A Potter's Collection

Arguably, Joel sports one of the best collections of my boards that I know of. His quiver influence is no doubt from the "Hynson red fin" era and his search for the sleek, wood rich, triple stringers has carried us along for more than 20 years of fiddling around with curves, foils, and fin set ups.

The boards in his current collection include, from front to back: 7'4" and 7'6" thrusters with Bonzer style double concaves through the fin cluster.
His new 8'10" Styrolite (his current favorite). A 9'8" Cowells Cruzer. Then there's what I consider the cat's meow, a 9'8" pipeliner style board that I shaped for his 50th birthday and have had the pleasure to ride on a flawless big day at Natural Bridges. Followed up by an 8'8" that we used as a baseline for the new 8'10" Styrolite board. And lastly, a 7'10" mini noserider that functions as a cheater longboard in certain conditions.

Like a compass or a good star to guide you, a mentor sheds light along the path. In this case, Joel is my North Star. You see, Joel is one of the areas most talented potters and his gift inspires and brings out the best in my shaping and at times allows me to call myself an artisan.

His simple pearls of wisdom passed along over the years have included: "you must doubt and believe in yourself in the same fashion as you inhale and exhale" and "as you meet failures along the way, accept the ruins, pick up the pieces, place them in the bin, and begin anew with resolve to find what you seek." These and many more illuminations have provided hours of pondering in the shaping room.

One of the reasons for sharing Joel's work is to give you a heads up. If you find yourself passing through Davenport this weekend you might want to check out his Midsummers Eve Pottery Sale. His ocean view studio is stunning and his wares are laid out in style. Plus Joel knows how to throw a party. There will be music, BBQ delights, and good spirits to wet your thirst after a north coast surf session.

For more info and directions to his studio, go to Joel's website at www.DarkHorsePottery.com.


Summer Stoke

Little groms and big groms alike are digging the summer surf.

Eli finds a little bowl to slip into as his buddies wait for the next wedge.

Carly is one of those stoked kids who rides both long and shortboards with confidence and grace. Being a goofy foot in the land of right point breaks, she savors the rare left.

Not afraid to put it up on a rail, Carly puts her 6'0" through it's paces at a recent contest. Rumor has it that she has a good golf game too. Just shows you how this girl gets into the swing of things by being versatile with her equipment.

Walker takes his mom's 6'2" out and slides into a nice one with style. Does he know that just over the jetty and out off the point is Mavericks?

Sam and Dad getting ready to join a "bunch of friends" at Malibu on our last road trip down south.

It's all aloha when you share the summer stoke.


The EPS Triangle

It seems when most folks hear "epoxy" they think only of the molded sandwich constructed boards that are built offshore. It's almost as if the word has been patented by that style of construction. In contrast, my Styrolite boards are custom shaped boards that use epoxy resin and EPS foam. Pretty simple really.

Here is a nice piece that gives some historical perspective along with some insight about how the boards are built.

from this week's Good Times Santa Cruz weekly magazine:

The EPS Triangle
- a transformative tale of three local shapers

by Mike Wallace
16 JULY 2009

Ward Coffey. Photo Credit, Kelly Vaillencourt

Wave-smoothing kelp beds, world class point breaks, and a relatively protected southwest-facing bay together tailor Santa Cruz into a high-performance surfing mecca. Marry nature’s bounty with the ingenuity of three local shapers at the forefront of producing red-hot, light and durable custom boards out of expanded polystyrene (EPS), and you’ve got one potent combination.

Ward Coffey, William “Stretch” Riedel and M10’s Geoff Rashe, and their respective team riders, fiercely compete in the water as well as in their shaping rooms. Still, each had the foresight to cooperate when it came to new materials and shaping technology.

EPS is a material very similar to that found in styrofoam to-go cups offered at any convenience store. Despite its superior buoyancy and lighter weight, early attempts to coax EPS into windsurfing and surfboard production were fraught with bonding and quality-control issues that often led to severe de-lamination and dejection.

As Coffey tells the tale, Greg Loehr of Cocoa Beach, Florida, and John Bradbury of Santa Barbara were the early pioneers who led the charge into EPS in the mid-1980s with stringer-less, two-pound core blanks (foam density per cubic foot). “This process created lighter and stronger boards than the heavier ‘glossed and polished’ polyester boards being built, but the epoxy resins at the time were not user-friendly and not accepted,” Coffey explains. “The industry simply went to Ultralite polyester foam and sanded four-ounce glass jobs, but this also just made for very fragile boards.”

