Every once in a while I will get a surfboard blank on which the factory has actually spelled the word ‘Aleutian’ correctly. Not only is it an easily misspelled word, but I doubt very many people know just what the heck ‘Aleutian Juice’ actually means.
So, why do I hang on to a surfboard label that no one can spell and even fewer understand?
Well, first of all I have used the name since I was a boy—–‘Aleutian Juice’ was emblazoned on the wood skateboards I whittled with Surforms in woodshop in junior high and high school.
But there is another, more important reason. You see, back in the Early Years, round about September, surfers would look up toward the North Pacific and contemplate with actual religious awe that vast and mysterious empire of fierce gales and icy, storm-tossed seas. There was no Sean Collins, no surf forecasting, no weather buoys——nothing at all but a few sketchy synoptic charts and the occasional rudimentary satellite photo. When it came to the giant winter surf that rumbled out of the North Pacific there was mostly superstition—–keep in mind that as late as the 1960s quite a few surfers still believed that distant earthquakes generated the big swells that defied contemporary explanation. Keep in mind that even well into the 1980s North Shore impresarios like Bernie Baker had to drive to the Honolulu International Airport to study the synoptic charts like chicken feathers and tea leaves offered by the shamen-like meteorologists there.
Back then the arrival of the giant winter swells was sudden and mysterious and dangerous. But there was a certain type of swell that overshadowed the others; a swell that burst out of the north with tremendous urgency and raw power, and with this intensity and northerly direction every break on the North Shore seemed even spookier for those pioneering big-wave riders. They referred to these sudden rogue swells that often struck like shock troops at dawn as ‘Aleutian Juice,’ because the surf was drenched with the power of the savage winter gales that peaked with shrieking intensity as they raked the Aleutian Islands.
That now long-forgotten term, ‘Aleutian Juice,’ conveys for me that sense of mystery and power that used to exist for us mastodon-hunters in the Early Years long before every rampaging wooly mammoth came to be scanned, tagged, and tracked from birth for every Sunday surfer with a smart-phone.
That fearful and dark netherworld of the storm track along latitude 50 has always been a powerful totem for me, and thus from boyhood on I began adorning my first rustic surfboards with that emblem, first with rudely stenciled pen and ink and then later with commercially printed laminants.
So, decade after decade I decided to stick with the name Aleutian Juice even though it would have been more trendy and profitable to go with ‘DP Designs’ or some other hairdresser type of moniker. But….I always figured that I sign each hand-shaped surfboard—–and I don’t need my name on a board beyond that.
‘Aleutian Juice’ reminds me of the mystery and spiritual awe that I used to feel as a boy contemplating the waking of the Aleutian Low each autumn, and the mystery and spiritual awe I felt peering into the secret and sacred shaping rooms where our high priests carved out the wonderful spears with which we would challenge those powerful swells.