The surfboard is totally awesome, and the dude who built it is really stoked.
Nine feet long, 22 inches at its widest point, and three-and-a-half to five inches thick, this board is big and sturdy. It has to be. Board maker Luke Alvarez painstakingly crafted it in his shop in Tuckerton, N.J., for a specific purpose: to give people with disabilities an opportunity to catch a wave and rush to shore with the roar of the water echoing in their ears.
That day will come on Sunday, June 21, when people with disabilities from throughout the region will take to the waves for They Will Surf Again, a free, one-day annual event on the beach at Rambler Road in Wildwood Crest. MossRehab is sponsoring the event, and sending a crowd of volunteers. The volunteers perform crucial roles. They help surfers in and out of wetsuits, on and off boards, in and out of chairs—and most important of all, form lines out in the water between the surf breaks and the beach to help any surfers who might fall off their boards, and help them get back on.
“I’m ridiculously excited,” says Alvarez, owner of Generic Brand Surfboards, who presented the custom board to representatives from MossRehab Wednesday at Carusi Middle School in Cherry Hill, N.J., where he teaches 7thgrade. “I’m totally thrilled to be doing it.”
MossRehab’s “Challenge Accepted” message is featured prominently on the board. California based-Headline Graphics provided the exquisitely detailed digital graphic. Alvarez laminated it onto the board.
Jerry Anderson, president of Headline Graphics, has offered his firm’s services for similar programs. Anderson is a big believer in ocean therapy. He’s worked with the Jimmy Miller Foundation in California, an adaptive surfing program for individuals with physical and mental illness. “So when they called me and asked me if I wanted to get involved in this (They Will Surf Again in New Jersey), it was a no-brainer.”
The same was true for Alvarez. “I like to play in the ocean. I can’t imagine going to the beach and looking at everybody in the water, and it would be absolute torture not to be able to go out.”
Alvarez says he doesn’t build boards for a living—“I do it because I like it.”
He must like it a lot. He started in 1971, and he’s crafted hundreds. Often, Alvarez is asked to create custom surfboards to raffle off. So when he was approached to create a board that would actually be used, he was all in.
Creating the MossRehab board was a lot of work—but most of them are. The process starts with a curved, chemically blown plastic foam “blank,” a bit bigger than the finished board. Alvarez has to start by skinning the blank because it has a hard crust, “like a loaf of bread.”
He cuts out the outline, and then shapes the top of the board so it’s either flat or domed, depending on the client’s preferences. After that, Alvarez applies two layers of fiberglass cloth, and the artwork. What follows, he says, is a lot of sanding and polishing. Finally, he installs the fin, or fins—there can be up to four—“and after that, she’s good to go.”
A six-foot-two board can take six to 10 days to build. The “Challenge Accepted” board took longer. This board also needed to include plugs to accommodate special handholds. It’s a serious work of craftsmanship.
Alvarez, in a joking mood—and those moods seem to come often—puts it less seriously. “Dude, that’s a sweet board that’s a totally awesome noserider.”
A custom board like this particular “noserider” would cost $2,000 to $3,000—the custom artwork from Headline Graphics makes it worth a lot more—but Alvarez is not thinking about the time or cost. In fact, he’s more impressed by the generosity of all of the therapists from MossRehab and elsewhere. “They could be out playing golf,” he says. “It’s a humbling thing, thinking about what they’re doing.”
He’s also deeply impressed by the generosity of his students who found out about his project, and who contributed money toward the purchase of a bag to protect the board. “It reflects so well on the school,” Alvarez says. “They just started collecting change in the home rooms. I thought it was cool that they wanted to be part of it. I truly believe in karma, and I guess they do, too.”