"Wow, what a crafty lil' devil I am."
I can barely begin writing this because I’m so full of pungent rage at what can only be called an absolute eye assault: The surfboard as a sign. We are forced to deal with them everywhere now. Who did the first one? What motivated them? To align their business with “surf”? And, are surfboard signs a thing all over the world by now? Is every little “surf” city plastered with these lame attempts at being “cool” or “hip” to surf culture, while trying to sell me cheesy garlic fries?
A common one I see is the vertical-on-a-stand “open” sign, though it is sometimes horizontal and hanging from an eave. The word “open” never fits right in a surfboard shape, the kerning will generally be beyond ugly, and the lettering is usually some awful white vinyl Helvetica stick-on garbage, which only reveals the true tacky cheap-skate nature of the DIY maker. And this “maker”, who drilled the holes through the glass and into the foam for the hooks and screws to attach it? How did he or she feel when they did that?
Did they wince at the anthropomorphic pain of stabbing into the flesh of this old discarded pensioner surfboard?
Probably not, because this person was not a surfer and didn’t even know what the fuck they were doing. In fact, they had a stupid self satisfied grin on their face, as they happily thought to themselves “Wow, what a crafty lil’ devil I am.”
There are so many dozens of horrid examples just in my little neck of the woods. There’s one place with an old pop-out Dextra longboard that’s been turned into a menu with dozens of items listed, but the most disgusting part is that they have attempted to change prices and menu items so many times, that there is layer upon layer of home made corrections, like so much dirty dripping caked on surf wax. Only it’s not surf wax, and the board knows it and so do we, and it’s just plain wrong.
Sadly, many surf shops practice this faux sign surfboard mistake, and really, in their case, it should be recognized as truly deplorable. Cannibalism actually. One of the worst offenders I’ve had the displeasure to see, and one that I think is borderline illegal for copyright infringement, is at this half-assed fake-ish surf shop (the kind with maybe two boards, but millions of sandals, and also sand shovels and plastic beach toys), wherein the owner has constructed a sign using a surfboard from a different shop across town! And he has plastered his own shop’s name across the deck, not even attempting to hide the original logo.
There’s another one I pass occasionally, a sign up over a gate for this establishment; I’ve passed it a hundred times, thinking “that’s kind of a sweet shape”. A couple weeks ago, I stopped, and walked over to have a closer look. The deck of the board is plastered with many, many coats of ugly house paint, probably from the sale pile of mis-matched colors at the local hardware store, but, yes, the outline was indeed pretty nice.
I couldn’t see any lams though, so I climbed around the back to have a look at the bottom, and I my heart jumped and then sunk with silent despair. It was a clear, triple stringer Yater speed shape. By Rennie himself (it had a “Y” along the stringer), 7′ 8″, soft rails, and a little baby squash tail. A “low-tide runner”, as they say. How many Rincon walls did it slide in it’s life? Dozens? Hundreds? And now it’s a damned sign.
With lag bolts all the way through it, hung up by some rusty bailing wire.
Made me so sad, people. Can you imagine?, one of the true icons of our sport, running his own hands down the length of those rails with some fine dragon-paper, maybe using a little Stanley micro-plane to bring those stringers down to the foam. An honest to goodness Master Craftsmen, put his love into that thing to make it beautiful, but maybe more importantly, to make it fricken rip for it’s prospective owner. I’ll tell you what, if you were stranded on a desert island, and the only board you could have for the rest of your life was that 7′ 8″ Yater, you’d be as happy as a clam my friend.
Just think about it, even if you’ve never picked up a Yater in person before, you know what it would feel like under your arm. It’s so light, it’s a sleek spear, it’s perfect, and it’s ready to propel you into down-the-line pleasure. But instead, it’s like a tortured old ghost right now, forced to occupy the same un-appreciated and un-loved spot permanently tethered to the earth.
It’s out of place.
It wants to go home.
Now, don’t even get me started on the surfboard as garden decoration or letterbox holder, I’ll start crying for sure.
Someday in the distant post-apocalyptic future, will a budding entrepreneur drag the Duke’s ‘Olo out of the wreckage of the Bishop museum and scrawl “Wanda’s Organic Falafel Shak” on it? No people, not if we can help it and I guess a public service announcement may be a start: To all you “citizens” out here: stop using the sacred craft of our sport as your tawdry attempt at signage… leave it be, and let our old sticks have the dignity they’ve earned.
And if you don’t heed our fair warning, look out, ’cause we’re coming’ for our boards.