Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dan Banus

I will always remember Dan Banus as the guy who bragged he never paid taxes because the government did not know he existed. He never filed a tax return. Every time I called him (he was our shop bro electrician) and dialed 310 379 1099 I just smiled ear to ear. The Gov. could not find him, but someone randomly gave him a number ending in 1099.

He was a character, one of those guys they broke the mold on. I think the best Banus story I can think of (and there are many) was a day he was doing some overhead light work in our Hermosa store. Now, you have to remember that this was a cat that was always kidding and messing with all of our employees. He could dish it out and he got it back. Kind of like that uncle that is always messing and wrestling with your kids.

Kris Buckner was one of those kids at the shop, and he learned a lesson when he came to work, found Dan on the ladder and decided it was fun time. Problem was, Dan had a very complex personality, one that Kris badly miss read that day.

Kris saw Dan on the ladder, concentrating on that ballast, and proceeded to pants him. Dan smiled, retreated from the ladder, and like a good spirited uncle went to Kris for a hug. The disguised hug quickly turned into a take down, with Kris quickly losing his pants, shirt, shoes and anything that did not render him completely naked.

There were more than a few customers and employees in the store. What started as an amusing joust between wrestlers soon caught more than a few gasps as Kris's screams and kicking (he was beginning to imagine his fate) filled the store with angst. All watched as Dan picked a kicking Kris up, put him over his shoulder, and proceeded to deliver him buck naked to the middle of Pier Ave. where he planted him like he was planting the flag on the moon (no pun intended).

Kris was and is an exceptional individual, and went on to found the premier private detective agency specializing in counterfeit goods. His firm represents most of the surf industry heavies.

Dan took his life several years later. He had his issues, and will be sorely missed.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Petacalco-Mexican check points

Before we left on our 70's trip to Central America we ran into this local guy named Bob Bacon. He told us that if we were making that drive, the hot tip was to get a bunch of old Playboy magazines if we wanted to get through the army checkpoints. We thought the bugger was nuts, but he rattled our cage enough that we rounded up about 10 dog eared mags just for insurance sake.

After weeks of driving and pretty much forgetting about the possibility of a military checkpoint we came around a corner a couple hours north of Petacalco and there it was. We had heard plenty of rumors of these checkpoints tearing cars apart, taking hours of your time, and potentially planting crap on you.

We were in the middle of nowhere, and as we pulled to the side our hearts were pounding. Six well armed, pimply faced soldiers circled our car. We exchanged pleasantries as best we could, as they looked in windows and asked to have this door and that box opened and removed. I gave it a couple of minutes and reached in for a mag, pulled one of the guys aside, and said "Te Gusta?".

We owe Mr. Bacon a ton for that tip. We hit 6 checkpoints (this was drug country) in the next day or two and the Playboy worked every time. The soldiers were much more interested in the mags than they were in us (remember Mexico was very conservative back then, and these were rare I am sure). We would give them a minute or two with the mags, share some smiles and favorite pages, and then offer it to them in "friendship".

My memories are of six soldiers, in a circle, in our rear view mirror as we moved down the road.
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Rule of thumb: Wait a day to eat your gift bagels

Years ago, there was a bit of a rivalry between a major shop north of our stores, and a small upstart rival. Seems there was a bit of sensitivity because the upstart was an ex-employee, and he was rattling a few cages around the area.

I believe the rivalry was heating up a bit over some competitive snowboard issues.

The upstart (I am withholding names, it got a little sensitive) sent a dozen assorted bagels in a gesture of peace and friendship to the rival store. The rival (by our accounts) enjoyed the gesture and the high end assortment of tasty specialty store bagels.

Two days later the upstart sent a picture to their competitor. Twelve guys, pants at their ankles, bent over in the classic BA with a bagel stuck in each ass.

To our knowledge the upstart has never copped to whether or not there was a second dozen bagels.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Brian Bent

Brian Bent has worked for us since he was 16 I think. He has risen through the ranks and for the last ten years or so has been the creative genius behind our stores look, and the company's vibe. He sings and plays guitar in a ripping band, is a minister at his own church (Hotrod Church for Sinners), is one of the finest creative multimedia artists I have ever known, and quite frankly rips with style in the water.

He likes to go where few have gone before (or better yet, no one). For the last few months he has been riding an old kook box at San'O and Doheny. He shows up in his custom jalopy, dons his farmer john, and gets more than a few hoots and hollers when he drops in. Dragging his foot in the wave swings his sled around, and then it is full swath trim. He says she trims real well.

The photos speak volumes
Photos courtesy Don Craig...

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Monday, May 25, 2009

They never guess it...

I love to work the showroom at our stores, and love to fin up new boards for folks. Working the templates, colors and choices of fins is just as much fun as actually finding the right board for them. I rarely finish the process without acting serious and asking this question of the new owner (or anybody that is listening for that matter):

"Do you know what country makes all of these fins?"

