Randy Rarick: North Shore Icon

Greetings, Shredderz! A few months ago I had the good fortune to visit Oahu. Even if you have so much as a passing interest in surfing, Hawaii, and the North Shore in particular, is Mecca. Every winter the storied seven mile stretch of coastline becomes the center of the sport, hosting countless pilgrimages from around the world. Even for someone like me, whose surfing ability is best described as limited, a visit to Oahu’s proving grounds is practically required. During my time in Hawaii I had the good fortune of spending part of an afternoon with North Shore fixture Randy Rarick. Rarick, who still rips Sunset Beach, owns one of the most varied and fascinating surfing resumes on the planet: a surfer, first and foremost; a shaper, with stints at both Surf Line Hawaii and Lightning Bolt; an event organizer, who served as the longtime contest director for the Triple Crown of Surfing; and perhaps the authority on vintage surfboards.

Rarick and his home break of Sunset Beach on Oahu’s North Shore, just steps from his house and shaping room.

Rarick is known for glass-off restorations of vintage boards. The process involves completely stripping off the fiberglass from a board and then re-glassing the shape. It is a long and laborious process that transforms beaters destined for the trash heap into showroom-worthy collectors’ items. If you have ever looked at recent high-end surfboard auctions, you have no doubt seen Rarick’s work. It’s also worth noting that Rarick pioneered the collector-focused surfboard auctions, although he has since passed the baton.

There are a range of opinions on the practice of full glass-off restorations — surfers are nothing if not opinionated — and at one extreme, the most vocal critics claim this can compromise the integrity of the board itself. Rarick has shared extensive thoughts on the subject, and for more on his perspective, I highly recommend this Surfer’s Journal profile. Many folks far more knowledgeable than me have weighed in on the subject, and while I personally love (and prefer) the slight imperfections of older boards, I simultaneously have a deep respect for the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into a full glass-off restoration.

Rarick’s shaping room has probably seen more classic surfboards than any other place on earth. As you can see in the photo below, Rarick preserves laminates from boards he has restored. Each one of the laminates pinned to the walls represents a board that Rarick worked on.

Yes, that is eleven different Phil Edwards Honolulu laminates you see.

I love the practice of preserving the original laminates from these boards. If nothing else, it’s a great way to document the sheer number of notable surfboards that have passed through Rarick’s shaping room. When I picked up my jaw off the floor and told Rarick I couldn’t believe how many rare shapes he had restored, he casually mentioned that there had been even more laminates hanging up until someone had come through and purchased a bunch.

Rarick’s shaping room is small, and it’s hard to imagine a space with more surf history per square inch. And while there are plenty of reminders of all the boards Rarick has worked on in the past, I was just as interested in the projects that were currently under way. In the photo below you can see a unique wooden blank (second from top). The blank is actually crafted from wiliwili, also known as Hawaiian balsa, as part of a project with Tom Parrish, another renowned Hawaiian shaper and Lightning Bolt alumnus.

Parrish posted a different wiliwili board on his Instagram, which I have embedded below.

During my visit Rarick was in the midst of restoring an Inter-Island Surf Shop Hydro Gun shaped by John Kelly. The board would later appear at the California Gold Vintage Surf Auction.

Inter-Island Surf Shop John Kelly Hydro Gun, stripped down to the foam

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Kelly’s Hydro Gun is the insane Scorpion tail, which you can see below.

Close up of the scorpion tail on the John Kelly Hydro Gun

It was really cool to see the board as a bare blank, midway through the restoration process. I don’t have any photos of what the Hydro Gun looked like before the restoration, but the auction listing has some great shots of the finished product.

Rarick was incredibly generous with both his time as well as the vast amounts of knowledge he has accumulated over the decades. Speaking with Rarick was also a reminder of the importance of learning surf history by meeting the people who helped make it. There are times when I chafe at surfing’s fondness for oral tradition, mostly because it can make research so difficult. And while I am a proud advocate of putting as much surf history online as possible, my time with Rarick underscored the fact that it’s so much more informative and rewarding to speak to people in person, especially when those conversations take place steps from storied Sunset Beach. Thanks again to Randy Rarick for sharing his time and making this modest blog post possible.

Photo at the top of the page by Lance Trout; Randy Rarick, Sunset Beach, 1978.

[UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Barry Kanaiaupuni as Reno Abellira. The caption has been updated. Sorry for the mistake and thanks to everyone who helpfully pointed it out.)

