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THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | STOCKPILE

Glaring goof

Retro surfing cards show a shocking lapse in the sport's cool image.

June 22, 2004|Jamie Tierney

It's a miscalculation in the cooler-than-jocks conceit of board culture: Surfing once tried to emulate a ball sport.

The slip lasted for only a few years when Herbie Fletcher of Astrodeck, a company known for its peel-and-stick traction pad for surfboards and other accessories, packaged a Major League Baseball-style card--180 different ones, in fact -- with every cake of surf wax.

Sadly for some, the evidence survives in the display cases of Southern California surf shops. Worth squat compared to a Fernando Valenzuela, the cards are collectible as precious emblems from a cheesy phase best forgotten.

When?

Hint: "They were hideously bright with pink, orange and yellow borders," says "The Encyclopedia of Surfing" author Matt Warshaw, who got paid $5 a card to write the biographical information on the flip side of the action photo/sponsor logo.

Some of the neon, he says, framed photos of what the promotional material called "heart-stopping bikini girls" instead of surfers.

Sam George, a onetime pro and Surfer magazine editor who also wrote bios for the cards, says the cards may invite mocking now, but they were a really big deal. "All the top guys were asking each other, 'Did you get a card?' It was a big status symbol to be on one," he says.

At the Longboard Grotto, a Carlsbad shop that specializes in surf memorabilia, the cards featuring the late Hawaiian pro Rell Sunn and Rick Griffin's iconic cartoon character "Murphy" each fetch about $50. Prices slide from there, and most cards go for less than $10.

Give up?

Shaun Tomson, the sport's 1977 world champion (pictured at right), says only one surfing decade gives itself away so easily in photos: "Back then your trunks had to be tight and they had to be bright."

It was the '80s, man.

-- Jamie Tierney

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