Terry Martin

IMG_9903The Final Months and Days of the Life of the World’s Greatest Production Shaper
Words and Photos By Chasen Marshall
Published in Slide Magazine: Issue 23

It’s a chilly early morning in February, and Terry Martin is in his office, excitedly talking about his tools. He spent several hours the previous afternoon making new sanding blocks and sharpening blades. He reaches for the block plane and runs his thumb across the sharp edge.

“I couldn’t sleep last night,” he says, as he places the tool back in its place on the shelf, “I was so excited to come in to shape this morning.”

His eyes peer around the room from behind the same large-lens glasses he’s worn for years. Six unfinished blanks stand in one corner, with measurement sheets attached; two indicate that the client would like to be present while Terry is working.

Lying across the racks is a board he’s been working on with one of his favorite young surfer-shapers, Tyler Warren. It’s nine feet, 10-1/4 inches of all balsawood. Tyler had always admired Terry’s work with the lightweight wood, and wanted to collaborate on a board with the 74-year-old shaper. It’s a mix of a Hobie Legacy and a Lance Carson Pintail, with a pulled-in nose and tail.

“It’s going to have looooots of rocker,” Terry says, as he runs his hand along the deck of the board. There’s longing in his voice, similar to the way other men might talk about the curves on a woman or the fenders on an old hotrod.

The board is close to complete. Terry passes over the deck with the two different sanding blocks, which have different grade sandpaper attached. It should only take a few more hours before the board will be ready to be glassed and polished.

This space for creating surfboards is relatively new to Terry. For years he worked out of the Hobie Surfboards factory, which is just down the street. He made the move about a year ago. The room is attached to the newest Hobie shop in Dana Point, Calif. – the same city where Hobie put up his first storefront off Pacific Coast Highway. Terry was fine with the change because it would allow him more time to interact with customers (there’s a window into the shop, allowing customers to watch him work), plus he would get to lay out the room just as he liked. He has the walls the exact shade of deep green that he prefers, and the lights set-up so that he can see every imperfection in a board blank.

Terry still loves his profession as much today as he did that day in August of 1963 when he shook Hobie Alter’s hand and accepted the job as a shaper. Countless boards with countless customers of varying levels of ability have since followed. He’s got the love of a fine woman, three adult children, and a new grandson, his fifth.

Terry’s world is almost entirely in order, aside from the bandages.

One is wrapped around his forearm: “My cat took a swipe at me this morning,” he says.

The other is taped above his right eye, and tucked below the brim of his olive baseball cap.

“I’ve got melanoma,” he says flatly, as though he were announcing that he’d mistakenly left the house wearing mismatched socks.

*****

Terry Martin’s name was often accompanied by a number. Seventy thousand. Seventy-five thousand. In recent years it had been eighty thousand – it’s the number of surfboards he had shaped in his lifetime. No one – not even Terry – knew the exact figure.

“If you do it for as long as I’ve done it, I mean, this is 60 years now making surfboards. Well, good grief, you’re going to have some high numbers – especially being production,” he explained, laughing. “They called me ‘The Machine.’ I had it so wired that it wasn’t a chore for me. I’d just go do my six in the morning, go surfing or riding, come back in the afternoon and do the other four. Then go surfing again.”

In the final days and months of his life, he was still a machine when he was in the shaping room. He was still, technically, a production shaper, but the number of boards weren’t what they used to be. But he was doing what he’d done all along, but doing so in a more public manner – he was sharing his gift.

His late mornings and early afternoons were always full of distractions. One morning, shortly after 7:00 a.m., a couple from North Carolina knocks on the door to his shaping room. They’d come by the previous afternoon, but just missed him. They were on their way to the airport, but were desperate to meet the man and shake his hand. Another afternoon, a couple from Belgium comes by to greet their favorite shaper. They make the trip every year to stock up on boards shaped and signed by Terry Martin and load them into a VW Bus that they ship back home. The young woman has a sketched portrait of Terry beneath the glass on her newest green longboard, which she drew herself.

The distractions never seemed to bother him. He enjoyed the company, and the enthusiasm and energy others brought to the room. In the latter years of his career, he was as much focused on delivering a memory and an experience, as he was on delivering the best possible surfboard.

