shaper, portrait

Son Of Cobra

Paul with a Russ Short 3, shaped by Malcolm Campbell

Paul with a Russ Short 3, shaped by Malcolm Campbell

The factory that produces ...Lost surfboards in San Clemente, California is not what you might imagine. Three unassuming, blockish buildings house an operation that churns out thousands upon thousands of precision-made surfboards each year. 

Behind one building there is a small backyard, mostly taken up by an inflatable pool, swirling with liquid residue from paint experiments. The rest of the yard is full of junk, broken timber and an old Oakley sunglasses cabinet. Even rodents steer clear. A squirrel is once rumoured to have fallen into a bucket of acetone, never to be seen again.

At the end of one building there is a two-rack shaping room where Paul Lefevre, or Son of Cobra as he’s known, works on ...Lost’s special orders. 

Paul came to glassing through a combination of luck, mistake and sheer audacity - depends who you ask. He grew up in France and took a stab at shaping his first board aged 14. He went on to university in France to study graphic design. At weekends, he would visit shaper Axel Lorentz in Bidart to help out with board decoration. After he graduated, Paul took a year to travel across Australia.  

After some time traveling, Paul found himself in need of cash and approached Sean Wilde (Wilde Shapes) in New South Wales. As a wind-surfer, surfer and occasional shaper, Paul had only knocked together a total of less than 20 boards in his life. “Christmas time there is super busy for shapers,” Paul explained, ”so they were looking for extra help. I told them I was a shaper and glasser. They asked how many I could do a day and I replied two, maybe three. They said 8 was the minimum... But I got the job.”

Over the years that followed, Paul worked for Dale Chapman and Peter White (Classic Malibu) and in France’s Basque country at the Pukas Surf Factory, one of the biggest in Europe and the license holder for Matt Biolos’ ...Lost brand. Eventually Matt saw some of Paul’s work and invited him to come to California. Five years later, after a stint at UWL Surfboards, he accepted the offer. 

When we talked to him, it sounded like glassing, now his area of deep expertise, came to him rather than the other way around. “Yes, and I’ve started to regret it,” Paul said. “I see all these random guys putting out boards and no one is paying attention to quality. You can see there is nothing behind it besides a cool photo.” He continued, ”I’ve been shaping as long as I’ve been glassing but never advertised it. I find it sort of lame. Glassing is more underground but it’s incredibly important.” A good glasser can make the reputation of a shaper, Paul explained. “A number of shaper made their name thanks of the quality of the glassing.”

Paul with a Russ Short 3, shaped by Malcolm Campbell

Paul with a Russ Short 3, shaped by Malcolm Campbell

Paul’s passion for craftsmanship runs deep. He has mastered his art and, in an industry stale with recycled ideas, his innovation and creativity shines. Yet, in a spirit of artistic dejection, he argues that he cannot achieve fulfillment through board building anymore. “It is frustrating to see how the handmade, craftsmanship movement has become another marketing tool for large companies, overshadowing people who’ve dedicated their lives to it,” he explained.

Browsing Paul’s work, Julien came across this Malcom Campbell Bonzer and couldn’t resist. Paul’s ties to the Campbell brothers go back to his days at UWL. “I find it hard to believe people spend that much on a Hayden Shape when you can afford a board from shapers like Malcolm Campbell. He’s the most humble guy and super discreet. This board has a more pronounced double concave, closer to the ones he made in the 70’s. The fins are set at an 18º inclination, and there is a beak in the diamond tail. For the glassing, I used white tinted resin with dried flakes of black resin mixed in.” 

As you can imagine, the flakes create a lot of extra sanding work when the resin finally cures. But just look at the thing!

Word is though, while living in France he claimed he was happier in Australia… such is the permanent dissatisfaction of a Frenchman. And a true master. 

portrait, feature

Matt Clark - Four Frames - Part II

Following on from Part I earlier this week, here's the second installment of four photos from Long Island Photographer Matt Clark. 

Jesse Joeckel - Greenbush, Indonesia

Jesse Joeckel - Greenbush, Indonesia

Matt was shooting at a shallow, left-breaking reef in Indonesia when, by chance, he turned to look back at the beach, risking a closeout on the head. Jesse kicked out of a wave at the same moment. “I shot the sequence,” Matt explained, “and when I dumped the memory cards to my hard drive on the boat, I saw one that just captured this weightlessness, balance and tranquility that seemed special.”

When Matt returned home to New York and edited the images, he found the image more powerful when it was rotated through 180 degrees. “Finding this being, suspended in time looked beautiful to me,” Matt told us. “Often I won't find the most beautiful moment until months and months later when revisiting my work. I spend a lot of time looking for these moments and editing them over and over again until I feel satisfied.”

1998 - Long Beach, NY - Tom Zaffuto paddling out

1998 - Long Beach, NY - Tom Zaffuto paddling out

Aged 14, Matt took this photo of his friend Tom paddling out to bodyboard Long Beach. The photo was taken with a disposable waterproof camera. He submitted the photo to Bodyboarding Magazine and they ran it in the reader photos section. “I felt a duty to represent the place I was born and raised and felt as if I needed to prove to the world that you can be a surfer/photographer from New York,” Matt told us. “Nearly 20 years later and I'm still here doing it.”

To see more of Matt's work, check out his website

To keep up with our latest news and stories, hit us up on Instagram

feature, portrait

Matt Clark - Four Frames - Part I

This week we're excited to share four photographs by Long Island photographer Matt Clark, and the story behind each one. Through Matt's tireless dedication he has gradually carved out a niche for himself on the water's edge. When we interviewed him for the book, we sat in his lounge and scrolled through his library of photos, entranced by a colorful, hypnotic display of the beauty, power and variety of the ocean. We love his work and we hope you will too. 

