The wind has blown out every surf spot south of Point Conception like an 11th Egyptian plague. Rain leaves deep pockmarks on the surface of the sea, inviting reflection on the hot, glassy, lazy, crazy days of summer. There’s enough water in the streets of Encinitas to ride down the gutter from Swami’s to Seaside Reef. Faced with a choice between the library and having 10 years’ worth of dings repaired, I call The Moose.
Moose, which is the only name I know him by, is a surfboard builder, the inventor of the modern wakeboard and a ding repair expert with few equals. Once the arrangements have been made, I deliver my most valuable possessions: a Frye Fish given me by the master himself on the occasion of my 55th birthday, a Hynson pintail gifted me by Ocean Magazine’s Rob Wald and my Ekstrom Asymmetrical to his door. These boards, which may not be worth a fortune on the open market, are priceless to me. Each has a story to tell about great waves and failed attempts ending in collisions with rocks or other surfboards. My dings shout about abuse through their shattered fiberglass mouths. Like seeking a babysitter for my grandchildren, there are few people I would trust them to.
In the mid-’70s, Moose did what most every aspiring board builder did to learn the craft — he turned the family garage into a surfboard factory. He was 13 years old at the time and quickly found he had an aptitude for the work. Once his skills were perfected a few years later, he began teaching a class in surfboard building in his hometown of Huntington Beach.
By age 23, he had completed a solar engineering course and began a career with Hughes Aircraft. He enjoyed the work but was called back to his first love when the Sunline Surfboard factory came up for sale. The price was an unbelievably low $2,000. According to Moose, “It came with a shaping bay, a glassing area where I could laminate 10 boards at a time, and all the tools necessary for making boards. That was over 40 years ago, and I still use the sanders and the Skill 100 power plainer I purchased then.” Moose had only made 25 or 30 boards when he began his business, but he was a quick study, and he quickly began business in earnest.
But there were no rose petals sprinkled along the path leading to his latest shop on Oceanside Boulevard. It’s been just over a year since he moved in, and for him, it is something of an anniversary, calling for celebration. Not long ago, Moose was recovering from twin hip surgeries when he was nearly run down by an out of control van that placed him back on the injured list. Rehab was slow and painful and, lacking the funds to kick back in a plush facility, he spent his convalescence in his Ram Van, parked in the Carlsbad Campground. For months he hobbled and survived on meals brought to him by his many friends.
Moose handled this like he does most everything, with his trademark hearty laugh and stoked attitude. He is, after all, in the business of fixing things. Surfers who show up at his shop to have the holes in their boards repaired might also receive a tune-up for their souls.