STEVE CLARK'S CUSTOM ARE CUT ABOVE THE REST
BY Chris Ahrens Blade-Citizen May 19,1995
I don’t remember when I first became aware of Steve as a surfer. I knew who he was. I had seen him around town, but somehow had never been in the water when he was. Then one day I noticed him on a big set wave at Swami’s. He wasn’t banging the lip or doing anything too radical, just sitting beneath the hook, stretched out in a fast, low-flying stealth stance, his long hair blowing back indicating extremely fast movement.
He got slotted right in front of me as I paddled out, and without making a scene, just popped out of the tube, and pulled over the top of the wave. Proving that the ride was no fluke, I watched him get many similar rides that day.On the beach I looked at his board. It was narrow for the times (around 1975) a pintail that had the fast curves of an America’s Cup (sorry race fans) racing yacht.
After that time I rarely ever saw him around, and it was not until the longboard revival hit full swing in the early ‘80s that I was treated to Clark’s riding Swami’s a lot. He was so smooth as he walked up, hanging 10 with control and style. Only then did it hit me - Steve Clark must have been a fantastic surfer back in the ‘60s. As I got to know him, it became apparent that my suspicions were well founded. He had placed fourth in the first California Pro Contest (help me out here trivia fans, was that the Smirnoff or the Duke?) held in large surf at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz.
While I’m not sure of the name of the event, I do recall seeing pictures of it in Surfer Magazine where the best surfers of the time carved big, cold water. Twenty years after that contest I heard some of the details, about how Encinitas local Steve Clark had drifted north with no money in his pocketed and no place to stay. I’m sure he became the finalist to have slept in a car throughout that weekend.
Maybe it’s because he’s such reserved and humble guy that I never knew much about him as a surfer. I’m sure that’s why I never realized he was also a fine craftsman. While I had been aware for years that Clark made surfboards, I had never given too close a look at the elegant vehicles he made, boards with either no logo or one so small that you had to bend down to read “Steve Clark Customs”. These were underground surfboards, available only through Clark, made for surfers like Mark Brolaski, who absolutely ripped on them.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began seeing Clark Customs around town fairly often. Then they appeared on the racks at the Longboard Grotto, where they quickly became a hot-selling item.
Maybe I’m slow to catch on, but it’s only been about a year since it dawned on me that Steve Clark makes some of the best, the most beautiful surfboards, on the entire coast. Look at the beautiful wood and glass tailblocks. These are not just make’em and break’em flame painted disco machines classic boards whose style and design will stand the test of time. That’s the type of boards he prefers to make anyway, but he’ll build anything for his customers, as evidenced by a board with every color in the rainbow created recently for my friend and dentist, Mark “Rock” Rutley.
Some of the boards built by Clark are produced with the Channin label, the high quality Encinitas surfboard glasser who glasses boards for people like John Kies of Encinitas Surfboards. On other boards you need to look closely to read Clark’s plain and tiny logo. All of his boards are glassed by Channin now, where they are given ultimate care by some of the best craftsmen in the industry. Looking at the shaped blanks lining the walls, which could stand as pieces of sculpture all on their own, I realize that it’s fitting to have the boards glassed by Channin. Clark’s work deserves nothing less.
With summer coming on, it’s about time that I get a new surfboard. I know just the type I’m going to get. Hopefully the rest of the world has been as slow to catch on as I have been, and Steve won’t be to busy for me.