Reno Abellira Ad for Reno Hawaii: Sagas of Shred

First, let’s get a few things out of the way. Reno Abellira is one of the greatest surfer / shapers of all time, and from all accounts, the Hawaiian is an all-around classic dude to boot. As evidenced in the photo above, which was taken from this excellent Surfing World writeup, Reno has style to burn, and then some.

Reno Abellira Ad.jpg

Now, as for the ad above? I hesitate to say I find this ad hilarious, because in some way that suggests that I’m having fun at someone else’s expense. But I can’t help it: this ad cracks me up, whether it’s Reno’s glorious mustache or the fact the woman looks like she dropped her wallet somewhere right outside the frame. The Reno Abellira ad was originally published in Surfer Magazine in 1979, as if the visual aesthetic wasn’t a dead giveaway.

I believe the ad is for a Reno Hawaii clothing line. Reno definitely shaped boards that bore the Reno Hawaii logo as well, and you’ll still some pop up for sale from time to time. I don’t know a ton about Reno’s boards, but given his influence on surf history, I’m sure there will be more on his creations here at some point in the future.

Thanks for visiting and give us another visit next week for more Sagas of Shred!

 

Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (July 26)

Greetings, Shredderz! As always, here’s a sampling of some of the finest surfboard pictures recently found on the world wide web…

As I’ve written before, Lightning Bolt’s notoriety in the 1970s was a double-edged sword. The label’s popularity meant the signature bolt design was slapped on boards that had nothing to do with its Hawaiian bloodlines. Pictured above is a nice selection of genuine articles, via the Australian National Surfing Museum.

 

Yup, another classic piece of Hawaiian surf history, this time presented by the Lost & Found Collection. L&FC came about when its founder discovered boxes of pristine surf photography slides from the 1970s at a flea market. It has since blossomed into a wonderful project that supports surf photographers and the history of surfing. I highly recommend checking out the site and following them on Instagram, too. Pictured above is Larry Bertlemann alongside one of his signature Pepsi surfboards. Dying to know who the shaper might be…if anyone has more info, drop me a line!

 

If you object to the above post on the grounds that it’s not vintage enough, then I’d like to politely refer you to Andy Irons’ gesture in the photo. Happy belated birthday to The Champ, the only surfer to take on Slater during his prime and win.

 

Finally, I figured we’d throw our Aussie friends a little bone. Pictured above is Wayne Lynch with the first ever surfboard he shaped! It’s great to see a close up photo of this board, and one in color. For more on Lynch’s early boards, check out this earlier post, which is still one of the pieces of which I am proudest.

 

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Early 1960's #consurfboards #🐖 #singlefinlog

A post shared by CORE SURF (@core_surf) on

Just a beautiful 1960s Con Surfboards log in lovely condition. Check out that D Fin! Love the color of the stringer…I love everything about this board, really.

The Sultan in Hawaii: Terry Fitzgerald for Dick Brewer

How to describe the North Shore of Oahu, the famed strip of surf breaks that, at the start of every winter, becomes the beating heart of the entire surf world? Volcom dubbed the most famous piece of real estate in surfing “The Proving Grounds”, and while surfwear marketing is rarely inspired, this is a fitting name. Surfers have long made pilgrimages to the North Shore, and Aussie Terry Fitzgerald, AKA The Sultan of Speed, is no exception.

Terry Fitzgerald North Shore of Oahu by Jeff Divine
Sam Hawk (left) and Terry Fitzgerald, preparing to paddle out at Rocky Point in 1976. Hawk was a Brewer team rider and respected shaper in his own right. Photo by Jeff Divine

Fitzgerald’s first exposure to Hawaiian influence came during the world contest in 1970, held at Bells Beach. The Australians — Fitzgerald included — were riding equipment that was inferior to those of their Hawaiian counterparts. According to Fitzgerald, at the time of the contest he wasn’t particularly well-liked by his Australian peers. As a result, Fitzgerald ended up rooming in a hotel with Hawaiian surfers Ben Aipa and Paul Strauch. The experience left a lasting impression. “I got a whole new perspective out of that contest, and I connected with the network that was to become the foundation of my surfing life. …I was put in with Aipa and Strauch, and my mind was opened to the whole Hawaiian deal.”

The quote above can be found in “Accelerator”, an excellent Fitzgerald profile written by Phil Jarratt and published in The Surfer’s Journal. I cannot recommend the article enough; you can find a link to it here (article is free for TSJ subscribers, or $3.99 to download.)