Not a person has ever guessed the answer, and the question always causes pause and reflection. I love this part. I always give them time, just as I am giving you right now.

Give up?


Most folks laugh and get it. Some folks take a moment, and I have had more than a few actually say, "wow, I would not have known that. Why Finland?"
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We got company.

On the afternoon of the second day at Petacalco two rogue gringo drug guys showed up out of the brush and told us in very short terms we needed to leave. They had machetes, and were definitely acting the part of tough guy. They said we were not welcome and had some bullshit reasons why we had to leave. They pretty much were calling it their place and backing it with a threat of violence, but I think we stumbled into some other drug crap. I call them drug guys because we knew this area was a big producer of pot, and we had more than a couple of heavy searches on our way through by military checkpoints. These guys seemed pretty strung out, and reason did not seem a very good option at this point. We were a bit taken aback by the confrontation, but given the perfect surf out front and the inability to talk among the four of us for a strategy to confront them the best we could do was "we will think about it". Needless to say, neither group said "goodnight, sleep tight" as they pulled back.

After they left, we decided to call bullshit on their threats and hold our ground. We had a couple of Singapore slings and one spear gun so it was not like we could not huff and puff too. Calling bullshit is easy, sleeping in the middle of nowhere with who knows who in the weeds behind you is another thing. Not much sleep that night, but perfect surf the next day with no bogey men around kind of settled our anxiety. At the end of day three, it seemed that these guys either did not surf, or waited until it was far less than perfect to quit smoking and paddle out.

That night they came back. They were playing the machete card hard and saying leave now or someone was going to get hurt. We stood across the fire with the three spears and basically said "lets go". My heart was beating pretty damn good, but my three partners played the bluff perfectly.

They changed tactics and kinda became bros for a moment. Probably because they did not want to lose face by retreating but not wanting to call our bluff because in reality they were So Cal mommy boys (like me). We all dropped the threats, and found a little common ground. After a bit of conversation they found out we had a jar of peanut butter (please don't ask me to remember whey we mentioned that). They offered us a bag of pot for it, and we politely declined the offer and just gave it to them (Oh, I know you are all calling bull. No we did not take it).

They seemed to reluctantly accept our compromise of leaving in a couple of days, and keeping the place a secret. They left and we did not sleep.

We surfed perfection for the next couple of days, got tired of looking over our shoulders (you have to realize how vulnerable you are when you are camping on a deserted beach) and pulled out per our agreement. In retrospect, we should have killed them as the world would have been a better place. But, in our minds if we had just found this one perfect point there is probably another one a day away-without clowns.

We drove 8 hours a day for over a week before we found our next gem. La Libertad, El Salvador.

And, yes, Peterson and Naughton were here a month before.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Memories of Petacalco, the discovery

We had had a long day driving in late 1970 on our way to Central America, and were just looking for a beach to set up our tents. Mainland Mexico was proving to be very hard to explore as the maps did not exist and we had no inside knowledge. We pulled down a long dirt road with no idea where it would end (we knew we were pretty close to the beach), just wishing it was not one of those go to nowhere roads that won't let you turn around without getting stuck. We were tired and it was going to be dark soon.

Low and behold we found sand. Lots of sand. A sand point that we guessed was probably half a mile long. It was getting dark and we could see surf, but we had no idea what we had stumbled upon.

Turns out we had stumbled upon a break that was soon to be legend. We had no way of knowing that Craig Peterson and Kevin Naughton had been here several weeks before and were putting together their legendary Surfer Mag story of the place We had the point to ourselves that evening, and in the morning we had it again. In fact, for the five days we were there we never saw surfboards that were not under our arms.

That first morning it was about 3-4 feet out in front, and there were perfect peaks all the way up the point. The amazing part was it was the same long grinding rights, and super hollow short lefts all the way to the tip of the point, but at the tip you could count the seconds it took for the wave to break. It was hard to judge, but we reckoned it was a solid 15 feet at the tip of the point, and gradually got smaller down the point to where our camp was set up.

New place, no one out, easy call. We opted for our first go out to be in front of the camp. Looks super fun. My first wave pitched me so far and and so hard I saw stars. Now, for those who have seen me surf in the last 10 years I can just hear you saying "what else is new", but honestly I had a bit of game back then and that wave shook me pretty good. The worst part was I broke my Dale Dobson bungy leash and I only had three for the trip. I went in, regrouped, releashed and went out for another. The second wave pitched me further and harder than the first, and now I had two snapped leashes.

As the morning progressed we worked our way up the point. Progressively bigger, perfect and mindblowing. Tom Curtiss kept going up the point long after we had found our limits, and I will always have a mental picture of him on a solid 10' plus bomb. God, where were our cameras (back in the jeep, way too far to walk), and who the hell films when it is this good anyway?

Well, Craig Peterson was filming weeks before, and his photos of that place blew minds when the issue came out. One of his captions was "how can a 3' wave pitch 6'!" I sure found that one out.
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