In this tale, the artist shares how SURF OHIO began as a pigment of his imagination, was born of a blizzard, spawned a cult-like following, rode a tidal wave of popularity, nearly wiped out, and now triumphantly returns in its 30′s to totally stoke a whole new generation of beach boys and girls!
I appreciate your interest in SURF OHIO and allowing me to share a part of my creative history; much of it gleaned from personal archives I have not visited for over a decade.
First of all, let me say this right up front – I don´t know how to surf. Well, not in the authentic sense. I plan to learn how very soon, by the way, and look forward to the experience with my two youngest (of four) sons. One of my twin 20-year-old sons learned to surf near Wilmington, North Carolina, recently. I went boogie boarding with the little ones on New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in October 2007, and even a little rain couldn´t keep us out of the water. You can tell that the locals take the beach for granted – they laughed at us “Yankees” frolicking in the surf. To them, the tropical 72-degree air temp felt like, well, I guess like October in Florida.
Of course, I have a few years on my five- and seven-year-old, but even if the “reef rash” took a bit of toll on the old man, it was still a gas to see the toe-headed grommets ride in, hootin´ like Laird Hamilton likely did the first time he caught one at Tunnels. And they dragged me right back out, again and again, to call out the “big ones” for them, as if they knew this experience was but a fleeting one for us kids from Ohio. Priceless.
I have always had a vivid imagination, an abundance of creative intuition, and an appreciation for coastal environments for as long as I can remember. A beautiful sunset is without a doubt the most savored part of the day, especially if it has been a day spent on the beach. A friend of my wife´s and her family now has an island beach house in the Carolinas. She says that any day that begins by watching the sun rise with a cup of coffee and the sun set with a glass of cabernet is a good one. Amen, sister. Hey, what was your address again?
Perhaps my creative obsession with surf has to do with family vacations to the West Coast when I was very young. Perhaps specifically due to one of those trips where a fine family friend (and my godfather), Howard Slusher, then an LA-based attorney, invited us to attend the 1969 premier of a surf movie he had a hand in. I was 11. Funny, about all I can attest to is its title, The Fantastic Plastic Machine. I later learned it was considered a turkey, but it must have left some impression.
I definitely remember our move from my hometown of Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus, to Wilmette, Illinois, north of Chicago (Go Bears). There, in the early 1960s, I spent kindergarten through second grade. With two older brothers then in middle and high school, I had plenty of exposure to the music of the day, usually 45 rpm records played on their phonograph. When a group of four mop-headed oddballs from the UK took the US music scene by storm, I must admit I was not bitten by the bug – The Beatles meant little to me, as I was already a Beach Boys and Jan & Dean fan. So the music definitely had an influence, one that only grew as my brothers´ cast-off record collection became mine, while they moved on to the more psychedelic rock era of music.
Those days were truly a musical endless summer for me, all the way into my high school days as a budding artist, journalist, and entrepreneur. I was American Graffiti-ized by the time we moved back to Columbus in 1966. By the time the movie of that name was released in 1973 – the start of my sophomore year of high school – and with Happy Days soon following, I was already retro. So it was in high school, in Columbus, Ohio, where the SURF OHIO story truly begins.
I also never returned to work for that company soon after my boss exclaimed that SURF OHIO was just about the “dumbest t-shirt idea ever.”Ron Kaplan