When a young French couple arrives to his room, they only know they want a noserider and a high-performance longboard. Measurements are yet to be determined. The petite 22-year-old woman, Emilie Libier, is a new Hobie teamrider and had recently qualified for the ASP Women’s World Longboard Tour. Now she’s hoping the greatest production shaper the industry has ever known can translate her mental notes into something she can see and feel and, hopefully, win a world title on.

After they agree on an outline, he begins cutting with the same saw he’s used since 1963. He asks what kind of rails she’s interested in: tapered or pinched? He uses a pencil and sketches the differences onto the un-skinned blank. After decisions are made, Terry goes to work, walking from nose to tail with the planer blasting. When he pulls out the sanding blocks, he asks Emilie to step in. He gives her control of the tool, offering words of encouragement and critiques to her form – more bend in the elbow, sand in circles, less reaching, move the hips.

“Spread those feet, like you’re dancing,” Terry says. Emilie can’t help but smile. Memory made. Mission complete.

Even when he was surrounded by curious eyes, once his hands were on his tools or on the blank, Terry disappeared into the work, as though everything and everyone around him seeped into the walls and he was alone in his own world. He would turn the blank this way and that way; lifting it by the nose and inspecting for near-invisible imperfections. His technique was so flawless and seamless, it maked putting concave in the nose or adding hard rails from the midpoint through the tail seem easy. He had as much a visceral understanding of how surfboards worked as he did an intellectual one.

“When I get a blank, I know the board is in there,” he said, “and I just go after it.”

*****

Almost two years ago, Terry noticed what he believed was a blood blister forming on his stomach. He thought little of it. When it grew to the size of a penny he mentioned it to his wife, Candy. Up until that point, Terry says, he’d gone 73 years without seeing a doctor.

He was delivered the verdict and told if it were left untreated, he would have 10 months to live. Initially, Terry was content to let the cancer takes its course. “If God wants me, he can have me,” was his rationale.

He prayed with Candy that night, searching for guidance and answers. He has the utmost faith in the Man upstairs. Tears were shed; his sleep was restless. The next morning, Terry says God told him that he still had more living to do.

Surgery to remove the cancerous cells and chemotherapy followed. The chemo made his voice hoarse, weakened his sense of taste, but heightened his sense of smell. His fingernails yellowed. Two weeks after the first dose of chemotherapy, he ran his fingers through his trademark thick white beard and “a sweater came out,” he recalls. The facial hair has returned, but its mostly white whiskers.

Both the surgery and the chemo failed to have the desired impact on the deadly form of skin cancer. The next step was radiation therapy, but Terry refused. “I didn’t want to put any more poison into my body,” he says.

He took part in a study for an experimental treatment at UCI Medical Center. He made multiple trips per week from his home in Capistrano Beach up to Irvine, about an hour round-trip, for blood work and examinations. Every time, the procedure sapped all of his energy, leaving him feeling “lousy.” That didn’t work either.

He tried Hemp Oil and various home remedies. Again, nothing changed.

And the cancer continued to spread.

“This melanoma is radical stuff,” says Terry, while sitting outside his home in Capistrano Beach. A light onshore breeze is blowing, carrying with it the smell of the Pacific Ocean, while ruffling the leaves in the big Carob tree in his front yard. The wind chimes are ringing and his parakeet in a cage nearby is chirping. Candy is sitting a few feet away, working on one of her intricate needle baskets. Barney, the big brown and grey cat that took the swipe at Terry, is stretched out on a table nearby, basking in the sunny weather.

He’s lived in and rented the same modest three-bedroom home since 1976. He’s driven the same old green Chevy van for nearly as long. He’s never needed much; he’s never wanted much. He just wants to feel like himself again.

At least, now that the chemo is done, some his strength and weight is returning. And he can still shape.

“Radical stuff,” he says again.

The bandage above his eye is covering a grey spot on his skin, where the melanoma has spread from the initial spot on his stomach.

*****

Terry started shaping surfboards “by necessity.” When he got his first glimpse of guys riding “breakers” at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, the year was 1950 and he was 13. And from first sight, he was hooked. He wanted to surf.

Finding a board on which to learn, however, wasn’t easy. Today there are an estimated 35 million surfers worldwide. At that time, when Terry saw those four lifeguards riding waves, surfers numbered in the hundreds. There were no surf shops or local shapers or Clark Foam.