After Hurricane Sandy, Long Beach, NY - Rob Bielawski

After Hurricane Sandy, Long Beach, NY - Rob Bielawski

“This is an image of a friend named Rob Bielawski after Hurricane Sandy,” Matt explained. “The cold, harsh concrete, the debris in the sand, the lack of sky - it's very urban. I love capturing images where the surfer is unidentifiable. When I used to look at surf imagery growing up, my favorite images were the ones I could imagine myself in, and I can't imagine myself if I can see someone's face.”

6 months after the storm hit New York, the shattered boardwalk had been completely dismantled, leaving only a concrete skeleton. Matt was on the beach shooting another swell when someone walked between the pillars, briefly creating this dramatic framing. Matt took note and took an opportunity the very next morning to re-frame the shot with a friend. “It’s an unidentifiable urban environment,” Matt said, “but you know the surfer is going to escape the weight of the world by going for a surf.”

October 23rd, 2006 - Long Beach, NY - Nor-Easter swell from the roof of the Jackson Hotel

October 23rd, 2006 - Long Beach, NY - Nor-Easter swell from the roof of the Jackson Hotel

Matt planned this image months in advance and his diligence was rewarded. This photo scored a double page spread in Surfing Magazine, hailed as iconic by the magazine’s photo editor, Steve Sherman. “This was a defining moment in my photography career,” Matt told us. “It was the first image that ran as a featured photograph in a magazine as large as Surfing.”

Matt had envisioned the image in sketches made months before he took it, so finally creating it and having the photo published showed that real dedication pays off. “I had illegally scaled the fire escape of this building with a backpack full of camera gear to scout out the position,” Matt explained. “Pulling myself up the final ladder, my nerves were on edge. This was 5 years after 9/11 and I imagined the police and FBI being called about a sniper on the roof.”

The day Matt scouted the shot, there were no waves to speak of, but he took note of the angle, framing and the lens he’d need when the moment came. 

Sure enough, that day came. A Nor-Easter rolled into New York with howling NE winds, building swell and ominous grey skies. “I spent some time photographing from the beach and thought to myself: ‘I may as well go shoot from the roof of this hotel.’”

Rather than climbing the decrepit, rusting ladder in the rain, Matt convinced a janitor in the hotel lobby to take him to the roof. He lied to the janitor, pretending he’d left a lens cap on the roof the day before.

“He said ‘no problem,’ but he’d have to accompany me up. I did my best to tell him I would be fine, worried he would  watch me the entire time and only give me a minute to shoot, but he insisted.” Matt managed to bluff his fictional search for the lens cap for a full ten minutes, shooting photos of the waves from the roof as he went. He snagged this shot of a wave breaking across the gap between two buildings just as the janitor lost his patience. “In my illustration months before I drew a perfect A-frame, but this seems even better. I love lefts.”

Stay tuned for Part II later this week. 

Check out a few more of Matt's photos we'll be featuring on Instagram this week. 

feature, surf trip, surf session

Stephanie Gilmore - The Tempest

Monster Children just dropped a video called The Tempest, filmed in glorious technicolor in Indonesia with Stephanie Gilmore. It was filmed by Jon Frank with music written by Maurice Ravel and performed by Alberto Bof. It is beautiful and joyful and we suggest you watch it to get your week off to a good start...

Keep up with our latest updates on Instagram!

Video, feature

Mikey de Temple - Into the Sea

This is a public service announcement: your lawn care regimen is screwing up the ocean.

Earlier this year Mikey de Temple and the Surfrider Foundation released a film highlighting a lesser-known aspect of our fragile relationship with the ocean, especially on narrow, densely populated barrier islands such as Long Island, NY and Long Branch, NJ. 

The beautifully produced film shares critical insights to guide us towards a sustainable relationship with our environment: a relationship where we don't take too much and we take care of what we have.

Complicated it ain't, but important it most certainly is. 

For additional lawn care advice and cool photos, follow @icecream.headaches!










surf session

Hurricane Hermine

As with any good swell, Hermine kept us guessing until the last moment and then showed up with a blank check for fun times. The week before the swell arrived in New York, reports called for 12-14 feet at 10-12 second intervals - Pacific proportion with an Atlantic period and almost impossible to believe.

Aaron Austin

Aaron Austin

Jacques Naude

Jacques Naude

What arrived was not 10 feet, but it was nothing short of spectacular - well overhead waves that touched down on a high tide, easy us in gently with wall-y rollers and occasional chucking sections to keep us on our toes. As the tide dropped out on day one (of three!) the waves started to get bigger, hollower and more technical. It's rare that an Atlantic swell lasts for more than a day, let alone two, but Hermine truly delivered with three days of picture perfect waves in warm water and groomed with perfect offshores. 

With the wild swell report came a sense of trepidation from our beloved servant-protectors. Park rangers and police lined the beach, blaring sirens and shouting "the ocean is closed" through bullhorns, but to no avail. The size and the impossibly perfect conditions were too good to resist and New York surfers turned out to take their share. We even did the responsible thing and paused to take a few photos... 

Jeff Anthony

Jeff Anthony

Jeff Anthony

Jeff Anthony

Aaron Austin

Aaron Austin

Will Warasila

Will Warasila

feature, shaper

Beach House Classic - Part III

"Holy shit, look at that thing," I said to Julien as Eric plucked this board off the shop ceiling and passed it to me from the stepladder, breaking into a huge grin. This board is a key step in the transition of surfboard design from single fin, to twin fin, to the bonzer we discussed in our last post and finally the thrusters we know today. 

