounded by guys wanting to "give their boards a go". "I believe our boards never left the water during the daylight hours, for the next few weeks" recalled Bing. They were so well received by the club member of Piha Surf Club, that they would stay awhile and enjoy the surf and companionship. After talking it over with all who were there, their new friends would allow Rick and Bing to stay at the clubhouse. The hospitality didn't stop at the beach. Some of the members would invite the two to their homes and fed them well. Bing remembers eating their share of Peter Byers stewed tomatoes with sausages, often referred to as snags.
In return for all the hospitality, Bing and Rick received from the club members, the two thought of making boards for the guys. Having grown up helping around Velzy's shop in Manhattan Beach, California they knew the basics and were willing to give it a go. Setting up shop in the back of the clubhouse, they looked around the clubhouse for materials to use and some epoxy was found. The next thing they would need was Styrofoam.
With Peter at the wheel, the threesome would drive into Auckland for supplies, stopping at the marine boat supply for the fiberglass and epoxy resin. After getting the sheathing material for the boards, they were off for the Styrofoam. After strapping down a few blanks with a rope that they had, it was back to Piha. Another run for supplies would be made in a couple of weeks. Bing shaped 4 of the blanks, Rick shaped 4, using the available tools, the saw, the clamps, the draw knife, cheese grater, the block plane, and wooden blocks with coarse sandpaper. They proceeded to shape the blank using sawhorses for their shaping racks and using the light of day and the ventilation of the outdoors. Bing and Rick glassed the boards using another set of sawhorses located nearby.
When Bing finished his shape and began glassing, Rick would start his board and follow suit in glassing his shape after Bing. The wooden skegs were built on a table which was also used for the epoxy to be located and a place for the tools. The first few boards took longer to finish since a routine was being established. Surfing in the morning and working mid-morning to the afternoon, the days of summer went by. A total of eight surfboards were built, each would be in the water the day they were completed. Those were the first foam surfboards built in New Zealand and they were destined to surf the waves of Piha.
Taking some time off from board building Bing and Rick were invited to the 1959 National Surf Life Saving Championship at Oakura Beach near New Plymouth. An article mentions that Bing and Rick competed successfully in the paddleboard event. After the presentation ceremony, Bing and Rick poised for a picture in their Piha beanie and swimwear. Having spent another summer in New Zealand, Bing and Rick took back with them many wonderful memories, including and not limited to the tomato fights in Peter Byer's tomato fields.
After Bing and Rick left New Zealand, Peter Byers continued making surfboards. Setting up a small surfboard factory in Beach Valley Road and supplied blanks to other would-be board builders. Peter Byers is credited in starting the surfboard building industry in New Zealand. It was in February of 1959 when Rick and Bing bought passages on the Orient Line and returned to California to begin lifeguarding for the Los Angeles County Beaches. In October of 1959, Rick and Bing opened their first surf shop located on the Strand near the Hermosa Beach Pier in Hermosa Beach, California. Both would go on to start their own surfboard companies and contribute to the growing surfboard building industry in California.
"The Shaper from Peru"
by Thomas Takao
Peru's surfing history goes back a couple of thousand years to the Pre-Colombia Civilization. Their hieroglyphics at some of their major ruins have corduroy lines symbolizing the surf and those cities were located in front of Points and Bays. Besides the writing on the wall, the real-life villages where reed boats are being used by fishermen today give us a look back on how one form of surfing continued through centuries in Peru.
But it wasn't until the 1930s when Carlos Dogny visited Hawaii and was inspired by the Sport of Kings. Being on the beach of Waikiki and watching locals and tourists alike riding the waves at Canoes and Queens. Wanting to learn he would have sought out a Beach Boy who were making a living of renting their finless surfboards out for 10 cents a day and then get lessons from another at 10 cents. Paddling out with a Beach Boy next to him to supervise the when to start paddling for a wave and when to stand up. After a few attempts and finally riding a wave to shore, Carlos Dogny would soon develop a relationship with the sport of surfing. His vacation was over but not the newfound experience of surfing. He would take a few surfboards back to Peru with him and start his surf club called Club Waikiki and share the intangible stoke that surfing had to offer. In the following decades surfing would continue to grow among the affluent and then among the younger generations of the general populace.
Most of the surfboards during the late 1930s and '40s were usually imported or made by a local builder. During the 1950s Peruvian surfboard building would expand and craftsmen such as Ramon Raguz and Fortunato Quesada to name a few became early pioneers of making balsa and then foam surfboards. Slowly others would learn the trade by being taught or learning on their own. One such surfboard builder who began in the 1960s and still shapes today is Wayo Whilar. Wayo was born in 1948 in Lima, Peru. His early years were spent in San Bartolo, a small town south of Lima. With the waves breaking in front of his cousin's house young Wayo and his brothers would visit often and enjoy those days of mat and body surfing.
One day his cousin Alberto Figari stopped by and he had two balsa surfboards with him. Alberto was one of the first surfers in the San Bartolo area and wanted to share the experience of surfing with his 12-year-old cousin. He says to Wayo "Let's go surfing tomorrow!" With a curious wonder, Wayo agreed on going. Alberto took the boards off the car and placed them on the ground. Wayo tried lifting one and recalled it was heavy and awkward to handle. After handling the surfboard he wasn't quite sure about what he was getting into, but the curiosity of riding waves got the best of him.
The next day Alberto took Wayo to Kon Tiki in Punta Hermosa. They pull up to the parking lot and watch two surfers turning and maneuvering across the face of the wave. Alberto knowing what was involved would give a general explanation of what was happening to Wayo. After seeing the two guys standing and going faster than he could with a mat or body surfing, Wayo was hooked on the sport after that. Like many places around the world, surfing was becoming more popular, and Peruvian surfers were on this same wavelength. Foam surfboards were arriving in Peru but were expensive. Wayo couldn't afford to buy a new one so he kept using and learning on Alberto's or others that he knew who had surfboards. The year was 1962 when Wayo was at Cerro Azul and was just about to return to Lima when he happened to notice a surfboard with a broken-off nose hanging on by a layer of fiberglass after hitting the pier.
It was an abandoned surfboard and without hesitation, Wayo quickly picked it up and took it home with him. Having done resin and fiberglass work on his cousin's board Wayo knew something about surfboard repairs. He peeled the damaged fiberglass off and made the repairs and had his first surfboard. The 1960s were considered the Golden Years of Peruvian Surfing with its international surfing contests. In 1965 Peru was the host country for the 2nd World Surfing Championships which were held at Punta Rocas. George Downing of the Hawaiian Surf Team had brought over a longboard with a modified pulled-in nose, a design that he had shaped. It was a little different than the boards being ridden in Peru. Besides George on the team, there were Richard "Buffalo" Keaulana, Fred Hemmings, Reno Abellira, and Paul Strauch.
Some of the boards the Hawaiians were riding were Inter-Island Surfboards whose shaper was Mike Diffenderfer. Some of the other boards were Greg Noll Surfboards shaped by Charlie Galanto. Wayo noticed the change of the outline of some of those boards and how the Hawaiians were riding them. After the contest was over he began to peel the fiberglass of another old longboard. Wayo would reshape it into a board that looked like the Hawaiian's designs. In early 1968 Dennis Choate and Leo Hetzel arrived in Lima to make some boards for Aldo Fosca. Aldo also had a shipping company and would import materials for his surfboard factory. During this period Charlie Galanto and Ben Aipa arrived for a contest and both would shape a few boards at Aldo's shop. Wayo was the shaper and the glasser at Aldo's before the arrival of Dennis and Leo and he would learn from them. Watching Charlie and Ben shape a few would give Wayo more insight into shaping.
From 1967 until the early 70's Wayo was going to school at the local University majoring in Architecture. Instead of leaving it on top of his car, he would take his surfboard to class and place it behind the door. When his last class was done he would grab his board and go surf. Wayo paid his way through school by building surfboards and after graduating he continued to work for Aldo for the next 3 years on a part-time basis. During this time Aldo lost interest in surfboard building and offered the shop to Wayo. Wayo accepted the offer and would begin his first surf factory. He began making surfboards with the W logo and would do the whole 9 yards of shaping, glassing, sanding, and polishing as well as manage the shop. Alan Sitt would start working with Wayo during the 1970s.
Alan started by glassing a few of his surfboards at his father's plastic shop. One day he and Wayo met at the beach and got to know each other by watching the other surf. They became friends and Alan would stop by the shop and work with Wayo. After a while, Alan was into sailing and was off on another tack. Wayo's younger brother Milton took over and would glass at the shop before shaping and starting his own surfboards business in the 1990s. Wayo and other shapers of the 1970s contributed to Peru's surfing future. Providing surfboards when times were difficult and keeping a steady flow of new designs. Along with the surfboard changes, Wayo moved his shop to Barranco a suburb of Lima, where his shop is still there today. When the 1980s and the Tri-fin movement arrived, materials were more available and the economy was better. Some of the notable surfers that surfed for Wayo was:
Titi de Col in 1988 a National Champion, Magoo de La Rosa in 1990's a three-time National Champion, Roberto Meza who placed 9th in a ASP contest at Punta Rocas in 1994. There was also a young Sofia Mulanovich, whose surfing progressed through Wayo's shapes. She would go on to become a woman's world surfing champion. In the 1990s a new horizon appeared for Wayo. CAD-CAM stands for computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. Wayo was very much interested in taking his surfboards to the next level. Having made a jig to place a certain bottom and deck rocker on certain boards the same each time was in essence what the computer and machine could do and more without being restricted to a few blank sizes. This opened up a whole new world in surfboard shaping.
Wayo used the services of a California computerized shaping machine shop and started receiving pre-finished shapes of his designs in the beginning. After a while of talking to a few friends and keeping an eye out for newer ways, Wayo came across the Dat Designer a software and hardware tool that gave Wayo another option in designing and shaping. He would take a trip to Australia and meet John Gillis, the man to see concerning the Dat Designer. After learning his new tool Wayo's ability to machine and hand shape a board gave him an edge that he would further develop into the 2000s.
Wayo Whilar has seen the changes that Peruvian surfing and board building has gone through since the 1960’s. Still shaping today using the Aku system and hand shaping. His understanding of surfboard hydrodynamics places him with the elite group of master shapers and is considered the No.# 1 shaper in Peru. The most gratifying feeling for Wayo regarding shaping is when a friend, a customer or a team rider stops by his shop and tells him about the performance of his boards. With a smile on their face, they would express how their life is back together. Because their new board has taken them to their next level of surfing.
"Ed Townes Story"
by Ed Townes
I started surfing in 1967 at Buckroe Beach, Hampton, Virginia. Now, I’m sure no one has heard of this beach (besides the locals) seeing how it's about 30 miles inside the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Right down the coast from Jamestown, the first successful English settlement in North America.
It all started with talking my mom and dad into buying a 9'8" G&S from our paper boy...the only waves we got were wind swell or when some good size boats went by, but I didn't know any difference and the only thing I knew was that I had a surfboard and I was going to surf. Then my dad came home one day and said we were moving to Virginia Beach which was across the bay from Buckroe Beach.
I wasn't too happy about leaving my beach and the other 3 guys that tried to surf there too. But when my dad told me it gets 6' over there, that was it LET's GO !!!!!!! We moved to Virginia Beach in 1968. The Steel Pier, waves, lots of surfers and girls. Man, I was in Virginia Beach at the ripe old age of 13 and it wasn’t long until I met a couple of guys down the street who surfed.
They were George Byrd and Paul Brady, we were going to the ocean often, and the locals at the Steel Pier were schooling me on what not to do.....like don't SURF AT THE STEEL PIER, and get a smaller board man. Well, Paul's sister surfed for some guy name BOB WHITE and he built surfboards. One day I went to Bob White's factory(now WRV) to buy some resin and cloth and got a quick lesson from the guys in the back. Once they realized my dad had two Motorcycle shops, I had instant friends at the factory, which turned out to be the single most helpful in getting me inside THE FACTORY!
No one was allowed inside, you were lucky if you even got past the gate, so anyway back to my surfboard project. I had cut down a 9'8" to 8'8" and after getting my supplies from the shop I glassed it all up and was back out at the Pier. But it was still too big, so this time George, Paul, and I took all the glass off, reshaped it, and re-glassed it using a flip flop as a squeegee. As you can tell I didn't know anything about sanding or fin rope or how to put a fin on. OK, back to the beach. On the very first wave, the fin falls off, man what now I thought being very upset since it took me around 3 months to get it into the water.
One thing lead to another and it turns out that one of my dad’s lawyer friends owns a Surf shop called HARRIS SURF SHOP. I guessed my dad knew I was pretty upset. He called home one day and ask for me. Time to cut the grass I thought. He told me to go to the Harris Surf shop and pick out any surfboard I wanted. I think that was one of the happiest moments I had. Off to get a board and didn't know what kind so Paul and George help me pick a RICK Speed Machine. The best board I ever had up till that time. I started going to Cape Hatteras and surfing real waves...NICE!
Now I was hooked like a drug addict, surfing and building boards were all I thought about and all I did. Every weekend we were in Hatteras. I started fixing boards for cash to pay for my expenses to go surf. Then I got the local surf gurus to shape our boards and we glass them and sold them to friends at school. A guy named Tim Sullivan at school was doing the same thing, so we teamed up and built a few boards. Pretty soon most of the guys at school were riding our boards, COOL!
By now I started seeing Cocoa Beach in the magazines, all I knew was the weather was nice, the waves and surfers were super good and I was gone. Hello Cocoa Beach and it wasn’t long before meeting Pete Dooley at Hatteras. He said he had some work for me in Cocoa Beach building Skateboards. That was with Wayne Combs the Tiki guy, but that didn't work out.
After that, I ran into a couple of guys, Dave Balcerzak (DCB) and Doug Wright, and started surfing Sebastian Inlet with them. The inlet had every surf star I had ever seen in the magazine there. Surfing the inlet on every south swell that came thru for years. Meanwhile, I started building surfboards with Dick Catri, then Mike Tabeling hired me as hot coater and fin guy and that lead me back to Doug Wright who started Rainbow Surfboards.
This is where I worked off and on as a glasser for the next 20 years. I was living my dream!!!, worked for almost every major surfboard builder in Brevard County. In those days you could bounce around from factory to factory and get work, everyone was cool that way.
GREG LOEHR, he always seems to be a couple of steps ahead of the whole surfboard thing, which was cool. He started messing with Epoxy and EPS foam and the whole game changed for the first time we (Central Florida) didn't have to get our foam and materials from Cali (California). At Rainbow Surfboards we were the first to go full Epoxy around 1989-91.
Then I started E.T. RESIN WORKS in 1992!!! Built a lot of new and upcoming labels, Soulman Surfboards, B.A.T. Surfboards, Cannibal surfboards, C-shapes, and Bob Bulatowicz Surfboards, to name a few. I did good for about 10 years and the ASIA surfboards took over about 70% of the showroom market. No way could we go up against these guys.
So I backed off on the surfboard building side of things and went back to DING REPAIRS. Since most of the Asia boards were made of epoxy it was a no-brainer. The profit was a lot higher than building them and everyone was still trying to fight the epoxy thing, so let's do dings!!! I’m still doing ding repairs today and building a few custom boards for friends, just like in high school “BACK TO THE PAST”.
Well now it's 2012 and still just as stoked about building surfboards as I was back in 1968. I LOVE IT !....... Got to work and surf with a lot of great people. No way I could name them all without forgetting someone, starting with George Byrd, Paul Brady, Bob White, Ron Mellott, Marty Keeseeker, Bill Meyers, and Allen White in Virginia Beach to Doug Wright, DCB, Dave "DAVO" Dietrick, Stu Sharpe, Carl Schaper, Jeff & Glenn Kulgel, Matt Kechele, Steve Hollway, Glenn Hawks, Gary Philhower, Greg Loehr, Larry Pope, Regis Jupinko, and Bud Gardner in Florida. It has been a nice ride, but I'm not kicking out yet, there's a ton of new materials to experiment with. The future is wide open and surfboard building will never be the same. Which is a good thing!
Peace, Ed Townes
"Guilhem Rainfray Story"
by Guilhem Rainfray
Guilhem Rainfray started surfing in Biarritz in 1966. He was living in Paris at the time, but spending all summer holidays in Guéthary. During the summer of 1968, Nat Young came to France with the first "short" V-bottom surfboards shaped by Bob McTavish. He was inspired by the maneuverability of the design and decided to strip the fiberglass of an old 10 feet Barland surfboard and reshaped it. After spending some time on the blank, the length of the new shape was shorten to 8 feet, and it had a pronounced V bottom and a square tail.
The concept of pealing the glass off a surfboard and then shaping it didn’t fit the mold of being ones first shape. So in January of 1969, Guilhem shaped his very first surfboard from scratch in his parents' flat in Paris. The foam was impossible to get in those days, so he went with balsa wood and glued the pieces together, and used a rasp, a block plane, and some sandpaper to shape his first surfboard. When he started to glass it, their neighbors smelled the resin and called the Fire Department thinking there was a gas leakage. After the commotion of sirens and firemen going to his parent’s flat. Guilhem resumed his glassing and finished the surfboard. His parents understood his ambition to build and so they let him complete what he started.
It was one of those moments that Guilhem remembers. "The article that changed my life was published at the beginning of 1970 in SURFER MAGAZINE. Mike Diffenderfer explained many of the basics in shaping and the important things about design and construction. A lot of this still holds true. Articles in the mags were the only way to have access to shaping info back then because so few people were building boards in France and those who were doing it were jealously keeping their construction methods to themselves and kept it a secret.
That's how Guilhem got started in shaping and glassing of a surfboard. From then on he made his board out of any available material, mostly thermal insulation panels!. He would cut them length-wise and glue some plywood stringers to the strips of insulation for strength. To place a rocker into it, he would apply the weight of a four-gallon resin can to the nose area of the blanks to bend some rocker into it.