Terry Fitzgerald Sunset Beach Hawaii 1975.png
TF surfing Sunset Beach on Oahu’s famed North Shore, winter of 1975. Pic by Art Brewer; via Surfer’s Journal.

Fitzgerald made his first trip to Hawaii in the spring of 1971. In Hawaii Fitzgerald met none other than Dick Brewer, one of the statesmen of Hawaiian surfing. “Accelerator” has a number of excellent details on how the two shapers’ partnership began to emerge. Brewer witnessed Fitzgerald surfing Rocky Rights and dubbed the young Australian the best surfer in the world. In the summer of that same year, Fitzgerald followed Brewer back to Kauai, where the two began to exchange ideas on surfboard design. Fitzgerald credits Brewer’s influence, but disputes the notion that he left Hawaii intent on aping Brewer.

“The boards I took to Hawaii in 1971 were very much Terry Fitzgerald creations. They were the boards that created my reputation, and they were made before I met Brewer. Basically, I’d taken the twin fin that Greg Hodges and I made, put a single fin on it and refined it along the lines of the boards that Russell Hughes and Dana Nicely were doing at Byron Bay. Dick’s genius was that he could look at what a TF or a Sam Hawk was doing and subtly integrate that into his own designs. He could pull together influences from a whole range of people in a way that worked. …By the end of 1971, I was in California making a real statement in foam, and I know I couldn’t have done that without the Brewer experience.”

Shortly after returning to his native Australia, Fitzgerald opened up his own shop and began selling his shapes under the Hot Buttered label. Even the name Hot Buttered has its origins in Fitzgerald’s Hawaii experiences: during the winter of 1971, Fitzgerald and Hawaiian surfer Owl Chapman had been listening to Isaac Hayes’ album “Hot Buttered Soul”, and the name stuck.

A few years later, Fitzgerald’s Hawaiian experience would come full circle.

Hot Buttered Terry Fitzgerald for Dick Brewer 1975:1976 6'56
6’5″ Single Fin shaped by Terry Fitzgerald for Dick Brewer as a gift. Board was shaped in 1975 / 1976. Photo via the board’s owner, Mark Loh.

The board pictured above is an incredible piece of surfing history that serves as a document for the cultural exchange between TF and Dick Brewer. It is a Hot Buttered single fin, shaped in either 1975 or 1976, that Terry Fitzgerald made for Dick Brewer. The board belongs to Mark Loh of Beach Beat, who kindly contributed the photos to this post.

The winged pintail setup is a hallmark of Fitzgerald’s designs from the Seventies. The board above measures in at 6’5″, and it is a single fin. According to Loh, the board has had some small repairs, but otherwise completely original. The board is in excellent shape considering its age, not to mention that swallowtails and wings are notoriously prone to damage.

You can see Fitzgerald’s signature on the board. It clearly reads “T.F. Hawaii for Dick 6’5”. However, the board’s owner went one step further, and contacted Fitzgerald directly. Fitzgerald was able to issue a certificate of authenticity and provide some more details on the board itself.

Hot Buttered Terry Fitzgerald for Dick Brewer Certificate of Authenticity.jpg
Official Certificate of Authenticity, signed by Terry Fitzgerald. Photo via Mark Loh

Fitzgerald provides great insight on the various elements that went into the board’s design. It’s amazing to hear that despite the time spent together, Fitzgerald had never actually ridden one of Brewer’s boards! Finally, Fitzgerald notes the board was glassed by Jack Reeves and sanded by Tom Hawk (brother of the aforementioned Chris).

Jack Reeves Logo
Jack Reeves logo taken from a different Owl Chapman surfboard. I love the simplicity and clean lines of this logo. Pic via The Surfboard Project

This is an amazing board, and Fitzgerald’s certificate is a wonderful source for some first-hand information. Finally, check out the original post featuring the board on Vintage Surfboard Collectors (Facebook). As you can see, I’m not the only person who was stoked about this find!

Thanks to Mark Loh for sharing the pictures and the story.

Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (April 30)

Greetings, Shredderz! Hope you are all having fantastic weekends. Without any further ado, here’s a selection of social media posts that have recently caught my eye.

Christian Fletcher’s signature model is the coolest. Raddest. Most-shredding-est. Choose whatever superlative you prefer; I just can’t get enough of these things.

Hit the “Continue Reading” link below for some more vintage surfboard goodness…

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