Surfboard collections: An interview with a reluctant seller

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

"I loathe selling them because they all have a story to tell." It's the lament of the reluctant board seller. The anguished fellow whose collection is the end result of years of effort, which epitomises his passion for the craft and for surfing's rich history, and which equates to a shed load of coin...and now he has to sell it.

While researching this month's Board Bazaar I noticed a seller unloading many incredible craft: a Lopez Lightning Bolt gun, a Renny Yater rhino chaser, a McCoy Lazer Zap, a downrailed Terry Fitz Hot Buttered. Each would be the crown jewel in an ordinary collection, yet this fella had many. Each week another gem was posted and sold on eBay. I decided to get in contact with 'Gav' and find out why he's selling his treasures.

Swellnet: How long have you been collecting for?
Gav: Can’t really recall, but at least twenty years now. Started messing around with old boards for the fun of surfing them, kinda got into the fact that the boards that I related to were typically made by hand and from a period of craftsmanship that is slowly dwindling. I’m a designer builder specialising in eco-friendly houses and we focus on craftsmanship and bespoke designs and details, so I guess my eye is in the detailing and workmanship. 

Obviously, it’s been said a million times over, the period form the late 60’s to early 80’s represented such a massive development in board design, materials and surf culture that it’s hard to not be inspired by it. I grew up through that period and had family shaping boards at home, and really related to the what was happening. Funnily enough I lived in Indo during the early to mid 70’s and travelled to Bali heaps then as a kid. I didn’t surf yet, but rode a mat at Kuta sunburned to oblivion and remember all the nude hippies on the beach getting harassed by the local cops...classic times. I’ve been lucky enough to get boards shaped by some of the all time shaper surfers of the era too…Lopez, McCabe, Lynch to name a few.

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You’ve got a few Hawaiian boards, were they bought here or over in Hawaii?
I lived on Kauai for a while and have done quite a few trips over there, because my best mate lives there. I prefer surfing bigger swell, because I reckon it compensates for my lack of skill. Big is all relative though, nothing like what you see happening these days, and I’m in awe of the guys charging, especially kids like Russell Bierke, who’s old man has been shaping and charging for ages.

I digress though…I have a good network of collector friends in Hawaii that I get boards through and have stashed some over there, which my mate brings over when he comes back.  My passion is Lightning Bolts, of which I have a few. To me they are like the Ferrari’s of surfboards. Lopez in particular, his boards are so unique. He is just such an amazing statesman for our sport. So articulate, so well travelled and knowledgeable, and an amazing surfer to boot. I have an 8’0” gun shaped by him for me a few years ago and it’s hard to describe how good a board it is!! The rails are really unique and it just handles anything I have tried it in of late.

Did you ride your collection, or were they all for show?
I love riding the guns in particular. I have a super sweet Canyon 8’0” by Rusty from 1978, a couple of HB’s by Terry that are really good riders, and can always fall back on the MR twinnie for fun.  I don’t get as much of a buzz out of shorter single fins because I miss the drive that you get from contemporary thrusters. I think one of the main reasons people love messing around on them is because they tend to glide so much better due to their flatter rockers and also the forward-of-centre volume makes them so much better at paddling, so it makes surfing slop fun.

But I love to pull out a 7’6” - 8’0” when it’s double overhead as it gets me in easy, pulls really nice long lines and holds tight to the face if hollower. I’ve been riding a classic 7’2” Widowmaker by Wayne Lynch a fair bit lately…awesome board!!!

I actually only have two boards on display…one is an artwork board by Jed Done from Merimbula which depicts Derek Hynd at J-Bay, and a classic 5’4” 80’s thruster by Bill Cilia of Nirvana fame, which will be for my son when he’s old enough. We don’t have heaps of space for displaying boards and as much as I love them, I’m kinda into pulling them out and talking shit about them or riding them with mates rather than posing. Quoting Damion from Boardcollector.com, “they are functional artworks."

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So why are you selling the boards?
Need cash in the bank to do more work on the house, and work has been slow whilst I’ve gone back to uni to study Architecture

How do you feel parting with them?
I loathe selling them because they all have a story and history to tell. Saying that, Ive been lucky enough to sell what I have duplicates of, or better versions of…so for the most part I still have all the really treasured boards.

Do you have a preferred type of buyer?
I really love it when my boards go to someone who understands the history and what developed to get to this stage in surfboard development. Funnily enough quite a few of my boards of late have gone to guys who are just starting out their collections and that feels good too, especially when they buy boards that they want to surf. I know a few guys who’ve bought pretty valuable boards strictly because they want to surf the retro riders!! If you look at what is current in boards, so many have taken on the volumes and outlines of the past boards, just using new technology, foils and rockers to improve them.

Last words..?
Do yourself a favour, grab a good quality 7’6” and ride it when it’s double overhead or bigger next time…you won’t regret it; and if you do, it will still make for a great story!

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 at 4:10pm

Great interview. Gav sounds like a nice guy and very interesting cat to talk to. Not a hint of pretence.

lenny67's picture
lenny67's picture
lenny67 Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 6:44am

Yes great stuff to read, I used to tear the glass off these kind of old beasts and make my own shortboards! Built to last those boards were, one every 10 years required back then!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Monday, 17 May 2021 at 8:39pm

Gerrys Bolt was really Drouyns.....

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 18 May 2021 at 7:47am

Warshaw says the dates don't stack up in Drouyn's favour claiming Gerry first painted a bolt on his board in 1969.

There's also footage of Queensland surfers with a redwood slab and a lightning bolt painted on it.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Tuesday, 18 May 2021 at 5:35am

I wonder how much an old lightening bolt will set you back these days?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 18 May 2021 at 8:17am

All depends on condition and provenance (who shaped it, who rode it, can it be proven), but in general all vintage boards have levelled off in value over the last few years.

The very best bolts - shaped by GL and ridden by a 70s pro - would fetch near $15K if in good, original condition, but most (all?) of those are stored away in collections now anyway.

A lesser bolt, say a shop model shaped by Tom Eberly or Bill Stonebraker, might fetch $5K depending on condition, and then there are bolts made under license outside of Hawaii. In Australia they're usually made by Doug Bell and generally feature late-70s designs - shorter, twin, swallow - and they'd be in the range of a couple thousand tops.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Tuesday, 18 May 2021 at 9:11am

Lopez's wife Toni
is Rabbits ex wife ?

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Tuesday, 18 May 2021 at 9:36am

That white brick wall of Gav’s has framed so many epic boards...usually with a plugger under the tail for protection! I have a couple of his old boards in my collection. Sadly, in my opinion, collecting has gone to the dogs in recent years. The camaraderie has faded away and greed and money have brought out the vultures.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 18 May 2021 at 10:45am

Aye. I got burned badly, twice.

First time I had a Sunny Coast 'collector' appeal for a Wilderness I had, laid out this compelling argument about his connection to Wilderness and hence emotional connection to the board. I bought the story whole and, unbelieveably when I think about it now, sold him the board for $100 thinking I was a good samaritan, brotherhood of surfing etc etc.

Week later he was asking $1000+ for it.

Few years later I was at a talk at Sandon Point Surf Club when Hozzo - rest his soul - brought in a bunch of boards to display, one of them an old G&S I used to own. I asked him who he bought it from and how much. I hadn't been creamed as badly as the Wilderness but I clearly had been taken advantage of.

Used to love dealing with some guys swapping boards, plus their stories and knowledge, but experiences like the above really left a bitter taste in my mouth.