Back then Barland was the only French manufacturer of surfboards at the time. He started selling blanks that they made under the CLARK Foam license agreement. Those were officially called "second quality" but with all the air bubbles you could say they were "rejects" by today's standards. But they were actual surfboard blanks and not insulation panels, so it was better than nothing. Guilhem would recall "I would spend hours studying closely Diff’s shapes, since many of my friends owned a "Diff" surfboard. Guilhem owns a board that Diff shaped for former French Champ François Lartigau in '69. The years of neglect in the sun left it in disrepair and had it looking like any other surfboard left outside, but it still was a Diffenderfer.
According to various sources, Diff is said to have shaped it at a friend's garden with whatever tools that were available to him, and he glassed it as well. When he was about to glass it, he found a peacock's feather laying on the ground of the garden and decided to inlay it under the glass. The board was originally a rounded pintail but the tail got cut into a square after it started to delaminate.
Guilhem started shaping boards for close friends at first. They would pay for materials and he would shape and glass it for them for free. He specialized in semi-guns and guns for Guéthary, one of Europe's best big-wave spot, a reef break that has been said to look like Sunset Beach. He would also shape other kinds of boards as well. There were a few guys at the beginning of Guilhem Rainfray's career of board building that stand out. One of those guys was Joël Roux, who started shaping roughly at the same time as Guilhem. His parents had a fishing shop in Biarritz and he would put his boards in the window for sale. "One day I noticed a very nice semi-gun with one of the first airbrushing I had ever seen" Guilhem recalled.
So, he went into the shop and asked about it. Joël's mother who was minding the store told Guilhem that her son was busy shaping downstairs and said he could go down and see him. So he went down an old stone stairway that led to a vaulted ceiling with no ventilation. There was Joël's in his shaping bay covered with foam dust from head to sole. He was shaping with a very crude French Peugeot power planer. A power tool that had many attachments, you could change it into a drill, a sander, a grinder, or a planer. Which is what Joel was using it as. Joël at this time was producing some very progressive shapes and he continued to do so for several years after. He was the one who sold Guilhem his very first real foam blank, a Bennett Surfboard blank from Australia. Guilhem didn’t know how in the hell Joel got hold of it.
After that meeting, Guilhem got to know Joel and had him glass a few of his early boards. Today Joel is a well-known sculptor. Other early French shapers included Jacques Albert who was making some fine swallow-tails around 1974/75. Then there was Baptiste Dupouey who was shaping under the Lightning Bolt license. One day in the early 1970’s Nat Young and a few other Aussies came to Guéthary. The Aussie crew had met a bunch of Californian guys including Billy Hamilton and Mark Martinson.
The old school stylist and the animal were surfing together with the waves at 8 to 10 feet and in good conditions. There was this one wave where Nat lost his board on a late take-off and he went swimming in after it for hundreds of yards; remember there were no leashes then. Guilhem and those around him were watching from the cliff some 1/2 of a mile away. But. they could hear him swearing between waves. At low tide, Guéthary can be a long swim and most other surfers would have been exhausted and unable to swear so loudly. Everybody was laughing very hard on the cliff.
Those were days when Guilhem would surf from 7 AM to 8 or 9 PM. Occasionally someone might have gone to Spain to buy a sheep and they would roast it on fire right on the beach and have a beach party. Into the night with wine, music, and girls after the surf, French surfing at its finest. In 1976 skateboarding had become very popular and Ty Page and Mark Bowden arrived in Paris for demonstrations of skateboarding. Guilhem who was living in Paris at the time. Through various connections he became the manager of the two and drove them around, setting up demos and autograph sessions. After Ty and Mark returned back to the states and skateboarding started to lose its flair. Guilhem continued making surfboards.
His shapes during the early 1980s started to become more progressive and his shaping skills started to advance. Surfing had entered the tri-fin era. Guilhem remembers the 90’s. "In 1990 I started shaping under my own brand called Guilhem Rainfray Surfboards, then changed it to Guéthary Surfboards in 2000,” Guilhem said. Today he is into longboards, minimal, retro-singles, and, lately, stand-up paddle-boards. Doing everything himself from shaping to glassing, sanding, pin lines, glossing, and polishing. Not making a lot of boards, but trying to make each one better than the previous. So, if you are in Guethary, France stop by and talk story with one of France’s top surfboard builders.
"From Bay Cities to Maui"
by Thomas Takao
Climbing up Haleakeala Volcano on his personal electric vehicle, Randy Draper is focusing on the next curve in the road. How he got there can be linked to an electric motor from a science project in the 8th grade, and the steep hills from his paper route days. Before he reaches the summit, let's look back down the road, and get an idea of where he came from. Looking east towards the mainland of California many years back when Randy turned 11 years old. He wanted to get a surfboard, so with his mom’s permission, he got a paper route and started to save up for a surfboard. After getting out of school for the day, the bundle of Daily Breeze newspapers would be waiting for him at his house on Ruhland Street in Redondo Beach.
In the garage, Randy would fold the papers and stretch the rubber band around them. A pile would develop in the corner of the garage before placing the folded newspaper in his bike’s saddles. Every day for over a year Randy made the rounds delivering the local paper, climbing the rolling hills of Hermosa Beach. In 1962 after saving enough money, Randy’s bought his first surfboard. A used Greg Noll S stringer surfboard that was bought at Greg's shop on PCH just south of Pier Ave.
During this time period, we can find Randy hanging out by Walden’s Surf Shop at 13th St. and Hermosa Ave., or standing on the Strand wall near the Biltmore Hotel and checking the surf. When the Biltmore Hotel closed it's doors, some of the guys including Randy would find a way in. They would go up to the roof and check the surf from the Breakwater to Manhatten Beach Pier. Randy would surf the Hermosa Beach Pier most of the time and some of the sandbars towards the Breakwater if the waves there were better. Some of his friends like Brian and Bruce Logan, Biff Collins, Chris Schlinkenmeyer, Scott Miller, Dean Deitzman, Mark Kerwin, Dave Boyce, Neil Norris, Angie Reno, and Tiger Makin grew up with Randy and were into surfing as well.
Matt Velzy another good friend of his who also lives on Maui, first met Randy when he and Bruce Logan were admiring Matt’s new Jacobs 422 surfboard. It was at the base of the Hermosa Pier, resting in the sand. Shiny white and reflecting the afternoon sun, the guys were taken by the shape. It had a wide nose and mid section, curving inward creating a narrower tail section. Matt's dad Dale had shaped it for him.
During the winter months meant the waters would be cold. Wetsuits weren’t available to the general surfing population back then and trunking it was the only way to surf. Randy remembers making a gas key for the 14th Street Taco Bell fire pit. After getting out of the water, Randy and his friends would warm up at the pit by using the key to turn the natural gas on. On a couple of occasions, Randy and some of the guys would accidentally singe the hairs on their legs. Surfing in 53 degrees water without a wetsuit, meant most of your body would be numb and your hands and feet were purple. Talk about the Polar Bear club in winter, all those surfers without wetsuits back then.
His first surf trips were with friends to C Street in Ventura and Rincon in Santa Barbara. There was this one time when on the return side of the trip, his surfboard along with the others flew off the rack. Traveling on the newly built 101 Freeway near Reseda the boards bounced back towards a fast-approaching semi-truck. Before they could say wholly shit, their boards were dusted. No one slowed down behind the semi and all that was left were pieces of foam and fiberglass.
Like many before him, Randy at the age of 14 learned about glassing by repairing dings. He did all his friend's boards at Joe's (The Tropic Shop). The repairs were done in an unused area located in the alley. It was downstairs from where Joe was living. Got his fiberglass from the discarded cloth that was in the trash bin and resins from the near-empty drums at Jack Pollard’s factory. By doing so, Randy got his supply of materials at a substantial discount.
His next board would be a Jacobs Surfboard, which he had bought from Robert August. Robert had shaped it for Johnny Fain, but Johnny declined the board and Robert shaped him another one. Randy still remembers liking it for the way it rode but says he wasn’t sure of the apricot pink color. Robert took $30.00 off the original price because of the color. Randy could live with color since he would be paying $70.00 for a new/used Robert August-shaped Jacobs. His next Jacobs would have the same shape but a different color. Donald Takayama would shape some of Randy’s next boards.
Randy was a part of a group of surfers/ board builders whose early beginnings can be traced back to the surf factories of Hermosa Beach. Many would become internationally well known, while others would slip through the cracks and disappear from the scene. It was a time when surfboard demands were going off the Richter scale. And the epicenter of the board building activity to meet this demand was Hermosa Beach. Those who wanted to become surfboard builders did so by hanging around the shops that were located there. Doing odd jobs at first and watching those who were shaping, glassing, sanding, and polishing. Eventually learning from someone who felt like teaching you the ropes.
In Randy's situation, Sterling Santley let him watch while he sanded the boards for Bing’s shop. But it wasn’t until Grant Reynolds and Bay Cities Surf Repairs Shop that he got his hands wet in production glassing. Grant who grew up in the La Jolla / Pacific Beach area glassed for Gordon and Smith, and Dewey Weber and Bing before starting his new venture. In fact, Randy was his first employee.
Bay Cities Surf Repairs early accounts were ding repairs for the Officer’s Club at Camp Pendleton and boards from around the South Bay. Then a year later Grant would have Al Kostler working for him glassing Chuck Dent’s Magic Ladyland boards. Randy hot coated and did glass on fins, when fin boxes became popular he would do the routering. Grant would sand and manage the business. Business continued to grow and Mike Collins was hired. Mike's position was to manage the shop, do rub-outs, and eventually took over the sanding from Grant. By this time Grant had two shops, one in Hermosa Beach and the other in Costa Mesa. Bay Cities Glassing was using over forty 55-gallon drums of resin per month during its peak times.
The other glasser who was working for Grant at this time was John Lawerence. Both Al and John would teach Randy the finer points in production glassing. In the later part of the mid-1960 Randy was working for Jacobs Surfboards. He would learn from Wayne Miyata, Mark Hammond, Randy Wong, and Raymond Patterson. In 1968 Randy had glassed his 9’6 Stepdeck Jacobs longboard shaped by Donald Takayama. He was riding it in the Hermosa Beach Surf Festival Contest, which was being held on the north side of the Hermosa Beach Pier. The waves were a solid 8 feet, and at low tide, the waves were closing out. Randy waited with the other 5 contestants to enter the water for the finals.
Watching the waves break from one end of the beach to the other. Things looked like it was going to be a toss-up with the horn sounding for the contestants to enter the water. They all started to paddle out, over the first few rolling white water. With the water turning smooth and a slight low where the wasn't any waves breaking, they all paddled like crazy to get out before the next big set. Barely getting over the next set of waves, Randy makes it out to the lineup. While catching his breath Randy looks towards the beach and lines up a couple of landmarks to position himself by. Looking out he sees a set coming and paddles towards it to get into position. Sitting up and grabbing his right rail, he turns around and begins to paddle for it.
Making the drop on a 8 foot wall, he leans into a bottom turn. Coming out of the turn and climbing towards the lip, Randy times it just right. With the lip of the wave feathering, he flips the board around as the wave pushes him out and down. With all his weight on his rear leg, after the roller coaster maneuver Randy disappears into the exploding whitewater. First his head, then his body, and finally his surfboard reappears from the head-high soup. The wave begins to roll and reform on an inside sandbar. Randy sensing this, does a slight stall, before running up to the nose. Placing his left foot forward at the tip of the surfboard, he gets five on the nose, and the crowd is cheering him on. Still concentrating on the wave and back peddling to the middle of the board Randy doesn’t hear a thing.
A cutback in the soup to complete the wave of the contest, Randy realizes the ride may have given him first place. Catching a couple of more waves, the horn sounds. Randy had won and after the contest, he and Angie Reno were invited to join Bay Cities Surf Club. Besides Bay Cities Surf Club, Randy was recruited by Mike Doyle to ride for Hansen Surfboards. He accepted the offer and received a turned-down nose “Competitor Model” surfboard.
With that surfboard Randy would surf a 12 foot day at Lunada Bay on it. Recalling that day Randy and Grant Reynolds drove up to Palos Verdes early one morning. Pulling up to Lunada Bay they parked it and walked over to the cliff area. Randy and Grant watched the the bigh sets marching in and Randy said "These waves are big mothers." Line after line came rolling in, smashing the Dominator on one end and breaking towards the middle of the bay on the other end. With no one out they decided to go out and surf.
The path down was slippery with a sheer cliff of over a hundred feet on one side. Holding on to any vegetation with roots and any slot to place their feet in. Slipping and sliding they eventually made their way down to the rocky shore that lines the bay. Walking along the river rock and boulders, they approached the point where the Dominator lay rusting.
Grant mentions to Randy that they should paddle out a little further down from the Dominator to avoid the heavy current and white water. Grant had told Randy about his days at Big Sunset Beach while walking up to the point. With a loud roar, the white water would slam into the Dominator. At the water’s edge, Randy could feel his leg and knee vibrate as the powerful waves pounded the area. They paddled out and kept an eye on each other. They made it out to the lineup after 20 minutes
In Randy’s mind, it was fuckin hairy. Constantly paddling as the current pushed them both towards the middle of the bay as the sets came rolling in. Having caught two waves prior to his last wave of the day, Randy took off on the wave he would go in on. Having made the drop his board feels squirrelly, his Hansen “Competitor” was no match for the big waves that day.
Not having the right track and angle, Randy attempts a rollercoaster. The rail releases from the face of the wave before being in position. In a matter of just a few seconds, Randy was on a foamy elevator of terror. Having taken a deep breath before he went into a free fall down.
It was the most turbulent water he had ever been under, a gigantic wash cycle of tossing and turning. After what seemed like an endless struggle to regain his thoughts, he pops through to the surface and takes a deep breath and a sigh of relief. After doing the rock dance to get to shore, Randy does another dance on the rocks to retrieve his board. He was mentally and physically banged up and his board as well. It took an hour to climb back up the slippery path.
The 60s was over and Randy moved to Maui in 1970. Randy was where he wanted to be, glassing and surfing Hawaii. Randy remembers glassing for Chris Schlinkenmeyer in Lahaina during the mid-'70s. Chris had a shop in a bank that was located in the old Mala Wharf area. Situated on the beach side, across the street from the old Lahaina Cannery. Chris would shape in the vault and Randy would glass in the teller area. After glassing surfboards, Randy started to sell blanks, fiberglass and resin. The name of his establishment was Maui Blanks and Fiberglass. It was located at 844 Front Street in Lahaina, across the street from the ocean. Living in the back room, he didn’t have far to go to work.
During the closing time on many occasions, his friends would stop by to watch the evening sunset. Sometimes a hazy smoke from an unknown source would cloud their vision. As they watch the bright pastel hues turn into a curtain of darkness as Lanai disappeared for the day. The tide slapped the wall along Front Street and the evening crowd made their way to wherever they were going. Randy would be in his trunks walking to “The Bell” (Maui Bell) which was three buildings down. It was the only nightclub in Lahaina at the time. Next to “The Bell” was the Queen Theater, where Randy and some of his friends like Les Potts, Dabbo, and Pompador would go see “Five Summer Stories”.
Maui Blanks and Fiberglass would last for 9 years. Then Randy would start skippering on charter fishing boats during the 80s. He would marry and have a son named Louis. When Louis was 18 months old Randy took him surfing. Randy paddled out at Kaanapali Point on a longboard and caught a 2-foot wave with Louis on the nose. Louis, like his father, appreciates and respects the ocean since his early beginnings.
Into the 90’s and 2000s, Randy continued to skipper various boats in Lahaina Harbor. A slight bump in the road and Randy regains his thoughts as he crosses the finish line. He has climbed the 10,006 feet elevation of Haleakeala Volcano in record time on a pedal-assist E-bike. After realizing what has happened and all the congratulations. Randy finds a place to rest and savor the moment before going back downhill.
"The Little Spark That Grew"
by Bruce Gabrielson PhD
Guess it's my turn to tell my tale. I remember my first surfing experiences back in the mid-50s as a beach gremlin at the foot of Bayshore Drive in Long Beach. One of my uncles was among those who surfed the gentle waves in that area during the early days. Now and then someone would lose their board and the kids on the beach would try to retrieve it. Sometimes they would get a push-in ride from whoever lost their boards. These early memories were the beginnings of the spark. By the late 50s to very early 60s, local Chuck Linnen, a lifeguard in the bay area of Bayshore became our local surf king. He was the one we kids looked up to, a great volleyball player, a great surfer, and popular with the girls. We all wanted to become surfers and be like him. More sparks to start the flame.
I first started surfing across the inlet at Ray Bay by the Power Plant in Seal Beach in 1960. Chuck surfed there so of course, I tried my best whenever he was around. Finally, one day I had enough courage to paddle into the middle of the channel where the "big" names were surfing. Wouldn't you know it, I caught my first good wave and surfed right past Chuck. I could hear him hooting all the way and when I was paddling back out, he came over to me and said "I had ridden a great wave." Chuck became my friend and helped my spark turn into a small flame. He has been my friend through college and later years and is still my close friend today.
Around 1964 I met Dewey Webber through my wrestling activities. He was widely recognized as a famous surfer and knowing him made me want to get better. Dewey subsequently got me my first new board, a Webber noserider. By then I was in college, feeling competent in my surfing skills, and had even entered some bigger contests. My surf partners were John Geyer from Newport Beach, a member of the Surfboards Hawaii Surf Team, and Raul Duarte from Huntington Beach. One thing led to another and John was able to get me onto the Surfboards Hawaii Team in 1966.
In the spring of 1967, Gary Wurster and I started surfing for Soul Surfboards in Huntington Beach. I had a WSA and USSA ranking by then, was known as the Huntington Beach "Snake" (another story), and was serious about board designs and what the various designs could do. Dale Velzy was the shaper for Soul, and I spent a great deal of time working with him in his stall on new board designs.
The industry was just going into the shortboard era, so we were both experimenting a lot. He came up with something and I tried it out. I was trying to figure out how to get a flexible turning board and a nose design that didn't grab and spent a long evening working with Dale on the design. It was glassed in a couple of days and when it didn't work, I came back to Dale to get something changed for a new design. I remember the evening well. First, he asked me to go get a bottle of Peach Brandy. When I came back, he handed me his planer, sat down on a chair in the stall, and opened the bottle. Then, after slowly taking a drink he paused and said it was time for me to get serious and shape my board.
