story by Catharine Lo
photo by Chris McDonough
Before the advent of professional surfing, boards were big, heavy and hard to maneuver. That made the surfers who rode them all the more impressive, particularly those who piloted them down the faces of monster waves. Today, their boards are coveted collectors' items, and on July 20 and 21, surfers will have an opportunity to admire them—perhaps even take one home—at the fourth biennial Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction.
Classic surfboards will comprise about 60 percent of the 200 items dating from the late 1800s through the early 1980s, says event organizer Randy Rarick. Featured in this year's auction is a Dick Brewer Buzzy Trent board, one of fewer than twenty that were made. There's a hand-shaped, sixteen-foot solid redwood paddleboard from the 1930s and some "totally trippy, far-out futuristic boards" from the '60s. "But just because it's old doesn't mean it's valuable," Rarick explains. An item's worth depends on its provenance—who owned it, where it came from and how it was used. A panel of experts will be on-site July 20 to estimate the value of surf memorabilia, and you can even bring in your own piece of surf history for a free appraisal a la Antiques Roadshow.
For Rarick, a longtime surfer, shaper and director of the 25-year-old Triple Crown of Surfing, the best part of the weekend will be a reunion of some of surfing's greatest living legends: shapers Dick Brewer and Ben Aipa, big wave pioneers Greg Noll and Peter Cole, and the surfing world's ambassadors of aloha Rabbit Kekai and Buffalo Keaulana.
Viewing of the auction items is free to the public, and those interested in participating can purchase a bidding number for $50. At a previous auction, surf shop owner Joe Green bought Duke Kahanamoku's last personal surfboard for $15,000. In honor of the father of modern surfing, he rode it once in Waikiki—Kahanamoku's home break—and then hung it on the wall for posterity.
"The boards are totally restored, glossed and ready to go, either to surf or put on display. Predominantly, they get hung on a wall," says Rarick. "Let's face it: They've seen their day."
Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction