Tuesday, October 13, 2009

in correspondence...

I was into kneeboarding then and this was the last stand-up board I made for myself. It's inspired by what Bunker Spreckles was riding at the time. The thickest point was the tail over the fin. Hard sharp rails all the way around. Shaped-in foot well. I remember riding it at the big jetty, but I think it's one I threw away in the end.

Hi Andy,

It's Sunday morning here in Henderson, Nevada, and I'm hanging out,
drinking coffee and catching up on some reading I wanted to do. I
finally read your interview with Josh Hall.

Really a wonderful, thoughtful piece. The "why" you are exploring
("The emergence of young hand shapers around the world begs the
question, “why?” ") is really a profound question, not easily
explained, and speaks of something in the soul of a small minority of
human beings. This "something" manifests in small segments of almost
all of man's endeavors, such as (just to name a few I've been
involved in) building surfboards and boats and airplanes, making
pictures (photography, drawing, painting), books (hand-made and
manufactured). This "something" is the need--NEED--to make stuff with
our hands according to some inner vision. Only a small minority of
people have this need, so there are only a few people making hand-
shaped surfboards, wooden boats, ultralight aircraft, art
photography, personal drawings and paintings, hand-made books and
books manufactured with the finest materials, typography and design.

This need, of course, has always existed, (why else would our
prehistoric ancestors make cooking vessels beautiful when a simple
functional clay pot would do just as well, and could be produced
faster and cheaper.) There are not many people who appreciate, and
will pay more for, these hand-made treasures. So those who NEED to
make these objects have always had difficulty supporting themselves
by selling these things.

So why make 'em? These artists and craftsmen just have to. In the
interview, Josh touches on all this stuff, except his NEED to make
hand-shaped surfboards. I bet he really doesn't have a choice. He
didn't decide between shaping by hand or with the aid of computers
and machines. He had to decide between shaping his way or going into
some other line of work.

All this thinking has sent me back to 1969 in Ocean Beach. Hey, I
think there's a story to tell before all of us who were there are
gone. That period is the beginning of the "backyard" shortboard
designer/builder phenomena and the end of the surfboard factory
domination. It was a time when anyone could, and did, shape a
surfboard, glass it and go out and ride it.

Don't have much money? Fine, make your surfboards yourself. Never
shaped a board before? No problem. Rent or borrow some tools. Don't
have a garage? So, hang some sheets up in your backyard and start
shaving on your blank (and there's always the kitchen to use for
glassing--not a room that gets much use anyway). Don't know how to
get started? Easy, cut your old longboard in half or drive up to
Mitch's Surf Shop in La Jolla and Mitch would sell you everything you
needed for very little money (did Mitch ever go home?). Want to go
into business doing this? Don't need no stinkin' business license,
surf shop or factory; just find an unused garage to rent and promote
your boards word-of-mouth out in the water.

The cool thing then was, we were at the beginning of the shortboard
era, and we were all just groping and feeling our way into it. There
was no past to refer to, only the future to discover. In San Diego,
an inexperienced shaper was totally accepted. There was so much
experimentation going on with board design, it didn't matter if you
didn't know what you were doing, and who could tell from the finished
board anyway? What mattered was that a shaped board was pleasing to
the eye--looked hydrodynamic--and was something new. If the board
sort of worked, you could go on from there with your next board. If
it didn't work, just throw it away. Great times, they were!

Cher and I have pictures and Super 8 footage of all this (I'm going
to copy her this e-mail). She has some of these old photos posted on

I enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up.



pranaglider said...

I hope Tom is your next interview piece in Drift. Thanks for sharing!

Steve and Cher Pendo said...

Thanks for posting. . .