I may be a writer, but I’m also a reader. And I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew Nash’s recent article entitled “The Alaia Is Back.”
Really got me wanting one, regardless of whether or not I can ride it. I just want one, so I started doing a little research.
Found out I could make my own by ordering a kit! Boy, wouldn’t that be a hoot! Naw, better not, could hurt myself, not to mention what I’d do to the wood.
Then I found this guy close to me in St. Augustine who builds them…definitely a possibility.
No sooner do I get off the phone with the guy, when some guy posts a photo on the “My First Surfboard” facebook page. It’s a cool little group where people talk and reminisce about, yep, you guessed it, their first surfboards.
Turns out, this guy’s name is Greg Hall. Don’t know him, but his post reads:
“My first board was a 50-50. Now I have an old plank of Koa Wood out in the shed out back.”
Obviously some kind of joke, because the “old plank” in the photo is a piece of solid Koa, and perhaps the most beautiful piece of wood I have ever seen. Now, I do know a little bit about alaias, their history and such. And I know that the original alaias, the ones from a thousand years ago, were built out of Koa wood planks, just like the one sitting “out in the shed out back.”
I call him.
And what I find out over the next hour and a half, totally blows my mind. It’s no wonder this board is so beautiful. There’s a story behind it, and all Petroglyph Surfboards, for that matter.
Greg Hall is an architect, living in Altamont Springs, Florida. He is also the owner of Petrolgyph Surfboards, which are not your ordinary surfboards. These boards are special. Very special.
So, back to Greg Hall.
He is an accomplished big wave rider, and he is a terrific board shaper — as I was to find out, he’s been shaping boards for more than 40 years. He began shaping boards in Central Florida out of his mom and dad’s house, and then moved his craft to Hawaii in 1970. He opened a little shop in Haleiwa, but he was forced to shut the doors when Pizza Bob came to town.
Fortunately for Greg, he had built up quite a reputation as both a board shaper and big wave rider up on the North Shore. He had done what few haoles manage to do: He earned the respect of the local Hawaiians. So when the City of Haleiwa built the “Haleiwa Surf Center,” they offered Greg a job.
“The surf center had its own surfboard shaping factory,” says Greg. “They wanted me to teach water safety and surfboard building to all the local kids. I took the job, which only paid like fifty dollars a week, but I became the first and only government-paid surfboard builder.”
Greg spent five years at the “Haleiwa Surf Center,” teaching the locals the art of surfboard making. After 14 years of living on the North Shore, Greg moved to Honolulu, went to college, got a degree in architecture and started his own business. And then, as surprising as life can always be, he met a fellow Floridian, married her and moved back Central Florida where he spent the next 12 years practicing architecture and raising a family.
And then, a couple of years ago, the funniest thing happened.
“Out of the blue I get this call from some lawyers,” recalls Greg. “And they ask me if I’m the Greg Hall that shaped boards in Haleiwa back in the 70s. I go, ‘Yeah,’ and they tell me that this Hawaiian guy has passed away, and that I am to attend the reading of his will at an undisclosed place somewhere in Florida.”
Greg did not recall the Hawaiian, for many people had passed through the surf center during his tenure there, but Greg was, indeed, curious, to say the least.
“As it turns out, this guy had brought his great-grandchildren into the shop some 30 years ago,” says Greg. “I used to shape boards with them, but I also put them to work. ‘Hey, sand that board over there,’ I’d tell them. But, as I found out, the old man thought it was really cool, what I did for those kids.”
So cool, that Hall had obviously won the respect of the elder Hawaiian, who Greg would now learn had been an accomplished surfer himself, having shared waves with the likes of Johnny Weismueller, Tom Blake and Duke Kahanamoku during the 1920s.
And now, Greg was off to attend the reading of this man’s will, at an undisclosed place somewhere in Florida.
Well, as it turns out, the elder Hawaiian had been a ship’s captain for a shipping firm. Many years ago, he had shipped thousands of board feet of Koa and other exotic woods to Florida with intentions of erecting a house, but the home was never built, and the wood just sat in a warehouse for decades.
So Greg was driven to the undisclosed location for the reading of the will.
“All the kids were there,” he says. “They are now in their thirties, but they remembered me. They gave me a hard time, reminding me how I had worked them, always made them all sticky and itchy from the fiberglass and resin. They were like, ‘Brah, you still look the same,’ and all, but they remembered me.”
So the will was read.
Greg was informed that he was the recipient of all of that genuine Koa wood. It was his to keep, for free. Thousands of board feet of it. Solid planks.
“They told me it was all mine,” says Greg. “But only under the following stipulations: One, I was to never divulge the name of the family or the location of the wood. Two, I was not to pay for any of it. Three, I could use all I wanted. And four, I could only use it to build surfboards.”
And that…is why Petroglyph Surfboards are so very special. They were meant to be made.
And they were meant to be made by Greg Hall.
And, oh yeah, I do want one.