Aloha everyone and welcome to the 17th episode of our podcast.
Today with us from UK, Simon Tucker, former pro surfer and surfboards collector.
Let’s discover more about him, his amazing collection and much more!
The episode is live now in all major podcast platforms (Spotify, I Tunes, YouTube, …) , if you want to read the interview, just see below, but forgive us of spelling mistakes!
TTOS: Aloha Simon and welcome to the show, where are you today?
I’m very good,thank you, mate…. not too bad at all.
Beautiful weather here in the UK.
TTOS: How’s it going over there during this time of coronavirus? Are things getting back to normality step by step?
Not so much for us because we’re in Wales, which is a little bit different than the UK.
The UK is ease thing out of lockdown, but Wales is still in lockdown.
They opened up the golf clubs to play and that was okay for me to go surfing….so yeah, back in the water as of yesterday.
TTOS: Okay. That’s, that’s nice. Great to hear!
I’m doing a lot of interviews these days and I’m hearing that a lot of people are going back to the water….actually is great!
And I heard from people in Hawaii, for instance, that doing surfing was never under discussion ….means it’s so part of the culture that everybody that wanted to go to surf could go without any problems. A special permit for surfing, that’s amazing.
That is amazing.
TTOS: Today we are going to talk about your collection, surf, surfboards and much more. First question that I have for you is what is, in your opinion, the most important thing in surfing?
You just need to have fun.
Just be who you are….just go surfing, just have fun, enjoy it.
Once you stop enjoying it….there’s no point doing it.
TTOS: even for people that are very competitive, you know, they must enjoy it…. Otherwise it becomes too stressful, right?
Yeah, absolutely, when you take stress in a competition situation, you’re not going to do so well.
It’s once you take that stress away, you take the pressure away, you will compete for better.
TTOS: And that applies actually to every sport. If you look at that…
Absolutely! Unfortunately, the surfing hasn’t got the money of the other sports, so it can become quite stressful.
Back in the eighties, when I was competing, it was very difficult to get financial backing and financial help. It was really challenging and stressful and sleeping in places you wouldn’t want to sleep just to wake up to the contest and then you have to do well to get yourself to the next event….it was tough.
TTOS: Yeah. But now at least things got better, right?
There is more money in the sport, but I still think it’s very, very difficult for somebody in the UK to break in. I don’t think we’re good enough right now.
France, Spain, Portugal are starting to make inroads on the world surf league.
I think today, if you’re good enough, you could get some financial backing, but that’s before covid,
After this, it’s going to decimate the surfing community because companies such big names are going to be affected, they’ve got two seasons, which they’re getting nailed for, in addition to that, the pound on the dollar has been so bad.
They’re gonna be paying high prices and every surf shop is now returning their products because they’re not selling.
Who’s going to survive after this. I do not know.
TTOS: Let’s hope for the best! We need to bring all the positive energy to the world to survive after this crisis.
You were talking about Olympics, is there a surfer or some surfers that will representing United Kingdom in Tokyo next year?
No, we got no one. We had nobody at that level.
we used to, we had a surfer Russell Winter who actually made the WSL for a number of years and he was on the world tour and did very, very well beating Kelly at Jeffrey’s.
Sort of did very, very well and then fell off the tour, but since then, nobody’s managed to get on that world tour.
Russell Winter was the one from the UK “The British Bulldog”, as he was known, he was the only one who made inroads into that.
TTOS: What was the first surfboard that you ever bought?
My brother had a surfboard for Christmas when I was about seven or eight and I spent Christmas day watching him surf on a freezing cold day.
I sorta got the bugs spread, my parents took me to surf and they rented me, a kneeboard,looking back on it, but I was quite small at the time.
I pretty much think the first board I bought was a kneeboard probably a “Tiki Kneeboard” which was very popular in the UK back then.
That’s the first board I learned properly to surf on.
TTOS: And do you still have that surf board by any chance?
No, I don’t. It would have been nice, but I don’t have that one. It would be nice.
TTOS: You know, I asked this to everybody and basically everyone is telling me “I wish I had it”…
Yesterday I was on the phone with Bird Huffman, he is the owner of Bird Surf Shop in San Diego, he told me that he has a rule: If you enter in his shop and you find a board that belong to you and you can prove it, he will give it back to you, you don’t have to pay. I thought it was like very, very interesting in effect.
He told me the story that one of his friend or somebody that he knew, he came to the shop and he said like “That Lightning Bolt from the seventies, I think is mine….”and then Bird told him “I will give it to you only if you prove it” and he said : “you know it has a sticker on the back of the board”.
