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How a Lake Michigan Surfcraft Pioneer found his way into the National Surfing and Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Global Surfing Industry!
Posted By: BigWaveDave This article has been published
9/12/2008
No ratings for this submission
Here's the story behind how I got my start shaping surfboards...

Artisan Surf Designs Bio Section:

David Vernon Falkenau

Born: February 4th, 1974 (Guttenberg, Iowa)

Years Shaping: 19 years off and on.

Growing up in between the 1970’s and 1990’s, I had seen poor “Hollywood” examples of surfers and surfing on TV and in movies – Speed Buggy; Wonderbug; Magic Mongo; Scooby Doo; The Brady Bunch Hawaii episode where Greg wears that dumb tiki amulet around his neck, goes surfing and almost drowns; North Shore; Under The Boardwalk; Surf Nazis Must Die; Point Break; and other misleading examples. As a kid, however, I didn’t know that these were all staged, kooked-out examples of surfers and surfing. None of that mattered to me at the time. All I knew is that for some reason, I was hooked on “surfing” before I had ever even tried to surf. According to the glossary in the back of the book Surfer! , that would make me a hodad or a kook. Therefore, I knew I had better get to the ocean, learn to surf, and get there fast!

Back in 1983-1984, at the young age of nine or ten, I bought a discarded copy of Surfer! , written by D.S. Halacy, Jr. (1965), for five cents from the Beiger School library in Mishawaka, Indiana. I was in the fourth grade. I remember vividly how the dark green hardcover and the bright white “Surfer!” text had really caught my eye.

In 1984, my mom bought me a copy of Surfing, The Ultimate Pleasure, written by Leonard Lueras. I read that thing from cover to cover, wore out the binding, and dog-eared several of the pages for my own reference.

I remember one time when my mom was getting ready to go to a bowling banquet with her friend, Judy Cleland. I was in the bathroom, carving away at a plastic surfboard (from a Fisher-Price toy surfer van) with a razor knife from my dad’s tool box. I didn’t like the shape of the board so I tried to “re-shape” it into a “Standard Issue Round Tail” like the one I saw on page 209 in the back of Lueras’s book. That’s what people were riding the year I was born (1974), so that’s the shape I was going for! I dreamed up my first surfboard label – “Kumu” surfboards, “In Memory of Bob Simmons,” after reading about the red fish used in ceremonial surfboard building, and after reading about Bob Simmons’ death at Windansea. I drew up some logos, and drew up various surfboard templates over the years based on different combinations of the ones I saw throughout Lueras’s book. I eventually changed my wishful business moniker to “DF Surf Stix” in 1987, then “Falkenau Surfboards,” put those templates to use, and eventually started “Artisan Surf Designs,” with Jerry Ingham in 2006.

I read Surfer! , by D.S. Halacy Jr., cover to cover for the first time in 1985 and immediately identified with the main character, Pete Marlin. We had too much in common. Throughout my life, I kept the story line of this novel in the back of my mind. In a way, the character of Pete Marlin vicariously came to life through me, as I planned out my lifetime goal to move away to the ocean, learn to surf, and live out my dream of being a “surfer.”

When I was twelve years old, in the sixth grade (’86-’87 school year), I knew a surfer/skater by the name of Ryan Rhodts. Ryan and his mom used to live in California, where he learned to surf at a young age. He walked up to me one day in the Beiger School library and said, “Dude, check out this magazine. I found it on the stand in Pit-Stop U.S.A. over at Scottsdale Mall… It’s all about surfing!” I grabbed the fresh copy of Surfer (FEB 1987, VOL. 28, NO. 2 - $3.50) from his hand and sifted through the pages wide-eyed, opened-mouth, with my chin nearly smacking the floor. It was only a matter of seconds before I was standing there begging him to let me borrow it. I finally convinced Ryan that his priceless artifact was in the best of hands.

To Ryan’s dismay, sometime over the next few months, that magazine turned up missing – “My mom ran it over with the vacuum,” or something to that effect. I thought she threw it away because of all the pictures of girls in bikinis. Yet, it mysteriously found its way back to my room with some tattered pages. Before long, that coveted issue of Surfer hung in the form of wallpaper on the freshly painted walls of my bedroom overlooking the St. Joseph River and Merrifield Park (Mishawaka, Indiana). Let’s just say my dad wasn’t absolutely thrilled about it. Eventually, he just glanced in at my ever-growing collection and said, “At least it’s not that damned Metal Edge and Hit Parader Glam-Rock-Hair-Band crap where all the guys look like girls!” I got to keep Ryan’s new wallpaper contribution to my bedroom. Ryan ended up moving to a new school in Texas that same year, and as for owing him a new magazine, I was in the clear.