Over to Eric for the story of this remarkable shape.

"This is rocket ship of a surfboard. It's a 5’4” Nectar Original Simon Anderson Thruster. It has a double winged swallow tail, channel bottom with airplane wing fins: another piece of history. 

"In the late 70s Australian surfer Mark Richards was dominating on his version of the twin fin, making it the hottest board of the late 70s and early 80s.  Simon Anderson had been shaping surfboards since 1972 and under the Energy Surfboards label since 1975. He had been successfully competing on the world tour and even selected to surf in the Pipe Masters. Anderson found he struggled with the loose riding twin fin, wanting more control.  In 1981, he decided to throw three of the same sized fins on a square tailed surfboard design, creating the first 'Thruster'.  That year, while only surfing in 2 thirds of the contests, winning 3 of them, he finished 6th in the world and was named Surfer Magazine’s Surfer of the Year. Surfers from all over the world started trading in their twin fin surfboards for Thrusters."

"It was the spring of 1984 and I was at University of Rhode Island. The URI Surf Club competed in contests in Point Judith, Cape Cod, New Hampshire and Newport and I qualified for the ESA Regionals that were held at the famed Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ (RIP)."

"After the contest, I went to Grog’s Surf Palace and this board was on the used rack.  I was riding a 6’0” HIC thruster at the time and wanted to go a little smaller and looser. I remember Grog saying, in his gravely voice: "You know what you’re going to be able to do with this thing?” Throwing the board over his head in an arcing motion, he went on, "bust some serious airs.” I rode this rocket ship for a while, never busting any airs, and retiring it when one of the airplane-wing fins sliced my heel open during an overhead session at outside Point Judith. It sat in my parent’s basement in NJ, all but forgotten. After I had opened the shop, I grabbed it while at home for Christmas one year. Now it hangs on our ceiling of history!"

Once again, thank you to Eric at Beach House Classic for sharing his board collection with two nerds who took apart the ceiling display in his store to photograph a few of the boards. Seriously though, look at those fins!

shaper, feature

Beach House Classic Collection - Part II

This is the second part of our series exploring Eric Beyer's collection of boards at Beach House Classic Boardshop, Bay Head, NJ. This time we get the story behind this beautiful Bing Bonzer. 

"This is an original 5’10” 1975 round nose Bing Bonzer," Eric told us. "It was brought in to the shop in June 2010 by a good customer. He found it in the used rack at another local surf shop and thought I’d love it… he was right! I rode it a couple of times and it worked really well… super smooth ride and really responsive in the turns. Really nice logo, super cool fins and some extreme concaves!"

"This board is a piece of history… a piece of the puzzle that got us from the logs of the 50s and 60s to what we currently ride. The Campbell Brothers put 3 fins on a board well before Simon Anderson designed the Thruster, and they were on to something. The Bonzer was designed and created by Malcolm and Duncan Campbell in the early 70s on the points of Ventura and Santa Barbara." We spoke with Bing Copeland of Bing surfboards who filled in the details. The Campbell brothers made a short super-8 film demonstrating their innovative shape. They drove around showing their clip to several shops, but Bing was the only one that took an interest. 

"The brothers convinced Mike Eaton and Bing Copeland to shape some Bonzers for Bing’s team riders to try. The response was awesome. Besides it’s history in the timeline of surfboard design, this board is special to me because I still deal with Bing and carry Bing Surfboards. I sent them pictures of the board and this is the response I received: 'Nice looking Bonzer Eric. Your board would have been 1975 or later. Mike Eaton was in San Diego at the time he made the rounded noses and he also rounded the trailing edges of the Bonzer Runners.'" 

Eric explained to us that the trailing edges of the runners, which were originally sharp angles, were rounded off to reduce the number of injuries the boards inflicted in the lineup. The deep concaves force water out of the back of the board in powerful jets, giving Bonzer's fantastic drive and acceleration to project laterally across the face of the wave.

The runners, a pre-cursor to the curved fins used in thrusters, gave the boards much more bite and control in turns than their single-finned counterparts. On a point break, where the wave face is a 'fatter' slope, the runners offer an advantage over the deep draw of the lateral fins on a thruster: because they are shorter they have less drag and no flex. Thruster fins, developed later, have more drag but provide better traction to hang onto the face of steeper, barreling waves. 

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet










feature, shaper

Michael Fremont

After we posted the first part of our series featuring some of the surfboards at Beach House Classic shop in Bay Head, NJ, we decided we should contact the shaper himself. That would be one Michael Fremont who shaped under the name Michaels Fremont with his buddy, Tony Michaels (Confused? Us too.) in New York and later San Diego in the early 70s.

At home on Walnut Street, Long Beach, NY

At home on Walnut Street, Long Beach, NY

We caught up with Michael, who now lives in Encinitas, California but grew up in Long Beach, NY. 

"I was born in '49," Michael told us, "and my family moved there in '52. My father had a house built on Walnut street and when I was 13 I started surfing with my best friend and his older brother Mark Weisberg. He was one of the original guys surfing there after he'd been stationed in Hawaii."

At the time, Mark surfed occasionally with a guy name 'Bahama' Pat. Pat's family owned a liquor store in Long Island and he was not exactly an encouraging sight for parents of would be surfers on the beach. "He was one of these guys who all summer long hung out at the beach," Michael explained, "he had a straw hat, looked like a bum. He was a surf bum. So it took me a year to convince my parents that surfing was OK. When I was 14 I learned to surf down the street at Franklin and surfed ever since."