The surfers he watched were riding 13-foot, finless paddleboards, or kook boxes, which weighed upwards of 85 pounds.

During the summer he would mow lawns to make some money; five dollars per completed lawn. One day while working a block from his parent’s home, he noticed one of the paddleboards leaning up against the side of the house. The owner caught him looking and asked if he was a surfer. “No, but I’d sure like to learn,” Terry recalls saying.

The board had belonged to the man’s son, who was away in the military. He made Terry a deal: mow his lawn that day and the next week, and the board was his. They shook hands, and Terry lugged the massive board home.

For six months, Terry would make the short trip to the beach, carrying the big paddleboard. He’d stand waist-deep in the water and try to knee-paddle into the “soup,” or the already broken wave, and try to pop to his feet. He was constantly pearling, and when he did avoid burying the nose, it was impossible to maneuver the massive board.

He was a small kid, so he knew he couldn’t handle a board of that size and weight. He needed a different board, but he didn’t ask his parents to buy him one. During kite season, instead of spending the 10 cents to buy a kite at the store, he would always make his own, using thin strips of balsawood and materials around the house. “I always liked to make things that worked,” he explained.

He had no true understanding of how to shape a surfboard, he just went with his instincts. His dad drove him to a lumberyard near what is now Petco Park in downtown San Diego to pick out pieces of redwood and balsa from the scrapheap.

Using the tools in his dad’s garage, he glued up several strips of the wood, laid out the template he’d outlined on butcher paper and began sawing. When he was done with the shaping, he applied 10 coats of varnish. In the end, he had a ten-foot, twenty-pound Hot Curl.

That first day on the board was a revelation. Not only was he no longer pearling, but he was turning with ease. The board caught the eye of others, and led to Terry landing his very first customer. Initially one of the lifeguards, Sonny, ridiculed Terry for his smaller, lighter board. At that time, surfing was a “He-Man sport,” filled with burly guys coasting straight on their big boards. Eventually, after wathing Terry ride, Sonny, who was the hot surfer at the spot, forced Terry to let him give it a try. On his first wave, Terry remembers, Sonny was turning the board and racing across the face all the way into the shore. Sonny paddled back out beaming, impressed by the board’s maneuverability. “Hey Red, would you make me one?” Sonny asked.

It was Terry’s first foray into the shaping business. On and off for the next 11 years he’d make a board or two a month for friends and surfers in the area, with a profit margin of $25 – materials cost $55, and he would charge $80.

Terry recognized his calling, but there was still no industry for shaping and selling surfboards full-time.

Over the following years, he took various jobs trying to find what he enjoyed. He spent a few summers working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool. He worked in the shipyard as a weighsman, then in the mail department, before stints in the engineering department, purchasing and inventory control. Nothing suited him. He tried construction, working on bridges, but the first time he saw a guy fall from a 35-foot pole, he was done.

“I did not like being a cow going into a stall, punching my time card,” Terry explains. “There were days I would wake up and the surf was good and I had to go to work at 8 o’clock. I’d rather call in and not make any money. And then when I was working, I was always looking at my watch just counting the minutes until I could leave. I always thought if I could just do something near the ocean or with surfboards, I’d be happy.”

He didn’t believe that such a career existed. How could he support himself, let alone a family, just by shaping surfboards?

His father was an accountant and had always encouraged Terry to follow in his footsteps, or at least go into a “real” profession.

But after watching that young man fall off that pole, something clicked in Terry’s head: “I just decided to go for it.”

Making the decision of who to work for was easy. “If I was going to work for anyone, it was going to be the biggest there is and the smartest,” Terry explains. “And that was Hobie.”

*****

There’s a framed photo hanging in Bill Stewart’s “Man Cave” – a 1,200 square-foot room with a 25-foot-high ceiling where he can display everything his wife won’t allow in the main house. It’s surrounded by many photos from Bill’s life, some of surfing, others of shaping or the exquisite paint jobs he’s done on boards over the years. In this particular photo, Mickey Munoz, Bill and Terry stand side-by-side in the alley outside the old Hobie factory. Mickey is short and chiseled, with a thick brown beard. Bill is shirtless, with shaggy brown hair, a matching beard and wearing a pair of Op short-shorts. Terry is the tallest by nearly four inches; his thick arms are crossed, and he’s got red hair and a matching beard. He’s had the beard as long as anyone has known him.