That was the beginning of the fire. My Surf Gooroo was sitting there, helping me shape, checking everything out as I went, and telling me stories about his surfing adventures. I'm sure he has also imparted to me both wisdom and his particular brand of surf culture. I listened and learned. Dale left Soul several months later and Steve Boehne became the new shaper. I left about a month later. It wasn't that Steve didn't shape good boards, he did, but without Dale, it just wasn't the same. Another friend of mine, Steve Walden, was just opening his shop just up the street. My surf partner Charley Ray and I liked Steve and decided to surf for him as his first-team rider. I still wanted to shape, but no money for equipment and no place to work had pretty much shut down my fires for a while.
I surfed for Steve for about two months. Then one evening I got a call from Dale to come over for a visit. He was meeting with Dale Rogers of Rogers Foam and they had been talking about me. When I got there, Dale told me he had some things to give me. He opened my van and started loading racks, his shaping stand, florescent lights, sanding blocks, templates, and various other things. Among his templates was a nose template, tail template, gun template, two longboard templates, and a mini-longboard template, all made out of unfinished plywood. When I asked him about those, he said they were his early-day templates and that he wouldn't need them anymore. He also said that I might want to use them someday if I ever shaped a balsa or one of his longboard designs. Except for those I've donated to various museums, I still have most of these templates today.
Finally, he brought out his planer. As he gave it to me he also gave me one of his serious "go forth and prosper" speeches. I wasn't sure if he was blessing me or just saying to have fun and make some money. I was stunned, to say the least. My shaping mentor had just put me into the surfboard business in a big way. I raced back to tell Charley that we needed to get a place to make boards and that our break had come. Nearly everyone in Huntington was impressed with my good fortune. Years later Dale told me that he planned to retire and that Rogers suggested he give his shaping equipment to someone who was just getting started and needed a break. I was high on their list, and, being Dale's most recent protégé, both thought I should inherit the trove. My spark had turned into a full-fledged bonfire.
Another interesting story about the Wave Trek factory behind my parent's place on the corner of Garfield and Delaware in Huntington Beach. The little red four-room building is the oldest building still standing in Huntington. It was built by an original settler, a Mexican farmer, in the early 1890s. Its siding is rough-cut boards from the sawmill in Santa Ana that existed during that period. My parent's house was built on a ¼ acre parcel of land next door to the grandchildren of the farmer in the early 1940s.
The building was partially on both house plots, so my father pulled completely onto our place with a tractor rather than having it torn down. It sat there for a long time with no electricity and running water until I finally came up with the idea for my new shop. We had just an electric extension cord and a hose at first, but finally got the place fully wired and water pipes installed as our business expanded. The smallest room just happened to be the right size to shape boards, so this became my shaping stall. Several years later, John "Whitney" Guild came to work for us and we moved the shaping room to a larger room. Whitney stayed in the small room.
Charley Ray and I decided on the name Wave Trek based on the TV series Star Trek. At first, I shaped and Charley glassed, but I finally learned to do everything. While I shaped a lot of boards, I was less interested in shaping strictly off-the-shelf boards and tried to focus my concentration on boards for Wave Trek team riders. We had some of the best around, and I worked with them, just as Velzy had worked with me, to produce designs that did just about anything we wanted them to. Some of those who I shaped boards for included Tim Wirick, Mickey Dora, and Mary Setterholm. I've included a few stories about these surfers that might be of interest to readers.
Tim Wirick was one of the top surfers from the Torrance area beginning in the 60s. He became part of the Wave Trek Team around 1970 and stayed with us for many years. I still see him now and then when I get to Laguna Beach. Tim liked one board design so much that even after he broke it, we put it back together and he continued to compete and place in 4A events with it. We called it the Gray Ghost because of the gray pigment hiding the break. It was heavy, but although I tried hard, I just couldn't duplicate the design exactly to his liking.
I've told the story about Dora's one-day board a few times before and it's posted on Tom McBride's website. One day Charley and I were checking waves at the pier when Dora walked up to us out of the blue and started talking about how he didn't like the board he was riding and would like to find a new sponsor. We knew he was fishing, but then again this was DaCat.
It didn't take us long to convince him to ride for Wave Trek. His only problem was he wanted a custom board that day while he was there as he wouldn't be back to HB for a while. We were getting ready to head to the shop anyway, so with Mickey in tow, we headed back and got to work. I shaped the design he wanted, the equivalent of what would now be a fun shape, and then with no one else around, glassed it, fill coated it, sanded it, glossed it, and buffed it, all in about 5 hours. Spending 5 hours with Mickey was as interesting as building a 5-hour board. He was something else.
Mary Setterholm was one of my surf protégés early on. Although she was very good when I met her, I could easily tell she would eventually become a champion surfer. As with our other riders, I spent time with her in the stall working out designs that we thought would perform well for a girl her size. I remember one design that she liked and that she wanted some special coloring in the glass job. A female unique board was nearly unheard of back then. I recall we glassed it with pink and purple, and she told me a few years ago that this was likely one of the first wahine surfboards.
I've been asked how Greek and I were so close, even when we competed with each other. The majority of Wave Trek team riders were also Greek Team riders at one time or another. Also, Greek was and still is a tremendous board designer. He and I understand that a good design is a good design, no matter who shaped it. Greek had just developed a superb low rail design that John Van Ornum was riding when he started surfing for Wave Trek. I tried it out and was so impressed, I had Greek shape one for me. He had no problem with this. It had a Wave Trek label and glass job but had his name on it. I subsequently placed 3rd at the US Championships riding that board. By the way, VO is one of those who I subsequently taught how to shape his boards.
I continued to shape and make boards until 1978 when Wave Trek was hit with a robbery that my insurance wouldn't cover. Someone took out part of the back window and carried out all the finished boards we had plus some equipment and blanks. Laroy Dennis and I were making all the boards by then. I just couldn't afford to replace everything, so folded up shop. I continued to shape until the early 80s, but only a few custom boards for friends and ex-team riders. I moved from Huntington Beach to Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, in 1980.
Today I'm long retired as a shaper, only shaping a few personal boards for myself or close friends each year. I still have and sometimes use Dale's original templates and equipment, and these will probably end up in museums someday. Also, besides my shapes, I still get boards from Steve Walden and Greek. Interesting about this surfing life is how I seem to have gone full circle on boards, rider, shaper, surf shop owner, and now back to the rider, all the while with Snakes on my boards.
In a way, I owe Dale for much more than just my skill and interest in shaping. Dale's generosity gave me both a skill and a job I could do while I attended college. I went to college for 9 years and subsequently graduated with a Doctorate in Engineering. I told Dale several times over the years that he had helped put me through college. I'm not sure he ever figured out just how.
"IN AN ERA THAT WAS LEGENDARY"
BY Thomas Takao
The intermittent rain was falling on the parking lot at Haleiwa Harbor on Oahu. It was a wet Monday morning with the winds and traffic being light and the waves on the North Shore being choppy and diminishing. Not the best time to go surfing, but an interesting time to talk to Don Koplien, one of the best shapers/glassers of the 1970s era. Initially, the interview was to take place aboard Don’s boat the Lana Kini, but was relocated to a café in Haleiwa due to the rain. The table we were sitting at was next to a window. As the raindrops made their way down the windowpane, the steam trailing from the coffee cups vanished into our conversation.
Don was recollecting the North Shore during the winter of 1967/68, his first winter on the island of Oahu. Don and his wife, Lana, rented a house located near Rocky Point the surf break, and adjusted to the slower pace of life out in the country. Driving around in a typical north shore cruiser, a 53’ Chevy added to the experience of being part of the emerging surf scene that stretched from Haleiwa to Velzyland. A small area of coastline that was about to take on the prestige of being the go-to spot for surfing.
There was this one time when Don’s friend David Nuuhiiwa whom Don knew from his days at Huntington Beach and Bing Surfboards came by from town. He had a friend with him, that friend was Gerry Lopez. David left Gerry there at Don’s house for a couple of days while David went back to town. Don took it in stride, but his wife was a little concerned about Gerry being abandoned. Don got to know Gerry in the short time that he was there. Meanwhile, the surf had come up and so Don and Gerry decided to go surf. David had a few boards at Don’s house and being a good host, Don offered the use of one of David’s boards. David had a couple of Mike Hynson-shaped boards that he made for him. Hynson along with some other notables of the time like Miki Dora was staying in the house next door.
After selecting a board to use and grabbing a bar of paraffin wax, Don and Gerry walked down the beach to Pipeline. Don sat and watched as Gerry paddled out into the lineup. After a couple of waves, Don paddled out and joined Gerry. They were the only ones out in the water and Gerry was catching all the waves he wanted. Gerry’s ability to ride the Pipe in 1967 was impressive, to say the least Don recalled. Not knowing it back then during the takeoffs, tube rides, and paddle-outs, Gerry was starting his legend at the Pipe and Don was starting his legend in shaping and glassing.
As the two walked up the beach refreshed from their surf session, Don would have never thought their paths were going to meet again and that a lifelong friendship would develop. As it turned out David showed up after a couple of days and Gerry went back home to town and his studies in Architecture. Gerry and Don would not meet again until a year later. Don and Lana would move to a house further down Ke Nui Road, the new location was across the street from Kammie’s Market. (A photo was taken by Duke Boyd in front of this house for Surfing Magazine in 1970. It was titled the “North Shore Brotherhood”.)
That winter Don was over on Maui and had Dick Brewer shape a board for him. Don knew Dick from the mainland when Dick was shaping for Bing Surfboards (Don was on the Bing Surf Team). The glasser who was supposed to glass his board didn’t show up and Don was leaving for Oahu the next day. This unexpected event forced Don to readjust his plans. Having watched glassers before, Don decided to glass his own board, this would be his first glass job. By the next morning, he had laminated, finned, and hot coated it, and was suitable for travel. After returning to Oahu, Don finished it. From that time on Don started glassing his own and other boards in his backyard for friends.
In May of 1968, Don returned to Huntington Beach and rented a house, and turned the garage into a shaping room/glassing room. Word spread that Don had just returned from Hawaii and was making surfboards. Those who knew Don stopped by the house and saw his shapes. They liked what they saw and wanted a board made by him. This gave Don an immediate customer base to hone his shaping and glassing skills.
Don knew some of the guys at Plastic Fantastic Surfboards (PFS) in Huntington Beach and by the end of the summer, Don and PFS decided to do a joint venture in Hawaii. So, Don was back on the North Shore in September of 68’. Don rented an old dilapidated house and Dave Garner, Danny Callaghan, John Boozer, and Greg Tucker worked with him to turn it into a surfboard shop. Dave and Danny moved into a house next door to the shop, which was in better shape compared to the shop.
He remembers Larry McElheny as a super craftsman who rented one of the shaping rooms at the shop. The shop was located up Hakuola Road at the base of the cliff opposite Ke Iki Road. The house turned shop had a couple of shaping rooms upstairs. Glassing was done in the living room and another large room next to it was for glossing. Other rooms were used for sanding and polishing. The house was built on stilts and there was plenty of room under the house for another shaping room and storage.
With an engineering background which showed in his approach to making surfboards. He neatly printed “Koplien” on each of his boards 18 inches from the tail by the stringer. This became somewhat of a trademark. He also kept a log of each shape with the dimensions and the client’s names. Starting with batten sticks and afterward making templates of the boards he had made. Don developed a wide range of templates that ran the gamut of outlines that were being used on the North Shore. Don shared the shaping room with other North Shore shapers at the time. There were Larry McElheny, Billy Hamilton, and Ryan Dotson to name a few. Ole Olson showed up for a short while and shaped, and there was Nat Young, Bob McTavish, and other Australians who would stop by during the contest season and shape some as well.
The shops in town (Honolulu) were clamping down on the backyard board builders on the North Shore. The reason was the backyard builders were taking business away from the Town shops. Don felt the heat the building inspectors were putting on him so he rented a shop in Haleiwa. The shop was zoned for light manufacturing and the landowner received the variance for the previous renter who was into pottery and had to have a kiln. Don now had a shop in Haleiwa which was zoned for manufacturing which satisfied the inspectors and the Town shops decided to drop the issue. Plastic Fantastic opened a retail shop in Kailua but it didn’t do well and closed its doors only after a few months. Don got his boards out of Plastic Fantastic’s shop and placed them on consignment at the Rick Surfboards in Honolulu where Barry Kaniapuni was selling his boards. Rick’s closed their doors a month later and Don took his boards down the street to Hobie Surfboards.
Within less than a year Hobie closed its doors on Kapiolani Blvd. So, Don decides to take his boards to Surfline. Gerry Lopez had just started shaping at Surfline before Don started consigning his boards. After two weeks Don and the owner of Surfline are having problems agreeing on the selling price of Don’s boards. He was at a stand-still and told the owner he would give it some thought. Jack Shipley, who was the shop manager at Surfline, was aware of the problem Don was having. Jack pulls Don to the side and told him that he and Gerry were starting a new surfboard company called Lightning Bolt and would like Don to come with them.
When the owner of Surfline inadvertently found out about Jack and Gerry’s plan, he fired Jack immediately and tried to pressure Gerry into staying. Gerry being at Surfline was a definite draw for them. When Gerry said he’d made up his mind and he was leaving with Jack, some subtle threats from Surfline were made. A couple of months after the Lightning Bolt showroom was open someone tried to set fire to the back of the building. No real damage had occurred. So Don is now with Lightning Bolt and the rest is history.
He produced six boards a week, and shaped and glassed them all. Don’s glass jobs were probably best known for their rich even colors and the fine pin line work. At that time the colors were tints mixed in the laminating resin and the trick was to squeegee it out evenly to avoid streaks. Pin lines were done by taping off both sides of an area and applying pigmented resin with a brush. There were no airbrushed colors at the time. Don was making Bolts along with about three or four other shapers, that would eventually join Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt quickly became the predominant logo seen in the water during this era. Shapers on the North Shore at the time that influenced Don were Mike Diffenderfer and Larry McElheny. A glasser at the time that he also appreciated and few knew about was Bosco Burns.
There were significant changes in surfboard designs starting in 1967. In his opinion, the change began with John Mobley who had a shop in Haleiwa. He was making and riding the first “short” boards on the North Shore. That same winter Gary Chapman, older brother of Craig “Owl” Chapman, showed up with a “mini” gun-shaped by Dick Brewer. This began a mini gun explosion that set standards for that time. Bob McTavish showed up from Australia with the “V” bottom that many were skeptical of.
Around 1970 Herbie Fletcher was riding a board shaped by Mike Hynson. It had a flat bottom nose to tail and the rails turned down hard. Don remembers old pictures of Herbie. You saw him always side-slipping down the face of the wave but he could pull it off. Don made one of those for himself but didn’t care for the results. In asking Herbie about the side-slipping he just said “yea, you just got a go with it.” Thinking in terms of foil, Don softened the rails at the wide point of the board while still leaving them relatively hard at the nose and quite hard at the tail. The board could now stay in the face of the wave without releasing off it, no more side-slipping. There were some various attempts at multiple fins, but it didn’t really make much headway until the end of the 70s. “Looking back now, it was obviously the way to go. Today materials have gone high tech and it is constantly evolving” Don mentioned.
Next to Don’s shop in Haleiwa was Country Surfboards. Eventually, Don gave up part of the glass shop to Country Surfboards and Jack Reeves started glassing there. Country Surfboard shapers were Mike Turnbull, Mike Turkington, and Roger Hinds. After the transition, Don moved his board building operation to his house at Pupukea Hill. His shop was located on the first floor. If he weren’t shaping, you would find him glassing. Another one of the shapers that he was glassing for was Tom Parrish. Tom was also shaping for Lightning Bolt and his designs were popular among the top surfers of that era.
Shortly after starting with Lightning Bolt, Don took on a partnership with Greg Matney, who was a T-shirt silk screener. They developed a company named Superscreen Hawaii. Don’s knowledge and contacts in the surfing industry and Greg’s talents in silk screening were a perfect match. They went on to develop some realistic-looking designs and artwork to go on T-shirts. Prior to that, most of the other T-shirts had more of a “cartoonish” look. This new look was due to a new process in photo quality tint overlays that Greg knew about. The 80s were a couple of years away but things began to change before then. The demise of Lightning Bolt was seen by Don as a great loss to some of the roots of the surfer/ shaper era that moved surfboard designs “outside the box”. At its peak, they began to broaden out the Lightning Bolt name into other areas. This was a good move until they sold some control of the name to a mainland company.
Gerry got out at that time and Jack continued on to do his best to make it all work. The problem quickly became apparent. The new partners in their three-piece suites started changing things mainland style. The relaxed style that made Lightning Bolt what it was, seemed to collide with the direction the new partner had in mind. One by one the original group started going their own way.
Don and his family left Hawaii in 1977. On one of their trips back in 1982, they happened to arrive the day after Hurricane Ewa had hit Oahu. On his second day there he went into town to go see Jack Shipley at Lightning Bolt. He walked into the showroom on Kapiolani Blvd. The power was still out from the hurricane and Jack was there by himself. The shop was dark and only partially stocked with a few boards and other products. Don asked what was going on and Jack said “I guess we’re closing the doors”.
Over the years since Don and his family left the North Shore, he would return now and then to surf, go fishing, and golf. He continues to shape a few boards for himself and his friends and has them glassed at Spanners in HB. Don and Lana, their two sons, Erik and Keenan, who were born on the North Shore, and their three grandsons all live in Huntington Beach.
He has crossed paths a number of times with Jack Shipley since then when he was the head judge for the Hawaii surf contest circuit. Don also has seen Gerry Lopez when he makes an appearance from time to time on the North Shore. Gerry now lives in Bend, Oregon, and has a successful snowboard and clothing business while still making a few surfboards. He moved up there after touring the area on Harleys with Grubby Clark (Clark Foam) and their wives. Grubby owns a ranch about an hour north of Gerry.