Michael Fremont surfing

We asked Michael what it was like surfing there at the time. "There weren’t surfing beaches," he told us, "so the only time you could go was before the beach opened and after the beach closed and sometimes the cops would come chase you away anyway. I got pretty good at surfing in New York - it was the only sport I was ever good at! I couldn't run very fast and I couldn't throw very far - that eliminated the normal high school sports."

Michael graduated high school in '66 just as a seismic fault was developing in society. "There was something wrong with the civil and social structure," Michael said. "The song of that year was Buffalo Springfield - For What It's  Worth. 'There's something happening here...' That captured the mood. It was a generational shift: it became clear that our generation was not going to follow the footsteps of the generation before. We were true believers in what America could be and we were disappointed in what it was. With the civil rights movement we were starting to get an enlightened history of the United States. We were idealistic but disappointed at the same time, becoming cynical. The definition of a cynic is a disappointed romantic!"

We asked Michael if he had been drafted into the Vietnam war. "I was waiting, and I had done my pre-induction physical but I got a high lottery number in the draft so that ended my problem with the army. I was absolutely opposed to Vietnam. I would not have gone. I would have become an expat. I had friends that were totally screwed up when they came back."

Finding some cover from the sun beating down at Swamis

Finding some cover from the sun beating down at Swamis

After high school, Michael moved to Huntington Beach for college but ended up spending the winter of '68 back home in New York after getting sick. That winter he started making surfboards. "It was hard to get the materials," Michael explained. "I had to order blanks from the west coast. I bought a little planer and set up a shaping / glassing rack in my parents’ garage."

The picture shown here is the first proper surfboard Michael made, in the Spring of 1969:

The first board Michael shaped

The first board Michael shaped

People liked the boards and he continued making more. Although he can't recall, he believes he might even have made a board for Russell Drumm, whom he had known growing up on Long Island and with whom he spent one winter in Puerto Rico. In the fall of '69 Michael went back to the west coast and started shaping under the Michaels Fremont name of the board we found at Eric Beyer's shop, the first board Eric owned. Michael believes he made that board in about 1970. "That was a foil egg shape. For the east coast you had to make it rounder and hippy-er. It would be called a 'foil' and it had a down rail going to to an up rail."

Michael has since stopped shaping and now lives and works in Encinitas, CA, but he was stoked to hear we had photographed one of his boards at Beach House Classic and we're very happy we managed to catch up with him and close the loop!

Michael on Long Beach in 1968 with a Jim Hanley shaped Bunger

Michael on Long Beach in 1968 with a Jim Hanley shaped Bunger

To support our ongoing work, please check out the prints section of our site. Our beautiful, hand-signed and numbered, fine art giclee prints last a lifetime and will look genuinely stunning on your wall. Buying a print directly supports our project!

Find us on instagram

Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs from Michael Fremont's personal collection

 










portrait, shaper

Dave Parmenter

Dave Parmenter signed off his response to my last email as follows: "...please feel free to write with any questions or queries on the true history of surfing and surfboards." In a way, that sums him up perfectly.

There is a saying.

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool - shun him. He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child - teach him. He who knows and knows that he knows is wise - follow him.

Say what you want, Dave Parmenter is one of the wise ones. He understands both surfing and shaping in immense depth, having enjoyed successful careers at both. He's a straight talker and, even as he sets to work on a blank in front of us, he's frank about the failure of the surf industry to define the parameters of its central engineering challenge in quantitative, scientific terms.

One of his first obsessions as a child was planes, in particular the British-built Spitfire that won the critical battle for the skies of Europe during World War II. "It's just the most beautiful thing," Parmenter told us. "That and the Winchester 1895 rifle." 

He compares the innovations in surfboard design to the challenges faced by the earliest attempts at flight. The movement of the vessel through water or air is similar. But where aircraft engineering has adopted a sober, technical and precise language to express the intricacies of physics that dictate its limits, surfboard engineering has taken the low road. This, Parmenter acknowledges, is because people's lives generally don't depend on the calculations involved. 

In fact, Parmenter tells us, shapers have often adopted technical terms from aircraft engineering without their appropriate usage. "People were using deliberately obscure terms like drag co-efficients and laminar flow," Parmenter explained. "Even before I was a commercial shaper, I was an aviation nut and I knew it was all bullshit and pseudo-science. When I came of age and started to become a figure in the surf community, I tried to make shaping like we would in aviation: accessible and understandable to the average person."

This has been something of a life mission for Parmenter. His website welcomes enquiries from people all over the world, from those about to build their first board to shapers with a hundred plus under their belts. "Any 300-hour pilot will get in a plane and they can talk about it later and say: 'Yeah, it flies like this,'" Parmenter continued. "With surfboards you can't get anyone to agree on anything."

In spite of his yearning to formalize the science of surfboard shaping, Parmenter advocates for a more ground-up revision of the industrial manufacturing hierarchy - one which would likely have the opposite effect. "We need a protestant reformation in surfing," he said, pulling out a saw and beginning to trim an outline from the blank. 

"In the way that Martin Luther said 'fuck the Pope and the Vatican: everyone has the right to interpret their own religion for themselves.' We don't need Rusty and Al Merrick, as great as those guys are, we don't need these monolithic companies and all their marketing. All our surfboards really came from the backyard revolution which was basically flipping off the surf establishment of the 60s."

Lowering his voice slightly to the level at which conspiracy can be discussed in confidence, Parmenter went on: "That was actually pretty hairy. When boards started getting short,  it was not in the interest of the big manufacturers like Greg Noll. They had rows of 10'2" noseriders and overnight they couldn't sell them - they became obsolete. People were stripping them down and re-shaping them. They ran huge smear campaigns, even in Surfer magazine, against backyard builders saying: 'don't fly by night, go to a reputable shaper'. The big companies put Grubby Clark at Clark Foam under a lot of pressure not to sell blanks in low volume to the small guys. And he just said 'fuck you.'"