“That will never be again,” says Bill, sitting at the bar that he built himself, sipping a glass of red wine, while staring at the photo. “A big shop like that with all hand-shaped boards.”

What the 1927 New York Yankees were to baseball (the great Murderers’ Row, with the likes of Ruth, Gehrig and Meusel), that grouping of surfboard shapers that Hobie Alter compiled in the mid-Seventies was equally revered: Dale Velzy, Del Cannon, Jim Gallum, Munoz, Martin, Stewart, and several others. And Terry ran the bunch.

At that time, Hobie was one of, if not the largest surfboard manufacturer in the world, a title previously held by Velzy in the late-Sixties. The factory was huge, with “rows and rows of [shaping] bays,” as Stewart recalls. Numerous planers were blasting throughout the day and foam dust was always flying. At the heart of it all were “a bunch of jokers” who were “fucking with each other constantly.”

“Rick James taught me how to shape; Terry Martin taught me the right way to shape,” Bill says. “Rick was really good, but he had odd technique. Terry’s was very logical, and fast and efficient, and made sense.”

The Martin Method, as Bill calls it. The fine balance between accuracy and speed, based on tools and technique: the use of Skil saws, speed control on sanders, sanding pads to smooth off boards versus block sanding by hand, and using sanders at slower speeds with soft pads.

Terry was never shy about sharing his shaping wisdom with anyone who would listen – a characteristic foreign to the shaping profession, where most guys keep their secret methods to themselves.

“He is the only shaper I’ve ever seen or met who never withheld an ounce of information. In fact, he would take his time to teach people, and I never understood why he would do that,” Bill says. “I mean, why would you take your time to help somebody to be a competitor against you?

“Everybody [uses the Martin Method] now, it’s the standard of the industry,” Bill continues. “I don’t know if he invented it, but I don’t know who did if he didn’t.”

Terry doesn’t revel in his accomplishments. He hardly credits himself with doing anything original. He just found a system that worked and allowed him to be the fastest and most accurate shaper possible.

“To other shapers, to them [shaping] was a job, they didn’t look at it like it was a career. I looked at it like this to me is something I want to do – I looked at it like a career,” Terry says. “When I broke things down into understanding what goes into sculpting or shaping a blank that’s oversized, I dissected that thing right down to the smallest detail. Other shapers just hack at it, I was the production guy because I figured it out.”

Due to that intimate understanding of surfboards, Terry was Hobie’s go-to shaper when it came time to create a signature model for team riders. Though he could produce or copy any surfboard anyone asked of him, Terry was never much of a designer, per se. He was involved with some of Hobie’s most successful boards, but most were collaborations, with the ideas coming from the surfers or other shapers. He was the one responsible for translating those ideas and concepts into a piece of equipment that worked. As such, he helped create signature board models for the likes of Gary Propper, Corky Carroll, Gerry Lopez, Rabbit Bartholomew and Joyce Hoffman.

For 10 years, Terry ended up working under Bill with Stewart Surfboards (the rest of his shaping career was with Hobie). The catalog included shortboards, fish and longboards. He shaped hundreds, maybe thousands of Stewart’s best-selling board, the Hydro Hull. Whatever needed to be done, Terry could get done. His work ethic was exhausting, according to Bill, but essential.

“You didn’t have to baby-sit Terry Martin,” Bill says. “You gave him the foam and he would eat it up.”

Bill even had a humorous nickname for Terry: The Foam Fairy.

“I would put blanks in his room in the evening and come in the next morning and they’d all be done,” Bill recalls. “I’d have no clue when or how they got done. The Foam Fairy must have been in.”

*****

A champagne-colored van pulls into the Hobie Surf Shop parking lot while Terry is standing outside his shaping room talking with a few friends. Out hops Tyler Warren, wearing a t-shirt, cuffed jeans and scuffed work boots. His eyes are hidden beyond a pair of classic black shades. And he’s smiling.

“Hey Terry, here it is,” he says, as he opens the back doors of the van.

As Terry and friends walk over, Tyler slides the royal blue balsa board out into the warm afternoon air. Rays of sunlight reflect off its shiny exterior, and all of the detail of the balsa below the blue tint can be seen in fine detail.

“What do you think?” Tyler asks, holding the board with both hands and bracing it on his knee. It weighs almost 40 pounds.