Don contacted Gerry after an article in “The Surfers Journal” in July of 2002. The article was by Gerry and featured his classic pintail the “Coral Cruisers” he made famous at Pipeline. Gerry had some nice things to say about Don in the article when reminiscing about Lightning Bolt, Gerry had his email address shown under one of the photos. Don emailed him thanking him for the comments and recalled some of their memories of the ’70s. Don speaks highly of Gerry as a person who, after rising to the top in the surfing world, always treated you kindly and made you feel like you were his long-lost friend. The interview began in the parking lot of Haleiwa Harbor and concluded at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier.
Gene Cooper Story
by Gene Cooper
I was born in 1956 in Glendale, CA, and spent my years growing up between the San Fernando Valley and Newport Beach. My father was a hard-working carpenter/contractor from the old school and my mom was a housewife with a serious artistic streak. She made most of the things that we had, along with most of the clothes worn by the girls, beautiful stuff. It was a creative environment with constant projects in the works. Now as a surfboard builder I find that I have one project after another, not able to let go of any part of the process. This approach limits production and growth as a surfboard company, but then, it's more fun to report to an art studio than to a factory.
I started surfing in 1966. A year later when the shortboard era hit I started cutting down longboards and re-glassing them. My Greg Noll film productions board was the first victim and my neighbor's beautiful Con followed. Between my friends and I, we probably ruined 6 or 7 good longboards but we were riding boards that were the proper size so we were happy. Spending a lot of time in Newport, I got into kneeboarding for a few years through 1970. When I returned to surfing it was on a $25 1968 Hanson V bottom, other cheap transitional's, and old logs, then Greg Liddle's.
In high school, I met and started surfing with Rick Pharaoh who got me on the right track with the surfboard construction. Rick was a grade behind me and shortly after we met he taught himself to shape and glass at a pretty high level. The second board he built was as good as any I'd ever seen and these boards were done in about 3 days, he was 16 years old and very talented, this was in 1973. He became a pretty prolific backyarder almost overnight. I became a shop rat in his garage, maybe sanding and polishing a little, picking it up as I went along. He made boards for me(I owned Pharaoh #2) and all of our friends. I sometimes had a hand in building them. After the first few they were mainly hulls, inspired by Greg Liddle, and mine were usually stringer-less, I felt that flex improved the performance.
In 1975 Rick had a job working for Lloyd Gist at California Foam Surfboards in Reseda. When he quit going to build boats for Frank Butler at Catalina yachts I was his replacement. He spent a day training me as a sander/polisher and general pick-up guy at the shop, then I grew into most of the jobs around the place. Rick returned now and then to the guest as a shaper or laminator. There were all kinds of guys coming through there doing piecework daily but the one that stands out is Bob Petty, a burley and seasoned production guy who would always show up with really big power tools. Rockwell 653 planer, 6000rpm Milwaukee Sander, etc. Bob was from the South Bay surfboard industry mecca of the 60s. He would hit the ground running but took time to share some tricks, it was a real eye-opener to see Bob work.
I joined the LAFD in January 1978 and retired in August 2009. Between '78 and '90 there was a lot of surfing going on but not much surfboard building. By 1990 I was mostly riding old 60's logs, kept buying them, riding them, trading them, riding them. Soon it became apparent that I had a Bing problem. Longboarding had gone progressive by 1990 but there were a small number of surfers who still liked riding the old ones, These old Bings and the like were so...regal, built to last, and high quality. They had a feeling that you couldn't get from the new longboards that were the standard at the time.
So I got the tools out, bought the materials, made stands and racks, and went after it after a 12-year hiatus. Sent my wife on vacation and did the first batch of 13 in my garage from start to finish. Gathered components from 60's Bings, Cons, Webers, Ricks, mixed and matched. Started the Cooperfish label at that time to strictly concentrate on vintage-style traditional equipment. It all came right back real easy. The batch was pre-sold to the surfing firemen I worked with for $400 each.
By 2001 I had a bunch of board models available. The demand for the traditional longboards had risen through the '90s and we were off to the races in a new factory. I brought a laminator in Sammy Cammack, sander/polisher Jeff Pupo, and pinstriper Chris Fallon. Still keeping the volume low and paying attention to the details with this small tight crew. Other craftsmen that have worked in the factory are- Steve Huerta, Stan Fuji, Vince Felix, Kenny Edwards, Zeph Carrigg, and Brian Michler. In 2005 Scott Hulet asked me if I would like to build and donate an "art" board to this Surfrider Foundation Auction benefit at Milk Studios in NYC. I shut down the shop for a week to build this 12' "slob job" gun. It ended up fetching $9000 (!) for Surfrider thanks to a few very generous bidders. This got me charged up on projects and benefits.
In 2009 I joined forces with photographer Michael Moore and launched a calendar project that featured 20 boards that we built throughout the year. We had a launch party at Hurley that raised money for The Veterans Adaptive Surf Camp through a raffle. Then we auctioned off the remaining 12 boards throughout the year via eBay with 20% of the proceeds going to The Surfing Heritage Foundation. Each board started at $1 with no reserve which kept things interesting. These boards ended up being my swan song to abstract color because changes were already in the works.
In 2010 I was commissioned to build a 16' elephant gun out of a huge slab of foam blank that the customer provided. Jim Phillips did the stringers as he did with many of the boards in the calendar project. I shut myself in the shop, this time for several weeks, and went at it. The owner now has it on display at the Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente.
I was sitting in my van at Blackie's one morning watching the colorful boards go by and it hit me that I was totally over the 60's style abstracts. I felt the same about all the board models that I'd been making for 10 to 15 years, Nosedevil, Hornet, Device, Malibu Foil, etc. I'd been doing "greatest hits" on custom orders for a while and just decided I was done with all that. The demand remained but my passion was gone. Those models with the abstracts were available in the "Cooperdesigns" label and were being made by Eric Walden (shaping) and Brian Michler (glassing) in their "12th Floor Foam and Glass" factory. Customers had a way to buy these models and colors that they'd grown accustomed to and I was free to develop a new line of boards and experiment. I also wanted to keep a minimalist theme which I always went for on my boards.
Flexibles- All the Cooperfish longboards now are made of "tow" weight foam and glassed with double 6oz flat weave volan with isophthalic resin, directionally sanded gloss. The core is heavy with a light shell and the boards have a very tense flex. Also, the consistent density seems to give the boards a unique balance. Another plus is that they are very dent resistant. For a weight reference: a 9'5 pig is about 27lbs and a 9'5 Foil is about 24lbs. I originally started this construction with pigs only but now I've done Foils, Noseriders, and V Bottoms with very good results.
Speedhulls- the other half of my new direction is hulls based on the C2 guns. A concave running out the back to give it some drive. Classic foam glassed with double 6oz flat weave volan, isophthalic resin, and directionally sanded gloss.
"The Sky is the Limit"
by Thomas Takao
Jimmy Lewis’s first experience in surfboard building began in 1961. While growing up in Southern California, Jimmy started making miniature surfboards. From that beginning, using foam, resin, and fiberglass his direction took shape. He would go on to design surfboards, sailboards, kiteboards, and hydrofoils and become world renown.
Surfing Cardiff, Pipes, and the other spots along the North County coast in the 1960s contributed to his development of becoming a surfboard builder. He was impressed with the other surfers and board builders in the area. To name a few there were Billy and Gary Brummet, Tommy Lewis, Sid Madden, Donald Takayama, and Billy Hamilton.
In 1968 Jimmy shaped and glassed his first full-sized surfboard. The late 60s was a time period when the shortboard era began and the boards that Jimmy shaped were short boards. Making his first surfboard was a learning experience. From those early surfboards, he would learn to become a better shaper.
In 1969 he would visit Maui for 3 months and get acquainted with most of the surf spots on the island and the surfers there. He would return to the mainland for a year before returning in 1971 for good. Now able to be there when the different swells hit, Jimmy would surf the various spots on the east and west side and Honolua Bay. One of the hottest surfers at Honolua Bay during this time period was Les Potts. Les Potts was a shaper whose influence helped Jimmy in his career.
Other shapers that influenced Jimmy were Gerry Lopez and Dick Brewer, Brewer especially. Dick Brewer’s influence on Jimmy made him more aware of design and concept. As the 1970s came to a close, another aspect of surfing developed and that was windsurfing. Windsurfing was becoming more popular and windsurfing boards were in demand.
Jimmy shaped his first few sailboards in 1978 for Mike Waltze and Mark Robinson. From there he would go on and work for Fred Haywood and Mike Waltze at Sailboards Maui. By 1981 he was into it big time. The shop was getting quite a few orders and Jimmy’s sailboards were becoming popular. From the mid-1980 to the late 80 some of his boards held the world speed record for sailboards.
In 1982 Pascal Maka took a stock sailboard from Sailboards Maui that was shaped by Jimmy to Weymouth, England. On that sailboard, he smashed the existing windsurfing speed record by 4 knots. The record time was 27.82 knots. Two years later in 1983, Jimmy shaped Fred Haywood a “speed board” to take to Weymouth. Fred surpassed Pascal’s previous record by 2 knots, with a record time of 30.82 knots. Fred’s accomplishment made him the first sailboarder to break the 30-knot barrier. His time was second only to Crossbow, a modified catamaran whose speed was 36 knots. At the same event that year, Fred sold one of the 2 boards to Robert Teritehau and Robert increased his personal best time by 2 knots.
Three years later in 1986 in the Canary Islands, 4 sailboarders broke the Crossbow record. They were using boards shaped by Jimmy. Pascal Maki was clocked at an incredible speed of 36.86 knots. While Eric Beale did 36.73 knots, Fred Haywood would do 36.13 knots and Jimmy Lewis would do 36.31 knots. There were 60 competitors for the event and 8 contestants out of 10 finishers were riding Jimmy’s shapes at that contest. It would be another few years before Eric Beale would become the first to sail over 40 knots. His world record time was 40.48 knots. In the 1990s Roddy Lewis broke Eric’s record in the open ocean at a speed of 44.51 knots.
During the 1980s and part of the 90s, Jimmy was full on windsurfing and had put his surfboard and surfing on hold. After making sailboards for 15 years, Jimmy felt like surfing and started making longboards again. He was back out in the lineup having fun. While making surfboards in the latter part of the 90s, he met a guy named Lou Wainman. Lou was one of the most progressive kiteboarders in this new sport of Kiteboarding.
Within 6 months Jimmy was kiting and switched from making surfboards to making only kiteboards. Then around the turn of the 21st Century, Jimmy made Laird Hamilton a few kiteboards for him to use. Since his introduction to kiteboarding, Jimmy has been quite successful at making kiteboards and literally has taken off while holding on. Today Jimmy Lewis is making surfboards, along with his famous kiteboards, SUP, and hydro-foils. His imagination has taken him to new heights and will continue to pull him along. With his experience in board design, we can definitely say the sky is the limit for Jimmy Lewis.
Bruce Irons, Colin Eberly, Tom Eberly, Dave Riddle
"A WEEKEND SURF TRIP"
by Thomas Takao
It was 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning in June 1992. Having taken care of what needed to be done, we crossed over to Tijuana in the cover of morning’s darkness. Everything seemed black and white, the early morning black, and the headlights white. I would be doing all the driving since the other four individuals in my truck weren’t old enough to have a driver’s license.
Those young surfers were Dayton who was sitting shotgun, Bruce Irons, and Jason Bogle sitting in the extended part of the cab. Within the bed of a 1992’ Toyota king cab pickup truck with a camper shell was our surf gear. In the middle of all our stuff, was a sleeping blanket, a pillow, and some blankets, and Andy Irons, who would be resting his injured ankle. He had been finned by his board while surfing in a contest a few days earlier.
We were following the lead truck that had all the boards and additional gear. The driver of that truck was Tom Eberly, along with Tom were his son Collin, and Dave Riddle. Our destination was K 55 where Tom had a small rental house, somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 feet by 17 feet. Passing houses along the road, we could see the lights coming on as the occupants were getting ready to leave for work. We came to the toll road that connects Tijuana to Ensenada as the light from the new day rose above the mountains.
The off-ramp to our temporary abode soon followed and we got off with the ocean in view. Down the dusty road, where the security guard of the homeowners association sat, half a sleep, half who cares who these guys are sort of thing. The lead truck yelled an address number and the guard waved O.K. as we passed without stopping.
We were traveling slowly on the road that runs through the complex of houses, watching for potholes and unexpected large rocks. We reached the driveway of our destination and proceeded to unload our gear into the house as a line formed for the small bathroom. Jason, Bruce, Dayton, and Collin made the walk up to the Point followed a short time later by the rest of the group. The surf was flat, and no one had brought fishing poles, so after a brief discussion, we drove to La Fonda for another possibility.
It was better there; it was breaking one to two and a half feet with glassy conditions. The sets were mostly closed out, with the exception of an occasional shoulder, the tide was low, going to high. Andy looked over the situation and gave it rest along with his ankle. He would just watch it with Tom and Dave, while Bruce, Jason, Dayton, Collin, and I put on our wetsuits and hurried through the resort walkway to the beach.
The water was cold, but that was typical. Everyone walked out until the water was waist-high, then the paddling began. A quick backside turn by Bruce, with a couple of pumps on the face of the wave, a kick out as the wave collapsed. Jason catches a right, a top turn, and a few pumps across the face before he kicks out, Dayton does a floater some 20 yards away. Collin being a goofy-footer picked off a left that had a shoulder, as it quickly turned into a wall, but squeezed a good ride out of it.
As for me that morning, I caught a few which consisted of going to the bottom, making a turn before it broke, followed by a cutback.. No one was getting any air, just turns and cutbacks. Like a heat that didn’t matter much in anybody’s scorecard, the session lasted less than an hour. Most of the guys paddled in after catching a short ride, the tide was coming up. The sky was the typical marine layer gray with the wind picking. The guys made their way back up the beach and through the resort walkway. To me, it was a morning exercise in the category of having your cake and eating it too. The session was refreshing even though I made no mention of it as the wetsuits were tossed into the plastic bag.
Back to the house to regroup and weigh the options. Since it was close to noon, lunch was on everyone’s mind. The guys were interested in going to Ensenada to have lunch and some sightseeing. After 20 minutes of doing whatever, we got into the trucks, and off we went. Passed some popular breaks that were flat; much like the coastline on the trip down. We arrived in Ensenada and proceeded to look for parking.
After finding spots for our trucks, we went looking for a restaurant. The place of choice was a restaurant with picnic tables; the restaurants looked the same from the outside. So once in, it didn’t matter we were hungry. After the tacos, burritos, and chips a conversation about where to go next developed, and were sightseeing. Stepping into the different shops that line the street, with all the different items for sale. So the guys looked around and waited for something to catch their eye and the price was to their liking.
Jason bought a couple of wool blankets and Bruce bought a plaster dragon. Everyone else wasn’t much into buying anything, so back to where we started. Passing the shops we went by before turning around. A few taco stands, and the crowds that flowed in either direction on the same sidewalk. With Tom and Dave leading the way with the rest of the crew spaced out within this mass of people, I proceeded to bring up the rear, just in case someone got sidetracked.
From my perspective, there was a quarter block gap between Tom, Dave, Collin, and Andy to the others including myself. Jason had stepped into a shop for a look around, as Bruce and Dayton went into another shop for the same reason. Keeping an eye on all three, outside on the sidewalk while they did their sightseeing in a Mexican Port city. Bruce and Dayton popped out of the shop and were on their way. I stepped into the other shop and mentioned to Jason lets get going, and a few minutes later we caught up to Bruce and Dayton.
After five minutes we reached the corner of an intersection where the rest of the crew was waiting. We drove back up the coast to the house at K55 and the afternoon came and went. That evening we were having dinner at some restaurant 20 minutes away from where we were staying. The guys looked a little tired since they had been up since 4 am. We returned to our little abode, the sleeping bags were brought out, and we looked for a spot to fall asleep. There was one bedroom with one single-size bed, with a few of the boards placed under the bed. (They were placed there after we got back from surfing) While Tom had the bed, the rest of us made do with whatever floor space was available.
In the morning the surf wasn’t much better than the day before, in fact, smaller. So we loaded our boards back into the pickup trucks and prepared to leave. While removing the boards from under the bed a squished scorpion was found under the board bag. As we pulled away on the dusty road from an uneventful surf adventure, the scorpion crawled back into my mind. Once back on the main highway, the thought of what if that scorpion wasn’t squished faded like the weeds in my side-view mirrors.
It was around 11 a.m. when we got to the border, so we waited in line for about an hour before crossing over. Andy was sitting shotgun, while Bruce, Dayton, and Jason were sitting in the cab extension area, with two side seats and a pillow. Finally, the U.S. officials asked the customary question where are you from, while looking into the truck, I said the U.S., when Jason shouts, Hawaii, and the rest of the guys nodded a few times to indicate the same. They were a part of the Junior Hawaiian Surf Team, so it made sense to me.
Returning back to San Diego, and a drive around La Jolla on a sunny Sunday afternoon, after which a casual ride up the coast highway into Encinitas for a late lunch and the rest of the day was casual. Monday morning and the guys except Andy were surfing Oceanside Pier. Dayton, Bruce, and Jason were getting some good rides on the north side with peaks of 2 to 3 feet. This was their last day on the mainland before catching an afternoon flight back home to Hawaii.
The morning turned to noon and the rush was on. Making sure everything was packed and ready to go, the guys were running around putting their things in their bags. Instead of Baja, it was LAX. Tom, Collin, and Dave are in one truck, with Andy, Bruce, Jason, Dayton, and yours truly in the other. We made it with 10 minutes to spare. Tom, Collin, and I were discussing the rush hour traffic on the 405 Freeway and the best route to take, while Dave, Dayton, Jason, Andy, and Bruce were boarding their flight back to Hawaii. Andy, Bruce, and Jason would continue their competitive schedule and the rest became history. Jason Bogle would pass away twelve years later (1978-2004) and Andy Irons (1978-2010) would pass away six years after Jason. RIP.
