How the Hawk Got Me
I had never met Dale Velzy before the day he came by my shop some 50 plus years ago.
I happened to be in the rear of the shop, shaping, and my sales guy came back and said, “You’ll never guess who’s here. Dale Velzy!”
I was a kid, probably 20 years old…maybe younger. Although we had never met, I knew who he was. He was older than me, and he was part of a group of shapers who were making a name for themselves at the time.
I went out and introduced myself. We had made some small talk for a couple minutes when he finally said, “I understand you’re really far behind on your shaping and you wish you could do more boards. I’d like to do some for you.”
I thought to myself, “Holy shit. Dale Velzy wants to shape some boards for me??” But I didn’t have an empty shaping stall for him.
At that time, Dean Elliott and Mike Marshall were working for me. Dean was an incredible craftsman and was responsible for many of the Cheaters, Bananas and Trestle Specials of that era. Mike had been shown the basics by Newport Beach shaping legend, Joe Quigg, and after I hired him he was providing input on design and even shaped the first Trestle Special. Both were phenomenal shapers in their own right.
I told Velzy that as much as I’d love for him to shape some boards, I didn’t have room for him in the shop. He replied, “That’s no problem. I’ve got my own shaping bay in my garage. I can take some home with me. If you put outlines on them, I can take a look at what your rails look like and then bring them back finished.”
That was perfectly fine by me. I outlined 10 blanks for him and Dale was out the door. Two days later, he was back at my doorstep with the 10 boards, finished!
Back then, I was good for about two or three boards a day. I was never a fast shaper; I spent way too much time with finish work that the glass job covered up anyway. But to me, a board wasn’t finished until it was finished. Smooth. No scratches.
Upon returning the boards in record time, he asked, “Would you like me to do 10 more?” Well of course I did! I outlined 10 more and gave them to him happily.
After Velzy left, we took the 10 finished boards to the shaping room as we were all curious about how good he was. But when we started looking at them, we realized the boards weren’t good at all. They were full of lumps, twists and scratches. I couldn’t let him do any more boards. I thought to myself, “Oh my God. How do I tell Velzy that he’s a shitty shaper?” I immediately realized how bad of a position I was now in. How do I tell a guy that I’ve looked up to that the boards he shaped aren’t good enough?
Several hours passed, and then a phone call came in to the shop. It was Jim Gilloon, Hobie Alter’s shop manager at the time. He asked curiously, “Has Velzy been by your place?”
I replied, “Yeah! How’d you know?”
Jim continued to tell me that Dale had been by Hobie’s shop as well. Dale had taken some of their blanks and they didn’t look that good when he brought them back. He wanted to know how mine looked.
“Oh, not too good either,” I told him.
Jim knew where Velzy lived and he offered to drive down to his house to figure out what was going on. I told him to call me with whatever he was able to find out. A few hours later, and before Velzy had brought back the 10 blanks I had just given him, I got a call from Jim.
“You’ll never guess what I saw,” said Jim. “I went to his garage, and there’s a sign outside that says, DALE VELZY SCHOOL OF SHAPING!”
Jim had opened the door and saw a bunch of racks lined up, foam flying all over the place, and a line of guys learning how to shape. Jim then exclaimed to me over the phone, “Velzy is charging these guys to teach them to shape, and he’s getting us to pay him for his shape work! He’s getting double the money!”
The Hawk had got me. And apparently, he had gotten Hobie too.
I never talked to or did business with Velzy again, and to this day, I wonder who these guys were in Dale’s garage and where they went in their world? Wouldn’t it be funny to hear that one of them had become a famous shaper now?
- Rich Harbour
Rich Harbour still operates out of Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach, CA, where it all started back in 1959. Learn more at www.harboursurfboards.com