My 100th Board: A Tribute to Mike Marshall

 Photo: Taylor Abeel

Photo: Taylor Abeel

June 6, 2017

About four or five years ago, I learned how to shape my first surfboard. I’ve been surfing since I was nine years old and have always been curious about how boards were made. When I finally got the chance to shape one for myself, I jumped at the opportunity.

The first board I shaped was a 9’6 single fin log. Summer was coming up and I didn’t have a proper log at the time. Although shaping would prove to be much more difficult than I thought it would, I was hooked nonetheless.  I wanted to learn, and I wanted to shape more boards.

One day I decided to go check out the used stock of boards at Bird’s Surf Shed. The Shed is pretty much the mecca of surfboards; a museum of functional art if you will. From new boards to used boards, to Bird’s own personal collection, one can find every type of board at his shop. The Shed is also a place where I go to find inspiration. I always find myself spinning in circles as I look at the ceiling in awe of the different concepts and designs.

That day, I walked to the back where Bird kept his used boards. Specifically, the classics and longboards. That’s when a beautiful, old 10’ triple stringer caught my eye. A Marshall Surfboard. I’ve always been a fan of traditional boards, and when I grabbed this board it just felt right. I had never heard of Marshall Surfboards before, but I was sold and had to have it.

I bought the board and went on my way, rode it for a few sessions then went back to the Shed after about a week or so to switch out the fin. When I got there, Bird came over to me with a look of relief over his eyes. He began explaining to me that the shaper’s wife of the board I had bought had come to the Shed with their good friend looking for the Marshall boards.  

The shaper’s wife was Sharon Marshall; widow to Mike Marshall, longtime SoCal surfer who shaped for Rich Harbour at Harbour Surfboards in the 1960’s. Sharon and her friend, Mark, preceded to tell Bird that they had heard through the grapevine that there were four or five of her husband’s boards at the Shed. One of Mike’s old friends, who lived in Ocean Beach and had owned these Marshall boards, had recently passed away. His brother brought them to the Shed to be sold.

They continued to tell Bird who Mike was, who he had learned to shape from (Joe Quigg), who he shaped for, and eventually how the Marshall surfboards came to be. Apparently, Mike only shaped “Marshall” boards for close friends and family; they were not mass produced or sold to the general public. Knowing that these boards were so limited to few, and given their sentimental value, they wanted to take the boards back up to Newport. Bird told them that one of the boards had already sold (to me), and they asked him to exchange their information with me should he see me again. 

After Bird explained what had happened, I was a little worried that Sharon might want me to reach out so they could take the board back. I loved that board! However, I knew that the board was important to them and I didn’t want to be disrespectful to such a shaping legend’s family.

So, I sent Sharon an email. We chatted back and forth for a bit, and eventually made a plan to meet up at the Boardroom show. Sharon loves going to the Boardroom. The Trophy given out to the winner of the Icons of Foam Shape-Off at the show happens to be named after Mike. When I got to the show, I met Sharon and Mark, and we quickly hit it off and became good friends. To top it off, they let me keep the board!

Since that meeting, I’ve had the opportunity to share my love for all things shaping and surf culture with Sharon. She’s invited me to all sorts of functions around the Southern CA area and introduced me to some amazing people in the industry. Sharon has been such a huge part of why I am where I am today as a shaper.

On one lucky night, I was introduced to Donald Brink, who a few months later really showed me how to shape and allowed me to come up from time to time to chat and watch him do his thing. That was a big turning point for my shaping, where I really felt I could make good pieces of surf craft.

A few years had passed, and I started creeping up on my 100th shape. Given this milestone, I wanted to figure out something special I could do.  After some thought, I decided that I wanted to somehow honor Mike and Sharon. I decided that for my 100th board, I would shape a Trestles Special. The Trestles Special was the most famous board that Mike had shaped while working at Harbour Surfboards. To do so, I would need Sharon’s blessing.

Despite my nervous apprehension, and to my relief, Sharon was happy I asked and was ecstatic at the idea. She encouraged it, and gave me the amazing honor of shaping the board in Mike’s personal shaping room…and with his original template!

I remember starting to mow foam in that bay and just having chills the whole time. To think about the boards that had been shaped in that room, the stories that were told in there, and the stories that came out from there? I’ve always been a huge fan of surf history, and this was an insane experience to say the least.

 Inside a place that only a lucky few have seen before: Mike Marshall's personal shaping room. Photo: Taylor Abeel.

Inside a place that only a lucky few have seen before: Mike Marshall's personal shaping room. Photo: Taylor Abeel.

Sharon and I continue to stay in touch, and I have talked to her several times about how that experience made me feel. I believe in situations like those, Mike was watching. Perhaps scratching his head thinking to himself, “What the hell is this kid doing?” But I’d like to think that he is stoked for me and the long way I have come as a shaper! Sharon and I are both convinced that Mike is guiding me along the way. 

All of these events have continuously inspired me to keep shaping and creating. I truly love shaping, the process, the lifestyle, the culture and history surrounding it. I will forever be grateful to the Marshall family and friends for all of their support and inspiration. 

 

- Dominic Picone

 

Dominic Picone, owner and shaper, operates Affinita Surfboards out of San Diego, CA. Learn more about Dominic and his surf craft at www.affinitasurf.com