I remember having my Grandma Davis record VHS copies of ABC’s Wide Wide World of Sports so I could watch people surf. She recorded every TV version of Surfer Magazine for me throughout the eighties, as well as all of the ESPN contests and Outdoor Channel Surfing programs. I remember two specific contests that my Grandma and I watched together. One was the OP Pro between Curren and Occy. The other was the OP Pro between Slater and Machado. I’ll never forget the phone call when Gram called me to tell me about how beautiful it was to watch Curren, Occy, Kelly, and Machado surf. I couldn’t get Occy’s slashing “check-your-spray” cutbacks out of my head. I used to watch those tapes over and over. Then I’d go next door and borrow Susan Smith’s yellow, thin, narrow, plastic Veraflex skateboard, and try to mimic what I saw on all of those surf tapes. I’d carve up and down the street, banking the curbs, ducking inside imaginative barrels doing my best Jerry Lopez stand-up Lightening Bolt Single-fin imitation with my hands behind my back; and tearing up my hands and blue jeans trying to do “Burts” in the driveway like I’d seen Larry Bertlemann do on waves in Hawaii. I knew somehow I was going to put those moves to use one day in the ocean.

As Christmas approached my seventh grade year (1987, thirteen years old), my dad notified us that we would be going to Melbourne, FL for a vacation. That vacation was my first trip to the Atlantic and led to the rental of my first surfboard from Shagg’s Surf Shop. If my memory serves me correctly, was orange-sunburst with that classic wide point forward tear drop plan-shape, about 7’0” with a single fin glassed on under the rounded pintail. It wore the “Sunset” logo on the deck under a crust of wax that must’ve been building up since its hot-coat sand out in the 1970’s. I’ll never forget that thing.

I never did catch a wave on that board. I didn’t know how to paddle or duck-dive, so I held the board out in front of me, braced myself for the coming of the next wave, and got hit in the head with the rail hard enough to call it quits. I was afraid of it. That’s all she wrote for that vacation. The board sat up in the corner of our beach bungalow until my dad took it back to Shagg’s. I remember him wasting about $80 on the 3-day rental. Even though I was afraid to get hurt again, I went back to Indiana bound and determined to learn to surf. That first taste of salt water was enough to influence the rest of my life – not to mention the fact that my dad caught my whole surfing fiasco on VHS. My friends, relatives, and all who passed through our home got to see that home video, courtesy of my dad!

My seventh and eighth grade years (1987-1988, thirteen and fourteen years old) were very important years in the shaping of my surfing future. I met my friend Jason Sergeant, who had some cousins in California, and Jason shared my passion for surfing. We were like brothers from those early days until we I graduated from Indiana University in 1998 and moved to Veracruz, Mexico to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and search for waves in Oaxaca.

Jason and I were bound and determined to move far away from Indiana and live out our shared dream of living the surfer lifestyle. We didn’t have surfboards, so we made skim boards shaped like surfboards and would ride those in the creeks near his house, and in the River by my house, looking for still-waves like we saw in The Endless Summer I or II (I can’t remember). We would eventually talk his dad and grandpa “Paum” into driving us to Lake Michigan to use them. Jason’s dad called me “Surfin’ Sam” throughout the time that I frequented their house. I remember one time in high school, when we were freshmen, Jason and I drank one of his dad’s Goebel’s beers out in the garage while we refined and redesigned our skimmers between bouts in the back yard with the boxing gloves. And it wasn't like we were getting drunk and drinking a lot of beers. It's just that we saw Greg Noll and Pat Curren and Dale Velzy and Butch Van Artsdalen and all the legends of the longboard era taking part in a beer or two and thought it was all part of the ritual of building boards. We were kids, and it was a big deal for us to crack one open and share it while we worked on our boards. We used to think of different materials to make boards with. We even tore apart old coolers and saved up every piece of foam we could get our hands on (My first two shapes were a Tom Blake hollow, and a Tom Blake Malibu). I look back on those days with great fondness. Those were the days of innocence. I never knew they would have such a profound impact on my life as a surfer and a shaper until now, looking back and reflecting on those days.

Jason was like the brother I never had. We spent every moment of our youth together sharing our passion for surfing. I called him Duke and he would call me Pete (for Pete Marlin) or Kahuna (we read about Kahunas’ in ancient Hawaiian history). We both had subscriptions to all the surf magazines available at the time. We would even have to get each other’s approval when we would ask a girl out on a date – God forbid she ever get in the way of our surfing plans! If one could ever really have only one best friend, Jason was my true best friend. He would do anything for me, and I would do anything for him.

