Who Shaped Who?
People often ask, how long does it take to build one your HomeGrown Kits? Our typical answer is 50 hours or so. But sometimes it takes more, sometimes it can take 13 years. But where the process is part of the product, why not slow down and make the most of it? Below is a moving story by Steph F. who just wrapped up her 9' Root, 13 years in the making. Her story in her own words:
"On August 25, 2007, I gave my husband a gorgeous hand shaped Joel Tudor 9’6 as a wedding gift. He gave me a cardboard box filled with pieces of wood, a stapled-together set of instructions, and an entry point to a 12 year journey that I didn’t know I was about to embark upon. Inside that box was a Grain surfboard kit and a whole lot more than I bargained for.
Beyond constructing raised beds in my garden and the compulsory birdhouse in high school woodshop, I had never really worked with wood. Each step of the process brought a new challenge. When the instructions called for a new skill, it wasn’t as simple as applying a long-practiced skill to building a surfboard. Often, I had to learn what the required tool was, borrow or buy it, teach myself how to use it properly, and only then use that skill to execute whatever was needed on the board. It was a stunted, slow, and daunting process that had me riding the roller coaster of emotion from confusion to determination to overwhelmedness to victorious only to flip the page and start all over again. Needless to say, I am far more comfortable working with hand tools than I was before.
At times, I would get so stuck on a step I couldn’t move forward. These times were fraught with fear that I would make an irrevocable mistake, embarrassment that I didn’t know what to do, and reluctance to ask for help. I believed deep down in my heart that I “should” be able to figure this process out on my own, and could neither give myself permission to admit that this wasn’t true nor to just take a risk and try. This pattern, plus a heavy rotation of life events involving two moves, two fixer-upper houses, two job changes, and a deep dive into ultra-distance cycling, resulted in long periods of time in which the board was lovingly, but dejectedly wrapped in a sheet and put somewhere safe and out of sight until I had the fortitude and the time to return to it. The last time I wrapped her up was early 2013, when I moved to Rye, NH to be near the surf. With my life fully focused on other things, this beautiful potential board sat in her sheet for seven full years, haunting me with the idea that every year that went by was one step closer to never finishing. It was sad, but the weight of the board was so crushing that the more time I allowed to pass, the more difficult it became to think about finishing the project.
Without exception, we humans tend to resist change in our behavior and beliefs until an outside stimulus necessitates and catalyzes it. In the fall of 2018, all of the ultra-distance training caught up with me, and I developed a sacroiliac injury and overtraining syndrome (OTS) resulting in a full stop to training. Unable to access much of what brought me joy, I spent a lot of time wallowing in frustration, anxiety, exhaustion and self-pity. To compare it to surfing, it was like the biggest beat down, hold-down, murky wipeout I’d ever taken. As summer of 2019 approached, I was able to pull my head above the water long enough to take a breath and realize that I needed to find something to immerse myself in that wasn’t training, or I would be in for a long, lonely, and miserable two months off from my teaching job. The time was right and life had created space: I unearthed my board from her dark corner of the basement and brought her into the summer sunshine, where I went to work on finishing the process with a single minded purpose. This time, for real. No more messing around. Working on my board slid neatly into the space that endless training used to occupy, and gave me a different kind of endurance event to focus on. The difference between this time and all the other times I had worked on my board was that now I realized that it was just wood. There was very little I could do that would completely make or break the process. I was in such a low place that just the idea of finishing allowed me to release my pursuit of perfection in favor of the prospect of successful completion.
In January of 2020, with a final swipe of wet 800 grit sandpaper, I closed a 13 year chapter in my life. This moment of completing what had become a monumental and emotionally charged project seemed so unlikely and distant that try as I might, I could never quite visualize it. When I started this board in 2007, I was a new surfer, had no woodworking experience, had never mixed resin or worked with fiberglass, and didn’t even know the names of some of the tools I needed to use to complete the job. Today, I am an accomplished surfer with a board I made by myself with my own two hands. It made me curse, it made me cry, it made me question myself and doubt my abilities, and it exposed fears and insecurities I didn’t even know I had. It has also brought me great joy, pride, and learning. It has been a story of patience and persistence, grit and grace. This process has taught me to let go when I thought I needed to hold tight, to embrace the beauty of imperfection and lean into the idea that sometimes close enough is good enough and that done really can be better than perfect. My husband’s intent all those years ago was to give me a gift that was a unique learning experience that linked with my love of the water, but what he actually gave me in that box was far greater than the sum of the pieces of wood it contained. I may have shaped this board into what it is today, but what I didn’t expect when I started was that it would be a part of shaping me too. "
Beautiful work Steph! We're so proud of your stick-to-it-ness. Now go wax that thing up! Enjoy.