They brought it down from that huge structure and they saw the sticker and he gave it back.
Maybe…. if that kneeboard in San Diego, you can get it back for free.
It would be nice….
TTOS: When did you start realizing that you became like a surfboard collection?
I used the surf competitively years ago and somebody messaged me and said they have one of my old boards, which is a “Kong – Hot Stuff”.
He asked if I’d be interested in purchasing it off him before he put it on eBay,so he sent me photographs of it and it immediately transported me back to the mid-eighties.
I went down and picked it up off him…It still had the same wax I’d put on the same deck, wrapped the same stickers as he hadn’t ever used it.
And it was just a time capsule, I bought it and it’s still has the inscription from the shaper on the stringer.
That’s when I started to become interested and started to collect just a few of my old boards, which I managed to get quite a few.
Then I became interested in boards that I’d always been interested as a kid from, you know, mid- seventies, the Lightning Bolts for instance that were in the magazines at that time…seeing the Lightning Bolts in there, but never actually owning authentic Lightning Bolt
That was aspiring to get to the Lightning Bolt collection.
I think every collector starts off collecting everything in the beginning, all in everything you collect boards and a beacon beyond sort of any recognition, but there’s a bit of history there.
And time goes on, you realize that you’ve got too many boards and you need to thin it down.
You either specialize into a certain collection, a certain era or a certain brand.
All you’re trying to do is change the boards for a far more important board or a better condition board.
You’re always after that next one.
TTOS: Yeah, exactly. I have the same, let’s call it “problem”, more, you go for quality, more you go for rarity, more the price is expensive and a board still remain a fragile tool…. and you don’t want like people to touch them.
Absolutely, I’ve got a rule that I’ve set myself is that I have to sell boards to fund a new one.
The one behind me again is Shaun Thompson.
I sold seven boards to get that one, extending the collection down in a way.
TTOS: I think you made the right choice…. my wife would tell me the same way “Alessandro, you know, you need to sell the last board before buying a new one.” but as long she doesn’t threaten me of divorce….
You should collect just one brand, when you collect one brand, they all look the same.
TTOS: Exactly….That’s a good point!
TTOS: Tell us more about your collection…. What is the most representative a surfboard you have?
I started off collecting, as I said before, my old surfboards, which were eighties.
I used to work in surf factory in the UK, we had the rights for Shane Stedman, Mark Richards and Robert Bartholomew.
I started collecting those boards and I got some pretty good ones of those.
It was only 70 Shane Stedman made in the UK, they’re quite rare and I ended up getting about eight of them, almost 10% of them.
I kept the better ones of those.
I’ve got the first one that was ever done for Shane approved they could make them.
Then I sort of wanted an authentic McCoy and I managed to get an authentic one, which I always wanted. And then the Lightning Bolt surfboards, I must admit, these are the only ones that go through the generations.
Always the most iconic Lightning Bolt shapers were either Jerry Lopez or Tom Parrish top shapers.
To get those boards would have been the sort of icing on the cake for my collection.
I ended up getting a green one from Australia, which is in incredibly good condition…It’s all original condition.
The most important board I got was the last one, the Shaun Thompson, for me, it was the journey of the history that was key.
I’ve got to say that Sean Thompson and Tom Parrish were phenomenal in sharing the information.
I was very, very fortunate with those two, such really nice guys.
Tom Parrish is probably the purist, he just loves the sport.
When the information starts to come together, it’s a huge thrill to find out that photograph of the guy, riding it in 1978 and you can see it and all the stars align and it’s bang….You’ve got it.
That’s the thrill for me is finding that history, chasing it down….
TTOS: Rebuilding the story is so important.
Absolutely you know, I must’ve gone through three and a half thousand photographs to try and find it.
I contacted so many photographers from back in the days…..and then one day, when I wasn’t looking there, while I was looking at sunsets, it turns out to be there….. it was amazing.
TTOS: you told me before that sometimes you are selling boards to finance the new ones. Have you ever regretted to have sold something to somebody?
All of them.
TTOS: Oh my God…. That’s like a big regret. How can you live with it?
Yeah, it’s absolutely painful.
I gotta be honest. I have to delete the photographs off my phone, otherwise I keep looking back on it. And I have got to remember the reasons why I did it.
It is hard because every board is a search, is a reward, it’s a bug trying to find/track down its history and you get it, you clean it, you look at it, you remember it.
I personally don’t surf them because now it is a totally different style of surfing, you know, it’s almost like trying to drive a model T down the motorway…..you’re going to get overtaken.