He passes the board to Terry, but keeps a hold of it as the shaper stands with his mouth agape, admiring the finished product.

“You’re going to have fun on this,” Terry says. “When are you going to ride it? I want to be there.”

*****

On a breezy, sunny afternoon in mid-February, Terry is sitting in a chair on the beach at San Onofre. There is swell in the water, so the lineups at The Point and Old Man’s are packed. Terry, however, is focused on the young baby laying in his lap, looking up at him and smiling, and squeezing the index finger on his left hand. The red-headed six-month-old is Reef, his youngest grandson, born to his youngest child, Johana.

When Reef glances toward the waves – or maybe just toward his mom – Terry smiles. “What are you looking at – you want to go surfing?” he asks jokingly. “He’s going to be a surfer, I know it.”

Johana is one of Terry’s three children. She’s got hair to match Reef, just like her dad had years prior.

While bouncing Reef in his lap, Terry starts singing. The lyrics include something about scrambled eggs and roosters. It’s hard to tell if he’s singing an old lullaby or making the whole thing up.

Candy is beside him watching, and Johana is another seat away, also watching and smiling as Reef interacts with grandpa. Johana can’t help but laugh, as well: Terry is wearing her wide-brimmed sun hat. Mid-way through the song, Candy tosses Reef’s swaddle blanket on top of Terry’s head for extra protection from the sun as it drops in the clear, afternoon sky.

*****

Terry is walking along the shoreline, side-by-side with his middle son, Josh. It’s a chilly Friday morning in February, so cold their breath can be seen when they speak. Ahead of the pair, four anxious young surfers walk a bit faster, heading for the spot known as Church, just south of Lower Trestles. One of the young surfers sprints from the group, her longboard beneath her arm, scaring a pack of seagulls and sending them flying into the cloudless blue sky.

Everyone has gathered for the maiden surf of the blue balsa board that Terry and Tyler created together. The only problem is that neither Tyler, nor the board, is present. That doesn’t seem to bother the young surfers; more waves for them. The last remnants of a northwest swell remain and the lineup is uncrowded.

Terry hasn’t surfed much in recent years, but he’s always anxious to watch others ride waves. His first question to almost everyone who comes into the shaping room is “Did you surf this morning?”

While the group is changing, a silhouetted surfer paddling on his knees appears heading out to the lineup from seemingly nowhere. The blue board glides smoothly across the sparkling blue-green ocean surface, giving the appearance that Tyler Warren is floating across the water.

Wearing a brown corduroy jacket, blue jeans, a black hat, and dark sunglasses, Terry stands with his hands in his pockets, watching and waiting for the first wave.

Tyler makes his way up the point and waits. The other young surfers that accompanied Terry enter the water. They catch a few waves each, and Terry watches each one. When Tyler finally commits to a wave, he paddles in effortlessly, all 9’ 10-¼” of the board gathering inertia from four smooth strokes. He makes a stylish bottom turn, and gracefully cross-steps to the nose, hanging five toes over. His arms are out to the side, with his “hands in the cookie jar,” as someone describes it. He scrambles back to the tail as a section crashes ahead of him, but all the momentum of the big board carries the surfer back onto the open face. He bends his back knee deep as he tries to return the board to the pocket of the wave, before kicking out and dropping back onto his knees.

Terry watched the entire wave, just slightly turning his head as the surfer made his way along the beach. After Tyler kicked out, Terry let out a ha-ha! and clapped once, reveling in how the board rode.

*****

On a clear weekday afternoon in March, Terry is out on the driveway – birds chirping, chimes ringing and Candy tending to his wounds.

“This poor guy,” she says, as she changes another bandage on his arm, “we should have stock in the Band-Aid industry.”

A week prior, Terry was in his garage shaping a five-foot, six-inch Fish for a young girl; she and her younger brother were watching him work. As he was making a pass with the planer, his feet got tangled in the chords, as tends to happen. But when he tried to move his feet to collect himself, he could not. “My feet would not move, they were locked in,” he says. “I was going down.”

He held the planer out away from his body, as he rotated to take the fall on his shoulder and hip. In those few moments, when gravity took its course, Terry’s mind began to race.

“I thought to myself: I am going down, and this is only the second time since 1963 that I’ve ever gone down,” he recalls.