We scoured the town we lived in for real surfboards but nothing ever turned up. We made skim boards and skateboards; talked my dad into buying a Mistral sailboard; bought a Skurfer from my friend Tim Cleland so my dad could pull us behind his Chris Craft; drew our own designs for surfboards; even tried to talk our Junior High shop teacher, Mr. Kiefer, into letting us make a board out of wood. He wouldn’t even hear of such a thing. So instead of doing our drafting work in class, Jason and I would work on a series of surf comics which would later end up part of our “Surfing Folders” which we carried with us from Jr. High through High School. I still have mine. They consisted of everything we talked about, drew, designed, planned, pulled out of magazines – everything that had anything to do with surfing. We even worked up a business plan for our “Pirates of the Caribbean” surf shop which we planned to build in Brevard County, Florida. That never happened, but I still have the logo.

After waterskiing on Klinger Lake, Michigan, back in the summer of 1987 (I was 13 years old) I found an old Harbour mid-length / transitional surfboard with one of the first single-fin boxes ever made. The board was just floating in knee deep water next to my grandpa’s pier. It had a destroyed nose and tail, and had severe water damage. My friend Brian was not thrilled about bringing the board onto his dad’s nice new Bayliner so I could take it home with me after they trailered the boat back to Mishawaka. He said, "What are you going to do with that?" I looked at him and said, "I'm going to fix this thing and ride it on Lake Michigan." He looked at me and laughed because if you could see the board, you would think it was a goner. I begged them to let me bring it home, and they eventually complied with my urgent request (Brian and his dad were talented wood workers and still are true artisans to this day). Later on, my dad told me he would help me fix it. We dried it out repaired the nose and tail with spray foam from a can, and glassed it with his knowledge of glassing a Penn Yan wooden boat that he made from scratch when he was a kid. That became my first board.

The day I found that Harbour, I called up my buddy Jason, and told him what I found. It was like finding the Holy Grail. He immediately came over to my house, and we looked that thing over from tip to tail. This was it. We had a board. Now all we had to do was get it in the water!

The following year (1988, 14 years old), my dad bought me a 6’8” Corky Cool Sticks bump squash thruster. I remember coming home from school and my parents were gone. They left a note saying they were going to Grand Rapids, Michigan and wouldn’t be back until late. The phone rang and it was my father. He said, “Hey, do you know anything about Mark Richards twin fin or a Corky Cool Sticks thruster? They have one of each here in a surf shop in Grand Haven.” I knew about Mark Richards from my Lueras book, but I had read Surf Dog Days and Bitchin Nights by Corky Carroll, and that made me kind of biased toward the Corky Cool Stick. I told my dad all of this hooha about Corky and how that would be a cool board. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I should have raved about the classic Mark Richards twin fin! I didn’t realize that they were at Wind Waves & Wheels buying me a surfboard until I saw it under the Christmas tree. That same year, Jason’s parents drove out to Whale Bone Surf Shop in Nags Head, NC and bought him a Rip Curl surfboard shaped by Bill Shrosbree. They bought some soft racks as well, so we had Jason’s dad and grandpa drive us to St. Joe almost every weekend. It didn’t matter if it was completely flat. We would at least paddle around and get wet on those things.

One day, Jason and I arrived to surf St. Joe and noticed other surfers in the water, and a woman with a clip board standing on the beach. We immediately ran up to her and asked her what the heck was going on. After all, until that day we thought we were the only people to ever even try to surf on one of the Great Lakes. She said she was from the ESA: Great Lakes District and they were having a contest called “The Gale’s of November”. We couldn’t even believe it. Here we were surfing alone all this time and there was an actual surf club! I contacted the ESA that same year and became a member. The woman also turned me on to The Great Lakes Surfing Association (GLSA), and I immediately contacted Oscar Wolfbrant, the GLSA President at the time, and he hooked me up with a membership card and a subscription to the GLSA magazine (which at that time was just a bunch of xeroxed pages, folded over, and stabled down the middle in the form of a book. It eventually made its way to glossy paper and I even remember some color issues.

Jason and I were both wrestlers at Mishawaka high School. We had the best wrestling team in the state of Indiana. We were good, and our coach was my next door neighbor. I remember one day during the winter, when Jason and I skipped the beginning of practice so we could drive 45 minutes to St. Joseph, Michigan to surf the lake during one memorable winter swell. We returned from our surfari with about 10 minutes left of the wrestling practice. Coach Smith asked us where we were and we told him we were surfing. He just about had a coronary when we told him this. He nearly kicked us off the team. I was doing push-ups, sit-ups, ladder drills, and wind-sprints until I threw up, for an entire week of practice. That didn’t stop us though, that was only the beginning of our drop-everything-and-take-off-to-surf-at-the-drop-of-a-hat attitude toward catching waves on Lake Michigan. After all, we now had our own boards, and we were that much closer to living out our dream.