Andy Irons, Jason Bogle
"A Different Drummer"
by Thomas Takao
There have been many events in the surfboard industry that have occurred since the time when Danny Brawner made his first surfboard for himself. When balsa surfboards were the norm and its redwood brother and the kookbox paddleboard faded from the beach scene. It was a period when polyurethane foam was beginning to be used as the core for surfboards. Longboards became short and single fins became twins and then tri’s. What this adds up to is that Danny can say he saw it coming, was there when it happened, and can look back on it with fond memories.
Doheny Beach is where Dan began surfing in 1951. It was at Doheny where he first met his friend Rex McMullen, whose father was the Park Ranger at Doheny Beach. Having a dad who was a Ranger meant that Rex and his family were living there. The Parks Department would house the Rangers at the campgrounds in a designated cottage. How lucky could you be, having waves breaking in your front yard and surfing it too?
The possibility of stepping on a sea urchin was very likely if you weren’t careful. There were sea urchins in between or on the river rocks that line the coastal waters from Doheny Beach to Dana Point Cove. If you were to step on one and have a thorn or two break off in your foot, it was a painful experience.It was 1954 Danny shaped and glassed his first balsa surfboard for himself, then he would do it for his brother. The boards that he made were OK, considering that he had no prior experience in surfboard building. After making his surfboard, he appreciated the skill that it took to make one that was of surf shop quality.
He decided to get a Hobie Balsa Surfboard at the Hobie’s surf shop which was 5 minutes west of Doheny on Pacific Coast Highway. The board cost him $50.00 and back then that was a lot of money. While in High School Danny who had the experience of working on surfboards, got a job at Hobie’s repairing balsa surfboards. By being around the other employees of Hobie, Dan would learn the ways of surfboard building. Surfing became very popular in the youth scene, and parents started buying surfboards for their kids and taking them to the beach. The orders continued to increase as surfing took off.
One day Danny ran into Dale Velzy at the beach and the conversation turned to surfboard building. As they talked Dan mentioned that he had glassed a few surfboards. After hearing that, Dale told Danny to come on down to his shop and glass some boards for him, and after hearing the invitation he would do just that after finishing their talk, the year was 1958.
Dale had a crew of notable craftsmen working for him at the time. Along with Danny, there was Al Nelson, Carl Ekstrom, Rennie Yater, Sandy Banks, Harold Igge, Donald Takayama, Del Cannon, Bill Cooper, Bob Cooper, George Kapo’o, Bobby Patterson, and others during the years that the shop was in business. Dan blended in and began glassing for Dale.
Many of these craftsmen would go on to work for Hobie Alter, Bing Copeland, Dewey Weber, Greg Noll, and the other name brands surfboards of the 60s and some would start their own shops in the 1970s. Velzy had shops in Venice, San Clemente, San Diego, and Hawaii. All the shops closed after some bad luck with the economy and a divorce from his first wife.
In 1960 after Velzy closed his shop, Dan went to work for a company named Bohemian making pop-out surfboards. The foam was brick hard and had to be sanded before any glassing could be done. Dan recalled those boards had a layer of 20-ounce fiberglass on the top and 20 oz. on the bottom and weighed a ton.
After working for Bohemian for 9 months, he went to work for Holden Surfboards in 1961. That didn’t last and would be looking for another job. Meanwhile, Velzy had opened a surfboard building school in Newport Beach and Danny became a temporary glassing instructor for him. During his time he taught a couple of guys how to glass. One of those individuals was from the Middle East and whose name was difficult to pronounce. So Dale just gave him the nickname of Accu Ba Ba.
Accu Ba Ba would go on to another occupation and became a successful business owner. (As mentioned by Velzy) Every so often Velzy and Danny would go to a clothing company not far from the shop. There were shoes placed near the entrance of the store. Danny would try on some and if he liked them, he would place his old glassing shoes in the same spot where the new shoes were and walk out the door. In Danny’s mind back then it was kinda like if don’t like what you have, just bring your old shoes and they will replace them for free. Danny was surfing, glassing, and playing the drums for a trio in 1961.
In 1962 Danny got married and an opportunity to work for Hobie again at his new 5000 sq. ft. building came up. He would glass for Hobie from 1962 until 1989. Some memorable times at Hobie Surfboards were during those years. Also in 1962, Danny joined another band name the Sandells. Their music would become the soundtrack for Bruce Brown’s movie “The Endless Summer”. When the film first came out the band would play the music, while Bruce did the commentary. Not too many people knew of this, but the original album cover for The Endless Summer album had a motorcycle on it. Originally a motorcycle sort of album, but turned out to be an album relating to surfing, same songs but a different cover.
Popularity Rides on the ‘Beatle Beat’ Coattails
An article by Cathy O’Toole
Register Staff writer 1964
San Clemente—There’s one too many and their hair’s too short to be Beatles but their Orange County brand of rock and roll will bug you just the same. By adding a cha-cha beat, a South American swing and the haunting tones of the claviota to their version of rock and roll, this city’s “Sandells” during their eight-month existence have snared resounding applause from adults as well as teenagers.
A successful debut before an adult audience (Orange County League of Cities) has been repeated at Balboa Island’s Rendezvous Ballroom, Anaheim’s Harmony Park, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, and Riverside Civic Auditorium, the latter a double bill with Nelson Riddle.
The local five-man combo, consisting of Walter and Gaston Georis, John Blakely, Danny Brawner, and John Gibson, are finding recent bookings that include an increasing number of adult dance as well as teenage hops. Other successes include the soundtrack for Bruce Brown’s surfing film, “The Endless Summer,” and two albums, “Scambler,” already released and selling well, and another scheduled for release next month and yet unnamed by World Pacific records. Their new album features such colorful numbers as California Sun, Pink Panther, and Walk on the Wild Side.
The young musicians claim “to present a different rock and roll…. clean-cut … with a slight European touch…. and more musical theory.” In blending their voices with the music, they maintain, “Pure instrumentals have gone out in Southern California. The kids are tired of hearing them.” “The Beatles use the same technique,” they add. Although they formed the “Sandells” eight months ago, the young musicians have been playing together since grade school days in this city’s Concordia School. The group was actually born when John Blakely saved his quarter-a-week allowance in the fifth grade for a year to buy a guitar. After he taught himself to play, he began teaching schoolmates John Gibson and Walter Georis.
The only formal musical education is possessed by Gaston Georis, 23, who took piano lessons for five years and music theory in college. Gaston, who alternates between a variety of rhythm instruments, is a high school teacher in Riverside and studying at San Diego State College for his master’s degree in literature.
His brother Walter, 19, who plays the rhythm guitar and harmonica, graduated from Capistrano Union High School and plans to attend Riverside City College, majoring in photography. John Blakely, 18, who graduated with Walter, will major in psychology when he starts at the University of California at Berkeley next month. John Gibson, 17, still a high school student here, plays bass guitar. Danny Brawner, the 24-year-old drummer, is following in his well-known drummer father’s footsteps. Known as one of the southland’s top surfboard makers, he makes his home in Capistrano Beach. (End of Article)
Danny would quit the band in 1967 because practice sessions were out in Riverside and his wife was expecting their second child. He didn’t want to travel that far from home to practice. The band got another drummer who unfortunately died in a foggy day car accident commuting to practice. In April 2002 the band had a reunion in Santa Ana, California, which brought back memories to all who attended. Getting back to glassing.
Besides laminating, Danny glossed at Hobie. In the sixties Danny considers glossing an art, the tints, the solid colors, were in the gloss. One time Danny and Raymond Patterson painted a short stocky Batman with different color pigments on one of those boards back then. The Huntington Beach Surf Museum was the last place Danny had seen it. In the mid-1960s during lunch breaks, if his schedule permitted, Danny and a few of the other guys would go to Doheny for a surf session. Doheny before the Harbor broke completely different than today, it would break reform, break reform at least three to four times. During a big south swell, Danny would go to Killer Dana. Anybody who rode big waves was there, at least 10 surfers.
On Father’s Day 1969, Richard Nixon received from his daughters a Hobie Surfboard for his birthday, actually a miniature surfboard. The story behind the miniature surfboard came about the day before. While the present, a full-size surfboard waited to be picked up by the secret service for the next day’s presentation, something happened. For unknown reasons, the surfboard fell from the board rack. The board had the Presidential Seal, the Hobie decal, some shackles, and a ding. It was unacceptable to give a used surfboard to the President of the United States since they paid for a new one. An alternative plan was in order.
Well, things became hectic. Having less than 24 hours before the presentation, something needed to be done. Hobie’s solution was a miniature surfboard to fill in for the original board until another one could be made. So Danny and a couple of other guys would work into the night to produce the miniature surfboard. The outer edges of this story were blurred due to the years that have passed, but the center of the picture was reconstructed for a glimpse of what it must have been like.
A template needed to be done somewhat to scale, a piece of foam was needed, and an overall color scheme and decals. Since time was of the essence Hobie decided who would do what. Once things got underway everyone on the project knew the most important concept to keep in mind was to think small. Most of the shapers at the factory had orders they were doing or they had left for the day. So Danny doesn’t recall who shaped the miniature surfboard that afternoon. Whoever that ghost shaper was, it would have been unimaginable for him to be using his planer. But if he did, it would have been unreal.
Like a Titan from a Greek mythology story, the ghost shaper towered over the president’s miniature surfboard, using the tips of the thumb and index finger to feel the rail contours. Twisting it with one hand to look at the top and bottom contours, all 26 plus inches. With a careful eye and a sensitive touch, everything started to blend towards the final shape. After the fine sanding, it was ready to be glassed. Into the laminating room, the mini surfboard went, being placed on a modified glassing rack that would hold the mini surfboard. While the fiberglass lay on this miniature surfboard waiting for the resin. Dan was in the background stirring the resin and catalyst. In another room someone else was making the wooden fin, rushing to keep on this unexpected schedule of presidential importance.
After the curing of the resin on the laminating coat, the board was ready for the fin and decals. After the decals, the fin was tacked on with a little resin and leveled perpendicular to the bottom surface of the board with masking tape, as the minutes ticked away. The reception was a little fuzzy on whether the radio was on or off during this time, no matter, work continued at its pace. A small amount of fiberglass rope was placed on both sides of the base of the fin, and then the fin was covered with a layer of cloth, that was cut out in the shape of the fin with some excess cloth at the base.
All along the way, the ratio of catalyst to resin was carefully converted. Into the early morning hours, the hot coat kicked off as its milky transparent wobbly skirt of resin on the masking tape border solidified. After 2 hours, the miniature surfboard was ready to be sanded. Having done all of the above and to be gouged by a 7” sanding disc pad was not to be, in other words, it was hand-sanded before being sent to the glossing room. After the curing of the final coat, the very small surfboard awaited the polisher in the morning. The board was finished on time and guarded against any mishap until the Secret Service picked it up. The miniature surfboard was presented to President Nixon for Father’s Day.
After receiving the gift, it was anybody’s guess what the President was thinking. Another full-size board was built a short time later and was picked up to end the story of The President’s Surfboard. After the unknown historical surfing moment in United States history, Danny continued glassing for Hobie into the 70s and 80s, where in 1978 he went to the East Coast trade show and was caught in a photo with others from another booth. There was a contest to see if anyone could determine the real Gerry Lopez signature out of one hundred. Gerry signed his name once and Dan did it ninety-nine times. The prize was a surfboard. Someone did find the correct signature and the board was given away.
The 80s took off with the 3-fin thruster movement and the longboard revival. After which in the 90s and into the 2000s Dan would be restoring old surfboards. After that Danny would glass boards for Dewey Weber Surfboards in the early 2000s. Danny Brawner is one of the legendary glassers in the surfboard building industry. The Surfboard Building history that has flowed from his squeegee is over a half-century. With all that resin that has dripped onto the floors of the shops that he has worked for, very few in the industry can match the number of glassing shoes worn by Danny Brawner.
Surfboard One, the one and only surfboard belonging to a
President of the United States. Last seen hanging behind a bar, before reappearing on the beach, or visa versa.
"Shaper to Architect"
by Rich Wilkens
I grew up in Pacific Palisades, California, where my father was a pastry chef and my mother ran a coffee shop. I was born in 1946 in Santa Monica – only because the Palisades didn’t have a hospital. My family usually went to the beach just south of the Bel Air Bay Club where big wave rider Pat Curren was the summer lifeguard, about a quarter-mile south of the end of Sunset Blvd. and PCH, and also at the Sand and Sea Club in Santa Monica.
I first got interested in surfing while attending Paul Revere Jr. High, when my friend Mike Hastings, whose father owned Hasting Plastics in Santa Monica, would sell the first published issues of Surfer magazine out of his locker to his fellow students. Hasting Plastics was the local supplier of resins and fiberglass in the North Bay area for anyone making a surfboard, so Mike’s family had a tie-in with Surfer Magazine before there were many surf shops in the area.
My first surfing attempts in about 1957 were on a hollow finless plywood paddleboard that my older brother John made in his Jr. High wood shop. Needless to say, trying to learn to surf on a directionless paddleboard had its drawbacks, and I soon lost interest in trying after a few splinter-filled go-outs. Brother John next brought home an old beat-up fiberglass and balsa board that at least had a fin (and a giant V-shaped nose ding) that provided somewhat better results. This gave me my first experience of learning how to patch dings with fiberglass and resin, in an attempt to keep the relic from sucking up too much saltwater during each go out.
In 1961 I bought my first surfboard about the time I started high school at Pali High the first year it opened. It was a butt-ugly brown, yellow, and red-streaked well-used 9’-6” Dave Sweet from Dave’s shop at 14th St. and Olympic Blvd. in Santa Monica. The fin was set so close to the tail that it was a bitch to turn, but at least it was not made in a junior high wood shop. I still remember the smell of melting paraffin wax in an old coffee can on my Mom’s stove so I could hot-wax a base coat on the deck of the ugly-ass Sweet. Yes, it was ugly, but it was my first board, -- keeping this stick floating for another year or so gave me more practice at patching dings.
Surfboard number two was another used board, this time a 9’-10” Con bought from the Con shop on Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, just East of Lincoln Blvd. Con’s wife Susie ran the front retail end of the shop, while the boards were shaped and sanded in the open air next to the alley behind the shop. Some 35+ years later, Susie is now a neighbor and friend of mine, living about 5 doors up the street from me.
This time I didn’t just hone my repair skills on this board -- I performed my first multi-color panels and pinstriped outline total re-gloss job on it. I guess this was about the time I found out (even while still learning about variable working times of catalyst-resin-pigment-heat ratios) that I actually had some skill at working on surfboards. My surfing spots of choice at this time were either Malibu Pont, Sate Beach in the Palisades, and sometimes Bay Street in Santa Monica. Even though it is close to my home, I never really liked the break at Sunset point – usually too hard to catch and too slow a wave, and too many beginners.
It was about this time in 1962 when I was 15 that my father died that I needed to start making money for myself, that I began repairing and re-glossing boards as a serious endeavor. While I had shown talent and selected architecture as a goal in adult life, it became a necessity to help augment the family income, or at least earn all my own spending money for non-essentials and gas for surfing trips by starting “Wilken Pigment” out of my Mom’s garage at 15468 Albright St. in the Palisades.
Besides local high school friends, I performed all the repair work for the Hobie Shop on Wilshire Blvd. “Mr. Head Dip”- Dave Rochlin Jr. was the shop manager at the time, and later Deke Keasby became the owner of the shop. Besides walk-in repair customers, I would refurbish all the trade-ins to a sellable condition, and customize local Hobie team rider boards for the Santa Monica shop.
At age 17 in 1964, while studying architectural drafting at Santa Monica College and running my repair business, my third board was my first ever ‘new’ surfboard made to my custom specifications. Having seen dozens of his boards pass through the Santa Monica Hobie shop, I selected Terry Martin to shape a 9’-8’ beach break style board for me. I ordered it sanded but not glossed, so I could add my own personal custom pigment job that included a hand-cut colored French tissue paper Hobie logo blowup and as a floating advertisement of my work, my own “Wilken Pigment” graphic.
On its first walk down to the point at Malibu, before it even got wet, Dewey Weber spotted me and my board, and on the spot offered me a job doing his fancy color glossing work at his factory at his Marina del Rey (Venice) factory on Lincoln Blvd. While waiting for the glossing room to empty out from the more plain production boards glossed during the day, I would spend hours waiting by observing the technique of master craftsmen Harlod Iggy in the Weber shaping rooms.
First learn how to skim the glue and hard shell of the raw blank with a Skill 100 planer, the art of measurements, and laying out and adjusting the outline with templates. Learning the method of walking the length of the blank with multiple passes to tune the flow of the rocker, turn and blend the rails, adjust the nose or tail rocker, dish out a concave, and learn to “feel” the overall shape and character of the progress of the raw blank into a living wave riding work of art.
I shaped my first board under the watchful eye of Iggy at Dewey's factory in the summer of 1965. It was a Performer template with an extreme (for the time) kick and wide nose, born out of a reject Mike Hynson model 3 stringer blank that was remaining on the Walker Foam delivery truck after all Dewey's blanks were unloaded. That board, and one shaped that same day by Iggy for Dewey (who actually took the first blank I had chosen for myself), turned out to be the first two prototypes for the Weber kick nose “potato chip” Performer line that sold thousands under the Weber label.
I liked the extra kick because I thought it would help my nose ride better and push through the inside mushy sections at Malibu. It’s interesting to look back after all these years and realize that one of the most popular Weber surfboard models ever made was based on two freak blanks rejected by another company. Well as they sometimes say in the art world, “There are no mistakes, just opportunities.” Besides learning shaping skills from Iggy, I picked up laminating techniques from watching Dewey’s topnotch board glasser Mike Bright, who was also a U.S. Olympic team volleyball member.
At the age of 19, while still attending SMCC and still employed part-time glossing fancy boards for Dewey Weber, I made my first board with my WILKEN label in Santa Monica in the spring of 1966. My first shop/factory was located in Santa Monica in a sub-let little building on a portion of the ‘Bourget Brothers Building Material’ property on 11th St. just North of Olympic Blvd, where their current parking lot is located, and just 3 blocks from the Dave Sweet shop where my first used board was purchased.
