The attic’s magical mysterious green surfboard

The other afternoon your blog correspondent put down Haruki Murakami’s KAFKA BY THE SEASHORE, a masterful novel of talking cats and UFOs and other surreal things. I was distracted by a strange scraping in the attic, a sound that sounded familiar but which I couldn’t immediately place.

Flashlight in hand, I climbed the narrow stairs into the hot and dusty attic. The scrape, scrape continued. A coconut scent pierced the must of dust bunnies and mouse droppings. Why, it smelled like ssurf wax. Then I realized what the noise was — the sound of a surfer waxing his surfboard. As I spelunked deeper into the accumulated junk, the noise ceased. My flashlight fell upon a thin curve of green. Removing cardboard cartons of cobwebby clothes, I found this laid across the roof beams:


How had this odd surfboard gotten into the attic? I had no recollection of it whatsoever. No memory of a friend dropping it off. Green is a dangerous choice of color for surfing Indonesia waters, as it is a color sacred to Nyi Roro Kidul, Goddess of the South Seas.

Glassed fins, shaped by Kasufuza Naka under the “Left” logo, signed on the stringer, with only one dimension given, that of a length of 7’0″. Perhaps it came from another world of space-time where other dimensions are meaningless in this world? A thickness, say, of hyper(cos z ^ 2 * delta pi).




The fixed fins indicate a ripe old age, but its provenance remains a mystery. Wither and whence didst it travel in Indonesia? Did it traverse the light fantastic in a Padang barrel? Did it warp-drive the treacherous Sanur end section Did a talking cat accompany it?

When I hefted in under my arm, I was immediately seized by an urge to ride like the days of yore, when a 6’8″ was my gun of choice, but inching down the steps, I threw out my back again. Alas, I shall leave the Left alone.


UPDATE A previous post displayed some of Kim Bradley’s early Bali maestro shapes.

Robert Wilson sends in this photo of Lee Wilson’s first board, a Bradley Bali Design, re-shaped out of longer board:

fly board for lee

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Early Bali surfers on early Bali bikes on early Bali road

Jim Allison sent this photo of Fuge, Razz, and Blinky, three of Bali’s early surf pioneers. I think those are Honda 90 cc motorbikes, the most common bike rental of the time. (In fact, in the 70s, the government did not allow any motorbikes larger than 90 cc for some reason–I remember when they finally said okay to 125 cc bikes).

Look, empty road! Look, rice fields! Look, plastic, not!

early surfers transport

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Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi



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Some more of Kim Bradley’s boards

In last week’s post, Kim “The Fly” Bradley was mentioned as Bali’s second resident surfboard shaper (the first in the modern foam era).

fly pericsopes

(The above grabbed off Bukit Bear

Here are some more of Kim’s boards.

Matt sent in these photos of a treasured possession, a Bali Design board, number 29 (picked up in 1983):

fly board 1

fly board 2

fly board 3

Bukit Beartook a photo of these Bradley boards in 2002 (check out the fins):

fly board 4


UPDATE: Robert Wilson sends in this photo of Lee Wilson’s first board, a Bradley Bali Design, re-shaped out of longer board:

fly board for lee

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Bali’s first resident surfboard shapers

There’s little doubt that the first person to shape a surfboard on Bali was Robert Koke, sometime in the late 1930s. He and his wife Louise built and ran the Kuta Beach Hotel (at what is now the Hard Rock hotel). In her mesmerizing memoir, “Our Hotel in Bali”, Louis recounts how Bob made some “Honolulu” style boards — there’s also some pictures of locals with their alaias that Bob probably would have made. (Check out an earlier post on Bali’s first surfers)


Skip forward to the late 1970s/1980s for Bali’s next resident shaper. Your blog correspondent did some informal polling, and the consensus was that the next person to put planer to blank (whether slab of wood or foam) was Kim “Fly” Bradley, with his Bali Design label. I remember some weird shapes and art work that fit well the herbal sensibilities of the era.

bim bradley boards

(Grabbed off the Net–I’m not sure these board are Fly’s handiwork, as he also collected boards).

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Bruce Hansel to the rescue again

So your blog correspondent, who after several operations and a bunch of decades of life is getting old and slow to his feet, broke his two longboards this past wet season and has been without one for 6 weeks. He has his normal mals and mini-mals at an outer island, his usual Go To place, where he hasn’t Gone To in some time (putting kid through college = broke). Finally having scraped enough money together (well, it’s called a credit card, he doesn’t have to scrape it together for a month), this past week he went through the byways and bowels of Kuta in search of another longboard.

Interesting discovery (for surfboards before I’ve always had friends and family bring out well-known labels or personally known shapers): few used longboards for sale. Most of the new ones are shaped locally with labels I don’t know. At full $700-$800 price, too.

