In some way, I have been a teacher for most of my adult life. Long ago it was as a shipâ€™s officer aboard educational and research vessels teaching young people lessons in seamanship, navigation and being a good shipmate. More recently it was at the University of New Hampshire teaching condensed courses in GIS. So I have had a pile of great experiences with students â€“ often watching them gain new skills in intense situations that required a compressed time-frame and the need to gain skills rapidly.
But nothing compares to the experience we had with the guys from the Spring 2008 Longboard Workshop last week. You couldnâ€™t have five more stoked guys â€“ friendly, fun, relaxed and more than willing to be the guinea pigs in our first-ever attempt to teach others the process of building their own surfboard. And they simply sucked up knowledge. They were all enthusiastic, quick to learn, careful workmen that took the time to add great looking detail to their boards.
We didnâ€™t know what to expect of this experience going in â€“ we even wondered if it could be done since almost all of them had little or no woodworking experience! The week started first thing Sunday morning with breakfast in the builderâ€™s lounge at the shop (all our meals were prepared by our good friend Molly who impressed the guys twice a day with fresh, freakishly good food). For the seven days following, there was always a mix of stuff, sometimes demonstration, sometimes a chalk-talk. But mostly, it was full on, hands on, getting-it-done surfboard-building where the five guys â€“ each with his own building station â€“ constructed a 9â€™-0â€ Root or 10â€™-0â€ Waterlog.
Mike, myself and John all cycled through the shop as instructors, but make no mistake â€“ these guys did the work themselves and built five very impressive boards with high-quality attention to detail. A couple of the fellas even made some changes to the shapes of the boards as they constructed them based on what they learned about rail and board shape principles and to suit their own preferences.
One problem we had was that we couldnâ€™t get them out of the shop at the end of the day â€“ they just wanted to stay and stay to keep working on their boards. We crammed a lot of board building and learning into the seven days they were here. We also had time for a few nights on the town, a trip to a local surf shop, an impromptu lobster bake with new and old friends and a first-rate morning session during which everyone surfed wood.
Here are a few great quotes from the guys after the Course ended. It occurs to me that these guys may not fully realize how great this whole experience was for us too. We had nothing but fun, and we canâ€™t think of a better bunch of guys to be our first.
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"Excellent food, Molly Rules!"
"Great space and plenty of tools"
"One of the best weeks in so many ways. Great class, great location, great waves!"
"Easy to follow step by step instruction."
"Very patient instructors who knew what they were doing."
"I think it was perfect. The time spent by all the builders helping me was priceless. The surfboard alone is worth the price."
"Could not have asked for a more comfortable laid back yet proactive environment. Never felt out of place."
"Dude, that guy from Ventura was wasted!"
"Ten out of ten stars."
"Most memorable: The surfing, the lobster jam, the night at the bar, the amazing board I'm leaving with. I feel like I have new friends. I would recommend the class to anybody interested in surfing or woodworking!"