Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Eggs are fun to shape.

They're fun to ride, too--maximum glide and ripability!

This above seven footer is for a top secret client.
The below six-and-a-halfer is from my Private Reserve. I call the lovely resin tint by Fatty 'blood,' which sounds a lot more badass than, 'merlot.'

What's that, you ask? Are those new 101 Fin Co. bamboo quad fins?

Hell yes!
ps--Happy New Year

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Would Velzy Do?

A few weeks ago BroDerek called about his new board, the twin-finned Pit Boss.
"When's that board going to be ready?" he asked.
"Picked it up last week," I said. "I'm looking at it right now."
"Well, there's no rush on it," he said. "You can tell Leslie to take her time."
"It's ready."
"Slide that baby right down to the bottom rack," he said. "Have her glass up some more urgent orders."
"I'm holding it," I said. "It's glassed, cured, and ready to ride."
"I'm a patient man," he continued. "In fact, my Christmas gift to you is my patience and selflessness. Glass up a whole batch without worrying about mine!"
I knew something was up. Turns out BroDerek was heading to Brazil for a few weeks. He also mentioned Fiji. Then something about British Columbia. And Bali.
"Mind holding onto the Boss for a little while?" he asked. "Definitely until June. Early fall at the latest."
Board storage isn't a problem at my house.
Curiosity is, however, and there's only so long a man can look at a surfboard without giving into temptation.

The Pit Boss resided upstairs, out of sight, for over a month. Then last week the buoys showed a crisp shoulder high swell with light offshores in the morning. A little sandbar peak has been throwing out fun ones lately, which got me thinking about how a hi-pro twin fin might behave...
In my own defense, I engaged in a heated internal debate. It's just not right to take the first wave on another surfer's new stick. My credibility as a shaper would be in question, my business ethic. Plus, BroDerek's not small, and could definitely kick my ass.
But the swell. And the offshores. And the fun sandbar peak. It was the first day of Chanukkah and I've been pretty good this year...

(note incriminating wax humps on 'unridden' surfboard)
Rode like a champ. The glide is tremendous--feels finless, then the twins engage on the bottom turn, and it's off to the races. Stoked, I went straight to my shop, tweaked the template a bit, then carved one out for myself.

This one has a little more meat than I'm used to at 6'10 and 2.75 thick (I've had a, um, few glasses of Sonoma County's finest Zinfandel this holiday season--drink local!)Red cedar stringer for snap and style.

A Campbell Bros. style five-fin design with quadruple concaves that's built to handle some NorCal winter juice!
As for the twinnie, my curiosity is sated and it's back in storage, to reappear this spring when the weather is just perfect for scraping wax off a board, running a buffer over it, and presenting it to its rightful owner. Brand spankin' new!
Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I was in a San Jose, Costa Rica bookstore one May afternoon in 1994 when the rainy season began. The light turned a dull brass color and people began to whisper in muffled, panicky tones. An elderly woman latched onto my arm, gasped, and pointed outside to where a small crowd had gathered under the store's awning. They squinted up at the sky.
A moment later thunder cracked. Rain pounded the corrugated tin roof. A child cried out.
The lady attached to me squeezed her eyes shut and began chanting the Lord's Prayer. A father at the register wrapped his arms around his two children and drew them close, eyes darting in protective fear. Two young girls in school uniforms screamed in delight and ran into the street, dodging cars that swerved around them in drunken confusion.
This ritual, in infinite variation, repeated itself almost every day for the next six months. Every day the nation's capital witnessed the gathering clouds, the falling temperatures, the water. And every day people seemed amazed that this happened. They were caught without umbrellas or appropriate footwear. They held newspapers over their heads, shrieked as they jumped over puddles, looked at each other with expressions that said, "Can you believe this?"
I could. I checked the weather report, read the guidebook chapter titled The Rainy Season which highlighted the daily monsoonal pattern.
I questioned the sanity of an entire nation.
Then, on about the third straight week of rain, I understood.

To willfully choose surprise over mathematical certainty is a liberating act. To deny the powers of calculation, the smug forecasts of coiffed weathermen and women, feels damn good. It removes our faith from computer-based infrastructure, and places it back in the hands of what California poet Robinson Jeffers calls The wild God of the world.