Growing up, Terry loved to ride motorcycles. He was never much into racing, but when he did, another part of his soul would take hold. “When you’re racing, you’re either a cautious person, or a there’s-no-way-that-guy-is-getting-in-front-of-me kind of person – and that’s how I am,” he says, indicating the latter.

In the summer of 1969, he found himself on his Husqvarna on a dirt course in San Clemente, nearly 100 yards from the finish line, with the leader still close by. Transitioning from a straightway into a downhill turn, he shifted gears from fourth to third, and just as he was about to reach the moguls he tried to down-shift to second gear. He accidentally went into neutral, “and that’s when the bike and I finally parted,” Terry recalls.

He cracked his Talus bone – which is a round bone in the ankle joint – directly in half. Due to its location in the ankle, it receives limited blood flow, which makes it slow to heal. He was given two options: surgery, which would more or less cripple him, or not put any weight on the foot for a full year – not even so much as to push in the clutch on his car.

He decided to go with Option 2. He was wearing a full leg cast and hobbling around on crutches on his wedding day to Candy.

Despite the injury, Terry needed to keep working. Money was tight in the Martin household, and Candy was expecting a baby, their first together.

“I was thinking ‘I don’t sit at a desk, I make surfboards, I’m moving, I’m walking, how can I do this and have my hands free?’” he recalls. “With crutches you can’t go in a market, you can’t push a basket, you can’t do anything.”

Ingenuity kicked in. He went and bought a bunch of strips of oak and started gluing, whittling and bolting. “I made a full-on pirate’s peg leg,” he recalls. The leg settled into the strut at the knee, with the bottom half of his leg bent behind him. It took some time and effort to get the contraption correct and for his body to adjust, but eventually it worked.

With the wooden leg his production went from 10 boards per day to three or four, but it was better than nothing.

Over the course of the first eight months, there was little improvement in the bone. Month after month X-rays came back with the bone entirely opaque white, which signified dead bone. Live bone would appear grey on the X-ray.

After nine months, Terry and his doctor saw the first sliver of grey. The pirate’s leg was working. By the one-year mark, the foot was healed.

“Terry and I always laughed about [the pirate’s leg] because neither one of us would let doctors or anyone else dictate what we were going to do,” says Munoz, who was in the Hobie factory during the time of Terry’s injury.

Around the same time that the bone began to show signs of life, Terry had a scare. One day while shaping a board in the Hobie factory, a chord got wrapped around the peg leg and sent Terry flying backward. Just as he did in front of the two young kids, he held the planer away from his body and spun to take the brunt of the fall on his shoulder.

Memories of that first fall came racing back during the trip to the floor of the second one. He remembers both kids screaming while he fell. He ended up with a chunk of skin missing and lying in a small pool of blood.

“It scared them more than it scared me,” he says. “I was just embarrassed.”

*****

Everywhere Terry goes around town, people know him. The stretch of coast from Dana Point to San Clemente is full of surfers who know their labels and their shapers. Even outsiders to surfing know Terry. One afternoon he’s having lunch with his family at El Patio in Dana Point. The waitress knows him by name, and when Terry passes the first table, he recognizes the guy wearing all the racing paraphernalia. Johnny Campbell is an 11-time Baja 1000 champion and he was insistent on shaking Terry’s hand.

And since everyone knows Terry and thinks so highly of him, the support in his time of need was no surprise – even if it seemed overwhelming and unnecessary to Terry. When he’s at home with Candy, visitors are constantly stopping by – he enjoys that part.

Tyler Warren and another local shaper, Donald Brink (Terry called him Donny), helped organize a t-shirt through Hurley, with all the proceeds going to help Terry pay his medical bills. Another young shaper, Ryan Engle, donated the funds raised at his annual charity golf tournament to the cause. Though he’s shaped all those boards and worked for all those years he’s a production shaper and far from a wealthy man – at least, financially.

A fundraiser was organized for late May, “From Wood to Foam: A Body of Work,” which was intended to help with the financial toll the disease was taking on the Martin family. Much work was done to make it a successful night. Boards from nearly every era Terry has been apart of, from the signature models to the Positive Force Four (which he co-designed with Mickey Munoz) to a Hobie Twin-Fin Fish to the Hobie One Fin Pin were recreated and auctioned off. A month prior to the event, most of the boards were done and ready, except for one.

