Art and Soul at the Sacred Craft

Upon entering Exhibition Hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the Sacred Craft Consumer Surf Expo I ran into San Diego surfing pioneers, Jack “Woody” Ekstrom of Leucadia and Carl Knox of Carlsbad.

Both are regular attendees at the Sacred Craft that is underway this weekend (and continues from 10am-4pm on Sunday). Expo organizer Scott Bass estimates about 3,500 will attend the two day event.

Carl Knox and Woody Ekstrom

I was a friend of and had written about big wave surfing legend Dempsey Holder, an old surfing buddy of Woody and Carl.

“I surfed with Dempsey back in 1954,” said Knox.

Woody’s brother Carl (the brothers grew up down the street from Windansea in La Jolla), an innovative surfboard designer, was being honored in a “Tribute to the Masters Shape-off.”

Josh Hall and Carl Ekstrom

The developer of the off-kilter asymmetrical surfboard design, Ekstrom selected esteemed shapers such as Matt Biolos, Tim Bessell, Ryan Burch, George Gall, Wayne Rich, and Daniel Thomson to compete for a $1,000 prize by shaping their own asymmetrical surfboard blanks.

The final products will be judged by Rusty Preisendorfer, Stanley Pleskunas, and Carl himself.

“It is like judging art,” said Ekstrom. “These guys are like sculptors.”

I joined Kevin Stuckey of Imperial Beach and his son Kevin Jr. to observe George Gall of Point Loma’s Plus One Surfboards fine-tune his asymmetrical design in the see-through shaping bay complimented by its own mini-grandstand.

George Gall of Plus One Surfboards at the Shape-off

“He’s also my shaper,” said Stuckey.

With over 150 booths representing surfboard shapers, surf artists and blank companies, Sacred Craft is all about the surfboard.

The economic downturn combined with the threat of mass-manufactured boards in China and Taiwan has made it harder than ever to make a living selling handcrafted surfboards.

But no one makes surfboards expecting to make money.

Coronado’s Dan Mann, was hawking his innovative inCide foam blank with a carbon fiber core.

“I just want to help make surfboards better and better,” said Mann. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible.”

Dan Mann and his inCide carbon core foam blanks.

“For me, the Sacred Craft is a great event,” said Mann. “It gets users and manufacturers face to face.”

“Handcrafted surfboards are a niche market,”  said Joe Virgilio of Plus One. “Sacred Craft brings the community together.”

For the average surfer, Sacred Craft provides an opportunity to catch a glimpse of surfing legends past and present.

Surfing ambassador and Hall of Famer Rob Machado was on hand watching a glassing demonstration.

Big wave charger Greg Long authographed posters for a long line of admirers. Mickey Munoz, surfing’s version of Forrest Gump, signed copies of his new book, “No Bad Waves,” at the Patagonia Booth.

Big wave charger Greg Long

And 1960s surfing stylist John Peck wandered in while I was leaving.

A very popular part of the expo was the Collective Surfboard and Memorabilia Appraisals, a surfing version of the PBS program “Antique Roadshow.”

I found Dave Lopez and his teenage son Loukas there waiting to have a couple of 1970s era single fins evaluated.

Dave was admiring a 1976 7’8” mint condition Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt rounded pintail gun that was on exhibition.

Dave and Loukas Lopez

“That is such a nice board,” said Lopez who spent years cutting his teeth on Oahu’s North Shore.

Thomas Meyerhoffer, an innovative and award winning designer originally from Sweden and now based in Half Moon Bay, had his uniquely shaped surfboards on display.

“I make about 1,000 units a year,” said Meyerhoffer of his longboards that have a widepoint further back than traditional surfboards.

“That allows it to feel like a shortboard,” Meyerhoffer said.

The Swedish designer ultimately doesn’t need to make surfboards. “Shaping boards allows me to get to do what I love,” he said.

Super designer Thomas Meyerhoffer and his eclectic surfboard shapes.

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