My first factory shop was actually built by my brother George and myself, as a space for my expanding surfboard repair and restoration business I had cultivated serving the repair needs of local surf shops and my own walk-in customers. My repair trade customer base, with whom I had developed credibility and a reputation for quality and skill, helped prime my early new board sales.
“Wilken” #1 was shaped for my first team rider Bob Gordon, a local surf crazy fellow Palisadian – with emphasis on “Crazy”, or at least a wild, carefree hardcore character. Bob loved to surf more than do his schoolwork, and loved to party hardy. Not being much of a contest joiner, Bob had sway with several local friends, but not the type of wide fame needed to spread the Wilken name much beyond the Palisades-Santa Monica area. A few years after leaving the Wilken team, I heard Bob was nabbed by the local authorities for experimenting with ‘hemp’ cultivation on public lands in the local foothills.
I shaped Wilken #2, which still hangs from the ceiling of a restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier, for myself with a red, white, and blue color theme. This board is the oldest surviving Wilken board #1 having been burned at Topanga beach decades ago as a sacrifice for better surf.
The first few boards were rather standard shapes for the time all in the 9’-6”+ range, not that un-similar to what I learned from my time at the Weber factory. What with lower overhead and no real advertising costs other than a few team riders who got discounts, I could undercut Dave Sweet, Con, and other local shops like Weber by about 5-10%. That cost edge and the fact that I would custom shape all my boards to match the conditions of local surf breaks I had knowledge of, and meet the wishes of my customers, made my boards in higher demand at an ever-increasing pace.
In the first several months of working out of my own shop, all the while continuing to do repairs and still working at Weber, I would buy small amounts of resin and fiberglass from the back end of Dewey’s factory at a favorable rate compared to normal retail prices I would otherwise pay at retail supply outlets. At first, I would buy a gallon or two of laminating, glossing resin, acetone, a few yards of fiberglass, and 6 ounces of catalyst.
Then I progressed to 5-gallon cans of resins and 20 or 30 yards of cloth – and a Walker foam blank or two. Then I started to order resin and acetone in 50-gallon drums, fiberglass by the 100-yard roll at a time, and all picked up from the Weber factory so I could get a good break by piggy backing on Dewey’s buying power.
It was about this time, while still working for Dewey part-time, and I was ordering blanks from Walker Foam by the dozen that Dewey happened to be at the rear of the factory one day when the Walker Foam truck was being unloaded. Dewey saw the last of his 100 or so blanks dropped off when he happened to notice about 10 or 12 blanks left on the truck with the name “WILKEN” marked on them. When Dewey found out from the truck driver that they were destined for my shop a little further up the line, Dewey hit the ceiling.
He marched into his office, got on the phone with Harold Walker, and told him in no uncertain terms that if Harold ever sold me another single blank, Walker would lose the Weber account. Needless to say, I was never sold another Walker Foam blank again, and from that day forward I was never allowed to buy supplies from Dewey’s back room. And also, needless to say, I was from that moment on an “ex-employee” of Weber Surfboards.
After the initial shock of losing my supply line for all my materials, it actually turned out for the best. Gordon Clark was happy to get my ever-expanding surfboard blank business, and I was able to set up generous wholesale discount accounts for resins and fiberglass ordered directly from the manufacturers or their local distributors.
The best part was that after working with just a few of Clark blanks, I realized that Clark Foam was a much more consistent quality blank, with fewer defects, and less prone to tearing while working with a ‘Surform’ tool. From the day Dewey forced Walker from selling me blanks in 1966, and until Clark Foam abruptly closed in December of 2005, Grubby Clark’s were the exclusive blank I liked to shape.
With a growing business in the “North Bay” area, and a growing promotional team base including Marty Sugarman - formerly a Hobie team rider, J Riddle from the Dave Sweet team, and Robbie Dick joining, I needed help in the shaping room to keep up with production. While Marty, J, and Robbie all gave me loads of feedback from their never-ending days of surfing in all kinds of wave sizes and conditions, Robbie was the most interested in learning how to put his wave knowledge to work in the shaping room.
As I had started out learning from Iggy myself, I started Robbie out learning how to use the Skill 100 planner by taking the hard skins, and excess stinger wood, and gluing off raw blanks before I would layout the board's outline with my templates. I next taught him to use a carpenter's hand saw to cut out the outline of the finished board, and other finer points of finish shaping. Robbie, with all his wave experience, proved to be a quick learner who soon became the mainstay of my shaping and design team.
Shapers that I taught completely, or in some way while working at Wilken Surfboards helped get their shaping careers off the ground include, Robbie Dick, John Wheelright, Glenn Kennedy, Scott Preiss, Dean Edwards, Bruce Grant, Tim Phares, Pat Rawson, and a few others that at this time slip my mind.
While in the late ’60’ and early ‘70s Wilken Surfboards wasn’t the largest surfboard company by far, we were definitely on the cutting edge of the so-called Southern California “Shortboard Revolution.” Being a small low overhead, but high-on team experience feedback operation, we were able to test and modify board design concepts on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily basis.
Our small size and lack of being tied to an expensive advertising budget promoted “branded” product lines like Weber, Con, Bing, Noll, and Hobie, which gave Wilken the ability to stay on the frontier of surfboard evolution. At that point in Southern California, we were more like the “skunk works” of design innovation, with the others being more the General Motors of mass production of the surfboard industry.
The longest board I ever rode was a 10’-2” square tail, my all-time favorite board was a 6’-10” down-rail 3 fin diamond tail, and the shortest board I ever shaped and rode was a 1970 3’-11” twin-fin wide tail “Wilken Fish” design that was kind of felt like riding a skateboard but on water.
I had a great abundance of promotional help, and board design feedback, from my team riders, that were also my “test pilots’ for the Wilken line. The list included: Bob Gordon, Marty Sugarman, J Riddle, Robbie Dick, Craig Wilson (Hawaii), Glenn Kennedy, Scott Preiss, Nancy Emerson, Mike Vos, Jorge “George” Torruella, Steve Hilton, Kenny Linn, Sam Alama (Hawaii), Gary Hansch, Jeff Woods, Scott Heywood, David Ellis, Fred Roberts, Mike Kuntz, Price Branch, Chuck Simmons, John Christ, Stefen Haight, Terry Lucoff, Pud Allen, Brad Bovee, Mark Sauser, Stanley Washington, Rick Blocker; East coasters riders--Alden Richards, Howie Bosbyshell, Jeff Arensman, Denis Doyle; and (for a while until he sued me) a guy named Miki Dora.
Although most of my board designs were in a constant form evolution to stay at the forefront of wave-craft, the Wilken line included models such as The “WonderBoard” ( a few weeks later Dewey Weber borrowed that name for his “Wonder Bolt” fin system); The Marty Sugarman inspired “Natural”, “Neo Natural”, “Green Room” and “Meth” model (for those who like speed – see the Wilken pusher in your area); the “Robbie Dick” model (Let R. Dick shape your stick); the “Flash”, the “Wilken Fish”; Scott Preiss designed “Phasar” and “East-West Phasar” models; several Craig Wilson designed narrow Hawaiian shapes and a few others.
While for the first five years of business I usually held down the shaping, design, glossing, and promotional side of the business; my older brother George, when not away at college, ran the glassing, sanding, and ordering portion of the factory. In the early ‘70s, I had an opportunity to get back into architecture by designing buildings for a restaurant company. While still involved part-time promoting the Wilken brand, and being a contributing photographer for Surfer magazine; I slowly reduced my shaping work.
Eventually leaving the surfboard business totally in the hands of brother George by the mid-'70s, I pursued my building design profession in Malibu and the Palisades. I am now a licensed architect with a home studio in Pacific Palisades, where I mostly specialize in custom residential design. When not designing buildings I occasionally make a few custom Wilken boards a year for friends, do surf-themed airbrush artwork on surfboards, and am scanning my old surf photos from the ‘60s and ‘70s for a hobby.
Being a surfboard shaper in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in Southern California was a great time and place to be. Great weather, good waves, stimulating environment, limited business restrictions, loads of unique characters, surf movies, surf safaris up and down the east and west coasts and Hawaii, girls in bikinis, contests, parties, great team members and friends, surf photography, ads and articles in Surfer magazine...life was good.
"Matt Calvani Story"
by Robyn McGinnis
How does a kid from Salem Massachusetts become a surfboard shaper? He follows his heart and dreams until eventually, his hard work begins to pay off. This is the story of Matt Calvani: Originally from Salem, Mass. Calvani migrated to the South Bay at the tender age of 14. His parents were divorced and his mom was busy trying to support herself and Matt, which left Matt pretty much to his own devices.
Luckily for him, he met and became friends with a couple of local surfers. Surfing and ocean activities had always interested Matt and he wasted no time getting in the lineup in Hermosa. If you ask Matt about his first surfing experience, he grins at the memory. It seems his new friends thought it would be hilarious to watch their inexperienced buddy get worked on a double overhead, grindy day at the pier. They never expected him to make it out and were completely shocked when he did. He’s been hooked ever since, and surfing has become not only his life but his livelihood as well.
Ask Calvani how he ended up shaping surfboards and he'll tell you his father was a craftsman, who worked with his hands. The desire to do the same must have been passed on to Matt. "I never really liked school," said Calvani. "So I got a job as an apprentice to Tom Stanton." Stanton a well-known South bay shaper was working at a local surf shop when the story takes a familiar turn.
Like so many before him, Calvani a surf grom with nothing better to do, spends his time hanging out at a local surf shop, he meets a shaper who takes him under his wing and the rest is history. It was Stanton who taught Matt the art of airbrushing and upon retiring from airbrushing himself, sent all his business Matt's way. Calvani opened up shop in his Mom's garage and began airbrushing full time.
Around 1988, Wayne Rich gave him his first blank to shape, "I shaped a 6'2 squash tail" said Calvani "it was my first attempt and it solidified my desire to be a shaper" Matt’s house was eventually torn down, forcing him to move his airbrushing business from his Mom's garage to Shoreline Glassing.
The shoreline was where Hap Jacobs and Dennis Jarvis of Spyder Surfboards shaped and he was able to get a job rough-shaping board for Hap. Eventually, Hap offered him the chance to start shaping boards from start to finish and Matt jumped at the opportunity. Dennis Jarvis was so impressed with Matt's work that he asked him to shape for him as well. This was during Jarvis' prime and Matt was working alongside Dennis making boards for the likes of Tom Curren, Shane Dorian, and many more.
Eventually, Dennis offered Matt a chance to shape exclusively for him as did Phil Becker. Phil made an offer Matt couldn't refuse and thus began Matt's 8-year stint as one of Becker's top shapers. It was while at Becker that Matt created an impressive shortboard program, shaping for the likes of Greg Browning, Geoff Moysa, Pascal Stansfield, and many more.
He was hand shaping more than 25 shortboards a week in addition to longboards and mid-ranges. Matt also continued to do some shaping not only for Hap Jacobs, but Lance Carson and Rick Surfboards as well and his talent for shaping traditional longboards was apparent. "While I was shaping for these guys, I must’ve shaped 50 to 100 balsa boards along with all the foam boards," said Calvani. During this time Matt met and became friends with Dan Bendiksen.
Bendiksen had been the head shaper for Bing Surfboards during the 1960s and 1970s. He introduced Matt to Bing Copeland and Mike Eaton. Mike at that time was shaping and distributing the Bing Surfboard line. Mike Eaton's line of boards and paddle boards were growing in popularity, naturally, he wanted to focus his attention there. A successor to Eaton and the Bing Line was needed. "Dan opened the door for me to inherit the Bing line," said Calvani. Bing was impressed not only with Matt's talent, but his enthusiasm as well, so with the blessing of Mike Eaton he turned the line over to Matt. Shortly thereafter Calvani left Becker Surfboards.
He set up shop alongside Tyler Hatzikian of Tyler Surfboards. "Truly one of the most talented surfboard designers I know," said Calvani of Hatzikian. A mentor in his own right, Hatzikian was generous with his time and talent. "I learned so much watching Tyler," said Matt, "working and surfing with him catapulted me to another level, he's one of the best longboarders I've ever seen."
Although he had shaped more longboards than he could count, Matt Calvani was primarily a short boarder, he remembers a transition during his time with Tyler. "I was becoming somewhat disenchanted with shortboarding," said Calvani, "the conflict involved was frustrating, on a shortboard it feels a little like you're fighting all the time, it felt angry. Riding a longboard was just fun again, you're whole demeanor changes on a longboard. I don’t know I guess you become more tolerant of your surroundings when you’re out there on a longboard. Maybe it's the glide, it's so smooth and fluid, it’s kind of peaceful. It's corny I know and it's hard to explain, but there's defiantly something to be said about the glide on a longboard."
As for the direction of his work, "It's simple, my shaping just started to reflect what I was doing in my surfing" said Calvani."I was drawn to the traditionalism of longboarding and I found myself embracing the longboard community." Today Calvani shapes exclusively for Bing, Hap Jacobs, and Rick Surfboards. Upon his retirement Hap Jacobs handed down his planer and Matt moved into Jacobs factory in Hermosa Beach. Matt Calvani has come full circle. The Hap Jacobs factory is still located in the same location he started at, next to Shoreline Glassing. He continues to shape all of the proven Bing and Jacobs models and has created a few new designs.
His most recent Bing shape is a single fin, the traditional board called the Silver Spoon. As for Jacobs, his most recent revivals are the Jacobs/Lance Carson Model and the Jacobs/Mike Purpus Model, which he describes as "The next generation Nuuhiwa noserider". These shapes along with all the others can be found at most of the major surf shops in the United States and abroad.
Ask someone who's ordered a board from Matt Calvani what separates him from the pack, and you'll likely hear them say that he's a super cool guy whose ego remains in check. He’s personable and approachable. Whether you’re one of his team riders or a beginner just learning to surf, he’ll take the time to share his experience and knowledge with you. He makes beautiful boards that work and he makes you feel good about buying them. What more could you ask for in a shaper?
"As Good as Gold"
By Thomas Takao
Many shapers are not well known outside of their respective areas. To their customers and team riders, they are the ones whose shapes they enjoy riding. John Kies is one such shaper whose boards are in demand because his customers return time and again with their friends. To get a view of what developed along the way and the interesting places and people that are a part of John Kies’s shaping journey, we will start at the beginning.
John Kies was born in St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica, California. His early years were spent growing up in different cities. This made it rough for John and his brothers to make friends. When he was in the 7th grade, he had gone to three different schools in Bakersfield, CA, Houston, TX, and Phoenix, AZ. John’s father worked for Del Webb a very large company involved in developing Planned Communities, Resorts, and Golf courses around the country. His position called for a lot of traveling.
When John was 13 years old his family was visiting friends in La Jolla. The ocean was nearby and this gave John and his brothers their first opportunity to mat surf. After they visited California his father asked John if he liked it there. John's answer was a very positive yes, with the rolling surf still fresh on his mind.
In 1966 John’s father decided to start his own company and settle down. He moved his family to Del Mar, California. It was August and John would be beginning school in a week at San Dieguito High School. Arriving on a Friday, they unpacked and went down to Hansen’s Surf Shop in Cardiff looking for a used board for John and his brother.
They didn’t have much of a selection back then, so they went to Surfboards Hawaii in Leucadia. Not much better there as well, the salesman told them to go down to Pacific Beach and visit the G&S surf shop. Once there, they were like kids in a candy shop, John and Robbie were greeted with tons of used boards. John got a 9’ 6” Delby Woodworth for $50. Delby had a shop in Solana Beach. He was a boat builder who made a few surfboards for about 3 to 4 years. John remembers his first board which had a clear bottom, with 2 turquoise blue panel stripes, offset 30-degree angle from the perpendicular line of the stringer. Its decal was like an upside-down Hobie outline.
Robbie, John’s brother got a 9’2” South Coast surfboard. After arriving in Del Mar earlier in the day and back that afternoon with their new used surfboards. John and Robbie went surfing at 15 St. Awkwardly paddling out for the first time as the white water tossed and turned the beginning surfers. The feeling of having your surfboard and eating it too became apparent. With practice, their timing of paddling and catching the wave began to fall into place. Standing up before it pearled and riding the white water to the shore became routine. John found the stoke that is surfing and it became part of his life.
Before surfing John was a very good junior golfer. He mentioned some of the guys he played with back then are some of the guys you might see on TV today. After taking up surfing John put away his clubs for 12 years. John’s second board was a 9’ 10” California Surfboard. The shop owner was Steve Bernard who also did the shaping. John started to hang out at the shop during his High School days cleaning up around the shop, getting to know the guys who worked there and occasionally working behind the counter. It was located across the street and south of the old lumberyard. Sunset Surfboards took over the shop after California Surfboards closed.
When Hansen Surfboards moved from their shop in Cardiff to Encinitas Dave Chapman moved into the shop across the street from Cardiff Reef and began Chapman Surfboards. Dave shaped a few with the rest being shaped by Bob Turner. Their surfboards were being glassed by Tony Channin who had a shop in Del Mar during this time. John started working for Dave on Sundays.
John was surfing Cardiff and hanging out with his older friends. They were Bruce Connelly, Derek Ross, and Kevin Holey. John remembers an old single-story motel with 9 rooms located where the State’s parking lot booth is now, it was called Evan’s Motel. The old locals still call the beach Evan’s. Back then half of Charlie’s building was the Sea Barn and the other half had 2 apartments. Bruce lived on the bottom floor of one.
John’s next board was a Chapman shaped by a guy named Roger. Roger had moved up to the Haight Askberry area in San Francisco and was back down visiting Cardiff. Dave knew Roger who had shaped a couple of boards before moving to the Bay Area. To make a long explanation short, John hated that board and decided to shape his board.
He would peel the glass off an old board that he had and shape a 7-footer. After the shape, John glassed it in his Dad’s garage. He took it out to Cardiff and tried paddling out. The board didn’t float so it was back to the drawing board. John peeled and shaped two more and had the same results. Finally, he bought a shaped blank and glassed it himself and it rode well. After glassing that board John would go on to glass around 100 more boards.