Having read with interest the precise and charged language in Parmenter's writing, and especially now hearing it in person, I was interested to talk with him about how language is used to express the surf experience. I particularly loved the following sentence on his website, describing one of his shapes, a 12'6" cross-country paddle board "...tailored for Central California cloudbreaks with displacement hull and chine rails to outrun patrolling white pointers." The words 'outrun' and 'patrolling' infuse the description with a sort of Vietnam-era paranoia that powerfully evokes being hunted by the "white pointers" cruising by some distant wave, far from the shore. Language seems to be a topic that interests him considerably.

"In surfing it's a huge thing and nobody knows about it," Parmenter explained. "If you're familiar with Orwell's essay on Politics and the English Language, he talks about euphemism and the dumbing down of language. Like when we say 'the village has been pacified.' Orwell railed against language being reduced down until you can't even think or express anything. Surfers, especially in California and Hawaii, all speak in about twenty-five prefabricated sentences. It obliterates thought because nobody takes the time to choose words. '-How was it? -It was gnarly, dude, pretty fun out there...' People don't pick for words that have that carriage of meaning or even humor. After a while, like big Joe Stalin, the lie becomes big enough that you start to believe it..."

It was a huge pleasure to meet and interview Dave. We want to thank both Dave and Phil Browne from Glide Surf Co for letting us visit Heavensap to badger Dave while he was supposed to be cranking through a not-insignificant stack of local orders. 

Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet










feature

Eric Beyer - Beach House Classic Boardshop - Part I

The surf industry is notoriously tough to break into and it's even tougher to thrive in. Beach House Classic, a longboard focused surf shop in Bay Head, NJ, has been around for over two decades, serving up stoke in bucketloads. Even more impressively, through founder Eric Beyer's eye for surf history, the store has become an important repository of knowledge and board design, boasting an extraordinary collection of historic boards from shapers near and far. "I don't collect them," Eric explained to us, "they tend to find their way to me."

We interviewed Eric for the book, but wanted to run a parallel series of photos documenting some of the boards from his collection, many of which are suspended from every corner of the ceiling in the shop. We asked Eric to share a few of their stories in his own words. 

"My first board was a mid 70s 5’10” Michaels Fremont single fin. It's a double ender, every bit of 23” wide and 3½ inches thick out to the rail. My Dad bought it for $50 from a buddy right before the summer of 1979, the summer I learned to surf."

"We got up to Cape Cod in August. I had my 5’10” double ender and my best buddy Doug had just picked up his first board at a garage sale, a mini mal McTavish Tracker."

Boards in hand, Eric and Doug had to figure things out for themselves: "No one in either of our families had ever surfed," Eric explained, "so we learned the old school way: trial and error. We got down to Nauset Beach and found some waist high peelers rolling in on the unguarded south beach so we jumped in. After a few wipe outs, I stood up and flew down the face… I’ll never forget the feeling of freedom. I was hooked!"

With the Cape Cod waters a chilly 59 degrees, they learned they could rent wetsuits, or 'snugs' as they were known, to get a little extra water time. "My Pops took us to Jaspers and got us set up. It made all the difference in the world!"

"Later that week, we got up for a dawn session and found Doug's suit missing. We'd left them out to dry on the railing of the cottage. We realized that we had just heard the garbage truck pass. Even though the garbage men denied it, we knew what happened. The problem was, we had to explain it to Jasper's surf shop. The guys were cool… they treated us like locals and not the kooks we really were, earning our business for years to come."

Years later, Eric had the same Fremont board on display in the window at Beach House Classic.

"I got an early morning message from a guy claiming he shaped the board," Eric told us. "I met up with him and found out it was Mickey Fremont, now a lawyer in Encinitas, CA. He was in the area for a wedding and was trying to track down some of his old boards. Growing up in the 70s in NYC, he and a buddy shaped boards on the empty third floor of his buddy's parents' department store. He hung out in the shop that morning and shared a few stories. He was desperate to buy the board, but I wouldn't let it go. Although at first he wasn't too happy, Mickey appreciated that someone wanted it as much as he did. A way cool guy and a real piece of local surf history."

 

To support our work with this project, please check out the prints section of our site. Our beautiful, hand signed and numbered, fine art giclee prints last a lifetime and will look genuinely amazing on your wall. Buying one directly supports our progress with this project!

Get the latest via instagram

Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs by Julien Roubinet










surf trip

Michoacán, Mexico

It being Spring and a very long time indeed since we last saw our swim shorts, we recently made a trip to Mexico to find some Pacific waves and pre-season sunshine. Being New Yorkers, we're not above a little base tanning, but a tanning salon is no place for two grown men with surfboards. 

We landed in Guadalajara and picked a line for the Michoacán coast, driving as fast as our feeble rental car could carry us, stopping occasionally to take photos and to sample the ceviche in Tecomán The report had shown the last shreds of a previous swell lingering for a shoulder-high evening session after the long drive. A fresh pulse swung into the coast the next morning and kept up for the next four days, easing slightly for a few days and then picking up again at the tail end of our visit. In short, we scored. We shared a perfect, peeling left point and occasional crunchy rights with a handful of friendly locals and a passing video crew from Vissla. For 10 perfect days.

As the sun began to climb in the sky each morning we would wait for the 'morning sickness' in the water to pass. Once the air had warmed and the wave settled, we would walk towards the point, first across the river mouth, picking our way over round rocks and then through a dense palm forest, littered with fallen coconuts. On some mornings we startled a nervous donkey tied up to a wooden fence by the beach, setting the creature off on a prolonged bray that echoed up the river valley. 