We surfed the lake on a regular basis from 1988 through 1998 when I moved away to Mexico. Jason only had a 3/2 with a vest, so his surfing was limited to the warmer weather. I however bought an O’Neil 5/4/3 Zen Zip with a hood, 5 mm booties, and 5 mm gloves, and I surfed the 33 degree waters throughout the winter time when it really got really good on Lake Michigan. That ten year span was just enough time for me to really get bit by the surfing bug. Man, I had surf fever and I had it bad!

In the fall of 1992, I went off to college at Ball State University to study Marine Biology and Aquatic Fisheries. I soon found out that my parents were getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage. Even though I tried to make things work out, I had no desire to concentrate on college, and I didn’t know which direction to go in my life. All I wanted to do was run from my problems, and somehow help my parents get back together.

I didn’t know what was going on back home, so I drove home from college every weekend to help my dad cope with my mom leaving him. I tried to help my mom too, because I didn’t think she really knew what she was doing. All of this led to me flunking out of Ball State University with a .23 GPA. I moved in with my Dad, got a job at Fairmont Homes, building mobile homes, in Napanee, IN, and realized that the factory life was not the life for me. I knew I needed to get back into college somehow.

Sometime during the spring break after I left college I took a Greyhound Bus from South Bend, IN to Fort Lauderdale with a Tim Nolte Short board that I found at Red’s Pawn Shop, Twin Branch, IN (board #3 for me). It was pretty clean for a pawn shop board and a lucky find all the way inland in Indiana. I rode that in Pompano Beach and realized the surf sucked, so my buddy Ken and I ended up walking from Pompano Beach all the way to Fort Lauderdale one morning, called our buddy’s, told them that Fort Lauderdale’s Spring Break was going off, took a cab back to Pompano, and moved all of our stuff down to a hotel on the beach in Fort Lauderdale for the rest of our stay.

What a trip. The only reason I went was so I could surf in the Atlantic Ocean again to redeem myself from the last time I tried it. Needless to say, the Atlantic wasn’t dishing out anything spectacular. It was waist to shoulder and pretty inconsistent all week, but at least there were waves and I could actually surf in salt water.

We were all underage so there wasn’t much for us to do so I surfed and the other guys came up with the idea to make fake ID’s to get into the local bars. Mine was a Ball State University ID that I peeled the top laminate off of, inserted a birth date that made me 21, and re-laminated it. Back then they didn’t have all the fancy stuff to check ID’s and we actually got away with some good times in Fort Lauderdale – one of my more memorable spring breaks.

Toward the end of the week, we started to look around the town because our crew was dropping off like flies as they ran out of money. Ken and I were going to get jobs at a local surf shop, but our buddies talked us into going home. I remember Chris Lutz flew home on a plane, and most of us (Todd Franks, Matt Vervynckt, Ken Okanski, and Jason Van Camp) had to take the Grayhound back. Since I was one of the strapped crew (no money), I decided to take the Tim Nolte to a pawn shop. Before I ever even made it to the pawn shop, I ran inside our hotel to grab my wallet and handed my board to Matt. When I got back outside, he had a funny look on his face and as I looked the board over I noticed the rail was crushed and the nose was broken off at the tip. Matt said, “Uh, sorry. I dropped it.” The guy at the pawn shop asked me “What on earth am I supposed to do with a broken surfboard, son?” I said, “Fix it and sell it for more than what you give me for it, I don't know! I just need the money to get back home!” Luckily, the guy at the shop sensed my urgency, asked me how much my ticket was, let me pawn it for just enough money to buy a ticket home to Indiana. That was the beginning of my itch to get out on the road, into the air, across the sea, and abroad.

After my trip to Florida, all I could think about was traveling. On the weekends I used to drive to Muncie and visit my old college room mate David Haywood, and David’s new room mate, Eric Norris (a boyhood friend of mine whom I used to skate and skim with). One weekend, I found a Bing Glass Slipper in someone’s bushes at Ball State University, Muncie, IN. This was somewhere between 1992 or 1993. That became the second board I had repaired, and ended up being board #4 for me. Eventually that one was stripped to the foam and dried out until 2000, reshaped, and glassed by my buddy Drew Marquis out here in California, when I moved here back in 2001.

After working two Jobs for awhile (Fairmont and Macri’s Deli), I wrote a letter to the bursar and the dean of Ball State University and persuaded them to let me back into the university. I went back there from 1993 to 1994 and studied Natural Resources and Environmental Management. I got good enough grades to stay, pledged the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, joined a band called Dry Rain, got a job as a cook at Headliner’s Bar and Grill, and spent that year going to class, surviving 22 weeks of hazing hell, playing gigs all over campus and all over Indiana, making lots of friends, and realizing that I was missing the experience of being in the ocean and being on a surfboard. I wanted to open up my own surf shop in Florida.