His glassing became known in school. One day Marc Adams stops by with a shaped Takayama and wanted John to glass it. John said he would and Marc came by when John first started laying up the bottom. John mentioned he was going surfing after glassing the bottom. Marc asked if he could go and John welcomed the thought and they went surfing. After returning from their surf session John glassed the topside of the board. Marc was over every day watching his board being worked on. The closer the board got to being finished, the more anxious Mark got to wanting to ride his board. This was the beginning of a long friendship that would eventually turn into a business partnership.
John’s good friend Kevin Holey was getting into shaping also and had shaped a board or two at John’s place. One summer in 1970 Kevin stopped by with a Skil 100 planer. Kevin had just returned from New Jersey where his brother-in-law was shaping and who had lent Kevin the planer. Jim Phillips trusted Kevin and things were cool.
John and Kevin had been shaping boards with just a block plane and a surform up to this point. The planer’s trigger wasn’t working properly, once plugged in it kept running. At the time they didn’t think of getting a new trigger. It was plugged in to start and pull the plug out to stop. That summer John had the use of a Skil 100 planer, which was great. Kevin took the planer back to New Jersey after the summer and John learn how important it was to have the right tools. So a short time later John went to Hammond’s Machinery off India St. in San Diego and bought a Skil 100 planer for $150.00, which he still has today.
In the fall of 1970, John got a job as a salesman at Koast Surfboards, his hours were after school and on weekends. The location of the shop is the same place where The Encinitas Surfboard Shop is today, on Coast Highway north of Encinitas Blvd. He was Coast Surfboard’s first employee. The owner was Allen Wyche, a guy who had just graduated from High School with John. The shop was set up like Mitch’s in La Jolla (surfboard supplies).
John had enrolled at Palomar Junior College, after getting his associate’s degree he would continue to Cal Western as a Business Major. John continued to shape his boards while going to school. While working the counter back in 1971 John met Bill Shrosbree who was there to meet with Allen at the shop. He was applying for a shaping job, which he got, and began working there a short time later.
John's first decal was in the shape of a skeleton key with the wording of Surfboards on top and by John Kies below on the shaft. His next brand name on his boards was called Hometown. There are about 50 around somewhere. John kept a log of those boards back then with their dimensions and the owner’s name. He still has that log.
The shapers who had worked for Allen at Koast back then were Mickey Fremont, Bill Shrosbee, and others who have slipped passed John’s memory. Their factory was located at the 4 Winds shop that was once the Surfboards Hawaii shop in Leucadia. Surfboards Hawaii had moved up to the Hill next to the Palomar Theater and 4 Winds moved in. After 4 Winds closed their doors Koast moved in and started making boards there. Koast was at the Encinitas location for about a year and a half.
A shop in Cardiff became available in 1972. It had windows all around with plenty of space. Wyche rented the shop and place tons of boards in the shop. John bought a small trailer and parked it behind the shop after returning from Hawaii, if he wasn’t in school or working, he would be across the street surfing Cardiff Reef.
But before continuing let’s go back a year and see the surf trips that John went on and then returning to school after getting back. John had begun school at Cal Western in the spring of 1971 and took a one-year break that began in the summer of 1971. John Kies and Kevin Holey had been planning a trip to France after seeing a picture of Nat Young at La Barre. Kevin was in Rhode Island at this time working with Jim Phillips and had been in touch with John most of the year by phone.
John left on August 15th for London and then onto Paris, France. Staying one night in Paris and then taking a train down to Biarritz, Kevin would arrive later the same day. For those who might be interested in its dimensions, John took one 6’ 10” with a 13 ½” nose and a 12” tall and about 19 7/8” wide board. It was a standard outline for a single fin surfboard. With his surfboard, backpack, and sleeping bag John checked into the Hotel Cote Vais. After putting his gear in his room John went surfing across the street.
The surf was 3 to 4 feet and fun, after John got out and return to the hotel he saw Kevin and had him place his gear in his room. John and Kevin were making a surf check when they met some cool Aussies on the beach. They were camping at a campsite outside Biarritz called La Fotinia. After getting to know them and their situations the two Aussies offered John and Kevin the opportunity to join them, it would cost them 25 cents a day. It made cents to go that route since they were on a budget. Besides the Australians, there were a couple of other surfers from Santa Barbara at the campgrounds.
The following day John was checking the surf before checking out of the Hotel. The surf was up, easily 10 to 15 feet back. The beach break was closing out and John noticed a reef down the beach going off. He took a walk towards that location. No one out, but someone who he knew was there watching the waves. Jeff Litchton was a fellow surfer from the Encinitas area and was visiting France with his mom. After the decision to go out John, Jeff and a guy from Santa Barbara paddled out through the channel. As they paddled closer to the take-off spot of this very big left peak, their adrenaline was pumping, their eyes wide open and their awareness was on high alert as they sat and waited. Knowing if they fell off their boards or got caught inside, it was a long swim since none of them had a leash.
After the surf session, John got his stuff and moved in at the campsite and stayed for 2 months. The campsite was located 10 miles south of Biarritz. A motley crew of surfers whose paths met at a campground in France enjoying the camaraderie of surfing. Arriving at the site John watches as big right peeling off if you could imagine a 15-foot wave at Swami’s breaking cleanly across the reef how it looks to John.
Another wave hits the reef and a backsider drops in. He makes the drop shifting his weight to his rear leg, before leaning towards his inside rear rail section. Then begins the quick bottom turn acceleration. In a continual motion of leaning forward after reaching the halfway mark of the face of the wave, he begins to adjust his weight back to the outer rail. Just before reaching the top of the wave, combining the wave breaking and turning at the same time, resulting in an explosive smack off the lip. Then free falling a few feet on his reentry onto the face of the wave. Regaining his balance in a wink of an eye and then flowing on.
Gaining speed and room to maneuver, the backsider goes into a flowing frontside roundhouse cutback, repeating the previous maneuver once again. Meanwhile, on the beach, John calls out to the guys around him, Oh my god who is that? The response was Lopez, Gerry Lopez. There were quite a few hot surfers around Biarritz during this period. Most of the surfers that surfed this place would meet at a restaurant called the Steak House. When John first went in he thought he was in a bar back home. A list of names that were there: Mike Diffenderfer, Doug Haut, Jackie Baxter, Gerry Lopez, Jeff Hackman, Hal Jepsen, Mike Miller, Mike Tabeling, Miki Dora, Brad McCall, Sid Madden, James “Booby” Jones, and a bunch of others.
After staying at the campsite for 2 months, they decided to move into a house. The house they rented, which was located across the street from the Lighthouse at Biarritz cost them $200.00 a month. John and Kevin got Sid Madden and a guy named Randy to split the cost for 2 months. While living there John bought a Mobilet which is a French motor scooter for 20 dollars. It had a surfboard rack welded on the side with a duffel bag behind the seat. They would use their Mobilet going 20 miles in either direction. John and his friends were having a great time having fun. The days flew by and 2 months came and went, before they knew it a new adventure soon appeared.
John, Kevin, and two Australians named Robin and Gary decided to travel to Morroco. They bought a Ford Anglia for 80 dollars and were on their way. The foursome would surf Spain and Portugal on the way down. Getting their maps out the guys looked for points on the coastline to explore. One such place was named Mira Mira. It was just like Trestles with a river mouth with cobblestone rocks. The waves were peeling at 5 feet when the guys paddle out. No crowds in the water and just the 4 of them were having a blast. Word got around and the people from the town went out to watch John, Kevin, Robin, and Gary surf.
The kids treated them just like the kids in Endless Summer treated Robert August and Mike Hynson. The admiration for someone to ride waves was profound in a sea town that had never seen anyone surf. The Mayor invited the guys to stay at his house for a few days. They accepted and were treated like kings. After their stay, they traveled on and the foursome came to Figuroa de Favs in Portugal. It was like 3 Swami’s one after another. Putting up their tents, the guys stayed for 2 weeks. It seemed wherever they went surfing, the people were fascinated and would watch them surf. There were castles along the way and in certain situations during the middle of the night they would go explore those castles.
They got to Gibraltar and cross over to Morocco. Morocco was a wild place and you didn’t want to leave anything alone in the car for it would have been stolen. When you left your hotel room the manager would be going through your stuff. When they went surfing, someone would have to stay and watch the car, rotating every so often to let everyone get waves. After surfing Morocco, John, Kevin, Robin, and Gary headed back to Spain. It was a rough ride back on the Ferry when the winds were blowing. With an air of apprehension that things could go wrong as they made the crossing. After having made the crossing in one piece, they took the road along the Mediterranean side of Spain before returning to Biarritz.
The winds category during the crossing would be classified as a gale-force with winds of 40 to 55 mph. With such winds, swells were breaking along the coastline for some distance. Having traveled some 100 miles along the coast of Spain on the Mediterranean side as mentioned previously they came to a cove where the winds were blocked by the terrain. In the cove were glassy waves breaking around 4 to 6 feet. After seeing those waves the guys were out in the water in no time.
A crowd of a few hundred would gather and watch them ride the waves. The guys were used to the crowds as they surfed. John and Kevin's trip was coming to an end. The ride through Spain and on to Biarritz happened without a hitch. So John was at the Paris Airport boarding his flight back to LAX while Kevin was waiting for his flight back to New Jersey. Resting back in his seat, John with his eyes closed and his thoughts of the waves he had ridden. Having been treated like celebrities by the people they met while surfing in Spain and Portugal.
Getting back to Cardiff John still had an adventure in his system. He worked for a couple of months at Koast before flying over to the North Shore in January of 1972. His friend Murph had gone over to Oahu’s North Shore at the same time John went to France. Murph was living in a tent on an empty lot, keeping costs down. This was John's first time over to Hawaii and was anxious to go visit.
Having made it to Rocky Point, John couldn’t find Murph, looking back and forth all day, and no sign of Murph. So John slept on the beach with his sleeping bag for a couple of days. Surfing Rocky Point and asking around for any vacancies, John found a place at Rocky Point on the third day. The rent was $50.00 a month for a shared bedroom. He was less than 75 ft. from the beach at Rocky Point. He was enjoying his stay and had settled in and getting used to the lifestyle, John had forgotten about Murph. One day about two weeks later at Rocky Point Murph was paddling out. John was surprised and asked him “where were you”. Murph showed John the place he was staying and it was well camouflaged in a vacant lot. No wonder thought John as he walked into the tent. Inside was a picnic table, the area was organized to fit the space.
John's stay on the North Shore was from January to May of 1972. In May John went back to Cardiff and was working back in sales at Koast Surfboards. This is where he left off when he was about to go back to Cal Western College after the summer. Koast Surf shop was busy, so John recommended to Allen to hire Marc Adams his friend that whom he glassed a board. Mark was in sales and things worked out. John began shaping more and was in charge of the Koast’s factory in Leucadia.
Louie Foger and Chuck Bersee were the glassers, Steve Clark was the pin line and glosser, and Gary Beecher was doing the rub-outs. The factory was making Koast surfboards, Atlantis Guns, and Country Hawk surfboards. In John's senior year at Cal Western things became very busy. John needed extra help with the shaping because of his class workload. So John hired Rusty Priesendorfer for a couple of months until school was out. John happened to see Rusty a few years back and both recalled the time.
John finished school in May of 1975 with a Business Degree from Cal Western. He worked all summer and got married in August. John planned on working in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. He and his wife packed everything and moved after quitting Koast Surf Shop. It had been 3 years since John saw Murph last. He was still living in the same tent at Rocky Point. John looked up Murph and suggested that he move into a house that John had rented. Their neighbor was Rick Iron a very good and well-known shaper on the North Shore. Rick would let John use his lawn mower, his templates, and tools. John would become friends with Rick’s younger brother John. Kies and John would surf together whenever the opportunity happened.
John Kies was looking for a job all this time and after 3 months thing was becoming serious. Meanwhile, Marc had quit Koast a month after John. Marc writes John telling him Koast went out of business and suggested opening up a new shop and getting the old customers back. It made sense to John, he was back in Encinitas in December and figured it would take $12,000.00 to open a new shop at the old location. John and Marc became partners and open up in December of 1975 at their current location which was the old Koast Shop.
Encinitas Surfboards was started and John had 12 boards made for the opening. The day they opened the old customers showed up and the shop has been busy since. Back in 1976 Sunset Surfboards was the one whose boards were considered the tops in the area. After a couple of years, Encinitas Surfboards was on equal grounds with Sunset Surfboards.
Changing sports John got re-interested in golf when he was looking for a job in Hawaii. The surf was blown out and Murph who happened to have played golf when he was younger just like John asked John if he wanted to play golf. Neither one knew the other players. They rented some clubs and played 18.
They had a blast, not that they were in the sand traps all day, but enjoying themselves. After the first time, they began golfing once a week, if the surf wasn’t any good. John continued to play after that and in 1981 Murph calls up and tells John, that he and some golf friends are going down to Myrtle Beach, North Carolina to play golf for a week for a golf vacation. So John join them and had a great time with the guys playing 36 holes a day. The same group of guys has been doing it every year since then.
John’s business was growing and space was at a premium. The shaping room in the shop was taking up to much space, so Kies moved to the Hill and began using an available shaping room. While on the Hill in 1983 Kies got to know Mike Diffenderfer, who had a shaping room next to his. Diff was a very good golfer at this time and had won the Waikaloa Open tournament in 1980. John and Diff would play every 2 weeks, even though Diff played every day. Mike was practicing and going to the qualifying school for the Senior Tour. It was an expensive experience getting to and being in a qualifying school. John had caddied for Diff during qualifying school. If you were one of the few to receive your card then it was worth it. If not, then you would have to do it again the following year.
You had to do good at all the tournaments before being accepted at the qualifying school. Diff’s first attempt was close but missed the cut by 7 players. The second try was further down the leader board. After the second attempt, Mike lost interest in getting a Tour card. There was this one occasion where John, Danny, Chris, and Diff were playing together at a tournament in Tijuana. After the tournament, the Awards were held at the Tijuana Country Club. The winning foursome got intoxicated on Margarita’s after receiving their trophies for lowest score. John had also won a trophy for the longest drive and Diff got a trophy for closest to the pin on a par 3 hole.
The guys were cheerful as they approached the border check point going back into the U.S. with the 6 trophies on the dash of John’s van. The Border Guard asked if they were bringing anything back? Diff responds “We’re bringing nothing but gold back” pointing to the trophy. Traveling on I 5 relieved the pressure of waiting to get across, and the foursome felt good after stopping at the gas station.
Before Mike went to Costa Rica he gave John his templates and calipers as a gift. Mike felt it appropriate after being in a shaping room next door and having played golf together. Mike Diffenderfer was an influential shaper/golfer and was a good friend to John Kies. John will always cherish the times he got to share with Mike Diffenderfer. John would continue to play golf, surf, and shape the boards that many of his customers and friends would ride.
by Thomas Takao
In the early days of foam surfboards, Doug Haut and his brother Dan went to Hawaii in 1963. He had been working for Jack O'Neill in Santa Cruz and wanted to see Hawaii. Doug started working for Mickey Lake at Inter-Island Surfboards as their sander, hot coater, and did some glossing. Dan Haut was laminating for Dick Brewer and would do some work for Inter-Island. Dan would give some insight into glassing to a young Jack Reeves at the beginning of Jack’s glassing career (This was when Dan was there in Florida during the latter part of the 1960s).
The people who were working at Inter-Island Surfboards during this time were Mike Diffenderfer who was doing the shaping along with Mickey Lake. Joe Kuala was doing the glassing, and Jim Campbell was doing the glossing. Also there, but not at the same time as Doug were Robert "Sparky" Scheufele, Wayne Land, Kenny Tilton, and John Kelly.
Mike Diffenderfer taught Doug his ideas in shaping. Having Mike show Doug the ropes while climbing the different levels in shaping was a big help. Haut and Diffenderfer shared a house in Honolulu while working at Inter-Island. Doug had an old Woodie that he cruised to work in and used to go surfing in town during summer and use it to go out to the North Shore when the surf was up.
Talking about plate lunches, there was a café nearby the Inter-Island shop and the guys would go there. “They gave us a huge plate for a buck and a half, 3 scoops of rice, spam, teriyaki chicken, macaroni, and some other thing” Doug recalled. After work, they would fill the resin buckets with beers and cover them with ice. The stories would flow, but Doug didn’t drink much and would soon be heading home or towards an evening surf session before calling it a day.
In the summer of 1965, Doug and Mike Diffenderfer gave their 2 weeks notice and left Inter-Island Surfboards. They would be crewing on a sailboat that was returning to California after it had competed in the Trans Pac Race.
The time spent on board was 28 days. Within this capsule of time, Doug, Mike, and another guy from Newport Beach were the crew, Wayne Coker was the captain. They were in very rough seas for about a week, in a calm that lasted 2 weeks, and some fun sailing the remaining days before reaching Monterey Bay Harbor.
The beginning leg started at the Ala Wai Harbor, traveling west-northwest around Barbers Point, then north to Kauai. It took a day to get to Kauai, after which the boat anchored in Hanalei Bay for 2 days. After departing the first week was pretty rough. The boat was going to weather. (the boat pointing into the wind as they made their way north) and everyone on board took a pounding.
During the rough weather, Doug was designated to be the cook. He was the only one who could go down below without getting sick. Doug would strap himself to various objects in the galley so he wouldn’t get tossed around while cooking. Looking back on it Doug got a good laugh remembering the moments. With the gimbal, stove was swinging, and holding a pot while stirring. At the same time sensing the next smash of the bow of the boat as it plowed through the wave. With all that going on, Doug was thinking ahead while placing the ingredients into the pot or pan.
After the first week, they couldn’t take any more rough conditions. They made a turn towards California. By doing so they had entered a Pacific High with no winds and calm seas. The motor on the boat was not working, so they drifted across the Pacific. Even though they had the drifter and mainsail up, they were only traveling a half-knot an hour. Some days they were going nowhere, a dead calm. During the night they would look overboard and see the reflection of stars. “It felt like we were traveling in space with the stars above us and below us, it was a very surreal feeling,” Doug said.