Eventually, we would emerge on the other side of the forest in a shady patch, dropping off water and something to eat after the session. We figured our way out into the water over seaweed-slippery stones and paddled out to the peak, marked by a huge cactus growing on the beach in front of the jungle. Then, for as many hours as our arms lasted, or until the sun had become so hot and high in the grey-blue above that the water offered no comfort, we surfed in glassy, peeling perfection.

Cam Richards - Vissla Team

Cam Richards - Vissla Team

The tiny village by the river mouth was peaceful and friendly, with a few small, family restaurants serving up ceviche, tacos, gringas and quesadillas prepared to perfection.  

Michoacán province has had a troubled and sometimes violent past due to the growing, manufacturing and trafficking of drugs to America, but the area seemed only mildly tense during our stay, with relaxed checkpoints on the roads and occasional patrols to the beach from Federales and even the military.

Almost the only downside on the whole trip (barring an episode with some seemingly undercooked octopus) was a long walk across hot rocks to access the point and the defensive line of bristling Pacific sea urchins waiting just beyond the rocky water entry. One errant step on the way in or out was a costly mistake we had all made several times by the end of the week. The wave was worth every urchin-spine. 

Above: The palm forest and unfinished shacks standing on the beach in front of the point; the wave itself, viewed from above on the curving coastal road of Michoacán.

Below: Local kids playing in the warm lake at the mouth of the river; Cam Richards picking a high line during an evening session. 

Cam Richards - Vissla Team

Cam Richards - Vissla Team










feature, surf session

When the magic happens...

Some days, the ocean works its magic. Friday the 8th April 2016 was one of those days.  

Balaram Stack

Balaram Stack

Last week, perfectly timed for a Friday we both had free, a 10 second period South swell whipped into the New Jersey shoreline for a one-day-only showdown. This swell angle and mid-length period, groomed by a steady offshore wind, sent absolutely perfect overhead barrels driving up the beaches all day long.

During the peak of the swell in the mid-morning there were barely even sets - just seemingly mechanical barrels grinding down the beaches to the whoops and cheers of anyone (read:everyone) who had the day off. Fortunately, we had made plans earlier in the week to link up with one of New Jersey's top pro surfers, Sam Hammer, to try and catch him in action.

Sam Hammer

Sam Hammer

As we pulled up to the spot, Sam had just broken a board. He sprinted up the beach, leapt the fence and dove into the back of his car to grab another before we could even say hello. A quick nod and a fist bump and he was back in the water in about 2 minutes remaining there for at least the next 4 hours. 

Sam Hammer

Sam Hammer

Hucking gear up and down the beach for the whole day gave us a decent workout, but it also yielded some photos we're really stoked to share here and a few special frames we'll be even more stoked to share with you in the book. Enjoy!

portrait, feature

John Witzig

Julien and I recently each acquired a copy of A Golden Age: Surfing's Revolutionary 1960s and 1970s. This book documents the dramatic change that swept through surf culture in the 1960s and 1970s, generally known as the shortboard revolution. Growing up, photographing and surfing with a group of young Australian surfers including Bob McTavish, George Greenough and Nat Young, John Witzig was exposed to some of the finest surfing of his era, by people who were front runners in developing the styles and techniques the came to be used in shortboard riding.

We both have fallen in love with the book, so we wanted to catch up with John and learn more about how it came to be. 

John Witzig - Cactus - 1977

John Witzig - Cactus - 1977

What led you to photography?

While I’d tried out the hand-me-down Box Brownie when I was about 10-years-old, and had a brief flirtation with my mother’s 35 mm camera, I really came to taking pictures through surfing, not the other way around. I was a photograph and magazine-obsessive from my teenage years. The pictures that caught my eye were mostly B&W, and from magazines like Twen (from Germany), and Life (from the US)... and they were mostly social documentary images. Life was running extraordinary pictures from the Vietnam War, and Twen seemed so radical to a polite well-bought-up boy from Sydney.

How did you start using Nikonos cameras?

I think I realized quite quickly that standing on the beach with a camera stuck on the end of a long lens was going to get pretty boring. I’d begun to take surfing pictures semi-seriously by 1963, but it took me a while to get my first second-hand Nikonos... maybe 1967? I’m no longer sure. It was the only waterproof camera on the market at the time, and while my success rate with it was really low, a handful of those pictures still strike me as being good.

Mark Richards - Haleiwa – 1976

Mark Richards - Haleiwa – 1976

You captured some of the most stylish surfers and innovators of the era. Were you aware of the scope of what was going on at the time? Did you have any inkling they would become legends and icons?

By mid-1966 I have no doubt that we – being primarily Bob McTavish, Nat Young, George Greenough and me – were sure that something significant was happening. It wasn’t clear what it was... and certainly not that it was the start of what would become the shortboard revolution, but we knew that things were moving. I edited an issue of Surfing World magazine in July/August of that year and trumpeted the ‘New Era’. That did annoy some people at the time, but history seems mostly to have been generous.

By publishing photos and texts, founding Tracks and getting a wider audience, did you feel like you were instigating part of the change in the culture?

I’m not sure that we were getting a wider audience; surfing in Australia in 1970 was a tiny world. Tracks certainly appealed to the vulgar, juvenile, environmentally-conscious side of that audience (if that’s not a contradiction in terms). Our influences mostly came from the US – Rolling Stone, Earth Times and Whole Earth Catalogue – but I think it’s fair to say that we gave the magazine a uniquely Australian flavour.

Georges Greenough - 1970

Georges Greenough - 1970

On the technical side, could you explain your choice of sepia tones over black and white?

