Robert August -- the man himself -- with the Beauty and the Beast
Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever had that feeling where you look at something (or someone) and are slammed in the face with desire? Usually when this wave of desire washes over me, I long for something unobtainable: Kelly Slater, a massive barrel at Cloudbreak, gills, etc. However, at Camp Shred -- which I decided was the best event in the world -- I came, I saw, I fell in love, I conquered.
Let's back up. Camp Shred was a surf expo held at San Elijo campgrounds this past March. It was probably the most awesome event ever to happen because the top names in the surf industry came out, opened their quivers, and allowed us common folk to take out any surfboard, any SUP, any fins and any wetsuit we wanted. Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store.
As Monica, Anastacia and I walked down the main drag we passed Al Merrick, Surftech, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Board Works and many more vendors. All the boards looked super fun, but the waves were small and mellow and I didn't want to waste my time paddling for waves on a shortboard. And then I saw her. And I knew right then and there she was the one.
All alone on the surf racks of the Robert August Surf Co. tent was a 9 foot 7 inch beauty of a board. I approached the woman at the tent and asked if I could really demo the board -- I mean, these things aren't cheap. "Of course! That's what they're here for!" she told me. I learned that she, Lisa, is the niece of the legendary Robert August. I asked her about marrying into the family and she graciously offered up any one of her three sons.
It was a hard choice between securing my place in the Robert August Surf Dynasty and surfing a sweet longboard, but I made the right decision. Although the surf was packed with people demoing boards, I caught the best waves because I was on the beautiful beast. Paddling was effortless, the drop-in like butter. I had never surfed a classic noserider like this but it was epic.
As hard as it was to get out of the water, there were many more surfboards I wanted to try -- keep in mind that there were hundreds of boards to choose from -- and I intended to surf them all. Bearing in mind that it was now late morning, Monica, Anastacia and I decided to investigate the beer garden, because there is nothing better in the world than drinking a frosty, cold beer in the warm sunshine while listening to live music after a sweet, salty surf session.
(This is where I pop up in the picture Loreen sent me.)
I went on to have one of the best days of my life, buzzed on the stoked vibes of Camp Shred. Monica and I took out a 12-foot inflatable stand up paddle board and took a tour of the kelp beds before attempting to catch waves in the small-ish surf. We also took out a huge, neon green foamie because foamies are my guilty pleasure. (I know, I know, I could have ridden any board in Al Merrick's quiver and I chose to ride a foamie...)
Monica and me kooking out with a sweet foamie and experimental wetsuits at Camp Shred
As I walked up the stairs to return the neon green foamie I saw a guy getting out of the water with my Robert August longboard. For a split second a surge of anger and envy shot through my veins, an instinct of panic and jealousy. However, I quickly remembered that this board was not mine, and part of what made Camp Shred so cool was that anybody could ride any board. "Sweet board, eh?" I said to the guy. "Aw man, like a Sunday drive!" he replied with a huge grin on his face.
I had two revelations in this moment: one, I needed this board to be mine and two, I don't like sharing. After trying out a few more boards and maxing out my energy capacity, Monica, Anastacia and I headed home. Before we left I stopped back by the Robert August tent. I got Lisa's contact info, made plans to crash the Robert August Camp Shred camp site next year, and picked up a sweet, pink Robert August hat.
I buzzed on that day at Camp Shred for a solid week before I put my desires into action. After perusing the Robert August website I decided to email Lisa directly about the longboard. The email I sent said something to the effect of:
Hi Lisa, remember me? I wanted to marry into your family... Now, I know I can't afford one of your surfboards, but if you ever need to get rid of one or can make me a deal, let me know!
Lisa responded within a day that, yes she remembered me and my friends because not many other people were trying to marry into her family that day (which is hard to believe!). She also wrote me that she would love to sell me the board I rode that day and made me a great offer. I can't tell you the exact price, only that it was too good to refuse -- but still not cheap!
But, being me, I had to hem and haw for a week or two before I could justify spending that much money on a luxury item. However, after calling a few friends who I knew would talk me into it, I made the call to Lisa. I asked her to hold the board for me while I hustled to make a little extra cash before driving up to L.A. to pick the board up.
"Oh, by the way," I asked Lisa while on the phone with her, "do you think you could have Robert August sign my board? Maybe write me a little personal message?"
"Unfortunately, he lives in Costa Rica so he isn't available to sign boards -- however, he is actually going to be in town at the end of the month to celebrate 50 years of The Endless Summer, so if you want to wait a few weeks, he might actually be able to sign the board for you," Lisa told me.
Whereas I didn't want to wait to ride my baby, I decided it would be worth it to wait a few weeks to have the man himself bless my board.
A few weeks later I got an email from Lisa saying Robert had signed my board and it was ready to be picked up. Miraculously, I had the day off work and a bit of cash in my pocket, so I donned my pink Robert August hat and set off for L.A.
The RA headquarters were located in an industrial part of L.A. but I knew I was close because I could smell fresh resin in the air. I parked my truck and walked a few steps down the street before a man popped his head out of a doorway. "Are you Corie?" he asked me. "Yep!" I said, surprised he knew who I was. "Oh, I'm Robert August. I hear you are picking up one of my boards today. Nice to meet you."
I was stunned. Had I heard him right? The same Robert August who surfed around the world and made his dream a reality, only to inspire the dreams of millions of other surfers? I recognized his smile and, like a true surfer dude straight out of the tropics, he was rockin' socks with flip flops. It was him alright.
After snapping out of being star struck, we shook hands and I introduced myself. I needed to ask him something immediately that had been weighing on me. "Robert," I said, "I need to ask you something. Do I have your permission to surf this board into the ground? Or should I hang it up on the wall and keep it pristine?"
"Surf the thing into the ground!" he replied. "I can't stand it when somebody buys one of my boards and then hangs it on the wall. They were made to be ridden!"
I sighed with relief. I knew this was going to be his answer, but I needed his approval. I'd never owned a board this nice, and I didn't want to have to feel guilty about riding it. "Oh, and one more thing, Mr. August, can you please sign my hat?" I asked. I was too shy to ask for a picture with him.
He pulled out a Sharpie and signed my hat before grabbing his things and leaving to do whatever legends such as himself do with their free time. Lisa and I settled our accounts, I picked out a fin and a t-shirt, and then she presented me with my new board. Right there on the bottom of the board it says, "Keep Surfing Corie! Robert August".
My baby, aka the Beauty and the Beast aka Roberta
What a treasure. And it's official -- I have to surf until I die -- Robert August says so. This board is now hanging on the wall in my bedroom, with a few kisses from the reef on her nose. I named her the Beauty and the Beast (and also Roberta) because she is so giant but also so perfect. I only ride her on small days, and have a long ways to go in learning the classic longboard style, but learning to surf new boards and new styles are my favorite lessons in life. And life is good.