COURTESY CHRIS MCDONOUGH /
HAWAIIAN ISLANDS VINTAGE SURF AUCTION
Auction is trip down memory wave
Wall-to-wall memorabilia offered at the Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction
Now that they're selling those squishy foam surfboards at Costco, is the age of surfing as idealized and handcrafted boutique bohemianism officially past its sell-by?
We're into the era of mass products for mass consumers, Surfassic Park.
Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction
Place: Blaisdell Galleria and Pikake Rooms
Friday: From noon to 4 p.m. public viewing, plus "Antiques Roadshow"-style professional appraisals of items
Saturday: From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. viewing, followed by auction. A portion of sales go to the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation Scholarship Fund.
Online bidding: www.HawaiianSurfAuction.com
Call: 638-7266 or e-mail email@example.com
And so, wave aloha to a more innocent age, the period when surfing meant anything and everything.
According to surf promoter Randy Rarick, that bygone era averages out to whenever you were a teenager, plus a couple of decades.
"Surfers get nostalgic around the age of 35," said Rarick. "It's like the car where you first had a girl in the back seat -- you're always gonna be fond of that car. That's the one you remember."
Rarick, on summer vacation from managing winter's Triple Crown surfing events, is the producer of this weekend's biennial Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction. It's wall-to-wall surfing memorabilia, but mainly, we're talking boards, from balsa shapes to famous contest winners. There isn't an industry more handcrafted than surfing, from the individual shaping the blanks to the golden memories of bitchin' rides. Every board has a story.
Rarick, who grew up in the surfing industry -- "I got started repairing dings" -- said that the culture of surfboard collecting is maturing, along with the collectors.
"For the most part, they come from somewhere else, Australia and Japan, and it's an excuse to stay in Waikiki and catch a few," said Rarick.
What's on the auction table this year? We're talking Gerry Lopez's original Pipeline Masters paycheck. Or how about a '60s-era "Surf Champ" pinball machine, or a 1930s Tom Blake paddleboard? And vintage artwork, surf posters, original photographs, Duke Kahanamoku memorabilia -- not to mention more than 70 prize surfboards of every length, width and rail, ranging from chunky wood to sleek foam, and every bit of it handcrafted.
"It's becoming really hard to find old boards, vintage guns 25 years old or older. They got old and broken or used up and thrown away. But you never know when you seek out -- there are boards in attics and under houses and in back yards. It's all word of mouth and sleuthing," said Rarick.
"The richest era is the '60s, when surfing became really popular and part of modern culture. You've got surf-movie posters, cultural icons, surfing decals -- nobody makes decals anymore, they're all stickers -- old surfing trophies acknowledging someone's surfing prowess, Pan Am posters that show surfing -- Pan Am's long gone now! -- and books about surfing. There are an amazing number of books about surfing. Forty, 50 years ago, surfing was innocent, not promoted like crazy, and the stuff from that era has a cachet."
Pan Am? Break out your Wayback machine, Mr. Peabody. Is today's attic insulation tomorrow's collectible, or do these things come in waves?
"The next generation of collectors are coming on, guys in their 40s, who could care less about a '60s board. That's ancient history," mused Rarick.
"It's too bad there's no one great surf museum where these collections can be on display. Surfing was invented here, but there's no real museum, just some small efforts in Haleiwa. Bishop Museum even has great surfing artifacts, but they're all hidden away in the archives. The best collections are private."