My father visited me one weekend and told me that if I didn’t really want to go to college then I should pursue my dream of starting up a surf shop and moving to Florida to make it happen. I believed that he was right. But I knew that I needed to finish college first. I decided to transfer to Indiana University at South Bend so I could be closer to home and closer to pursuing my dream by working and saving up money. My major shifted because IUSB did not offer the same degree in Environmental Science that Ball State offered, so I studied Environmental Law, Criminal Justice, Public Affairs, and other courses at IUSB from 1994 to 1995 toward a similar degree. It just wasn’t turning out to be something that I loved. I decided to take a leave of absence from classes for awhile after bringing up my GPA, so I could do it on good terms.

One weekend in Muncie I visited an old friend (Kristen Van Gombos) at Headliner’s, where I used to work. We ended up hanging out all weekend, and she told me of a trip she was planning as a graduation present to herself to travel around Europe. She said jokingly that I should go with her. I looked at her, thought about it for a moment, and said, “You’re right, I should.” I told her I was going to go home, save some money, and that I would purchase two tickets for us when I had the money. She said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I took that to heart. I went home, worked three jobs which only allowed me a few hours to sleep at night, and did that long enough to save $3,500. I called Kristen, asked her how much she was going to take with her to Europe, and that was right around the same amount she was going to take. I contacted Airtech Ltd. This company offered Dirt Cheap Airfare one way to Shannon Ireland from Chicago, IL for $129. I bought two stand-by tickets and called Kristen. I told her I bought two tickets and she thought I was kidding. I assured her that I was serious, and she sent me down to Gallien’s Outfitter’s in Indianapolis to get an employee discount on a Gregory Palisades Plus backpack. I purchased the backpack, my father bought me a really beautiful pair of leather Asolo hiking/climbing boots, and we lived in Europe for a year.

I lived in several countries including Ireland, England, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Greece (including the Islands of Corfu, Ios, Naxos, Santos, Paros, and Santorini), Czech Republic, Spain, France, Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. I was blessed enough to find surfable waves in Ireland, Greece, Spain, and France. Although, I had to resort to renting boards in those places, since I didn’t bring one with me. I was there for the 1995 Quiksilver Masters in Biarritz, France when the waves absolutely sucked ass. Kelly, Rob, Sunny, and all the other surfers seemed embarrassed to have to surf a major contest like this in such crappy conditions. I remember how the crowd and contest promoters were making such a huge deal out of the contest because it was good press for their little surf town. Rob and Sunny were acting like, “are you kidding me? I can’t accept a trophy for riding that crap!” Champagne was being poured all over everyone and people were just hooing and haaing and the whole nine yards as if it was the pipe masters. I had to laugh because I knew what was going on in the pros’ heads. I knew they had to put on a good show for the sponsors, and all they really wanted were some good surfing conditions. After the contest, back at my camp in Biarritz proper, I partied with some surfers from the Canary Islands. Those guys were hard core and I had a blast.

I could write a book about my travels in Europe back in 1995, so I’ll save that for another day.

I was in a relationship with a girl who decided to move to Mexico to pursue her dream of teaching English to Spanish speaking locals in Veracruz, Mexico. I had decided to move to Talara, Peru to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and figured we would be close enough to visit each other. Our relationship needed a break. We were after something new, and just couldn’t find it in Michigan. About a week away from our departure, I received an e-mail from a colleague at the school I was going to work for in Talara. He warned me that the conditions and pay were not as promised, and told me I would have a miserable time trying to find a way back to the United States. This was a real let down, because I knew Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and basically the entire coastline of Central and South America was littered with amazing surf spots. Going on a last minute tip from my girlfriend at the time, I ended up finding a school to teach at in Veracruz, Mexico near her school and we jumped on the same plane. This was just after we graduated from Indiana University on May 12th, 1998.

I knew about Puerto Escondido from the magazines, so before I left, I headed up to Chapter 11 Sports in Grand Haven and bought a 6’4” Cannibal Pintail for the trip. When I arrived, I realized that Puerto Escondido was only an eight hour bus ride. Later, I realized I was under-gunned.

My surfing experience in Veracruz was unforgettable. I hung out a lot with a laid back kid named Mark, who was the son of missionary parents living in Costa de Oro. He used to surf with me at Destapador (The Can Opener) which was a local favorite in front of one of the main hotels. I remember being really excited when I met him because he was American and spoke English. It was a real treat to be able to carry on a conversation in English after being immersed in Spanish for so long. I caught some fun waves there and even bought my first hybrid long board from a guy they called Canada Mike. It was an 8’ Pacific Rim pintail thruster, shaped by the infamous “Eddie” for $150 including a board bag and a leash. After spending some time surfing Destapa, I quickly became friends with members of the Veracruz Surfing Association (Associacion de Surf del Estado de Veracruz).