With their thoughts drifting with the days, they inch their way out of the high-pressure system. Wayne was keeping track of their location and kept a log of distance made good. Out of the doldrums the winds picked up and the days became cooler as they approached California.
The boat made its way down to Monterey Bay through the fog and tied up to the pier in the harbor. The weary crew greeted the docks with their wobbly legs. Doug says his legs felt like they were rocking for days afterward. His body had become accustomed to the rolling of the boat and it would take some time to get adjusted to land again. Doug would go on to a long career in surfboard manufacturing in Santa Cruz, California.
INTERVIEW WITH DOUG HAUT
By Deb Hopewell
San Jose Mercury News
October 3, 1996
Walk into the Haut Surf Shop on Santa Cruz’s West Side, and you notice it right away. Absent are the typical shiny displays of overpriced sunglasses and shelves bulging with trendy surfwear. Instead, the glass display case houses cakes of wax, resin, and other fix-it-yourself sundries; there are a couple of modest racks of sweatshirts and T-shirts bearing the Haut logo, and a decent selection of wetsuits and other neoprene necessities. Time-faded surf photos line the walls.
And at the back of the shop, the light bounces off a couple of dozen beautifully colored and polished surfboards, stacked in precise descending height from longboards to shortboards, like the Von Trapp Family Singers at attention. And it hits you. This isn’t a surf shop. This is a shop for surfers. On any given day you’ll find its 56-year-old proprietor, Doug Haut- pioneering North Shore surfer, master shaper-at home in his little fiefdom on Swift Street, where it’s been for 26 years. That is if he’s not surfing. Or fly-fishing. Or sailing, windsurfing, or duck hunting.
“He’s an unsung hero in my life,” says Richard Novak, Haut’s onetime business partner, and longtime friend. “A friend of ours died of leukemia in 1979. I asked him before he died, whose life he admired most? And he said Doug’s. Because Doug would get up in the morning and check the surf. And if the surf wasn’t happening, he’d check the fishing. And if that wasn’t happening, he’d check the sailing. And if that wasn’t happening, he’d go to work.
“He’s maintained the quality of life we all sought.” It’s a life that has taken him far from his native Wisconsin, which he left at age 14 for the Bay Area. By the time he graduated from Los Altos High, he was already driving frequently to Santa Cruz to surf and soon moved there. “Doug was here when it wasn’t easy to live in Santa Cruz,” says Glen DeWitt, owner of Rainbo Fins and another longtime friend. “It was hard to make a living here. But we were so lucky to have grown up in a period when Santa Cruz was wide open. You could sleep on the beach and surf wherever you wanted with no crowds.”
A couple of years later he made his first trip to Hawaii’s North Shore, where he eventually came under the tutelage of famed surfer and shaper Mike Diffenderfer (1937 – 2002). “I always wanted to shape,” says Haut, who like many of his shaping brethren, displays a characteristic lack of garrulity. “I just started at the bottom and worked my way up.” By the mid 60’s he was back in Santa Cruz, shaping boards for Novak and another friend, George Olson.
By that time, Haut had already made a name for himself in Hawaii, mastering the big waves that only a few had surfed. It wasn’t until the late 50’s that a small cadre of surfers started venturing into the waves of Oahu’s North Shore, surfers whose names endure today: Buzzy Trent, the Hoffman brothers, and Greg Noll, to name a few.
(Side Note: To clarify the subject of when the first surfers started surfing the North Shore of Oahu. Information that was noted previously from various accounts has been updated. By first-hand account by Wally Froiseth, it was in the late 1930s when surfers started surfing the North Shore of Oahu. With respect to Deb, this information came out after her interview.)
It takes a lot of fortitude to surf big waves. For Doug and those surfers mentioned in the above and below paragraphs, their big wave achievements have not diminished with this revelation.) “We were the next wave through,” says Novak. “When we started surfing there, it was “Here’s the wave, this is what we want to do, not “Here’s the wave, let’s see if we can survive.”
Yet Haut never received the kind of publicity afforded others of that era, specifically the guys whose exploits were chronicled, recorded, and celebrated as the Southern California surfing lifestyle. “One of the reasons Doug never got the recognition he deserved,” says Novak, “is because he was from Northern California. In Santa Cruz, you’d never go in the water if someone had a camera because you didn’t want it to get out what greats waves we had here.”
“He’s a legend in surfing,” says Glen DeWitt. “He has known from Florida to Oregon and Washington to Hawaii. He didn’t get the press like the Van Dykes and Noll, but that didn’t bother him. It’s still cool to me to think, “I’m sitting here with Doug Haut. Many people, when they move into stardom, they’re not like Doug. He’s like a beautiful woman who doesn’t know she’s pretty.”
Haut shies away from talking about his past accomplishments. He even makes a point of brushing it aside. “Mainly what I’m trying to get across is the accomplishments of building the boards I do,” he says “A lot of shapers are limited to one style. I’ve got them all dialed.”
His most popular design right now, Haut says, is the hybrid—“fun” boards in the 7-foot 2-inch to 7-foot 10-inch range. “I can’t shape enough of them to keep up with the demand,” says Haut. He turns out three or four boards a day, each taking an hour and a half or two hours to shape, and sells them at shops in Washington, Oregon, California, and Florida.
If a customer has something specific in mind or needs some direction, Haut will take the time to work with him or her. “I can dial them in by finding out where they like to surf, and how they like to surf. I ask them what they’ve been surfing on, things that are on an individual level. “It keeps men excited about what I’m doing, especially if I’m in the water and I see them on one of my boards having a good time.”
In honor of his 30th year of shaping—including his 20,000th board—Haut is making 25 to 30-anniversary boards, collectors’ items featuring a wooden T-band stringer and tailblock. Each takes nine to 10 hours of shaping time and is priced around $ 950. And for those who can afford the $ 2,400 price tag. Haut is shaping three or four boards entirely of balsa. Decades ago the material of choice for boards long before pre-shaped blanks rendered such artistry unnecessary. “I never wanted to be the No. 1 shaper in the world,” says Haut, “but I wouldn’t mind being No. 2 or No. 3.” Says Novak “My feeling is he’s the best shaper in the world right now, and no one knows it.
Doug Haut Sunset Beach, Hawaii
JOHNNY & ROSEMARI RICE
"A Surfing Couple"
by Thomas Takao
On a clear and sunny day with a sea breeze flowing, I walked into the garden of Rosemari and Johnny Rice. Johnny was sitting on a bench table next to a small pond just off to the side, and Rosemari was nearby on the kitchen porch. After saying Hi to Johnny and waving to Rosemari, I sat down across from Johnny. Rosemari walks up and joins us. We were talking about how things were and the surf. I had stopped by before and talked to Johnny about his adventures. There are stories and articles about Johnny in surfing magazines and in local newspapers; his legend has span two continents.
But not much is known of his wife Rosemari who was one of the top female surfers in Hermosa Beach during the late 1950s and early 60s. There were hints of her abilities from the photos in Johnny's shaping room and in their house. With that in mind, I asked her about her early beginnings in surfing and how she met Johnny. With the sound of water falling beside us, she told me her story.
“It seemed like only yesterday when I was wearing a cashmere sweater, a wool dress, and white buck shoes in high school. On this one occasion I was looking across the campus and could see Johnny looking at me” Rosemari said. This was the start of their relationship at Mira Costa High School in 1954, he was a junior and she a sophomore. It wasn’t long before they were attending the school dance. Johnny was a surfer who was learning to become a surfboard shaper. Rosemari lived in Hermosa Beach and enjoy everything about the ocean. She would take walks along the beach many a time n her teenage years, sitting on the sand where it sloped to the water’s edge. The afternoon winds would blow her hair into a windswept style as she watch the surfers riding the waves. And thought how fun it would be to do so and wanted to do it, but she needed someone to teach her.
As fate would have it, It wasn’t long after Rosemari met Johnny that she would be on a surfboard and surfing. Johnny was working for Dale Velzy’s surf shop in Venice, sanding and learning how to shape. One day Velzy told Johnny to test paddle one of the boards at his shop. So Johnny got Rosemari to do the paddling since this would help her in gaining more experience in handling a surfboard. They walked across the street and down into the Venice Canal. This part Rosemari recalled as if it were yesterday “The thing I hated was when you would get in and out of the canal, it had a mushy mud shoreline. Feeling the crabs on the bottom of my feet and trying to move away with each step that I took was kinda creepy” Rosemari said.
Johnny had an old 1930 Milk Panel Truck that got him where he wanted to go, only problem was that he had to pop the clutch to get going. Either he would park it on a hill or have someone push him to get going. Rosemari soon learned if she wanted to get somewhere with Johnny she had to push him. They would travel from school to their favorite spots around town. Places like the Manhattan Beach Pier, the Hermosa Beach Pier, the Palos Verdes Cove, and Venice where he worked. Then there were the times he would take her surfing.
Since the waves in Hermosa Beach were more difficult to learn on, Johnny would take Rosemari and her brother to San Onofre. Where the waves were easier to learn on since they rolled more and had better shape. Inspired by Rosemari, Johnny shaped and glassed his first surfboard for her, wanting it to be the best for his girlfriend to learn on. This surfboard was special for Rosemari too, it was the first time a boyfriend had built something for her. It was a balsa surfboard with dark blue pigment and had her name across the nose of the board in yellow letters. His gift was like music to her. She breathed his song and her heart sang.
There seemed to have been parties every weekend and the Manhatten Beach Pier was the place to be. Those who were there were either friends or a friend of a friend. A special group of Hawaiians would show up, Alan Gomes, Chubby Mitchell, and George Kepo’o to name a few. There were others but their names have been forgotten over the years. Those who attended would bring various items, somebody would bring the snacks, someone else would bring different meats, cold cuts, and bread while somebody else would bring the drinks. With the make-shift luau happening, anyone who happened to be there was welcomed. After the meal, some of the Hawaiians would play their Ukuleles and Slack Key guitars and would sing songs that they knew.
To add an outside perspective of how it must have been with darkness settling in. The mood of the campfire with its flames created a glow of harmony with the melody that was being played. Transformed those listening into a tropical frame of mind, as the fingers glided across the neck of the ukuleles and guitars. Like the trade winds through the palm fronds. Into the night they would play as the sound of the surf nearby added to the ambiance. Rosemari and Johnny held hands and viewed the moment with warmth. Well into the night the flames from the pit swirled and kindled their young love for one another.
Those were the days of beach parties and when surfing was growing. Just a few of the beach cities at the time had a gathering like the ones they would attend. During those occasions, the guys would plan surf trips to far-off places like Rincon, San Onofre, and San Diego. San Onofre was the main spot for those in San Diego and the guys from the South Bay to meet and surf. Not long after going steady, Rosemari and Johnny would drive down to San Onofre in the old milk panel truck with the boards in the back. Many a time they would take Rosemari’s little brother with them and he would have to sit in the back with no windows to look out of. Sitting there on top of the surfboards, he was always asking "Are we there yet?"
Rosemari and her brother were athletic and enjoyed being in the ocean. They both caught on quick to riding a surfboard and looked forward to each surf trip Johnny would take them on. Johnny would teach Rosemari how to surf on her balsa surfboard that he made. “One thing I will always remember Johnny telling me, never take your hands off the board until your feet are under you and I still tell people that today,” Rosemari said. Continuing with her story on a return trip from San Onofre and they were driving through Laguna Beach.
Johnny was talking about surfing and surfboards when through the corner of his eye a dress catches his attention. It was an oriental style dress with a mandarin collar and a slit along the seam line. He pulls the panel truck over and parks it in front of Waltah Clarks Dress shop. Holding Rosemari’s hand they enter the dress shop. The clerk comes up to the teenage couple and asked “Can I help you” Johnny says to the clerk ” Would you have that dress in the display in her size” pointing to Rosemari. After returning from the stock room the clerk said she did. Rosemari tried it on and looked into the mirror. A few hours earlier she was surfing in her bathing suit and hanging out at the beach. Now she was putting on a stylish dress in Laguna Beach and making Johnny feel like a fashion designer watching his top model getting ready for the runway.
He bought the dress for Rosemari and they were back on the road again. Johnny resumes his conversation where he had left off, and Rosemari thinks about the dress she just got and was wondering what just happened, They passed Thalia Street and the Greeter waved to them as they drove by. Leaving Laguna Beach behind, Hermosa Beach is still a couple of hours away.
There was this one-time Rosemari mentioned about her and her friends Sandi and Judy stealing (more like borrowed) a car from Dick Henderson. The guys were going to Trestles and didn’t have room for the girls. Rosemari, Sandi, and Judy wanted to go and would not be left behind. They convinced a guy who they knew, that they had lost their key to the car and needed to get somewhere. He obliged by hot-wiring the ignition for them. They weren’t the Ra Ra or the Goody Goody type of girls but were in a class of their own. They were beach girls with a free spirit, the ones that many of the surfers would marry.
Anyway, they were driving down Pacific Coast Highway after the guys in a stolen car. With Judy behind the wheel and Rosemari sitting shotgun, the girls were on their way. They could hardly wait to see the guy’s faces when they walked up to them at Trestles. As they passed Lomita the discussion was about school and the latest gossip about so and so. Crossing the bridge from Wilmington into Long Beach, they talked about the Pike.
It wasn’t long before they approached the Long Beach Traffic Circle in the fast lane. Both the fast and slow lanes entered the circle. If you were in the fast lane meant that there would be traffic on their right side. With oncoming traffic from Pacific Coast Highway going north, Los Coyotes Diagonal going west, and Lakewood Blvd. heading south all merging into the Circle. After going around in a circle a few times, Judy got into the outer part of the Traffic Circle. She put her foot on the floor and made a dash for the street outlet. Unfortunately for her, it was Pacific Coast Highway going back from where she came. Judy looked at Rosemari and Sandi with the expression do you want to drive.
Looking at the gas gauge the needle pointed to empty, showing no sign of movement. The girls decided to stop at a gas station and fill up. They proceeded to put $2.00 worth of gas into the tank. That was about 13 gallons enough to get them back. Having a few close calls and relief of not having had an accident. The girls were satisfied with having gotten to where they were and decided to head home. Dick never knew his car had been stolen. But it will be the last time the girls would steal a car. Their boyfriends would take them from then on.
Back then in Hermosa Beach, a popular place to go says Rosemari was Foster’s Freeze on Hermosa Ave. next to 14th St. She and her friends would hang out there. Another place was Lulu White’s Stop Café next to the Manhatten Beach Pier. With a smile, she continued “They had great food and ice cream there”. It was a favorite spot to eats and if the café were closed they would hang out in the parking lot nearby to the cafe. One of Rosemari’s friends was Sandi, who lived next door to Leroy Grannis. There were parties at her house with Rosemari, Judy, Sue, and some of her other friends showing up.
Whenever the cars started to fill the street in front of Granny’s house, he knew Sandi was having a party. This must-have kept Leroy on the edge of his seat Rosemari recalls. Sandi’s mom didn’t mind, knowing she was keeping an eye on Sandi and her friends at her house instead of worrying about where they were or what they were doing. Johnny and Rosemari's friendship grew during High School but would fade as each would take a different direction on life’s road the development. Rosemari would marry Charlie Reimers in 1957 and they move to Hawaii. Charlie had been drafted into the Army and was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa.
They lived in Waikiki and Charlie would commute to the Schofield Barracks every third day. Meanwhile, Rosemari was surfing almost every day on her Matt Kevlin balsa surfboard. She got pregnant with their first child but would surf until a couple of months before having her son. This time period was classic Hawaii, with cottage shacks and palm trees along the beach. No high rise except for the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Hotels, it was a picture postcard moment. After a year Charlie was re-stationed on the mainland. He moved his family back to Hermosa Beach in 1958 and later was discharged from the service. They would have their second child in 1960.
Living on 30th St. and the Strand, it wasn’t long before Rosemari began surfing more and more. With a V-W Van to take her on surf trips, Rosemari, the kids, and Connie the babysitter was off in search of surf. The farthest north she would go was Rincon and the furthest south she would go was to Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad. At this time she was one of Hermosa Beach’s hottest female surfers. Dewey Weber was very much impressed by Rosemari that he and his wife Caroline went over to Rosemari’s house at 30th St. and asked her to be on his surf team.
The board she was riding at the time was a 9’+ balsa board shaped by Joe Quigg in 1959 at his Newport Beach shop. It had been glassed by Sonny Vardeman at his father’s garage. One day she opened her garage door to get her board. To her surprise, someone had stolen her surfboard. Rosemari was feeling bummed for a while; then one day she got a call from Sonny Vardeman who was working at the Greg Noll Shop on PCH. He says “You might want to come up here and look at this board some guy wanted to put footprints on the nose”. So she did and sure enough, it was Rosemari’s surfboard. When the surfboard got stolen Rosemari reported it to the police and filed a report. She also had the glasser who did the glassing as a witness to the fact. The guy who brought it in didn’t have a chance to make his case. Rosemari got her board back and was very happy.
Even though she was on the Weber Team, the competition wasn’t her cup of tea. During the Huntington Beach Surfing Championship, Hev McClelland announced her name as she was about to stand up on the wave. She developed stage fright and her knees locked up and couldn’t stand up for about 5 seconds, eventually wiping out. In the late 1960’s she would divorce Charlie and become a single Mom. She would move up to Santa Cruz in the 1970s and raise her two children there. With the responsibility of 2 children, she would surf only occasionally. In November of 1986, Rosemari saw Johnny (who had been married twice) at the Harvey West Longboard Contest dinner. It was Déjà vu.
Johnny and Rosemari got back together and married. They have shared many fond memories together, he the shaper and she the number one team rider. Her inspiration started his career. His inspiration made her one of the best woman surfers in Hermosa Beach during the Balsa and Early Foam Era. A time when it seemed like 99 percent of surfers were boys and men. Still surfing today, her story can relate to the many girls and women who are starting out and to those like Rosemari who love surfing. Johnny has passed away, but her memories of him will always be cherished.