Old guard and young guns shape the future
The Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo blew into town this past weekend, an event rarer than the pre-apocalyptic blizzard and Super Moon that dusted our fair Surf City Saturday. For a brief 48 hours, optimism and mutual respect in the surfing community trumped headlines of freakish weather, meltdowns and no-fly zones. And Santa Cruz turned out in droves, with more than 3,000 folks in attendance.
It was a spectacularly dreary weekend that hardly went noticed once inside the doors of the typically vacant Rittenhouse Building on Pacific Avenue, where shaping legend Doug Haut was honored by his peers for his humble exactitude and dedication to constructing world-class surf equipment, having built a simple life that has brought others
and himself much stoke. Cheery surfers and shapers comingled, sharing ideas and experiences like it was an everyday occurrence rather than the special opportunity that event director Scott Bass envisioned when he began organizing the expos.
Nearly a hundred surf-related exhibitors crammed two levels of the building after windmilling across a gauntlet of snow at the backdoor to install their displays of boards, art, fins, foam, wetsuits, resins, board bags, wax, eco-beverages, skateboards and other wonderful surf-related flotsam and jetsam.
Two Plexiglas shaping rooms, one downstairs and one on the second floor, provided the anchors for the show, as visitors checked the progress of their idols over the course of two hours allotted to complete a board. Downstairs, a variety of pinned-out big wave guns were shaped by Stretch, Rawson, Calvani, Minchington and Carper, ranging from a Maverick’s gun to a Hawaiian semi-gun, with proceeds from the sale of the boards donated to the Surfaid Foundation.
As if that illustrious crew wasn’t enough, the second floor hosted a competition among legends, including locals Bob Pearson, Steve Coletta and Ward Coffey, who were also pitted against the likes of Wayne Rich of Santa Barbara and Mark Angell of Kauai. The goal was to most closely replicate a Haut nine-foot, six-inch “Bump” longboard with a step-deck on the nose.
Like wily panthers pacing back and forth in transparent cages, there was nowhere for the shapers to hide, each revealing their trademark tools and tricks married with more than a century of skill and experience between them.
In the end, it was Coffey who took the $1,000 prize. A former Pearson employee, he made a moving and humble tribute to the shaping masters who joined him onstage as his peers.
“That was really heavy on so many levels and the main thing was to be able to publicly thank the shapers who had such a big influence on my career in a way that I could never do individually,” Coffey says. “I am over the moon at this point. I had competed before under pressure and really did my homework this time, spending 45 minutes to take great measurements, line up all my tools and favorite planer.”
The winning shaper reveals, “After nailing the bottom, I left a half-hour to do the bump/step-deck, which was revealed in an ‘Ah ha!’ moment what Haut was after before time ran out.”
Also paying tribute to their mentors was the next generation of hot shaping talent from Santa Cruz, many of whom were making their first public debuts at the expo. Conjuring up an image of spring regeneration was “The Meadow” collective, a fresh alliance of Source, GP and CityFog lines by Nick Palandrani (who won “Best of Show” for his booth) and C.J. Nelson. Their creative display of glossy collector-quality longboards with designer hues, chessboard stringers and original outlines were truly exceptional. It will be a fun ride anticipating what these folks have in store in the years to come. Like shapers to the surf industry, a drummer at The Meadow after-party reportedly kept the beat going long after the power went out.
Travis Reynolds also embodied a more artistic aesthetic, having been a team rider for Michel Junod and matriculating to shaping boards under his own label and as a talented ghost shaper for Blackstar Surfboards, which has been snatched out of the ashes of M10. A stint in Hawaii sparked an interest in shaping shortboards and an art school background has spawned an inspired line of original bump-wing modern fishes. Reynolds says his wholly handmade work is drawn from “a longboard influence to be smoother-riding boards that are simple, functional and forgiving, nothing too techie.”
Another of the next generation of craftsmen present was Buck Noe, who was raised in the Haut shaping rooms, where both of his parents Rick and Laura met in 1976. Foam and resin are quite literally in his DNA. “Mom was glossing boards, trying to keep the resin off her belly while I was in utero,” he says.
As a rambunctious youth, Noe happily recalls being “taped up in bubble wrap and stuffed into a box by the staff baby sitter-tormentors,” then timed to see how long it would take him to escape. He considers Haut like an uncle and shaped a couple retro guns from his folks’ generation to honor them. For the red gun, he says, “I was kind of thinking Dick Brewer for the front and the bottom half of the board is like Stretch’s high performance quad fin design—so it’s got a really thin foiled tail for sensitivity and a fuller-lower entry in the nose for ultimate paddling.”
Wild weather and planetary alignments aside, Santa Cruz warmly welcomed Sacred Craft, which reveled in the tactics of industry veterans while revealing what’s on the horizon. And, hopefully, it ensured that the next expo won’t be as rare as a Super Moon.
Photos by Tyler Ladinsky: 1. Ward Coffey 2. Travis Reynolds 3. Ward Coffey 4. Dave Aumentado talking Stretch Boards