I think of this day at the Costa Rican bookstore every fall when the first swell of consequence hits our coast. The sandbars light up, whitewater stretches to the horizon, and although every guy in the parking lot with a knit cap and a Thermos of coffee has been up tracking the swell on the buoys for half the night, then half the pre-dawn morning, there's still a sense of surprise in the air. Guys looking at each other and shaking their heads. "Who would have thought?" seems to be the excited question on everyone's mind. The wild God of the world had raised a hand overnight, and we could only marvel at his power.
And like the excited Ticos outside the bookstore, many of us are unprepared for the conditions. We question our equipment, damn ourselves for not ordering something with a little more foam back in September...

But there's always someone more prepared than the rest of us.
My buddy Jason predicted this day months ago, ordered a board in August, waxed it last night.
It's a 6'10 for when things heat up. I tried to convince him to go bigger--Jason's shoulders are so broad that he has to walk up most staircases sideways.
"Nope," he said. "6'10s my magic number. Every good wave I've ever had has been on a 6'10."
I recommended a 7'0, and we settled on a 6'10.125. That's as far as he wanted to push this thing.
And here it is--this guy's going to be paddling out on clean, overhead days at the middle of The Beach this winter as I stand around in the parking lot, newspaper on my head, wondering where all this rain is coming from...

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Gold Member

Fatty was spotted outside her natural habitat (glassing room, sanding room, couch) the other day—a cause for celebration.
Reasons she seldom leaves the Fattyshack are numerous. They include nurturing chickens, eggs, carnivorous plants, crickets, lizards, snakes, plants, cats, dogs, and Bob.
Then there’s the business of her business—returning calls from pain-in-the-ass shapers, installing fin boxes, laminating, hotcoating, pinlining, sanding, glossing, more sanding, and polishing, organizing pickup and delivery, cracking beers…
Somewhere in there she sneaks in water, a little pot pie, maybe some season two of Dexter.
Understandable she rarely leaves, so understandable the cause for celebration when she did last week.
On this particular Big Trip to Town, Fatty picked up an ailing lizard from the vet, then came over with some delicious Fattyshack-grown organic eggs. She also dropped off a freshly glassed mini-Simmons with accompanying Chanukkah-inspired treats. My zadie would approve!

Free bag of Chanukkah gelt with each Gold Member!

Wine was opened. Peppers were stuffed. Conversation arose. Boards were discussed. Shapers heralded. The economy cursed. Delicious Costello cheese was munched, appreciated, reduced to delicious crumbs (which were then chomped by a sneaky hound mutt).
Had our President-elect solved our woes? Not quite yet, but we felt it was close. Just a little bit more spit and shoeshine, maybe a quick shot of WD-40.
All was well.
When Fatty split the next morning, she brought with her some freshly-shaped blanks, a highly medicated bearded iguana, and two old-as-hell longboards she had unearthed from beneath my deck. Her purpose?
“Fix em up. Give em away.”
I love this lady.
Did I mention she dropped off the mini-Simmons just in time for our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to San Onofre?

If this board looks stringerless, it is because it has no stringer

Profile shot highlights S deck, rocker, and shiny wood floors

If you see a posse of Tecated stokers sporting lovely Fatty Fiberglass-ed boards, stop by and say hey. Have some beach-cooked turkey, a slice of pie, a beverage, and an earful of inappropriate language from the Brothers Baird.
And take this baby for a spin.

ps: check out Sonoma Coast Surf Shop's newly launched website here. Cool folks who are stoked to be a part of the Northcoast surf scene!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Old School Hi-Pro

Sally is a woman who knows what she wants. She lives with four huge dogs, makes her own sausage, and has little patience for smalltalk. I suspect she has roots in a Rocky Mountain state. Maybe even Alaska.
A few weeks ago she called to order a board.
"I want a log," she barked into the phone. "Ten feet long and wide as hell."
When asked about her most frequented surf spots, she ticked off a list that would make our most hardened, heavily-bearded northcoast hellmen pucker in fear. Real ugly stuff--top to bottom suckout dredgers, sharky rock pits, thick horror shows with freakish appendages.
"A log?" I asked.
"Yeah," she replied. "And make it old school. Rolled bottom, single fin, heavy as a mofo."
"You might have some problems carrying a really wide board," I offered.
"What do you care?"

