The surf at Swami’s has not topped 4 feet since one of our finest surfers, board builders and most enduring locals left Encinitas to relocate in Oregon.
Steve Clark is an original in every way. He knows the geography of the land right down to the minute details of the cliffs and every inch of the smallest finger reefs in our area. He has a good understanding of the Diegueno Indians who occupied our coast centuries before any of us found our way into the ocean on surfboards. He knows where to sit on a deep north swell and surfs with the minimalist style of onetime stylish local Billy Hamilton and Hawaiian-raised Gerry Lopez.
If you’ve surfed in North County for any length of time, Steve has probably shaped a board for you. If so, you realize that it is more than a block of foam, but with it comes an understanding of what you need as a surfer along with whatever waves you plan on riding.
My longtime friend Rob Morton, AKA the Red Baron because of the bright red boards he often rides, owns and operates one of Clark’s final handmade masterpieces. To quote Hemingway completely out of context (he was referring to a beautiful woman not a surfboard) Rob’s 9-foot 1-inch stick was “built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht.”
Okay, it’s only a surfboard, an inanimate object that moves us over the sea to the individual rhythm of each liquid mountain or hill. Of course we all realize a favorite surfboard is more than a mere floatation slab. (That’s why I object to some surfers calling fine watercraft “logs.”)
By a show of hands, has anyone other than me actually taken his new board to bed with them? I did that as a teenager once, and had such a close relationship other boards that I would sometimes pat them affectionately after a good ride. Legendary Australian surfer Nat Young loved one of his boards so much he actually named it Sam.
Steve Clark has an emotional connection with surfboards like few others. You can see it in the way he touches the shaped blank before packing it off to the glass shop like a parent sending off their kid on the first day of school. He may not be as covetous of his own creations as Skip Frye, however, who will sometimes shape a board, have it glassed for someone and ride it before he removes the wax and reluctantly hands it over to the new owner.
The board in the adjacent photo is one of the last ones shaped by Clark before he fled the masses for the less-crowded waters of the northern coast. Its owner was in the shaping bay when it was conceived and while he has enjoyed the few waves he has ridden on it, he is now ready to pass it on. You see, like many of us, Rob is riding shorter boards these days, enjoying the ability to huck a smaller stick into a turn and his convertible Mazda Miata.
Morton’s decision to go smaller leaves one of the last boards Steve Clark made in his Encinitas shaping room for sale. It’s stunning in person.
If interested, contact Rob Morton at: [email protected]