So starting to get sweaty and bewildered, one of those “aw screw it, it’s not meant to happen”, I by chance stumbled across a familiar name on a lovely looking longboard. Bruce Hansel! A sign from God. Search thee no more. Not to mention the price was right.

hansel board

hansel board2

Anyway, BH is an old Indo hand. He has some stories to tell, I’m sure. Here’s one, Google-found, about one of his surfing exploits from 25 years ago:

From the LA Times, August 24, 1988

A small cruise ship adrift in the Indian Ocean since its engine failed nearly two weeks ago was found by search crews, and all 10 members of a surfing expedition–including two from Southern California men–were alive and well, Indonesian officials reported.

The Southland residents are Troy Alotis, 22, of Dana Point and Chad Beatty, 30, of Redondo Beach.

“They were spotted by our patrol boat just off the coast of Krui in southern Sumatra and we are bringing them back to Jakarta today,” Col. Manurung, spokesman for the Indonesian national search and rescue team, told United Press International.

Krui is 150 nautical miles from Penaitan Island, where the vessel, Tirta Kencana, was abandoned Aug. 13 by Danny Camplin, 30, of Redondo Beach, and Bruce Hansel of Hawaii, who paddled for help on their surfboards.

Left drifting aboard the 40-foot converted fishing vessel were three crew members, two Australians, an Indonesian and four Americans.

Camplin, Beatty and Alotis had come to Indonesia in early July on a surfing expedition and had chartered the boat with the group for trips to unspoiled surfing waters. Carrying food and water for a six-day expedition, the group set off Aug. 10 from Labuan on the island of Java, and experienced engine trouble on Aug. 13.

Beatty’s mother, Marge Wilkins, told United Press International from her home in Salt Lake City that she was informed late Tuesday by an embassy official in Jakarta that the group had been found and all were safe.

“They said the Indonesian coast guard is sending a boat to pick them up and they’ll be in Jakarta within 12 hours,” she said.

“(The official) was very sure it was them and that they are safe,” she said.

Hansel and Camplin left the boat shortly after the engine failure had left its passengers stranded in the Sunda Strait that separates the islands of Java and Sumatra.

“We were drifting away from shore so fast we decided to jump off and go for it,” said Camplin, a 30-year-old professional diver.

“We paddled our surfboards for three hours against strong currents before reaching Penaitan island,” he said.

After reaching shore, Camplin Hansel hiked for a day and a half before finding a ranger station, according to friends in Redondo Beach who have spoken to Camplin.

Camplin and Hansel alerted Indonesian authorities, who dispatched air and sea search crews Aug. 16, Cassell said.

The Australian navy, a U.S. Navy jet and a plane owned by the American Embassy had joined the Indonesian military in the search, according to State Department spokeswoman Frances Jones. An Orion P3 long range maritime patrol plane flew in Tuesday from Diego Garcia naval base in the Indian Ocean to comb the waters around Penaitan Island, about 80 miles west of Jakarta.

Camplin and Beatty have visited Indonesia the past several summers on surfing trips, according to Chris Tronolone of Redondo Beach, who joined the pair in previous years and for several weeks this summer.

The trip to the west end of Java was to be the final excursion of the surfing vacation, said Tronolone, who flew home to Redondo Beach before the boat trip.

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Your correspondent off to do good deeds (plus a tip on writing stories)

Your blog correspondent is foregoing a bump in swell to visit an international school today to give tips on writing stories.

If you want to know, the key principle is simple: You main character has something he or she really wants. But as she tries to get it, somebody (or something) else stops her from getting it. This conflict (or series of conflicts) is the beating heart of a good story. Then at the end she gets what she wants but in an unexpected way.

So, off the top of my head, let’s try it.

Our main character Hugo is a mild-mannered accountant who really wants to go on a surfing holiday. Hugo asks his boss for time off. His boss says Hugo can have all the time he wants as he’s fired. Well, Hugo has enough money saved to do the trip and look for another job. But then he finds his wife has spent all the money, says she is in love with Hugo’s best friend, and wants a divorce. Hugo is determined to go on this surf trip, so he asks his father for money. His dad refuses. So Hugo borrows from a loan shark – and off he goes for a two-week surf charter trip in the Mentawais.

But when he arrives in Padang to board the boat, who should be on the trip but his ex-bestfriend and wife’s boyfriend. Hugo’s wife has spent Hugo’s money on this scumbug so he could have a surf trip.

Anyway, off they go—and a few hours out the engine breaks down and they have to limp into port. Twenty four hours later, it’s fixed and they finally sail all night and arrive at a remote isolated jungle spot the skipper says only he knows about. Waves are gorgeous and fun – but there’s also a surf camp on the point who claim exclusive access. What’s worse, it’s a surf camp for Stand Up Paddlers. And the loan-shark who loaned Hugo the money is one of the SUP guests – and Hugo has already missed his first repayment. Hugo tells the skipper let’s just move on find someplace else, but the skipper is one of those psycho hotheads who snarls, “Nobody can tell me what to do,” and storms down to a hidey-hole and emerges with an AK-47…

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