The information-gathering process was no less thorny. When I inquired as to her weight, she replied, "Somewhere between zero and a freaking million." When I asked her what she wanted the board to do, she replied, "Everything I can't, I'm forty two years old for God's sake."
I was smitten.
Complex women have always held me in thrall. Their powers of vexation seem unlimited, their motivations hazy. Psychologists might speculate that these women are embodiments of my self critical nature. That I seek them out to deflate an ever-swelling ego. That I attempt to recreate a dynamic with my mother, a complex woman with a penchant for making delicious kugels.
I took on the project--what else could I do?

As is my custom, I emailed her a few snaps of the freshly-shaped board. She replied a week later (message sent at 3:23am) with the following message, perfect in its litigious ambiguity:
You bastard.
The postscript read: get a haircut.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

War Pony Chronicles

I have a policy when it comes to taking orders from guys who've been drinking: give them forty-eight hours, then call them back.
This particular decree was ratified a few years ago while dropping off boards at the Fattyshack. Local ripper Donnie was picking up a ding repair and, as can happen at the Fattyshack, beers were opened.
When local rippers see fresh foam on the glassing racks, their worldview narrows. They find themselves suddenly able to focus on three things only:
1. Touching the surfboard.
2. Ordering a surfboard just like it, only, 'with a few small changes.'
3. Drinking beer.
I blame not these men, attributing their response to the complex biology of manhood--desire, acquisition, celebration.
Donnie ordered a new board and, to celebrate, cracked a fresh Tecate, feeling like a new man. The problem was that that new man also wanted to order a board, then crack a fresh Tecate to celebrate.
Each new beer produced a new man, and each new man needed his own board.
When the evening was done, Fatty had to direct me to her guest bedroom. I had tried to match Donnie's beer-per-board revelry, failing somewhere between the balsa pipeliner and buckshot-weighted tow-in board.
My pockets were stuffed with new new order cards featuring everything from the old standards (twin and quad fin fish), to the experimental (finless wooden kelp-destroyer), to the downright perverse (an outer-bar gun whose length exceeded that of my shaping room).
Fats was in her shop the next morning when I woke, but she left a strong pot of coffee on for me. She's an amazing woman. When I found her later she pushed Donnie's phone number at me.
"Call him tomorrow," she said, smiling. "When he's feeling better."
Sure enough, when I called Donnie the next day it was clear that the forty-eight hours of sobriety had given him some time to reflect. His board order, at one moment numbering more than Ted Stevens' felony convictions, had been reduced to a mere two.
"I probably don't need the sixteen foot paddleboard just yet," he said sheepishly.

So, true to policy, I had to call Anton back forty-eight hours after he ordered his new War Pony (he had a few in him when he rang me up for the order).
Turns out he was still riding shotgun on the stoke wagon, using the intervening hours to decide on a glass schedule and color scheme.

The War Pony is a high performance fish design. It borrows liberally from the contemporary thruster in rocker and foil, but retains a lot of fish volume. The result is speed, maneuverability, and glide.

This one's a quad, for maximum ripability.

I like those edges crisp!
Anyway, do yourself and those around you a favor this election season: have a glass of your local brew of choice (currently, mine is a 2005 McKenzie Pinot Noir), call your local shaper, and participate in a time-honored tradition that may not be with us for too much longer. Order up a custom board, support your local economy, and really stick it to the terrorists.
Just don't be surprised if the guy calls you back in forty-eight hours.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Child is the Father of the Man

A few years ago, Conrad moved from North of the Bridge to Really North of the Bridge.
He brought with him a hound dog, a tractor, and his father's 1973 fluted-wing single fin. It was his father's first custom order, and had enlightened him to the wonders of glide.

