In 1974, the winter waves were small and inconsistent. As happens during such times, the crowds suffocated every ripple that came through. Longboards were making a modest comeback and I bought a Bing Donald Takayama Model for $10 that I rode until it finally died from sun exposure. Longboards were too long and short boards were too narrow; many of them with wide points, six-inches forward of center, tracked straight lines to nowhere. It was then that I bought a blank and hacked out an eight-foot single fin that I glassed and finned in my parent’s garage. That board worked perfectly for North County waves.
I drove to Laguna Beach one evening to show the board off to my brother-in-law. We talked about waves and surfboards before I drove off, down Coast Highway. It was then that I heard the saddest sound in the world — my new, unwaxed board skipping across the asphalt before being run over by a VW Bug. Frustrated, I wanted to break it into a thousand pieces and burry it on the side of the road. Instead, I strapped it onto the car, drove home and left the ruined board in my backyard to suffer a slow death.
It was around that time that I met a kid named Jeff Grygera. Jeff, who was only 13-years-old at the time, saw my board, offered me $25 for it and patched it so well it looked like new. Around that time, Jeff and some of his buddies had formed a surf club at Oak Crest and I became their leader.
From then on Jeff and I had become close friends, riding waves and diving for fish over the years. His natural abilities in resin and foam led to a career as a board builder for the best board makers in North County. He also became an artist whose carved foam and resin sea life have become legendary in our town. Somewhere during that time he had a family that includes his wife of 25 years, Lisa, sons Jay and Gino and daughter, Kathy.
Jay, an NSSA champion, has followed his father into the surfboard trade and has learned every aspect of the craft of board building. Having acquired the Iron Cross Surfboards label, Jeff and Jay now build some of the finest surfboards available anywhere. The newly pin lined board by Peter, “Pinline” St. Pierre of Moonlight Glassing, will make any craftsman drool. Handmade, domestically produced products, Grygera’s boards are tube tested by their makers from North County San Diego to the North Shore of Oahu.
When not surfing, working (seven days-a-week), or spending time with his family, Jeff free dives for fish along North County’s many reefs, something that, along with his surfing and board making skills, has helped build his name locally.
As anyone who has ever done so will tell you, building custom surfboards is a tough gig. Like board builders Don Hansen, founder of Hansen Surfboards, Mark Adam and John Kies, whose Encinitas Surfboards shop could qualify as a historic monument, and St. Pierre owned Surfy Surfy in Leucadia, Grygera realized that a board builder needed to open his own retail space.
That realization became a reality in March, when Grygera and family opened the doors of Iron Cross Surfboards in their hometown of Cardiff. Featuring rentals, repairs, stock and custom surfboards and accessories, Iron Cross is at 2101 San Elijo Ave, between Sunny Skys Bikini Boutique and Subway. The kid’s come a long ways since he patched my board 30-some years ago.
To learn more about Iron Cross and the people that build them, walk in and introduce yourself, or electronically buzz them at ironcrosssurfboards.com.
Filed Under: Sea Notes