When I did my first set of four prints to try and sell in 2002, it seemed a no-brainer to use sepia because it comes fully-equipped with nostalgia. Three of those first pictures were B&W anyway, and I’d always liked selenium-toned prints. I’d never actually toned the prints I did myself, but I remember one print of Nat at Honolulu Bay in 1967 had acquired those tones... probably because I hadn’t washed it well enough I suppose. I used that as my model.

Rod Dahlberg - Spooky - 1975

Rod Dahlberg - Spooky - 1975

George Greenough - Honolua Bay – 1967

George Greenough - Honolua Bay – 1967

Overall there seem to be fewer color photos - how come?

Purely a personal preference... I still generally prefer B&W pictures.

Tell us the story of how the Golden Age book came to be. When and why did you have the idea and how did it all come about from there?

Drew Kampion has been a friend of mine since he was editor of Surfer magazine in the mid-1960s. He put Richard Olsen in contact with me... Richard was doing a book on hand-made houses and Drew knew that it was an area that I was interested in. I did a bit of research for Richard on possible Australian examples, and in the process learned that he’d worked for Rizzoli. Richard is a surfer, and knows my pictures. He asked if I’d be interested in him proposing a book. Of course I said ‘yes’... but the idea was never mine. The whole thing was such a long-shot, such a fluke, that it’s astonishing that it happened... but it did! ‘Thrilled’ doesn’t quite describe my feeling when I finally saw the book... and overall it was a great collaborative experience between Richard, Kathleen Jayes at Rizzoli, and Jim Newitt (another surfer) who did the design.

Michael Peterson " radiating suspicion"  - North Narrabeen - Mid 1970's

Michael Peterson "radiating suspicion" - North Narrabeen - Mid 1970's

How has your level of interest in surfing changed since taking these photos and making the book?

I stopped surfing in my mid-40s when my body started to collapse... I have chronic osteoarthritis, and having my knees and hips go downhill together was unfortunate. I’d also long- since decided that I was never going to be a nuisance out in the water. And my time of taking surfing photographs had come to an end by the very late 1970s when I had to actually earn a living. Surfing friends from the 1960s are still my friends though, so I keep an eye on what’s happening... even though I have nothing at all to do with it.

What is your your opinion of what surf culture has become today? Where are we heading?

I am not someone who bemoans what surfing has become... but I am astonished at pictures of the crowds that I sometimes see. I think ‘why would you bother?’ But I also understand that, in Australia anyway, you can still find relatively uncrowded waves without any real difficulty. That’s a great thing...

What projects are you working on now?

I have a business partner and we have published a series of books of Australian photography since the late 1980s. We’ve started work on the magnum opus of Max Dupain who was arguably the finest photographer of his generation. Working on a book like this is a true privilege. 

Thank you, John! 

All images courtersy of John Witzig

Bob McTavish -   Headless – 1966

Bob McTavish - Headless – 1966

Nat Young - Honolua Bay - 1967

Nat Young - Honolua Bay - 1967

portrait

Hotdogger - Rendez vous au New York Surf Club

We are delighted to announce that a preview of our project is now available in Hotdogger, an awesome french surf magazine based out of Biarritz, France.

It features Chelsea Burcz, Mikey DetempleJoseph Falcone, Chris GentileMichael Halsband and Tom Petriken.

You can pick up your copy in France in places like Colette, Vans, Helder Supply and more!

Scene 2 - 5.jpg

shaper, portrait

Mick Mackie

A couple weeks ago we drove down to Bay Head in New Jersey to interview Clay Pollioni (stay tuned for an interview preview!) On the way back, we stopped by Phil Browne's shaping studio in Asbury Park, The Heaven Sap. We wanted to meet with his latest guest shaper, Mick Mackie, an incredible innovator who has carved a living from foam and resin for the last 30 years in New South Wales, Australia. 

Mick is quiet, unassuming and seemed somewhat surprised that we'd come out to see him at work. It shouldn't have been a surprise though - we were very excited to see him in action.

Mick makes some pretty unusual looking surfboards, drawing inspiration for several of his outlines from snow-surfing, a proto version of snowboarding. Snow-surfing uses a fish-tailed board, with familiar surfboard nose shape, but includes an in-swept, concave tail outline, making it look even more fish-like.

Cracking open a beer, Mick explained to us that the convex shape in his "Sidecut Fish" design lets the rail dig deeper and engage more sharply against the water surface during a turn, which gives the turn a smaller radius and more bite. 

And concave tail outlines are only the half of it. Mick is also delving deep into the possibilities of flex tail builds. When he'd finished his beer, he set back to work helping Phil prepare a carbon fiber and resin layup for an extraordinary looking board which was almost half flex-tail. 

Anyone who knows the economics of surfboard shaping (unfavorable) knows what a risk it is to try and forge a new path in the field of board design. Materials are expensive, labor arduous and the margins razor thin, even on the most popular designs.

Mick has thrown caution to the wind and is currently using carbon fiber, kevlar and fiberglass combined with flexible rubber compounds to build flex-tail boards that literally throw you out of a turn after compression, giving the release even more power and snap. 

When he's not blending snowspots and wave-riding to push the limits of surfboard design, Mick also makes damn fine single-fin pin tails and classic fish. To see some of his work, swing by Glide Surf Co in Asbury Park, New Jersey. But hustle up - they won't be there long. 

Video

Videos

Our aim with this project is to create original writing and photography based on our journey. Our journal is a place to share notes from the margins of what we're doing. Generally we want to offer something unseen, not just act as a messenger for other people's work.

That said, when something touches us and is somehow left unnoticed, we're very glad to spread the word. Recently we've come across two videos that have left us both frothing.

