“It all started with one of Tom Curren’s boards. I was picking up some boards for a surf trip and saw it at my friend’s shop: a 1980s 6’5” Al Merrick hand-shaped for Curren. I rode that board on my trip, and it was such an amazing feeling. As you get older and start reflecting on your formative surfing years, you think about the boards that defined that time. Riding that board inspired me to start collecting these pieces of surfing’s past.
“I have hundreds of boards now, spanning from early-1900s Waikiki redwood boards all the way up to modern shortboards, but I’m most passionate about the era from the late ’60s through the ’80s. There was a lot happening in surfboard design during that time. We evolved from riding single-fin longboards to tri-fin shortboards in just a few years, and I was really inspired by the Bustin’ Down the Door–era surfers like Mark Richards, Gerry Lopez, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, and Rabbit Bartholomew. That’s why I have so many prominent boards from that period. I want to preserve what was, and hopefully these boards will inspire other surfers as well.
“For me, it’s not about the monetary value of the boards. I’m not looking at this as an investment. I still want to ride them. When you touch these boards, you’re touching history. If you take Tom Curren’s world-title board under your arm, you can easily picture yourself on the beach at Sunset the day he won it. Or when you pick up a board that MR shaped with Dick Brewer, you imagine yourself in that shaping bay, hearing them discuss the rocker or the rail line. It gives you goose bumps.
“I don’t think my collection will ever be complete. There will always be another board I’m after, and it’s just a matter of searching for those stragglers and getting the collection to a place that feels like it’s enough. But I feel pretty good about what I have now. When you have as many boards as I do, sometimes you forget what you have. I’ll be looking for something in my garage and stumble across some amazing piece of surf history. I love it, but it does take up a lot of space. I’ve got a lot of luggage, as they say.” —Mark “Buggs” Arico
Read more about specific boards in his collection in The 2015 Big Issue, on newsstands now.