Randy Rarick, known to many as the longtime executive director of the Triple Crown of Surfing, is also the producer of the widely popular Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction. The biennial event (that’s every two years, folks) takes place July 17 and 18 in Honolulu at the Blaisdell Center. If you are a lover of surfboards and surf history this gathering of foam, fiberglass, legend and lore is the summer hotspot. I caught up with Randy recently to discuss the upcoming auction.
SCOTT: I’m perusing your website, HawaiianSurfAuction.com and man oh man, there are some beautiful surfboards on here. The auction date is July 18, what exactly takes place at the auction? How does it all go down?
Well, we actually have two days. On July 17th, we do an Antique Road Show type of deal, which is really neat. Then on Saturday, July 18th, everything is on display for the public and we take care of the auction late that afternoon.
SCOTT: I’m salivating over some of these boards that are already on display on your website. In particular there is a red Dick Brewer gun that Brewer hand shaped for Tom Carroll in 1984. How much would something like that cost?
We have what is known as a pre-auction estimate based on previous auctions and the current state of collecting. That board will go from anywhere between $5K to $10K. It’s interesting because you could take that board out and ride it today; it is still in relatively good shape. Although it is 25 years old, a Waimea gun hasn’t really changed much in the last two decades. Tom had left that board here in Hawaii in the mid-80s, under Bernie Baker’s house and completely forgot about it. As you know Scott, Bernie’s house is something of a depository for boards of traveling pro surfers. I was over at Bernie’s house digging around, because I knew I could find something under there, and I pulled this thing out, and I go, “Ah, here we go.”
I remember surfing with Tom at Waimea when he was riding this board. I asked Bernie, “Is this Tom Carroll’s old board?” Bernie is like, “I’m not really 100% sure.” I emailed Tom, and luckily Bernie had a water shot of Tom riding that board. And Tom replied, saying yeah, that was his board, and that he had wondered what had happened to that board. So, it’s sort of funny how it all happens.
SCOTT: Well Randy, you put this great auction on every two years since 2001. Is there ever any anxiety about getting enough quality boards?
Well it is really interesting, the boards have to be at least 25 years or older to be what we call "vintage." I started this back in 2001. I was inspired by Allan Seymour’s vintage surf auctions in California. I remember telling Allan, “This is so cool, seeing our entire surf history laid out before our very eyes. I kept saying, "Man, somebody needs to do one of these in Hawaii." Finally, I decided to it. The first year was pretty easy to get boards; I went around to all of my contacts in the surf industry asking around, “Hey do you have any old boards?" And guys were like, "Yeah, here take this one over here." Each subsequent year it’s been harder and harder to find boards. That’s why it takes me two years to dig stuff up. So it is definitely getting harder and harder to find boards. It has literally become a treasure hunt.
SCOTT: I imagine there are some ownership issues. For example, has there ever been a situation where you find an old board, you clean it up, post it on the website, and somebody pops up out of the blue and claims it as their board. There must be some politics to deal with, no?
Well, yeah. We try to get what is known as the provenance, which is the history behind the board. The better the history, the more the board will be worth. For example, take Tom Carroll’s Brewer gun. Because we know it is Tom’s board, because we have a picture of Tom riding it. Because we know Brewer shaped it specifically for Tom, we know the history of the board and that is what we call the provenance. I try really hard to find out each board's history. Occasionally, I will find a board that is really neat or unique, but that nobody knows anything about. We’ll put it in the auction and somebody will claim it as theirs and it usually goes two ways. A guy will go ” Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you have my old board.” And they will provide some great details about the board's history and add to or create the provenance about the board. I’ve also had guy come up and go "Hey that’s my board, it was stolen in such-a-such a year.” The guy actually had the police report on the board and I pulled the board from the auction and gave it to the rightful owner.
SCOTT: The boards for the 2009 auction are available to see online, correct?
If you go to the website you can go sneak-a-peek at what is available this year. It’s sort of a taste of what is on offer. The website is kind of cool, because we have the boards from all the previous auctions on there. So you can go back in time and see what the boards from the last auctions went for. You can see the 2007, 2005, 2003, and 2001 auction results. What was on offer and what the boards went for. In some ways the site is sort of an historical exhibit. Scott, I know you have the Sacred Craft Expo, which is really neat, so you have the contemporary stuff and also the stuff that will be future collectables. And on my site you can see the older stuff; you can take a look back all the way to the 1800s, and see what price the boards went for as well.
We do have other stuff besides surfboards, memorabilia. It is about sixty percent surfboards, because surfboards are my true passion and that is what everyone can relate to if you are a surfer, but we do have memorabilia. We have a classic Duke trophy, old posters, in fact we are going to have a complete set of SURFER magazines– a complete library of SURFER. We also have a complete set of SURFING magazine and THE SURFERS JOURNAL as well. A couple of books from the 1800s are on offer. The first thoughts about surfing written down by the missionaries, so the guys that are really into surf history, the scholars, we’ll have something for them. A lot of the legendary pros will be in attendance. PT, Peter Townend will be there with one of his Duke trophies and his pink Parrish that Tom Parrish made for him in 1976, the year that PT won the world title. And Mark Richard's 1982 Pipe Masters board, the board he won the Pipe Masters with will be on auction. The event is pretty neat because at the Blaisdale center exhibition hall we put up racks and anyone can come walk around for free and 100 years of history is laid out before everyone. At the last auction, in one room we had thirty of the best craftsman together all in one room. Scott, I’d love to see that happen at your Sacred Craft expo.
SCOTT: Randy, unreal, as it is every two years, I’m sure the Hawaiian Surf Auction will be a big success. We wish you all the best and perhaps we’ll see you there.
Right on Scott, thanks so much. See you this week.