My daily routine would be to take the bus with my surf gear from Costa Verde to Boca del Rio, teach all day at Harmon Hall, Las Americas, and then make my way back home surfing all the spots along the way. I would spend the week days working and surfing in Veracruz at various spots including Destapa or Destapador, playa Norte, Camaronera, Costalitos or Costales, Garlics, Ica Banzai, La Barra, Marti reef, Acquario, Tampiquera, Oh Shit!, and several other spots that the world doesn’t even know about on the Gulf Coast. It was a paradise I didn’t realize until I moved back to Michigan.

I moved around quite a bit and lived in some interesting places. The best was a little studio apartment I found down the stairs from a Canadian computer hacker who was wanted by the Canadian government for fraud. He turned out to be a really cool guy and a great friend. He taught me everything I needed to know about the internet, and we drank vodka and shared stories in our down time.

I met a fearless body boarder named Iker Ochoa whom I watched air-drop into triple overhead Puerto barrels on a boogie board. One time he hit so hard that the board flew out from under him, his leash snapped, and we had to retrieve him from the ripping long shore current, because it knocked the wind out of him and broke his ribs. Iker was super cool and turned me on to John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. We used to cruise around in his car looking for waves, and listening to the blues.

I also met a crazed dog named Lazaro Mendoza, who would take long board wipeouts at ten foot plus Puerto Escondido just to have it on film. This guy was rad. His father was a Rear-Admiral in the Mexican Navy and used to have the whole port of Puerto Escondido blocked off by a Navy ship so boats couldn’t come in and interfere with the surf! He just made a phone call and his dad saw that it was done. Lazaro was the epitome of “da kine”. He took me anywhere I wanted to go… Zicatela, La Punta, Carisalillo, Barra de la Cruz (La Jolla), all the spots in Oaxaca, that were going off at the time. Since his dad was in the Navy, we never had to deal with la policia or federales. We simply jumped into his Black Jeep Grand Cherokee with Full window tint all the way around, and drove any place we wanted without hassle. He trusted me too. He once loaned me a brand new Al Merrick pintail gun with red tint. I took it to some uncharted sand bars south of La Punta in a complete stranger’s Land Cruiser that he towed behind a bus all the way from Washington. We hit some surf that scared the living crap of me. I had never gone so fast or duck-dove such heavy surf in all my life. Luckily, I came back with the stick in one piece, and Lazaro let me take it out with him at La Punta. Basically, I took any board I wanted and it was cool with Lazaro and the boys. That was another luxury I didn’t realize until after I moved back to Michigan.

The rest of our crew included David Dixon from Florida; more guys from Veracruz -- David Noboa / Novoa, Jesse “Jesus” Lopez, Ruffo Navaro, Guillermo, Memo, Alex; Mr. Puerto Escondido himself, Angel Salinas and his wonderful family, Local Puerto ripper “Roger”; and the list goes on.

I spent the week days teaching English and surfing the local spots. On the weekends I would find my way to Oaxaca so I could spend time in Puerto Escondido. This was before they had an airport that led to Puerto, and this was also before Barra de la Cruz / La Jolla was even public knowledge. To us it was like having perfect Rincon all to ourselves, with nobody else out except friends to share waves with and hoot on when someone would get a good ride.

Usually, we would purchase a bus ticket to Mexico City, sleep through the night on the bus to Huatulco, and take a cab from Huatulco to Puerto Escondido. We would tour the town, surf the best waves of our lives, and really enjoy ourselves. Other times, we would hook up with the VSA and load everything up in a red pickup truck, David’s white VW bug, Iker’s car, and along with the others, we would car pool to Puerto. This was a lot faster than the 8 hour bus ride, and much safer around the treacherous cliffs worn away by mud slides and washouts from all the rain. We got stuck on quite a few different occasions with nowhere to go because entire roads would get washed away, and we would have to wait until someone trucked in fill-dirt and a road grater to make a new path or road for us to travel on. A couple of times we were stuck on the Puerto side and it worked out to our advantage. Basically, we got to stay a couple of extra days, turned them into long weekends, and I got a little vacation from teaching ESL at Harmon Hall Las Americas.

