There was this guy Bird whom I met decades ago while surfing the La Jolla reefs that he rode with passion, regularity and, often, brilliance.
I first met Bird when he was the shop gremmie at Select Surf Shop in Pacific Beach. Even then, in his mid-teens, he was becoming the go-to guy for all things surf.
I had never before seen anyone so surf stoked, or who had ridden such a wide variety of surfboards. His working knowledge of everything from Vee Bottoms to mini guns, eggs, fishes, longboards, their origins and builders was then and remains unparalleled.
From the ’70s onward, most anytime I surfed in the Windansea area, Bird was there, usually riding some new styled surfboard and explaining the subtle differences in how the board performed due to outline, fin placement, rail contour, concaves, channels and other variations on the theme.
Bird may not be “The Man,” since that is a revered position reserved for many of his close friends like Skip Frye and our fallen brothers Chris O’Rourke and Billy Caster.
I sometimes think of Bird as “The Man in training.” He is a lifetime apprentice who has soaked up the wisdom of past masters and freely passes on that knowledge to each successive generation.
He reveals surf history to these newcomers without them realizing they are learning worthwhile life and lifelong lessons. While doing so, he tends to incorporate the gentleness of Frye, the courage of O’Rourke and the integrity of Caster.
I can honestly say there is nobody I know more qualified to get someone, anyone, onto the right surfboard, or loan them a classic board, than Bird. (It is possible that a greater variety of surfboards have passed through the Bird’s hands than anyone else in the world, and he may have the largest rideable surfboard lending library on earth.)
I don’t think Bird has ever had a job outside of the surfboard industry, and God knew exactly what He was doing when he placed him on Morena Boulevard where he became the proprietor of “Bird’s Surf Shed.”
The Shed, as it is fondly known, exhibits hundreds of boards that cover the walls and ceiling and go back as far as the days of redwood surfboards, rocketing forward to futuristic surf craft designed by Daniel “Tomo” Thomson and Steve “Pendo” Pendarvis.
Most of the boards in view have been built within the past 40 years. Among those on display are highly coveted Frye Fish, Ekstrom Asymmetricals, Caster pintails, Mark Richards Twin Fins and Simon Anderson Thrusters.
The Shed is one of the only places on earth where you can live surf history by riding one of these benchmark boards rather than simply viewing them from a distance behind a glass case.
I recently caught up with Bird at the Moores Legends and Luau Invitational, where he rode among the legends on a winning team. As his heat was about to begin, the announcer called for Eric Huffman to get his jersey. Upon hearing the name printed on his birth certificate, Bird turned to me and said, “Who’s Eric Huffman? My name is Bird!” Right. No explanation and no last name required. BIRD. PERIOD!
Since birds are known to go out on limbs, I’m going to do the same by contradicting my earlier statement and saying that Bird Huffman ranks among the few, the proud, the elite who have earned the right to be called “The Man.”
On second thought, I won’t do that because I know he would humbly decline the honor. Being Bird, the Bird, the owner of Bird’s Surf Shed and all that implies is enough for one person. Many blessings, dear bro.