(Jan. 17, 2020) Last week I had the opportunity and pleasure to speak to one of the most wizened guys in this whole surf thing.
His name is Bill Bahne and his involvement goes back at least to the 1960’s. The subject matter was that of a magic surfboard, which is mentioned every so often in this column.
I’ve suggested that one would be lucky to be able to call a board magic at the rate of one to two out of 10, or 10 to 20 percent of the boards that they have or have had. Apparently, that’s a generous estimation.
Truly magic boards are much more rare than that. And rarer still is a board that would work well at most any surf spot.
Mr. Bahne recollected one such board. It was shaped by Mike Hynson of “The Endless Summer” movie fame.
During this era, Hynson shaped for Hobie, Gordon and Smith, and Bahne. The board being described had a Hobie label and a definite twist.
Bill claimed that this board worked so well, at any break he surfed, that he could describe it as “unable to do anything wrong” and thus deserving of the title, “magic.”
To take it a step further, Bill, being a shaper himself, tried to duplicate this magic board but to no avail, even down to the twist.
Now understand, it goes against the grain of any shaper to purposely put a twist in any shape. The idea is to be as accurate and true as possible even though some design theories can get pretty bizarre.
Most twists seem to happen due to the stringer wood in the blank and this magic board was a three stringer.
I don’t know how many attempts were made to try and duplicate this board, but suspect that there were more than just a few. Apparently, it just wasn’t to be, which only raised the iconic status of this magic board even more.
Many a tale is told of a surfer coming to shore from the water with a complaint as to how his board is riding only to be cured by a few adjustments, as in maybe sanding the tail area, to a finer edge.
Granted, those tales can be like “fish stories” and only grow taller as time goes on.
Surfers like to talk story. It’s a bit of a tradition and, dare I say, part of the culture.
But make no mistake, the idea of a magic board is quite real and much more than just a notion.
It’s comparable to a musical instrument that the musician would favor over any other. It feels right, comfortable, responsive and in tune with the player’s or rider’s every nuanced or subtle movement.
There are no barriers here as to era, age of the surfer, or dimensions of the board.
Granted, certain boards can be magic at only certain surf spots, which, I guess, would tend to reduce the board’s “magicness,” but in this era of quivers, or multiple boards for different spots and/or conditions, still acceptable for magic status.
So there you have it, the iconic and quite rare nature of the magic surfboard. Thanks, Bill, for the interesting and informative conversation.
Dave Dalkiewicz is the owner of Ocean Atlantic Surf Shop in