Surf­boards, and the use there of

A hol­low history of the the ul­ti­mate de­vice for trans­port­ing con­tra­band.

Tracks - - That Was Then, This Is Now - By Phil Jar­ratt.

The surf­board is and al­ways has been a multi-faceted in­stru­ment of plea­sure, both aes­thetic and util­i­tar­ian. From the very be­gin­ning, when the an­cient Poly­ne­sians speared fish from their olos as they pad­dled in over the fring­ing reef, framed by a set­ting sun, the surf­board has of­fered op­por­tu­ni­ties way be­yond its prin­ci­pal func­tion.

I first be­came aware of this on my first trip to Bali in 1974. On my third day in Kuta some­one ad­vised me to cy­cle across the cow pad­docks to a place called Arena Bun­ga­lows to see a surf pho­tog­ra­pher we’ll just call Dick. (I’ve named and nailed him of­ten enough with this story, but we’re both old now and he de­serves a break.) Dick, I was told, could or­gan­ise a fake student pass with which I could buy heav­ily-dis­counted air­line tick­ets. Back in those days, if you wanted to be a trav­el­ling surf pho­tog, you had to have a cou­ple of scams on the side to pay your way.

So Dick, a ge­nial guy who loved a chat, dis­tract­edly told me to come in when I ar­rived at the door of his los­men. I was some­what shocked to find him stretched out on the floor of the room stuff­ing Thai mar­i­juana sticks into the hol­lowed-out bal­sawood stringer of his surf­board. “Won’t be a sec,” he said, barely look­ing up from his labours. “There’s a ther­mos of tea on the porch, help your­self.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but there were cham­bered boards be­ing stuffed with dope all over Kuta and Le­gian, ev­ery day, by trav­el­ling surfers, many of them cham­pi­ons, who were sim­ply fol­low­ing a time-hon­oured tra­di­tion es­tab­lished in the 1960s. I was too much of a coward to try do­ing it my­self – be­sides, I was on an enor­mous salary as the ed­i­tor of Tracks (it’s a joke, Albe) – but over the com­ing years I was to see this process many times, and came to learn much about surf­boards and drugs through my as­so­ci­a­tion with the great Jeff Hak­man.

Hak­man’s photo do­ing a cheater five across a heavy Sun­set in­side sec­tion to win the in­au­gu­ral Duke con­test lived in a frame above my bed through­out my high school years. He was a cham­pion at 16 and a stoner at 17, learn­ing the tricks of the cham­bered board trade from the mas­ters at Plas­tic Fantastic Surf­boards in Huntington Beach. Not only were Dave Gar­ner and Dan Cal­la­han pro­duc­ing the most cut­ting edge surf­boards in Cal­i­for­nia, they were also keep­ing the en­tire SoCal surf crew stoned to the gills with reg­u­lar de­liv­er­ies of blond Le­banese hash in cham­bered balsa boards.

A full-page magazine ad for Plas­tic Fantastic showed Hak­man look­ing down the foil of a PF shape through darkly-lid­ded eyes with the cap­tion: “A Plas­tic Fantastic Stick is so-o-o good it will bog­gle your brain.” You can imag­ine the howls that one got from the ston­ers in the shap­ing bays.

As well as be­ing a team rider, Jeff was also a mule, head­ing down into Baja on surf trips with Gary Chap­man (Owl’s brother) and com­ing back over the bor­der with a few ex­tra boards strapped to the roof. But as a smug­gler he made a great surfer, and in 1970 was facing three-to-five in Fed­eral Prison over a failed Bangkok run. A good – and very ex­pen­sive – lawyer man­aged to get him off on a tech­ni­cal­ity.

In the early 1970s, de­spite his drugdab­bling, Jeff Hak­man es­tab­lished him­self as the lead­ing pro­fes­sional surfer in the world, chal­lenged only by fast-ris­ing

Michael Peter­son, who couldn’t put it to­gether in Hawaii, whereas Hak­man was win­ning ev­ery­thing. By 1976 that bal­ance had swung in MP’s di­rec­tion, but the two surfers had formed an odd al­liance over their shared af­fec­tion for nar­cotics. When Jeff flew into Aus­tralia for the au­tumn sea­son (dur­ing which he would be­come the first for­eigner to win Bells) it was with a hol­low glassed fin on both of his boards, filled with high qual­ity co­caine. As it turned out, coke wasn’t Jeff’s drug of choice, but he knew some­one who was all over it.

Ar­riv­ing on the Gold Coast, he drove straight to the carpark at Kirra where he traded his toot for a big bag of heroin. The other party to the trans­ac­tion tried out the goods off the back of his hand, sniffed a few times and headed straight back out into the lineup he ruled. It was Michael Peter­son.

Hak­man sur­vived his drug days and went on to co-found Quik­sil­ver in the United States and later Europe, and be­come a global am­bas­sador for the brand. In 1997 he fessed up about all of this when I wrote his bi­og­ra­phy, Mr Sun­set. We’ve re­mained friends and re­cently traded a few dozen war sto­ries over bot­tles of wine with our for­mer Quik­sil­ver Europe col­leagues at our favourite beach­side bar in Bi­dart, France.

The dodgy dope days are be­hind him, and Jeff, now 70, is train­ing with Felipe Po­mar to “surf to 100”. He’s a tena­cious lit­tle bug­ger, and he’s still charg­ing, so he’ll prob­a­bly do it. Oh, and he doesn’t fly with surf­boards any more.

Main: Jeff Hak­man em­ploy­ing per­fect form and weight dis­tri­bu­tion on a North Shore howler. Photo: Bernie BakerIn­set: Jeff Hak­man won Bells in 1976 and later admitted he smug­gled co­caine into Aus­tralia on the same trip to sup­port his heroin habit. The loaded Tracks Cover-line is a com­plete co­in­ci­dence and refers to the Coke Clas­sic, but it cer­tainly takes on new mean­ing with the ben­e­fit of hind­sight.

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