August 16, 2010

Our visit to the ASR Surf/Skate Lifestyle/Fashion Expo at the San Diego Convention Center was an amazing experience for Tracey and me. First of all, it confirmed every preconception I might have had that surfing and surf culture is not just a truly unique sub-culture in moderrn American life, but an alive and thriving cottage industry where everyone seems to know everyone, or at least knows someone who knows someone in the industry. The surfing industry is one you cannot fake your way into and last for long in – there’s so much “inside baseball” being played that the less-than authentics will be discovered very soon, and the news will get around before they knew what hit them.

The expo itself was really something – there must have been at least 60-70 surfboard manufacturers showing off their wares, as well as vendors associated with anything and everything to do with surfing and skateboarding. There were live demos of surfboards being created out of fiberglass, art work, musical instruments, exhibitions detailing the history of surfing on the west coast, and panel discussions on the state of the industry. Perhaps what brought about the positive vibe that filled the exposition hall was the diverse crowd the event attracted – teenagers, families, adults, California chicks with tattoos – it was as much fun people watching as it was visiting the booths to see who was selling what.

We almost didn’t make our connection with Mike Hynson to buy his book and get my “The Endless Summer” movie poster autographed. We walked around the entire hall and saw no booth for Hynson surfboards. Then, when we walked to front and saw the list of all the exhibitors, his name was nowhere to be found – no Hynson anywhere, not even a Mike. Figuring something must have happened and that we had made the drive to San Diego for nothing (I’ll admit I was feeling mighty disappointed), we started walking aimlessly back through the exhibits.

All of a sudden, at the very same time, we happened to see a copy of Mike’s book sitting on a low table at the Bessell Surfboards booth along with some assorted business cards. And it was then we met Tim Bessell, who, apparently, is a legend in the surfing industry – one look at his website will tell you all you need to know about why that is. Seems that Tim and Mike have been friends since junior high school, and Mike worked for a time at Tim’s shop up in La Jolla.

It’s pretty easy to see why Tim is held in such high regard, he’s friendly and outgoing, and loves to share his passion for what he does with others. On display in his booth was his 47,000th (!) surfboard – a white long board beauty with graphite geometric designs all over (it’s laying flat in the back of the picture below). We hit it off immediately, and after informing Tim of our quest, he immediately saw to we were taken care of as if we were long-time friends of his. It took a few different attempts for him to finally reach Mike (who was off demonstrating his technique for shaving foam), and Tim told us to hang on, that Mike would be by in twenty minutes or so – just enough time for us to dash downstairs and hit the ATM so we could pay Mike in cash.

Shortly after we returned, Mike’s wife Carol came by and introduced herself. Just as Tim did, she treated us as if we were long-lost friends. It’s hard to describe the excitement and joy we felt talking to Tim and Carol – literally minutes before strangers from a foreign (at least to us) California surf culture, now sharing our own stories and experiences with each other. By the time Mike showed up, it was actually kind of anti-climatic – my sense is that he’s more of an introvert and was kind of shy at fulfilling our request. Nevertheless, he signed the two books we bought and my poster (looking at it, he said, “You got Bruce’s [i.e., director Bruce Brown] signature – nice”), and seemed genuinely moved when I gave him an extra $20 for signing the poster.

I was going to ask him for a picture, but it was Carol who made the suggestion first. She had a smile that could melt even the largest of glaciers, and Mike seemed to loosen up a bit and actually warmed to the occasion:

dougandmike1

Imagine that, The Great White Shank posing alongside Mike Hynson. Pretty cool, huh? After that, it was thanks and hugs from Tim and Carol as we said our goodbyes – not before, of course, promising to have Tim customize a surfboard we can stick into the sand by our backyard tiki bar! – and I felt like I was on cloud nine at the way the whole thing had played out. I had figured we’d walk in, find Mike’s booth, buy the books, get the poster signed, and be on our way in minutes. The unexpected way it ended up turning out was much more memorable. How could it not be? We made friends with two incredible surf legends, making our weekend trip to San Diego as exciting as we hoped it would be.

Pool temp: 94 degrees

Filed in: Treasure Hunt by The Great White Shank at 13:05 | Comment (1)
1 Comment »
  1. Boy do I know the feeling of being able to stand next to a “legend” and have a photo taken…that has been my experience with Rod McKuen. Fortunately, he and I have become quite friendly and exchange emails from time to time. I recall the first time I was able to see him in concert and then meet him afterwards to get a couple of his books signed…it was magical. I am so happy this trip turned out to be magical for you and Tracey….it is a definite memory maker.

    Comment by Jana — August 17, 2010 @ 5:16 am


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