The U.S. Open, a successful contest with unsuccessful waves
Behind me, pure energy radiated from the skate arena, pulsing in rhythm with the clicks, clacks, and grinds of skateboard trucks on metal coping. Hundreds of fans sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the hot aluminum bleachers, hooting the skaters rocketing around the big concrete bowl. It sounded riotous. It sounded fun. But I wasn’t sitting in the […]
Seal pup hangs with the boys in England
Usually when a seal jumps out of the water and up onto a surfboard, it’s been chased up there by ten feet of hungry shark and it’s clinging onto anything for dear life. This little guy though, he’s just looking for some bro time. Doesn’t even care that these guys are on longboard pop outs. […]
Danny Hess builds sustainably-minded surfboards from reclaimed wood and recycled foam in an impossibly hip workshop in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. The space is called “The Woodshop,” for reasons that were immediately obvious when I peered through the windows looking for Hess: wooden surfboards, thick redwood tables, and stacks of timber were artfully arranged in a small showroom at the front of the shop. At the back of the showroom, just visible through the sawdust-caked porthole windows of two swinging doors, were bandsaws and jigsaws and dozens of planers hanging from racks.
I walked inside and, after a quick round of predictably firm, carpenter-y handshakes with Hess and his shop mates, proceeded directly to a snub-nosed 5’6” that had caught my eye through the window. Hess’ boards are sold in the local alternative-craft surf shop Mollusk and are relatively common in San Francisco lineups, but I’d yet to actually hold one. It was surprisingly light, with a deck and rails made of different colors of wood and a bottom of bright-white foam. Hess’ high-performance shortboards are recycled EPS cores wrapped in a wood shell, usually poplar. But he also makes guns, hybrids, and the occasional log. They’re not cheap, running nearly $1,300 per board, but in theory you could surf the more durable wooden designs for a decade or more.
There are enough people who consider the boards a worthy investment to keep Hess Surfboards backlogged with a six- to eight-month waitlist. “When Clark Foam shut down in 2005, it really sparked a better dialogue among surfers and shapers about what a surfboard could be,” says Hess. “People started thinking about a surfboard as a lifetime investment again.” Hess, with a background in sustainable home remodeling, was more than happy to oblige. He’d built his first foam board at 16, moved on to wood boards in 2000, and hung up his hammer for a planer in 2005 to make a career out of building these lifetime surfboard investments.
“I want to make sustainably-built boards as an option for people who care about where their products come from,” says Hess. “But a surfboard isn’t going to change the world.” Hess thinks of more eco-friendly boards as just one piece of a holistic approach to sustainable living. Boards built with reclaimed, sustainably harvested wood, recycled foam, and bio-resins are a start, but he wants to take it even further. Hess is working on a lightweight, lip-cracking shortboard made entirely out of wood and sealed with plant oils. No foam, no fiberglass, no resin. I grabbed one of his early prototypes and it felt unlike any other surfboard I’ve ever touched—strong, solid, and alive. Like an equal parts blend of surfing’s past and future.
The best videos of the week, all in one place
CLIP OF THE WEEK: Joel. Coming in at number one on the Morning Cup of Jazz on KSFR FM Radio—the smooth stylings of Mr. Joel Tudor. Kick back, relax, and cross-step your way into the weekend. Nick Rozsa, Still Homegrown Rozsa, still homegrown, and still ripping the shit out of any wave in the […]
Open up a box of fun
The wood grain may make it look heavy, but it's featherlight, glides into waves with little effort, and gets up on rail like a champ.
Terrifying airdrop to barrel to claim
This Nias video is a little bit dark, so what you can’t see is the panicked moment mid-drop when Derham’s heart literally beats out of his chest, then he grabs it out of midair, then stuffs it back into his body. After that, Derham’s rail bites, he locks into a screamer, and comes flying […]
This version of pro surfing brings Sweet Georgia Brown to the surf
“If you were given a blank piece of paper and told to go off and design pro surfing, what would you do?” —Sean Doherty, SURFER Magazine, July 14, 2014 I’ve got two words for you Sean: Harlem Globetrotters. Do Australians watch the Globetrotters? Can you, Sean, even whistle the tune to “Sweet Georgia Brown”? Nevermind. […]
The best videos of the week, all in one place
CLIP OF THE WEEK: I Love Taylor I think we can all agree on the title of this clip, and just leave it at that. Battle at Bank Vaults Not only is the surf incredible, and the surfing impressive, but man, is that not the bluest surf session in history? The first few waves […]
ASP boots Flores from the U.S. Open and Tahiti after tirade to the judges
The ASP has announced that Jeremy Flores has been suspended from all competition until August 27, 2014. This means he’ll miss the Prime-series U.S. Open of Surfing, and the WCT Billabong Pro Tahiti—a venue at which Flores typically shines. After a close (and debatable, if you’re so inclined) Round 2 loss to Sebastian Zietz ended […]
And Trevor Gordon is an artist
In Rincon's recent years, there's been a cultural flowering of a full-on Byron Bay-style movement toward the "Whatever Floats Your Boat" school of waveriding. Gordon is a de facto ambassador.