Three decades later, when Conrad's dad noted that his son was partial to chippy tri-fins, he intervened. It is every parent's responsibility to educate their offspring, so he handed over his prized board and a challenge:
Learn to feel the wave.
Conrad took his pop's fluted-wing single fin and did just that. He put the old blue board through its paces in progressively colder, larger waves. It glided, it swooped, it enlightened him to the wonders of trim.
And he found that not only could he feel the wave, but if he listened closely, he could hear it, too.
Unfortunately, lately he's been hearing a lot of wheezing coming from the blue board, some clicking coming from under the hood, a little squeakiness from the wheel area.
Retirement was imminent.

Conrad wanted another single fin, but with some modern refinements. Because the original shaper hadn't signed the board or placed logos on it, and because Conrad's father couldn't remember the name of the shaper other than it may have had an O in it, actually maybe a P now that he thought about it, the job landed squarely on my shoulders.
The board got stretched from 7'2 to 7'8 to maximize glide and trim possibilities.

Although the board received a thoroughly modern foil, the beak nose was preserved for the bitchin' factor.

The tail was thinned considerably, but the fluted wings stayed put. Why mess with a good thing?

The Original blue, 1973, fluted-wing, rounded pintail trim master about to be put to pasture. Two generations of stoked surfers can't be wrong.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Spoony Love

In the 1940s, the Pacific Ocean, the United States Military, and Bob Simmons aligned for a few brief moments.

The collision was the equivalent of a surfboard design Big Bang—an expanded hydrodynamic universe whose effects are still being felt, scrutinized, and elaborated upon today.
Bob Simmons’ influence on surfboard design is so vast, so cosmic, that virtually every surfboard shaped in the last sixty years contains within it, somewhere, a molecule or two of Simmons DNA. If you’ve ridden a board with rocker, convexes, concaves, a tuned-in tail shape, round rails, a precise foil, domed deck, or sandwich construction, you’ve bumped uglies with the master.
His spoon design, which featured a scooped nose, parallel rails, concave/convex bottom, and wide tailblock with a single low-aspect fin on each rail, has enjoyed considerable attention these last few years.

Two Girls, Two Spoons

Recent tributes include Greg Noll’s incredible balsa Simmons Spoon reproductions and The Swift Movement’s mini-Simmons series, including shrunken-down Simmons spoons in various sizes, some featuring impossibly wide swallow tails.
The boards were revived, in part, by fish enthusiast/Hydrodynamica stoker Richard Kenvin (“RK” to those who know him so, clearly, “Richard Kenvin” to me), shaped by Joe Bauguess for The Swift Movement, and researched by John Elwell, a San Diego surf pioneer, Simmons biographer, surf historian, 1950s North County lifeguard, and witness to Simmons drowning death in 1954. Their flagship design, a scaled down styro version of Elwell’s original 9 foot, twin-finned balsa, was dubbed ‘Casper.’
It is rumored to rip.
I am a man—weak, suggestible, easily influenced by curvy things. When I first saw a picture of Kenvin’s Casper, I was smitten.
I was also thrown off—it didn’t look right, and like all forms contrary to expectation (extra toes, extra nipples), I was drawn to it. Because North of the Bridge is somewhat of a design-trend hinterland, I took to the phones, talked to some unsuspecting folks, chased down rumors that a nearby shop actually had one on the rack.
I got nada, or, as my people would say, bupkis.

Necessity breeds surfboards, so I got to work shaping my own based on rumor, innuendo, extrapolation, the occasional blurry online photo or video grab, and a few lengthy consultations with my friend, The Mendocino Brewing Company’s Red Tail Ale.
My partner, a grumpy old stringerless Walker blank, gladly swapped out its original nebulous form for the Simmons-inspired one.

It was a joy to shape, to think carefully about every step, every planer pass, each curve and flat.

And to keep in mind that Simmons contemplated all the same choices--except that he had no reference points for his ideas. He turned curves where there had previously been flats. He thinned tails that had previously been thick. Added a fin where before there had always been just the flat bottom of a wooden surfboard.
During the shaping session, I felt I was standing on the shoulders of a giant. Until I realized it was Simmons who could see farthest, standing on the carcasses of the surfboards of his era, staring down the future, challenging it to go on without him.

So far, it hasn't.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Heat is On

Did I mention my shop gets hot?