Along came “sandwich” construction and vacuum-formed sail and surfboards constructed of EPS/epoxy (think Randy French at Surftech). Stretch and Coffey used that process to crank out sailboards and fill a growing demand for kiteboards. But the sandwich process was painfully time consuming, costly and complex, despite obvious strength advantages. Coffey was convinced there had to be an easier way.

He ultimately stumbled upon a cheaper and simpler solution by chance. In the mid-’90s, when his supplier mistakenly sent him some denser two-pound foam, rather than the one-pound variety he had been using, Coffey called Loehr, the East Coast shaper who formed Resin Research and eventually ironed out the early cantankerous problems with EPS. He asked if he could use the heavier foam, and was informed, in fact, that that was what he should be using for surfboards.

For years in the late-’90s, Ward Coffey built EPS/epoxy boards for his personal use and select team riders. They were ideal for clean waves up to head high. But it wasn’t until he dialed in the blank density and adopted Greg Loehr’s superior resins that he gained the confidence to break out these “stealth” boards for mainstream surfers. He vividly recalls shaping one for local surfer Cole Barthel in 1997, who as a junior-high schooler went on to claim the California Championship on the board, in a dominant performance that vindicated Ward’s faith in the combination. A photo of the event still hangs on his wall as a symbol of that progression.

Having outsourced the bulk of his glassing to Stretch in 2003 and tiring of the laborious sandwich lamination process, Coffey brought by a couple of his refined two-pound EPS blanks and had to convince Stretch to glass them stoutly in epoxy. “You sure about this, babe?” Stretch responded with skepticism. But team riders Josh Mulcoy, Jason “Ratboy” Collins and Josh Loya were psyched on the snappy feel and neutral buoyancy compared to the corkier sandwich version. Pretty soon everyone had to have one of these light-but-livelier boards.

Compared to sandwich construction, finishing an EPS/epoxy board cut the required man hours down from 26 to a mere six to eight hours. Then in late-2005, Gordon “Grubby” Clark unceremoniously exited the polyester blank business that accounted for nearly 90 percent of surfboard blanks used up to that time.

While everyone else was hoarding Clark blanks in the “AC” (After Clark) period, Coffey soon found himself furiously swapping order tickets over to EPS. He just rolls his eyes now when customers ask if he “does EPS” like Stretch and Rashe, since he was instrumental in convincing them to embrace that change at just the right time.

Stretch came to champion the new process and has become the largest dedicated EPS/epoxy board factory in Northern California. Meanwhile, Geoff Rashe at M10 fully bought into the EPS/epoxy combo as well, while being an early adopter of custom computer design and shaping. Both Stretch and Rashe now almost exclusively produce EPS/epoxy boards.

Moreover, Rashe touts his factory as “zero emissions, emitting little enough V.O.C. (volatile organic compound) that the air pollution control can’t even make us get a permit; and it is not carcinogenic. Our EPS foam is recyclable and its expansion process is way less toxic than polyurethane.”

It’s all further proof that three shaper-innovators have transformed Santa Cruz into a cleaner and leaner “EPS Triangle”—raising the performance bar and sustainability of our wave-rich region.


Something Fishy Is Going On

If you've been to the beach or along the cliff lately you may have noticed there is a lot of sea life activity going on very close. With all the inshore schools of fish and wildlife I thought I'd post this nice little school of wave skating fish.

These summertime blues beaters provide just enough spark to turn even the most meager two foot mush burger into a stoking catch of the day.

Mixed in the pod are varied species of keel fish...

and quad fish...

for where ever your groove runs along the evolution of design.

Shorter and wider is the lure of choice for any frisky feeling wave angler.

Fish on!


New Blue Glue

This is one of my favorite pin ups in the lamination room.

It really was fitting when Resin Research came out with their CE formula. This epoxy resin is the most user friendly stuff out there and has been the go to resin for all my Styrolite boards.

If you've ever been in a lamination room, you would be as befuddled as Mr Knox at how gooey...


and colorful things can get.


