Three days in, I put down my camera. Not because it was out of battery or because of a lens drenched in cedar. I put it down because I felt at home. We all shared a feeling of warmth and rejuvenation on the Grain Surfboards farm that balmy September night.
The days leading up to the 2014 Surf Re-Evolution promised the gathering of creativity to come. Jon Wegener’s finless workshop had students frothing from every tooth to get in the water. Three alaias and eight paipos were chiseled in two days. While Jon drew pencil lines on boards, Charlie, the owner of the Maine Surfer’s Union shop in Portland, was quick to inform me of the construction of his alaia – laughing as he said “Man, as long as it floats!” In between instruction, Wegener would find time holding the spoke shave to the mini Simmons collaboration board. Built by Grain’s Mike LeVecchia and shaped by Jon, later to be painted by Enjoy Handplane’s Ed Lewis and glassed by Entropy Resin’s Rey Banatao. The farm’s very own Dr. Frankenstein creation.
Grain’s Nolan Collins, who suffered a broken right hand a week prior, parked the company’s 1966 GMC – better known as “The Pug” – at Long Sands Beach early Saturday morning. Kids were seen chasing the truck down the street as if it were full of ice cream sandwiches. They were calling first dibs on demo-boards. As soon as the woodcraft was unloaded they were afloat in the water and Paipo Mania was underway. These kids didn’t have the time to put a layer of wax on. Mania became a proven understatement as groms, parents, locals, artists, and shapers alike slid across knee to chest high sets on a cloudless day. Spandan Banerjee, who travelled from India was pulling on a wetsuit for the first time, one arm stuck, and laughing at himself. A newly finished Grain Steamer and a Jon Wegener Bluegill quickly became the pick of the litter as the tide came up. Endless party waves cracked smiles seen from Boston.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery set up shop on the farm in the afternoon alongside talented artist and oyster fisherman Andrew Jacob, who dove into a live painting session while The Mattson 2 did, well, what they do best – string together classic sound. Ecovative blew minds with mushroom handplanes and Joe Hodnicki shared plenty of stoke at his booth. Local vendors such as New England Surf Co. huddled under the barn teaching the kids how to print-press their own event posters once they were done throwing hay at one another.
Vans scattered and parked over the occasional cow pie and it was time for business inside the workshop. Shawn of Vec Surfboards got things going with chat about board design and shortly after Rey from Entropy Resins introduced the crowd to the collaboration board showcasing his glassing approach. Hey, you never know when you will be building a board in your garage so despite my minimal, hamster-like attention span, I did my best to take note of Rey’s method.
Nearly five minutes after I found standing room, it happened. Over Rey’s broad shoulder a beam lit up the lumber walls of the workshop. An 83 year old man settled front row, smiling, eyes pacing along with every drop of resin combed into the wood. As he listened to Rey’s words he would raise his head and drop it again in response. I consider myself a good observer but to try and describe the look on his face as anything but pure joy would be absurd. It was in this moment that I put down my camera.
As the sun went down the moon and organic popcorn machine popped along with wood-fired pizza and other local treats. It was movie time. As if the day hadn’t been inspiring enough; the film “What the Sea Gives Me” projected on the side of the shop and sent waves of chills through the sea of people seated outside. Written by Geoffrey Smart and produced by Pierce and Petra Kavanagh, the film explores a human relationship with the ocean from the perspective of a phenomenal group of individuals. Their film was real. I burned the top of my mouth with a fried pickle in attempt to calm the nerves.
After the movie, Ecovative’s Alex Carlton and I walked upstairs to Grain’s glassing room to sneak a peak at the collaboration board. We found Jon and Rey taping the rails in preparation to glass the bottom. A stifling chemistry conversation ensues, as Jon and I stand in between Rey and Alex speechless. Ed then Mike, Andrew and Nolan – one by one the crew comes up stairs to join as if it was out of their control. It was like watching “Benny the Jet” Rodriguez and the boys sneaking off to the Sandlot for a quick nine innings. A few brave guests walk through the bubble of creative energy floating in the doorway, as signatures are laid across the bottom plank. Surrounded by his makers, Frankenstein board came alive as the resin set fire to the wood grain joining the moon and popcorn machine in a harmonious glow.
The morning after, the Mattson 2 wanted to surf. Jon Wegener hopped in my rental minivan and scrambled to find a handful of wetsuits for the twins. They snagged a few good waves before heading to Hudson, New York for their next gig.
Ed Lewis (who had seaweed in his beard all week) hitched a ride with me to Logan International airport in Boston where I dropped him off and continued south. Two Californians trying to navigate the east coast was an event in itself. Taking our minds off the fact we might be lost, we stir up a conversation on the “greening” of the surf industry today as we reflected on how September 27 would, without a doubt, stick with us for a long time. It isn’t too often you get to be around such a great blend of humans, creating things sustainably, for nothing but the fun of it. Ed, who was at the first Surf Re-Evolution in 2011 said from the passenger seat,
“There are your standard run of the mill events and there are events that are a melding of the minds to build on what you love.”
*Photos by John Brodie, Stay Stoked Photography and James Noah Sparkman