Surfers love their surfboards, and this weekend at the Del Mar Fairgrounds the Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo will celebrate the surfboard in all its incarnations.
"It’s going to be like the Fred Hall Boat Show, except, obviously for surfboards," said Bass.
A first-of-its-kind public surfboard show, Sacred Craft, will draw some of the world’s most renowned shapers to grab rails alongside their lesser known counterparts, as well as young aspirants, and the surfing public. With hundreds of surfboards on display and on sale, a series of moderated seminars featuring surfboard makers and various experts, and a shaping contest in honor of legendary San Diego shaper Mike Diffenderfer, Sacred Craft will serve as a monumental referendum on the state of the modern surfboard, in all its incarnations.
For surfers, the show, which is the brainchild of Del Mar native Scott Bass, provides a forum for a weekend of discussing and considering all things about the modern surfboard.
"It’s going to be like the Fred Hall Boat Show, except, obviously for surfboards," said Bass, who asserted that the show is the first of its kind anywhere in the country. "Sacred Craft is a double entendre, of course. There is the idea of the craft that you ride in the ocean, but also the idea of the craft you create."
It’s primarily in this latter context that the surfboard will be celebrated this weekend. Under siege from an influx of overseas products and getting squeezed out of surf shops by garments and apparel, the hand-crafted, custom surfboard is an embattled, albeit fundamental piece of equipment.
"Back in the day, surf shops were owned by shapers who were selling their boards in the front and shaping in the back," said Bass, acknowledging that at some shops, this is still the case. "But now, we have these mall surf shops that make their money on soft goods, meaning clothing and apparel. It’s not about passion any more, it’s about market share."
At the Sacred Craft show, Bass said, the attempt will be to shift the focus once again to the modern, custom surfboard, and to break down the disconnect between surfboard makers and the surfing public.
"Because of the limited retail space available in surf shops," said Bass, "a lot of these guys have no opportunity to show off their wares. At the show, we’ll have all these guys in one place, and it’s an opportunity for the public to see the boards, as well as ask questions of the shapers."
It’s this last point that’s particularly relevant in today’s booming surf marketplace, said Bass. Though plenty of fine surfboards are on the market, consumers often have a difficult time matching their boards to their abilities.
"If you go into a surf shop today and look at a surfboard," he said, "some 15-year-old kid is going to tell you that he took it out in front of the shop and that it rips. OK, but that doesn’t really tell you anything about the board."
The impetus for the Sacred Craft show generated in the wake of the December 2005 closure of Clark Foam, the leading supplier of foam blanks needed for surfboard construction. The fall of Clark, which once had a hammerlock on the board-building industry, has spawned a new era of debate, trial and error, and a heady dose of research and development.
To that end, seminars will range on topics as far reaching as the globalization of the surf marketplace to how to fashion a career in painting surfboards; a panel discussion of legendary board-builders of the 1950s to a discussion of surfboard fins; sustainable surfboard construction to the use of new materials.
"These guys will be approachable, and the public will have a chance to speak with them," Bass said.
Of particular interest is the abundance of midlevel local craftsmen who will have an opportunity to show their shapes and designs alongside their more famous counterparts. While some of surfboard building’s biggest brands – such as Channel Islands, Rusty and Lost – will be well represented, so will a host of craftsmen whose products are often not as visible in retail outlets.
It’s in this sense, Bass says, that the bigger surfboard shapers, like Rusty Priesendorfer of La Jolla (owner of Rusty Surfboards), have been incredibly supportive in getting the show off the ground, to give a stage to the upcoming local shapers.
"I told Rusty that I wanted to do this because I felt like the small guy was getting squeezed out of the surf shops, and Rusty was really good about it and said, ‘You know what, you’re right; I’m supporting this.’ "
Bass has also given back in his own way, dedicating booth space at no charge to young shapers in an exhibit called "tomorrow’s shapers today," featuring shapers in their early 20s.
It’s these young men, taking to the craft regardless of finances or career stability that Bass says best represent the ethos of the shaper, and, ultimately, of what the show is meant to represent.
"It’s not about money, it’s a passion play, and that’s what shaping and surfing are all about. That’s what this show is all about."
The Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo will be held this Saturday and Sunday at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Admission is $5; children under 16 are free.
For more information, go to surfboardshow.com.