Otto's Fun Spot

There is a neat story to this picture. I was working for Bob Pearson at the time when he heard that Jeannie was going to sell off all of Otto's boards at the iconic Fun Spot. Bob offered up our help unloading the place and laying out all the boards for her. She was happy to have the help so the next morning Bob picks me up bright and early and we pull his VW van around the back and wait for Jeanie to show.

This gives Bob time to hatch his plan. The idea was to get in quick and do a once over on the boards, check the logo, then the condition. The dogs went straight out front in pretty rows and the choice picks went around the back by the van. We had to work quick before someone else started to pick through our pile.

The pace was furious and soon my back and arms were killing me. Some of the boards had more resin than foam and weighed a ton. There were boards everywhere, stuffed and crammed in a bunch of different racks and up in the rafters. There were also some boxes of old decals and magazines along with other detritus that was downright scary. There were bikes, mats, even a box of zorries, along with the cage Otto kept his parrot in.

Well, after the fire drill a few other folks got into the mix and helped move the boards out and Jeanie was ready to do business. I think her hope was to get $15 - $25 per board, $10 for the dogs.

It's at this point, when Bob is getting thanked by Jeanie, that he mentions he would like to buy a few of the boards and some of the stickers.

"Sure," she says, "which ones?"

"Over here," says Bob, and brings her over to the pile of 20 or so boards and a small box of stickers. Bob made sure that we didn't wipe any of the boards off, that the logos weren't showing, and that we left them as dusty and dirty as possible.

"Tell you what Jeanie. I'd like to give you 5 bucks a board for this bunch and maybe something for these stickers too."

"Now Bob, what've you done. That's not fair to everyone else." Jeanie had a smile on her face and she kept shaking her head. We did have all the boards laid out nicely. It was the end of the line as far as Otto's goes, and she didn't have a lot of attachment to the boards. But she looked up at Bob and said "You got some good ones in there, don't you?"

At that point I wandered away as they worked things out. Next thing I know Bob is saying "Come on, let's go, it's going to take two loads so you'll have to guard the boards." He had his little shop just down the street, right across from the Boardwalk. It wasn't far but I'll tell you in the time he was gone I had to endure telling a bunch of people "these boards are sold". The wise ones weren't too stoked but all the while Jeanie would look over, shake her head, smile, and give me a wink.

The next week my job was to strip wax (rock hard paraffin) off all the boards and lightly touch up any dings and cracks. Then Bob would compound and polish out the boards and bring them up to the Mission Street store. It's to Bob's credit that he was able to get measurements and templates off the boards. I believe this helped perpetuate the longboard renaissance that was to transpire in the coming decade.

I'll have to admit that in the days when a 5'10" twinfin or a 6'5" single fin was the board of choice, having those nice and shiny old logs in the racks or hanging from the ceiling was very cool. And there were some real gems in there too. My favorite was the 9'10" Coke bottle green Phil Edwards "Honolulu Special". The second I grabbed that board I went "Wow, this board is the real thing." And to this day it still is.

Those boards sure attracted a lot of attention at the shop. It was common to have Reddo, Chuck, Tom, and a cast of others in the shop trading barbs as they checked out the boards and lamenting "$125?! You've got to be joking me. This board was only worth $100 new at best. Plus it's twisted and I know what Bob paid for it. Practically stole it!" On and on it would go. It was a great source of stories and history lessons for me.

Then there was Pete. He would casually stop by every week just to pick up a sticker or two. He was decimating the Gidget, Con, Katin, and other classic stickers until Bob cut him off.

There were a lot of boards at Otto's. Most of them were dogs but I know that there were some other good ones in that place that we didn't get and I hope that there are good stories about those boards too.

When I think back, I don't really dwell on the priceless gems covered by dust, sand, and time. I think about the stories each board could tell of stoke, tragedy, and triumph.

Like the young gremmie who could barely drag the board across the beach with his dad saying, "If you want to ride it you have to carry it."

Or the first time a young girl ever was out on the ocean, paddling out to the kelp beds and the otters, kelp crabs, and schools of sardines flashing silver in the jade green water.

Or the show off know it all taking his board across the shins and being forced to watch from the beach as the kooks frolic and splash and carelessly fall in love with the ocean and waves.

And of all the stories of those who caught their first waves with the cypress lined cliffs to their left and the wharf to their right and nothing but the spray and the rush of the wind in front of them, hurtling towards shore and knowing they wanted to do this for the rest of their life.