Sacred Craft Expo may tap Santa Cruz as the next surfboard hub
Nothing is quite as thrilling in a surfer’s life as that first blush of romance with a new board. Within those mysterious curves lie the potential to escape the self-consciousness of the daily grind, to fly free, to walk on water. Coaxing performance out of the template, rocker, foils, rails and tails is the job of the shaper, and translating those raw elements into a final three-dimensional shape is part science, part art and more than a little alchemy. Shapers are the high priests of this addictive union of man and nature; masters of a craft—a sacred craft.
For the past few years, director Scott Bass has paid tribute to boards and their foam messiahs by organizing the Sacred Craft Expo, housing a transcendent display of board-building genius under one roof for thousands to enjoy twice a year—Ventura in the spring and Del Mar in the fall. The most recent festival of foam in Del Mar honored Dick Brewer, the principle driver behind the shortboard revolution and mentor to multiple world-class shapers in their own right. Given a voice, who might Santa Cruz nominate as their local shaping master?
Bass counts among his closest surfing friendships a number of shapers and says he saw risk of their extinction in the “shift in surf retailing to a focus on apparel over equipment, with generic mass-produced boards favored by non-surfing shopkeepers over local craftsmen.” The Sacred Craft is his way to bridge that gap with customers and “show off local talent all under one roof” at the expo. He is gratified that there seems to be a backlash now against the industrialized approach and new appreciation for custom equipment.
Rumors of the traveling show taking a detour to Surf City north were rampant in Del Mar and Bass confirmed to Good Times that Santa Cruz “is right at the top of the short list” of alternative venues. Picture the Cocoanut Grove Grand Ballroom down at the boardwalk stuffed to the rafters with water craft of all descriptions shaped by local, Californian and international stars. Santa Cruz’s Doug Haut, Bob Pearson, Michel Junod, John Mel, William “Stretch” Riedel, Geoff Rashe, Ward Coffey, Nick Palandrani and more could all display festive models of their latest glossy creations. Buttery alaias, modernized primitive finless wooden Hawaiian boards; sparking gloss-and-polish fishes; high-performance epoxy shortboards; fabric-inlaid longboards … all coexisting in harmony at the Expo, if not in the lineup.
Craftsman Michel Junod has attended every expo so far, making the long trek down from Santa Cruz each time. Yet as a shaper, he relishes the “opportunity to rub shoulders with the public directly, in a way not usually afforded by the standard industry trade show.” Junod predicts the show would draw crowds from Marin to San Luis Obispo and would be embraced by the local shaping and surfing community. The time is ripe for Santa Cruz to break with its underground reputation and debut as California’s northern hub for style, innovation and craftsmanship in board building.
Even as the commercialization of surfing and the co-opting of surf culture by corporate America leaves a metallic tang in the mouths of purists, boards and shaping remain the pure heart and soul of the industry. Some shapers have as few as a hundred boards under their belt, others have thousands, but all have a compelling story to tell if you give them a minute to bend your ear.
But don’t take their word for it, at the expo’s Magical Morning Surfboard Demo you’ll have a chance to grab any board that strikes your fancy and take it for a spin. Perhaps a Simmons-inspired twin fin from the Hydrodynamica Test Pilot Series, a Wegener alaia, a Mirandon “Porpoise,” a tricked out Maurice Cole deep concave Fish, a finless Carl Ekstrom “Earwig” or asymmetrical longboard—don’t be shy. Scamper back up the cliff at the Point and grab another, pausing only to let your sinuses drain and give a little thumb’s up to the Creator.
At the end of the day, the Sacred Craft is proof that the spirit of innovation is alive and well, creeping in from the fringes; ready to embrace those with an open mind.
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