I have no factual evidence for this view, but I wager that decorating surfboards has been going on since the first Hawaiians paddled out on floating logs, long before scurvy-stricken white men sailed over the Pacific horizon.
You can draw a nifty outline on wood with a hot poker.
What is certain is that by the 1970s, finding a board without some kind of artwork on it was about as rare as seeing a non-tattooed torso at a hard-rock concert circa 2010.
Unfortunately, the majority of art airbrushed onto surfboards is mostly about as original as the prints you get on a T-shirt from Edgars.
Rare is the board with a one-off, hand-crafted design by a real dirty-under-the-fingernails artist.
Which is why the Wavescape Surfboard Art Exhibition is such a hit.
It brings back the ethos of that Hawaiian with a wooden board and a red-hot poker.
In fact, for the first time in the exhibition’s seven-year history, there is a wooden board in the 11-board line-up, painstakingly crafted by journalist and part-time garage wood-wizard Patrick Burnett, enhanced with a blue (in both the erotic and literal sense) nude painted by Kelly John Gough.
On asking Burnett how he came to have one of his bespoke handmade boards on the art auction, I was hoping he’d tell me one of those stories.
You know, one involving an obtuse conversation filled with long pauses.
How he and Wavescape founder and chief editor Steve Pike (aka Spike) sat astride their boards and stared at the horizon during the lulls between heaving sets of 15-foot monster waves at the famed Dungeons big-wave break.
But surfers are a strange mix of the pragmatic and idealistic.
He does indeed occasionally meet Spike on the backline of Atlantic surf breaks but the reality is more prosaic.
“I called him up and asked him if he wanted one,” said Burnett.
According to Spike, the line-up of 11 boards, featuring an eclectic mix of artistic styles, involved actively approaching certain artists and people offering to take part.
But while organising the venture is pragmatic, its aim is idealistic.
The boards/artworks are to be auctioned off – comedian Mark Sampson is the auctioneer, a spectacle worth seeing in its own right – with all proceeds going to ocean-based charities and NGOs such as Ticket to Ride.
One of the boards on show was decorated by some of the Ticket to Ride surfers – children aged between 8 and 11, living in the Masiphumelele informal settlement.
Artist Claire Homewood collaborated with a group of five township surfers and now budding artists, guiding them through the process of making collages.
They used old paint, which was donated by eco-friendly paint-making company Pro Nature, to create a board that stands proudly alongside those created by professional artists.
These include illustrator Andy Mason, top-notch graffiti artist Ice7 (Tony Coetzee), hip-hop poet Ewok, Matthew Pinker, Kim Longhurst, Black Koki, Osnat de Villiers, Chip Snaddon, Bones, Scott Robertson and 35.ten.73.
The likes of these brought in R168?000 at last year’s auction.
Proving that Spike, who keeps the South African surf community stoked with accurate surf forecasts, news and stories on his Wavescape website, manages to also make a significant contribution by organising everything – despite being distracted each time a decent swell marches in from the horizon.
In fact, he also manages to pull the Wavescapes Film Festival together, but you can visit Wavescape.co.za to find out more about that. – West Cape News
» The surfboards will be on show at the Depasco Café, cnr Kloof and Buitensingel streets in the Cape Town CBD, until Tuesday.
The auction will take place at 7pm on Wednesday.