The last board is lying on a table on the driveway of Terry’s home in late April. The board is constructed entirely of wood, a mix of balsa and redwood. The pieces are imperfect, but stunning – “it’s got character,” Terry says. The board is layered with the two types of wood, creating an aesthetic meant for any collector’s wall. The tail block, smoothed and fitted to perfection, is exquisite. The gluing and shaping and fine-sanding are done. It’s a replica of the first board Terry ever shaped for himself all those years ago in San Diego.

“You do something like that 60 years ago, you neeeever forget it,” he says of recreating the board. “I’ve made several since, but this one, I wanted to make it juuussst the same.”

Inside the house Terry is lying on his back on a hospital bed in the living room. It’s his first full day home after spending five days in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. He had another setback. He had to be rushed to the hospital to have a liter of liquid drained from around his lungs and he lost 10 pounds while there.

His beard is the thickest it’s been in months, but the cancer is attacking and he’s the weakest he’s been in some time. The lesion on his forehead has grown, covering most of the right side of his face. In the five days since he arrived to the hospital the melanoma “grew like South America” down his face.

The experience sapped his strength, but his mind is still tack sharp. He explains the process of creating the board with extensive detail. He’s staring at the ceiling, trying to eat a peanut butter sandwich, talking about the difficulties of finishing the board, and how he had to have some friends finish it because he was too weak.

A longtime friend, Chuck Basset, put together the tailblock and helped with some of the final touches. Terry called on Donny Brink, a young shaper originally from South Africa, to do some of the heavy sanding. It took Brink several hours to work through all the wood. “That was a stressful job,” Brink recalls. “It was like putting for Tiger [Woods] after he’s already teed off.”

Terry’s allowing the board to “sun-burn” for a few days: “Once Monday rolls around, it will be nice and seasoned looking,” he explains. “It won’t look new, it’ll look like it’s 30 years old.”

He has visitors and he’s explaining the last steps of finishing the board. On the table, a chunky green substance is in a water bottle, and Terry’s been trying to finish drinking it. It’s made from organic Aloe Vera leaves. “I didn’t think I could ever drink that plant; it’s so slimey,” he says. “But you know what? It’s not that bad. And at this point, you’d do anything.”

His strength is beginning to return. He’s just happy to be home. And the beard – which Candy recommended he grow when they first began dating – is beginning to look like a beard again.

“I don’t know where I stand, I don’t know what’s going to happen here, this melanoma is radical stuff,” he says, with an earnest look.

Moments later his demeanor changes, and the sparkle returns to his eye and a warm smile spreads across his grizzled face.

“I can’t wait to see that board finished,” he says. “It’s going to be beauuutiful.”

*****

Terry never had the opportunity to see the end result of the final surfboard he ever shaped. He passed away in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 12, 2012.

The final days and hours of his life were spent between private, intimate moments with family, and sharing stories and laughs with close friends. All the while, Barney, the big brown and grey cat, lay for hours at Terry’s feet.

A week later, several hundred people gathered at a church in Capistrano Beach to remember the man and shaper. The evening began with a short movie put together by Donny Brink. Terry had always held the utmost respect for Donny: “he’s the kind of guy I gravitate toward,” Terry had said. They shared an interest in shaping and odd board designs, and often discussed family and faith. For the last year of Terry’s life, the two got together every Friday possible and Donny would hit record on the video camera. Terry talked about his upbringing, his life surfing and shaping, his relationship with God, being a father, and his thoughts on death. Almost Tuesdays With Morrie. Fridays with Terry. Donny titled it “Shaping Life.”

Terry’s life and shaping prowess were celebrated once again, two nights later, at the fundraiser held at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point Harbor. All of the proceeds from the evening, from the entrance price to the silent auction items (which were donated) to the live auction items, were given to the Martin family. The crowd of over 500 was a mix of fellow shapers, surf industry personalities, surfers who’d ridden Terry’s boards, friends from church and countless people who respected Terry from afar. Under a starry sky, they shared stories about Terry and did their best impersonations; they laughed and cried and embraced. The evening seemed more about celebrating his life than mourning his passing.

In the main room, the walls were lined with beautiful surfboards and desirable collectibles, from Steve McQueen’s leather jacket to a Skip Frye California Gun to Dane Reynolds’ personal signed board to a Hobie Corky Carroll Model. By the time “Shaping Life” had finished playing, and tears were wiped away, the space was packed to standing-room only.