The first video is a collection of super 8, camcorder and hi-res footage put together by Duncan Campbell, the other half of Campbell Bros Surfboards, who, with his brother Malcolm, invented the bonzer (two long-base, low-profile keel fins near the rails and a regular single fin*). It features style masters Russ Short, Rob Machado, Taylor Knox... and the two brothers themselves.

It can sometimes be an uneasy relationship surfers forge with a storm. We are very lucky to enjoy this tribute to what hurricane Joaquin offered us in the Northeast, but in the same moment we must think of those in the Southern states who have suffered from it. 

Three local surfers, Jeff Anthony, Shane Murphy & Pete Egan spent one of the storm-swell days in Rockaway with cameraman Thomas Brookins. They came back (the very same day!) with some of the best barrel footage we have ever witnessed!

Enjoy:

surf trip

Baja California Sur

Julien just came back from a trip to Baja California , Mexico. 4 days on the East Cape. A part of Baja that has remained under developed for the past 20 years, but might be changing in the near future with the new highway under construction.

For now, only one dirt road, poorly maintained, and your intuition will lead you to different surf spots. On the way you run into wild horses, donkeys and cows, and dozens of empty million dollars villas, most of which bear a "se vende" sign. Odile, a category 4 hurricane (on a scale of 5), severely damaged the peninsula in 2014, with winds reaching 140mph. It seems to have kept investors away, on the East side at least.

The drive is stunning, crystal clear water on your right and, on the other side, oddly sized and shaped cactus adorn a barren land. Most likely you will see only a couple other cars. 

People who actually live there, will drive to town once a week (Cabo San Lucas) to stack up on food, beers, purified water and other necessities that the ambulating food truck coming up there once a week won't supply. He only sells roasted organic chickens, avocados, eggs and mangoes, if they are in season. 

The most well known spots will gather less than a dozen people on a decent day. The typical pattern of glassy waves early in the morning / blown by 10 am remains true there. This leaves you 4 hours of great surf, from dawn to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The afternoon surf is definitely an option, textured water, less people - if not empty, but still offering longer rides than any place on the East coast.

There is no world class wave here. There are better places to scout when Surfline announces a purple blob in the South Pacific. However, 300 yards rides, mellow crowds (aside from that old and grumpy American guy), empty beaches and the occasional barrel are not uncommon sights.

Baja California - Julien Roubinet 3.jpg

portrait

Kassia Meador - the Fountain of Youth

This weekend we were lucky enough to run into goofy-foot nose riding legend, Kassia Meador, who was heading to Pilgrim Surf + Supply in Amagansett to introduce her awesome collection of psychedelic women's wetsuits.

After a fun surf at Ditch Plains in the morning fog, we stole a few minutes with Kassia before the event to get her take on surfing on the East Coast. We also managed to get a photo of her riding a Rabbit's Foot, which she rocked!

ICH - What's so special to you about surfing?
K - Surfing is the fountain of youth! People that are surfing are just happier people. They are more inspired. You come into the world, you're navigating things in a more direct, easy going way. I think there is something so beautiful about that. For women there is an empowerment you get from going out in the water. For men too. I think it gives you a sense that you can accomplish anything. When you go out into the water it's an active meditation - one of the best things for your mind, body and soul!

Whatever you're dealing with, whether it's family or work, or whatever you're doing, you just come in with the attitude: "I can handle this - I just handled the ocean". The strongest element in nature; if you can deal with that you can deal with anything life throws at you. 

When I was younger I used to paddle out and often not see a woman, or sometimes see a few. I've had the experience in the last 3 years when I've paddled out and there are more women than men. Girls and women - the full spectrum from little girls to grandmothers and everything in between!

People are getting into it in their 50s and 60s now! It's ageless and timeless and it's awesome that everything is being opened up more.

photograph by Ed Thompson

photograph by Ed Thompson

ICH - What do you like about surfing on the East Coast?
K - Since I've been coming out to the East Coast (12 years), I've seen the level of surfing grow so much - the people in the water. But also it's opened up a lot more, where before you'd see people our age surfing and kids, but you wouldn't see older people. 

On the East Coast it's far more seasonal, but the cool thing is that people put their whole summer into surfing. Here people will rent a house out in the Rockaways or Montauk and surf all summer. East Coasters are more die-hard in a different way.

I've surfed here when it's cold - with snow on the ground!  We got it easy [in California] - the water doesn't get as warm as it gets here in the summer, but it definitely doesn't get as cold in the winter! And it's more accessible all the time.  

Here people are committed. If it's crappy and flat or it's big and perfect or whatever in between, people are going no matter what. It's the weekend, they have time and they are going. At home we don't have that as much. It's definitely a different culture that way. 

Montauk is a very special place. It always has been. It's the yang to the city's ying. It's the exact polarity. I think it's really important for people to have that.

Today I met a whole family, two little girls, a seven year old, nine year old and mum and dad and they are all surfing together. I still surf with my dad the whole time and that's something that really bonds us. It always has. 

To do something like surfing and share that with your whole family is really special. And it's a lifestyle you're bringing in and it's about waking up early, eating good food, doing good things for you. Surfing really bonds family units together. Before you didn't see that, but in the last 3-5 years I really feel like it's opened up to a lot more people. 

The opening up of different kinds of equipment is really helping. Before, all people saw was high performance short boarding. Now it's eggs, retro single fins, so it's so accessible. More and more people are shaping those - you don't have to be the best surfer to have fun with them.

Thanks to Kassia for her time and smile!

Words by Ed Thompson
All images - © Julien Roubinet (except mentioned otherwise)