The day after the Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction, while surfing in Waikiki, I said a little prayer. It went like this:
Oh, great Kahuna, I have sinned. I have unabashedly coveted and my sin understood no limits. I coveted the thin. I coveted the thick. I coveted the long as well as the short. I coveted the old and the not-so-old. But, oh Great One, if it lends to more understanding of my transgression, let me say that I was not alone. So too did thousands of others covet alongside me—all of us lovers of the surfboard.
My prayer was interrupted by a little set wave and my thoughts turned. Close to 400 registered bidders descended on Honolulu’s Blaisdell Center for Randy Rarick’s fifth biennial Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction, presented by Quiksilver Waterman Collection. The anticipation was palatable, the bidding contagious, and when the gavel dropped on the lectern for the final time, almost $770K had exchanged hands.
One of the many highlights was a fiscal tug-of-war between two keen bidders over a Greenough Flextail surfboard, which eventually netted $20K. Behind the roughshod aesthetic of this red and blue single-fin lay a wealth of hydrodynamic skunkworks-style brainpower. The bidding was quick and without delay, as these two collectors knew the value of a rare Greenough standup surfboard—this was not a kneeboard. Here’s hoping the buyer waxes it up for a go. That’s always one of the big questions on surfers’ minds. Will these boards ever be ridden again?
Stoked surfers were able to rub elbows with legends and luminaries as all involved admired the boards and shared stories. I spent a solid hour with the Bonzerrelli himself, Duncan Campbell, and soaked up gallons of insight about the Bonzer, along with anecdotal vagaries regarding surfboard design history.
As we chatted, Campbell pointed out a unique take on the transitional-period shortboards and the awkwardness that accompanied the first round of those designs. Campbell noted the beautifully crafted tails of the mid- to late-’60s era longboards on display. These are top-notch perfected noseridering machines, and, naturally, design-attention gravitates to the nose area. However, the tails of these boards are highly refined and don’t generally receive their due praise.
When surfboards started going smaller, many shapers cut off these tails, discarded them, and shaped the “new” shortboards from the middle point forward. What they ended up with were these rather paunchy, blocky, clunky tails. As Campbell noted, if they would have kept the gorgeously foiled tails and cut of the noses, the shortboard era would have made bigger steps sooner.
Next to us, four-time World Champ Mark Richards shared insight with a fan, shook hands, and graciously posed for photos. Other surfing luminaries on hand included Jock Sutherland, Ricky Grigg, Greg Noll, Rory Russell, and PT. Shaping icon Dick Brewer graced the auction floor and watched proudly as three of his exquisite boards fell under the gavel.
Earlier in the day, I spent an engaging breakfast with Bing Copeland and Matt Calvani. Next to us sat Matt Kivlin, Ben Aipa, Maui’s Bob “Ole” Olsen, Bob “The Greek” Bolen and the newest member of the shaping Hall of Fame (and historically underrated IMO) Mike Eaton. Rarick’s auction is surfing’s version of Cooperstown—but with waves. For fans of the surfboard and the historic men who make them, the auction is an unbelievable opportunity to meet, to share, and to buy.
One Australian bidder walked away with three surfboards paying out $100K. That should help make your next $700 surfboard purchase a little more digestible.
I ended my prayer, but not by asking for forgiveness. No. Instead, I ended my prayer by suggesting strongly that next time, perhaps, if it be the Great Kahunas will, I may possess a larger checkbook. Then, a humble amendment…”just possessing a checkbook” would be nice.