Shortly after reading Dave Parmenter’s “Polarity” article in “Coyote Lines,” Surfer, vol. 41, no. 1, while lying in bed in my Costa Verde condo, I realized that Lake Surfing had finally been publicized world-wide in a national magazine. As I read along in disbelief, the article literally sent a rush of adrenaline through me. Lake Michigan finally made a two-pager in the magazine I’ve been faithfully reading since I was 12 years old, back in 1986. This was a milestone for me in my surfing history. My own surfing heritage was finally gaining some recognition – even though most of the press about Lake Surfing was negative and mostly publicized to make fun of us. I didn’t care. This time it was for real, and I knew it was just the tip of the ice-shelf for the whole lake crew.

One day, at the local internet café near my condo, I googled “surfing on Lake Michigan”. It took me to the GLSA website, with a new President by the name of Rick Boss. The website also featured a link to the “Lake Surf Forum” administered by Craig Kemnitz, or “CK” as they called him, and Robert “Doc” Beaton.

I signed up for a username and password on the Lake Surf Forum, and logged on under the moniker “Wave Wolf”. I was looking for some people to surf with because I knew I would be moving back to Michigan soon to accept a teaching job at Cassopolis Ross Beatty Junior / Senior High School. So I posted a question to find out if there were any other lake surfers who lived near my father in Cassopolis, MI. One kid replied to my post. His name was Drew Marquis.

I read and posted on the Lake Surf Forum for about two months before I flew home. By that time, I was pretty dialed into the whole lake scene and what it had become over the years. I met quite a few good guys and made some lasting friendships because of that forum. Years down the road, CK ended up canceling the forum for his own reasons and that marked the end of a pretty cool era of communication amongst the lake surfing community. It really was a cool thing, because it brought together a culture of people who would probably never have met without it.

The same week that I arrived home, Drew Marquis showed up on my father’s door step where I was staying, and I finally got to meet the face behind the lake surf posts. When I got home from Mexico, I opened my board bag and discovered a nice puncture hole in the bottom of my Pacific Rim as well as a broken fin.

Drew and I used to surf the frigid 33 degree water during some of the harshest winters imaginable. It was not uncommon to have ice forms on my eyebrows, coming out of my nostrils, and hanging from the visor of the hooded O’Neill Zen Zip 5/4/3 I bought at Chapter 11 Sports in Grand Haven. We surf together all the time. He had this box that me made which hung out the back of his truck and it was basically a giant surfboard container which could hold a board over 10’ and all his gear. We would take his truck or my 1988 Toyota SR5 pickup, which I had also converted into the ultimate surf vehicle.

Drew was there when I did the repair jobs and I believe that is when he developed his obsession with polyester resin. He had a huge 10’ plus long board that he ordered from somewhere on the east coast. He damaged the board beyond repair and ended up giving it to me so I could reshape the blank. This became a regular thing for us, and we took on quite a few ding repair jobs from guys around the lake, including a long board repair for Carla Olsen, a classic Bing pintail repair, and a C.C. Ryder delam job for my buddies Chuck and Terry over at the South End Surf Club.

Somehow, I acquired a 6’9” Clubber short board, stripped the glass off and reshaped it into a nice rounded pintail with flames airbrushed by Phil Rassi who also made some bitchin’ custom fly rods. That was about the time I reshaped the Bing Glass Slipper which ended up with a beautiful shark attack themed paint job by Ryan Sergeant (Jason’s older brother). Both Ryan and Jason Sergeant were extremely talented artists. Even though I consider myself an artist, I could never place myself on the same level as those two. They blew me away with their talents.

Through the forum, my board collection began to grow. I ended up acquiring eleven boards during the time I taught high school in Michigan and surfed the lake after my return from Mexico. I bought a 6’ David Nuuhiwa Dyno single-fin pintail with with triple resin-paper stringers, a thalo-blue bottom and rails blending into a mint-green deck with white pin lines. It was beautiful and only cost me $25. I eventually had Drew restore it, rode it for years in epic California surf, and sold it to a collector for $650. I also bought a 7’9” Channin / Diffenderfer hulled single-fin with a clear deck, white and blue pin lines, canary yellow rails, a canary yellow bottom, and a blue board bag for $150 from my good buddy Erik Holt. I had Drew restore that one too, rode it for years in epic California surf and sold it to a collector for $900. I caught some amazing and memorable waves on those boards when I moved to California.

Ryan Gerard (whom I mentioned above) began surfing in 1998, moved to Santa Cruz and learned to Shape and Glass boards at the Pearson Arrow factory by Bob Pearson and Will Jobson. He moved back to the lake in 2000 to finish college and built a board in my dad’s garage around that time. He eventually started up his own board building business (www.shapesbyryan.com) by building a shack with his dad, and made quite a few beautiful boards with his own creative concepts of board design mixed with templates from the Arrow factory, George Greenough, Dale Solomonson, Tom Morrey, Lance Carson, Brewer, Weber, Con, and countless others. Luckily, he revived the Lake Surf forum on the website for his New Buffalo surf shop, Third Coast. This brought all the lakers back in contact with each other. His website can be reached at www.thirdcoastsurfshop.com as well as the new forum. Ryan was kind enough to let me fly out to his surf shop and trace out every last one of his templates. Basically, I ended up with an entire history of surfboard outlines that took up an entire roll of Home Depot Heavy Brown Paper. I had to carry it on to the plane to get the templates home safely.

