During the last months of his life, shaper Bill Caster was in and out of reality. Some of the time his was lucid, other times he was vacuous, absent, devoid of personality. Sadly, Caster eventually withered away, leaving behind a heartbroken, burdened, and mourning family as well as a saddened San Diego surf community.
Caster also left behind medical bills. Financial hardship set in and with Caster as the main income producer for his family, times became tough.
“My point is that every community has a board builder who may have needed some help at some point; a little nudge to get them over the hump. Look at the Clark foam situation. The VSBF could have helped a few shapers stay on their feet during that weird time. That is what the VSBF is all about.”
“We helped out where we could,” said Eric “Bird” Huffman, a dear friend of Caster and owner of South Coast Windansea surfshop. “Grubby (Clark) would donate a few blanks, and Hank (Warner) would shape them, and Peter (St. Pierre) over at Moonlight Glassing would glass them up. We’d sell it and give Bill’s wife the proceeds. It was the least we could do. This guy’s craft was building surfboards and he was revered.”
For years the Caster situation festered within Huffman’s
heart, and increasingly more of surfing’s board building artisans found themselves in situations that required financial help: A laminator whose child needed a hearing operation. A sander who gets diagnosed with lymphoma. A master shaper in Santa Barbara passes away – cancer again the culprit. Whatever the cause, the need for some emergency financial help was evident. The seed of concern planted in Huffman by Caster’s situation germinated into the Veteran Surfboard Builders Foundation (VSBF), a 501c tax deductable non-profit organization.
“The VSBF is about helping out those individuals who have given their entire lives building surfboards,” said Huffman. “I got together with San Diego board builders Skip Frye, Hank Warner, Rusty Preisendorfer and Peter St. Pierre and we came up with the foundation idea. The five of us comprise the Board of Directors, and we are setting up an allocation committee to assess needs and make recommendations to the board.”
Caster’s situation was the impetus for the VSBF and the need is obvious. “Just look at the list of guys who have passed away who may have needed some assistance: John Bradbury, Carl Hayward, Mike Diffenderfer, John Durwood, Mike Wasch …and these are just the guys we know about,” said Huffman. “Now I’m not saying these guys needed help. I don’t know that. My point is that every community has a board builder who may have needed some help at some point; a little nudge to get them over the hump. Look at the Clark foam situation. The VSBF could have helped a few shapers stay on their feet during that weird time. That is what the VSBF is all about.”
Of course, allocating funds means having funds, and the VSBF is actively seeking donations. “We’d like to see the surf shops put up a simple donation can in their stores next to their registers,” explained Huffman. “These board builders are the heart and soul of the industry. It wouldn’t take much effort for a store manager to put up a can and perhaps match the donations of their customers.”
To further help the cause, the Swami’s Surfing Association is giving the VSBF a generous portion of its proceeds from their annual coalition surfing contest.
“We are hopeful that the big corporations like Quiksilver, Billabong, Reef, and Hurley will step up to the plate and donate to the VSBF as well,” Said Huffman. “All those guys are lovers of surfboards. Heck, Bob (Hurley) is a great shaper himself.”
For more info on the Veteran Surfboard Builders Foundation contact Bird Huffman via email: BirdSurfs@cox.net