In total, 49 boards were sold, along with pieces of artwork from Thomas Campbell and Wade Koniakowsky and Andy Davis, framed photographs and Terry’s old Econoline van. Some of the boards were collectable items meant to hang on a wall, others were meant to be ridden. A few, like the Corky Carroll Model, held sentimental value.

When the board came onto the block midway through the evening, a brother-sister team who’d yet to bid on a single item entered the fray. Bucky and Marissa Barry were longtime Hobie team riders and shop employees who’d come to know Terry well over the years. Bucky worked in the shop often, and whenever he had a spare moment, he’d peek through the window and watch him work or he’d step into the room and the two would talk surfboards. The last board Bucky watched Terry work on was unique for its bottom contours and its noseriding capability. Terry had told Bucky, “I’d be curious to see what you think about this thing.” It was the Corky Carroll Model up for auction.

The bidding for the board was one of the most spirited of the evening, and when the auctioneer finally awarded the board for $4,750 to the Barrys, Bucky leaped into the air and immediately broke into tears on his sisters’ shoulder.

“To have that board means so much; I’ve never wanted anything more,” Bucky said afterward, still in shock, his cheeks and eyes still red. “I’m going to take it out at Four Doors on a sunny day when I can just wear trunks, catch a few waves on it and then paddle way outside and tell Terry how it rode.”

Several items later, a board with a sea-foam green deck and bubblegum pink rails with an asymmetrical outline came up for auction. The Butter Spoon, as Donny called the design, had been a one he and Terry had talked about constantly. Terry had told Donny, “this is the future [of board design].”

Donny’s shaping reputation isn’t yet on par with some of the great names in the profession, but for one night, his board was valued higher than all the rest in the room. The Dane Reynolds board sold for $1,100. The Skip Frye board went for $5,500. And the signed Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt was also a popular item, selling for $7,000.

The Butter Spoon generated a bidding-war unlike any other board of the evening. But the board had a story; it was a tribute to Terry and Donny’s relationship with him. The sea-foam green represented Sunset Cliffs, where Donny often surfed and where Terry learned to surf all those years ago. The pink rails were representative of the pink Trident bubblegum Terry always had in his car and was constantly chewing. The board design was a peek into to the future, a place where Terry’s impact will long be felt in the shapers he mentored, the people he made boards for, the friends who heard his stories, and with the countless number of people who’ll remember his laugh and his bearded smile.

“This [event is] probably the most validating point to live a good, feared, honest and pure life, because that’s what Terry did. He was a man of integrity and at the end of the day it’s honoring; at the end of the day when it really counts, when people remember you and people talk about you and get excited about you – and yeah, they’re spending some cash on you – it counts,” said Donny, after watching the Butter Spoon sell for $8,000. “It just goes to show you that at the end of the day when the fat lady sings, Terry Martin’s been blessed – and he’s not even here to get it! And he’d be stoked!”

In total, the evening raised more than $200,000 for the Martin family.

Terry’s replica Hot Curl stood alone, upright on the stage throughout the evening. Many of those who knew Terry well found a private moment to admire the board, running their hands along its rail and deck, as though trying to get a final moment with Terry himself. The quiet concern of many was that the board, which was built with so much love and signified so much to so many, would end up on a wall in the house of a collector, to whom it was just a pretty prize. When the board came up for auction, Jeff Alter and Hobie Alter, Jr. stepped to the podium before the auctioneer could begin. “There’s only one place where this board belongs, and that’s with Candy and her family,” Jeff said. He bid $10,000 toward purchasing and donating Terry’s final board back to his family. Numerous thousand-dollar donations, hundred-dollar donations and even a $5,000 donation followed. The Martin family sat in the front row, some burying their face in their hands as it all happened, others laughing with tears in their eyes. In total, the Hot Curl raised nearly $40,000.

After the bidding stopped, Josh stepped onto the stage. His eyes were still moist as he attempted to gather his words, gazing out into the crowd and then back to the board. He thanked the crowd on behalf of his family. The decision was made then and there, and later endorsed by Candy, to have the board hang in the Hobie shop in Dana Point, where anyone can come by and see the last masterful creation of the world’s greatest production shaper.

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