Surf culture ain't plastic…yet! Come visit the last bastion of realness.
I recently bought the dude who shapes my surfboards a 12-pack of Mexican lager to drink while we filled out three new custom order forms. Instead of going to a therapist, I’m opting for a less invasive procedure that involves inflating my quiver.
So, I went to see my guy.
It was my second attempt to see him this week actually — the first was postponed due to him attending a T.S.O.L. show, so we rescheduled and doubled down on the Mexican lager.
In the room over from us, resin and tape and foam were being pushed into a pile by a grom behind a broom while Joy Division radio blasted in from the shaping bay and into the “office” — where little stools, floppy discs, a mini fridge, magazines, calculators, scattered papers and an older laptop sit covered in a thin layer of foam dust.
By the end of our sitting we stared at the order forms detailing some of my thoughts for these boards. The forms looked like a highly caffeinated three-year-old doctor filled them out — barely legible scribbles scratched all over the form with no regard for staying between any lines. But he knew exactly what they said.
And so did I.
My shaper (who happens to be Doc Lausch of Surf Prescriptions in Huntington Beach) then assigned each form its own floppy disc for future dimension reference and we clinked our beer bottles together to celebrate the future creations. They will soon add weeks and months and years of joy and meaning to my overly anxious existence.
I have been doing this sort of thing one way or another my whole surf life. I was in middle school when my Dad showed me this shaper/surfer procedure and all the nuances that come with it — and I think it was best celebrated by my comrade C.S. Louis who penned this for What Youth a while back in: 6 Things You Should Never Do To Your Shaper, and the follow up: 8 Things You Should Be Doing For Your Shaper.
There are less and less of these dudes to drink beer with and bring Doritos and Jarritos to these days as surfboards enter whatever this new mainstream/plastic thing that’s happening is and ordering boards can be as simple and lonely as typing your height and weight in on a website, followed by your credit card number and favorite color. This gets you a cold, Swedish design aesthetic surfboard in your favorite color.
But these dudes I speak of are still out there. Making boards. Talking surfing. Saving lives. Guys who practice the artisanal craft of nodding through your vague and ill-informed and desperate descriptions of surfboards and then manage to translate it into what you actually need.
“Ordering boards can be as simple and lonely as typing your height and weight in on a website, followed by your credit card number and favorite color. This gets you a cold, Swedish design aesthetic surfboard in your favorite color.”
The dudes in HB like this are Doc and Tim Stamps — guys who can solve all your high-performance and grovel needs — or there are guys like Jeff Beck at Nine Lights who will take the time to teach you about alternative construction (wood!) and shapes (asymmetricals!) as well as sustainable materials. And regardless of what city or town you live in I hope this brings to mind at least two or three dudes who would love a pack of beer and a bag of Doritos on a Friday afternoon in exchange for a board or three.
There is a chance that I am overly sentimental or romantic about this type of thing. As I am about many silly things in surfing. But my first job at 15 was in a surfboard glass shop. I spent hours after school with glassers in their 20s who got free boards and wore resin high tops and cussed like motherfuckers.
My job there was simple: “Clean up this hell hole and stay out of the way…fuckin’ grom.” Guys named after motorcycle parts wandered the halls in masks and looked grumpy. I’d nicely restack the porno mags on the back of the toilet, take the toxins to the bin, sweep the foam and pubic hairs that didn’t make it into your new board and generally organize the wreck of the toxic workshop as best I could. But what I really did was listen to the dudes talk. Over frequent afternoon beers they talked about surfing, fighting, drinking, traveling, women, and the victories and atrocities that accompany chasing those things.
And nothing sounded better to me. I promptly quit any and all organized sports or clubs in exchange for a friend named Clutch who I’d thrill to run into at any local parking lot or bar.
As we head into a big week for artificial surfing culture and surfing’s Homo Deus moment, I think it’s still important that we remember that not all is faux “Beach Vibes” and being “King of the Weekend” live from the Surf Country Club in the middle of nowhere.
Not everything is plastic yet.
There are still those little things that bring actual meaning to your love of surfing. Ordering custom boards in person is one that never gets old for me. And while I’m definitely curious about this weekend and currently loading the Red Shark with cigarettes, gambling cash, Perrier and hallucinogens for me and Chas’ weekend in Lemoore, so far my favorite part about all the anticipation for the contest has been the Pacific Ocean’s response to it all: two hurricanes and several southern ground swells stacked up and ready to take us ocean-going surfers right through the end of September.
First swell hits Friday. Remember, remember the former contest of September.