If one were to spend a rainy, blown-out day reviewing all the back issues of every surf mag in print, it would be obvious that very few predictions concerning the "Surfboard of the Future" have ever come true....
”So, why do you surf?"
A surfer on a flight to Hawaii is confronted with that question so often that it becomes as routine as the air safety demonstration. The man in the next seat wasn’t much different than the hundred before that had asked the same thing: Late-middle-age, suit and tie, sort of a human Chrysler. One of the “Legions of the Unjazzed,” as Phil Edwards had once called the non-surfing herd....
“What ever happened to Huntington Beach?”
The thought floated into my mind quite against my will. I mean, I never cared much for the place and hadn’t thought about it for nearly fifteen years. And the question would never have entered my mind, I suppose, but for two reasons: First, I was stranded jam-packed in traffic on southern California’s 405 Freeway, right below a road sign announcing the Beach Boulevard exit; and I happened to be reading, between ten-yard gains, favorite snippets from John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.”
(I wrote this essay about 12 years ago for The Surfers’ Journal, focusing on the act and journey of a surfboard shaper building a surfboard for someone that means a great deal to one. Flippy Hoffman, on whom this story is centered, got his hackles up over my original title and we ended up running with The Shaper’s Fugue, which I always hated and felt undermined the whole story from the outset. Since the present surfboard climate is favoring the small builder again, I have decided to re-run the piece here since there is lots of how-to information for the backyard builder….)
The latest in the ever-decreasing trickle of Jurassic Clarks came to me from my friend Doug Lock in Honolulu. He had somehow gained possession of my old nemesis the 113D, in yesteryear a workhorse of a blank with a terrific pedigree that nonetheless was a briar patch of kinks and demilitarized zones if it wasn’t glued up with exactly the right rocker.
My old friend Dr. Mark Renneker was in town last week and, rabid film fanatic that he is, he literally dragged me to go see something called Storm Surfers 3D. Relieved that it didn’t sound the sort of vulgar slasher flick he normally patronizes at midnight in the seedier districts of the San Francisco Bay area, I dutifully followed him to the late show, which in Lihue, Kauai was of course attended by about 3 surfers and 43 chickens that wandered in through the open exit to scarf up the groundball popcorn left by the 7:45 show.
The 65R polyurethane surfboard foam blank made by US Blanks has become my favorite blank of all time. For any shaper, backyarder or production, this has to be the most versatile blank on the market for a wide variety of boards in this size range. The mold plug was shaped by Rusty Preisendorfer a few years back, along with a shorter version, the 60R.
Since the days millennia past when Hawaiian kahuna chipped at koa logs with stone adzes, surfboards have always been made, lovingly it could even be said, by passionate craftsmen, always working alone and often in secret. All the way through the modern surfing era, through redwood then balsa then foam and fiberglass, surfboards have always been a labor of love.