Ride of my life

March 13, 2013 — Vocations

By Adam Davenport ’06

Photo: Mark Kawakami/Body Glove

My parents both worked, so the beach was the babysitter. We’ll pick you up at 7:30, they said. My friends and I from Hermosa Beach were Junior Lifeguards up by 18th Street, Manhattan Beach, and we surfed the rest of the day.

Once when I was 10 or 11, I remember going out, turning the board, taking a couple of steps up and just feeling that acceleration and that oh-my-God, aha moment of the board taking off and picking up speed and climbing up the face of the wave.

I was really too young to grasp what was happening, but it was – it still is – that elemental feeling of acceleration and climb. Whether you’re on a longboard or a shortboard, I think everybody just wants those butterflies in the pit of the stomach, that sensation of gliding over water.

You don’t see a lot of young kids saying, I want to be a surfboard shaper when I grow up. I didn’t either. I went to college thinking, OK, I’m going to be a history teacher and coach football.

It never dawned on me that I could be in the surf industry, until 2004 when I was home on summer break from Cal Lu. I know I only lived an hour away, but college was the first time I was out on my own. It opened up my world, and that summer, before my junior year as a history major, I felt the freedom that college had given me.

My dad and I drove down to Walker Foam in Wilmington, and I got what is known as a second, or a reject, polyurethane foam plank. My dad and uncle both rode for Robert’s Surfboards in the ’60s, and I used to see the piles of boards in our backyard. My uncle had a Weber Performer 9-foot 6-inch longboard which I really liked a lot, and I made a template off of it and copied it.

For the next week, I absolutely made a mess in my garage. The board came out … OK. The outline was a little crooked. There were a lot of fundamentals that I didn’t know about. Since then, I’ve had a lot of help, from my mentor Tyler Hatzikian, teacher Michael Geib and others in the surf industry. I’ve had to shape hundreds of boards, and I’ve had to ask questions and watch and learn. But from that summer on, I knew that if I practiced – just like a sport or school or anything else – I could get this.

I owe a lot of credit to the faculty and coaching staff at Cal Lu for being just good teachers, not trying to impose their will on us but trying to pull out what they saw as the good in us. Two history teachers were really, really good to me. Michaela Reaves and Peter McDermott made it OK for me to step away from my parents’ dreams of me becoming a lawyer, and to go out in this world and make it on my own.

Good longboarding is very beautiful. (I was never drawn to the kinetic, frantic surfing style of modern shortboarding. The aesthetics of that surfing is kind of painful for me to watch.) You see someone who knows how to put the board in the right spots on the wave, turn it and noseride it. When everything goes right and you see someone get a great ride, for me at least it gives me goose bumps on my arms.

And to see someone hand shape that board, and now that rider can articulate what that shape is and how that wave works? It’s amazing how all the things we’ve learned from the ’20s all the way to 2013, all this design theory and trial and error, comes together on a minute ride at Ballona Creek or Palos Verdes or Rincon Point. It just keeps you coming back and wanting more.

Adam Davenport maintains close friendships from his days as a Kingsmen offensive lineman under Head Coach Scott Squires. For information about surfboards shaped by Davenport, visit www.davenportlongboards.com.