You’re not going to go 70 miles an hour, for me, if I catch a wave and I was on one of these boards, I would regret it because you want to do the maneuvers that you do today and these boards don’t allow that.
Some people think that’s sad, you know, that’s a wrong thing to do. They should be surfed, but I think they’ve had their day. They survived.
TTOS: In addition to that, you need to preserve them…..If you use them and damage them, there is no way to bring them back to state.
I bought a book yesterday, it’s “The code” by Shawn Thompson, which is a really informative book and it’s brilliant.
In there he describes how boards at that time in the 70, 75, 78 were so precious, they only got a few that he swam out at sunset against the rip and he was almost in trouble because boards were so precious because they had so few intact as they snapped so many.
To find a board from that era, that’s being surfed at maxing pipeline and survived is amazing, it’s incredible.
TTOS: In your opinion, what is the most important thing in creating a surfboard collection?
I would tend not to focus on one particular board.
I like to spread the boards out a little bit, have different bits from different collectors.
I just try to achieve the better boards I can get, but there’s a limit.
You know, today you see some collectors that are spending an absolute fortune in creating collections, but I also think the most important thing is not to over restore, but, unfortunately, there are a lot of over-restored boards out there.
I believe that all you’re doing is stripping that history away, I don’t think they’re as authentic.
You might have the core of the foam, the original foam, but once a board is being stripped re-sanded to get the brown away re logo, resigns, re glass, for me, personally, it’s a new board… It’s not an old board….It’s not a vintage surfboard.
It may have the look of a vintage surfboard, but it’s not.
I think at the moment, the market is very funny, whereas original boards are less than restored boards. And I think that market needs to correct itself because to find the board that’s 50 years old and still original condition is the best you’re going to get.
TTOS: There are like people that do restoration, like “true art”, the workmanship is phenomenal …
This one (referring to a board behind him) was restored by Randy Rarick and the workmanship is amazing….it’s an art, it’s incredible and the time taken to do it is phenomenal
But I would go and get a new board made today to replicate an old great board, I would rather do that than having it restored
TTOS: Makes sense. Let’s talk about you as a surfer today. What is your favorite board to use?
It is quite funny because I was talking about this yesterday with my friend.
I’m a creature of habit, when I surfed competitively, I had one board. I didn’t have a quiver of boards.
The board I’m using now I’ve had for 10 years, I don’t like to change boards, I hate it with passion.
I try to keep the same board, I’ve got my favorite board for competition in the garage and I had that for 10 years.
It’s in a sorry state, but I always used to like, once I got used to a board, I’d rather surf that board in all conditions, because I know that board inside out.
Whereas I think today, a lot of surfers will go: “I’ve got this board for three foot, I’ve got this board for four foot, I’ve got this board for five foot” and then you never know it would be in your head as “should I have bought the other board in?”
I remember I did a contest, once in Scotland, it was an European championships and it was absolutely huge….it was 10, 12 feet closing out.
I don’t know if you know, but the waves there are breaking up into the Harbor.
They couldn’t get a lifeboat bed because the waves are big and going straight into the Harbor.
I was in a heat with a couple of guys from France and Portugal….they had guns, we were all paddling out. I had a six/two, I think, and big set came in….we all went under, the other guys guns were snapped, mine was still in one piece
Don’t get me wrong, it was very tricky to get down the wave and to do a bottom turn, but after the bottom turn “I was away”, it was great, it was a solid face, but you could turn on it.
But the guys who would get a very much drop in and they would struggle because they had too big boards. So for me, I was much more comfortable writing a smaller board, pretty much preferred
TTOS: We’re going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind…
The best surfboard that you ever ridden…
A Kong Hot Stuff.
TTOS: The best shaper of all time,
TTOS: A young shaper of today that you really think should be in everybody, surfboard collection
Wow. You stumped me on that one…. I don’t know. I would say my very good friend, Josh Demery who sadly passed away at 29. He was a very good friend of mine and he did some restorations for me.
TTOS: your favorite surf spot?
Encinitas, California, I would say is my favorite location to go surfing. It’s not the best waves, but it’s my favorite place to go
Best wave would be “The Bubble” in Fuerteventura
TTOS: best surfer of all time or your favorite surfer…
Kelly Slater, without a shadow of doubt? I would say Kelly, he just changed demographics.
TTOS: The last question is a little bit unusual,It doesn’t talk at all about surf, but we ask everybody… we want to know your best relationship advice…..
Don’t lie. Tell the truth every time!
Recorded in June 2020