The official start to fall brought scorching temps to the North Bay. Took a break this afternoon, found a shady nook in the backyard, and set about foiling some fins.

Cold Tecates were involved.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Man of Many Faces

Derek is a man with many names: D-Dog, D-Day, Double D, WonDerek Woman, Bro Derek, Dericky Martin or, if you're over 30, Dericky Schroeder.
He recently commissioned a "shaper's choice" board, which gave me pause--what do you build for the guy who owns property at J-Bay, paddle-battles PWCs in triple overhead French beachbreak, founded an eco-surf startup, has a ponytail, and hikes into mysto Mexican heavers, living off of bugs and his own hair clippings for weeks on end?
Answer: Hi-Pro twin finner.

6'8", full template, pulled in nose and relaxed rocker for glide and snap.
Double wing pintail=maximum fun in the pocket.

Secret surprise in the back!

Home-made marine ply twinnies with a modified MR template.

Can't tell you about the glass job, as I'm turning it over to Fatty as a "glasser's choice," but I can tell you this: I like surfboards.
And watermelon after Labor Day!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Five Fingers of Fun

It's a real pleasure working with guys like E from Up North. Open-minded, willing to put up with my more, um, obsessive board-building tendencies, and stoked out of his mind.
He's also got a bitchin' Northcoast blog here that highlights stoke, fog, and his impressive photography skills.

This Campbell Brothers inspired egg measures in at 6 1/2ish and features hand-foiled bamboo blades by 101 Fin Company's Marlin Bacon--just the right combination of snap and soul.

Glassing (including fins, opaque bottom wrap and pinline) by Leslie Anderson, who once got drunk and told me she had a crush on Mitt Romney.

This board is designed as an all 'rounder, but I predict that on the morning the first long-period NW of the season starts to show on the buoys, this little egg is going to creep into bed with E and begin to whisper...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The War Pony

Leslie called last week and told me to get my tucchus up to the Fattyshack.
"You got a bunch of boards ready and they need to get off my racks," she said. "Including the War Pony."
I had no idea what the hell the War Pony was, but Fatty works with some pretty gnarly chemicals and sometimes forgets her mask, so I let things slide.
The next day found me at the 'shack, loading boards into the minivan. Leslie disappeared, and a moment later strange sounds began to emerge from her shop, quietly at first--mouth harp, whistling, the grunting of several men, and...pan flute?
The music swelled and, right on cue, Leslie emerged with a board held over her head like some giant beast she had killed in the forest and was now bringing back to the village to save us from a long-endured hunger.
(Press 'play' to help recreate scene)

A melody formed, led first by twangy guitar, but soon overtaken by voice and strings.
Suddenly, I knew: the swelling score, the mix of instrumentation that made me want to grunt commands to a nervous looking woman--this could only be Morricone, maestro of the American West, creator of the sounds that launched Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood into Spaghettidom!
Leslie, the War Pony thrust aloft, freshly polished gloss coat glinting in the sun, marched toward me in perfect time with the snare drum.
The music reached a crescendo.
I felt joyous, triumphant, a little thirsty. I wanted to get in a gunfight, squint, chew on a thin stogie, command a child to fetch things for me, entrusting them with my most valuable belongings for I had learned to trust no adults.
Then, the music stopped.
"The War Pony," Leslie said, holding the board out for my inspection. It was a high performance fish I had dropped off a few weeks ago.
"Why War Pony?" I asked.
"Why not?" she asked, shrugging. Then added, "You staying for a beer?"

So the War Pony left its stable and awaited pickup as an official Bedroomer (some boards you just can't leave in the shop), as pictured below.

However, one evening the usually understanding and magnanimous Mrs. HHG caught me staring at a little too long at the War Pony, so back into the shop the War Pony went.

p.s.--that purple carpet was here when we moved in.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Good to be back in our (not so!) chilly waters after spending an unplanned extra day watching lightning storms descend upon JFK. I've always wondered what it's like to entertain a 1.5 year old in an airport for 18 hours, and now I know. It kind of sucks.

Cool inland temps lately have created smooth coastal conditions.

Almost felt warm enough to ditch the hood!