The Coast News Group
Mike Hynson, left, and Bird Huffman. Photo by Chris Ahrens

The Bird and the Master

Mike Hynson was born to be famous. He had too many natural gifts not to be.

In his prime, he weighed in just this side of late-show handsome. While we in the early ’60s were wearing Army surplus jackets, combat boots and huarache sandals, he was immaculately dressed from the neck down, with Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses topping his perfectly slicked back hair to complete the cool guy look. His look.

He was a brilliant in small waves, fading deep and laying into hard bottom turns before gliding to the tip for extended noserides. He also excelled in big surf and showed little fear when big north swells rattled our coast.

In Hawaii, he rode with the best of them, and was among the first to attack the Pipeline. At Windansea, he was the top regular foot (left foot forward) surfer, while the Original Mr. Pipeline, Butch Van Artsdalen, was the class of the goofy foots (right foot forward).

Together they dominated the peak, Hynson ripping into the rights, and Butch absolutely ruling the lefts. It was a one-two punch that left most everyone else suffocated in their powerful wakes.

Hynson was also one of the world’s top boardmakers in the ’60s and ’70s. In the ’60s, he was best known for his own Mike Hynson Model through Gordon & Smith Surfboards, something he followed with the HY I, HY II and Stretch Model. In the ’70s, he pushed the shortboard revolution with a rail design that brought surfers deeper into the tube at places like Pipeline.

It seemed only natural he would be picked as the co-star of Bruce Brown’s 1966 masterpiece, “The Endless Summer,” where he along with Brown and goofy foot Robert August searched for and found the perfect wave in South Africa.

Hynson hit the ’70s running, making his down-railed surfboards with vibrant airbrushes under the Rainbow Surfboards label.

Eric “Bird” Huffman was and is a solid surfer who grew up in the shadow of Mike Hynson, Skip Frye and Billy Caster. As a gremmie, Huffman soaked it all in, learning to identify a good board from a great one. While often a standout at various spots throughout San Diego County, surfing is not what Bird is best known for.

He is most notable for owning and operating Bird’s Surf Shed on West Morena Boulevard in San Diego. It is there that Bird showcases some of the benchmark surfboards from the past 100 years.

Browsing the racks, you will find one of the greatest collections of vintage boards by San Diego’s premier board makers. A short list includes Caster, Frye, Ekstrom, the Mirandon Brothers and, of course, Hynson. From his three-stingered red fins, to his yellow and blue “Grace Models,” you will either find one of Hynson’s classic designs at the Shed or probably not at all.

While Bird’s Surf Shed is possibly the best surf museum in Southern California, there is the added feature of being able to ride most any of the boards on hand.

Over the years I have ridden many of Hynson’s models when they were new. After all those years I wonder if they rode as good as I think they did. When the water warms up I might just mosey over to Bird’s place and work my way through the decades.

Then again, I might get so hung up on one of those relics that I don’t move past it. I know I won’t ride as well as I did when those boards were new, but I’ll let you know how it all works out.

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