Drew Marquis, Ryan Gerard, and I eventually busted out the Clark Foam catalog and began a stint of making a few boards out of my dad’s garage. I helped drew shape his first board and he glassed it. It was a short board that he tinted blue and it worked pretty well. I think someone eventually bought it from him when he moved to Santa Cruz to live with Ryan and to work at the Arrow factory. We had resin all over the floor of my dad’s garage and he eventually made us scrape up every last catalyzed drop of tinted resin before it was all over.

I met Carla Olsen through the forum, and she used to come over to the garage shop to dabble in the process of board building. Carla and Drew and I went to a GLSA party in Holland, MI, and I met quite a few people who became good friends over the years. I bought the Diffenderfer from Erik the morning after the party.

Erik Holt and Rick Boss lived together in a sweet house in Holland, Michigan. It was the Headquarters for the Great Lakes Surfing Association (established in Grand Haven, MI back in 1966). They threw some great parties and surf gatherings. I really miss those guys. We had some great fun during those times.

Rick was a nice Christian guy, who was trying to clean all of the negative influences out of his life to pursue his path. Later on after I became a born again Christian myself out here in California, I realized why he was the way he was, and just why he was introduced into my life.

Erik and I had a lot in common. We had the same sense of humor. We both loved collecting boards. And we both liked to do ding repair. He was known on the Lakes as the Surfboard Surgeon. He was talented with resin, and had a knack for watercraft. Erik and I surfed a lot together.

I remember one day when South Haven was ten foot. It rained, hailed, sleeted, and snowed all in the same surf session, no lie. It was uncanny. It was Erik Holt, Rick Boss, Johnny Fox (another amazing artist), and me. We would use the rip next to the pier to take us out into the lineup, catch the big mush-bombs, and ride them all the way to the beach. It was like a conveyer belt. We’d get out of water at the sand, walk back to the pier, while desperately trying to keep the gale force winds from blowing our boards out of our hands, and we’d have another go at the ten footers.

Erik had a beautiful cottage on Lake Michigan where he kept most of his board collection, and unfortunately, he lost it all in a fire. He was a gifted sailor as well. He had an exact scaled down replica of the America’s Cup Stars and Stripes. It was called mini-America. The first time he let me sail it, I never even made it out of the harbor dock area with out running it straight into the US Coast Guard dock, destroying the hull, the rigging, and mast. Erik was a good sport about it and to this day, I am surprised that the incident didn’t damage our friendship.

Through Erik Holt, I became friends with Mark Hoeksema, Jim Hoop, CK, Roger Copenger, Terry, Chuck Ross, and Doc Beaton through Rick Boss and Erik. Holt. Mark is an amazing photographer, Jim and Roger are excellent surfers and run the South End over in Whiting at a place called Shooters. Terry and Chuck are good surfers and good friends to have.

I spent most of my time surfing St. Joe, Michigan, New Buffalo, Grand Haven, South Haven, Marquette, Billy Beach, Whiting, and took the occasional trip to Zion, IL or Sheboygan, WI. The people I surfed with along the way remain dear friends whom I hold close to my heart. I will never forget those days.

Surfing the Lake became a thing of camaraderie for all of us on the lake. Unlike California, lake surfers could paddle out somewhere that was empty and clean, and could wish they had someone else to share the stoke with. Out here in California I’ve learned over the past seven years that everyone is agro. The lineup is peppered with surfers up and down the coast, and everyone is in each others’ way ready to scrap in the parking lot because people don’t pay attention to etiquette. On the Lake, we would always finish a session and go have a couple beers over dinner with whomever was involved to talk about the session and share in each others’ stoke. To me, that is what surfing is about – the positive camaraderie, not the aggression and negative attitudes exhibited by most of the people I encounter out in the water. Somewhere between the Duke and the modern era, all of that was lost.

In 2001, I took a trip to San Diego with Erik Holt over Spring Break. When I arrived in San Diego, I was blown away. Greg picked us up from the airport, and seeing that his apartment was going to be cramped with both Erik and I staying there, I decided to stay at my fraternity brother, Tony’s house. I stayed with Tony Cruz, Jim Thomas, and Dan Costello’s house in Bay Park and Erik stayed at Greg Gemmen’s house down in PB. We caught some fun waves in Pacific Beach and also at the Carlsbad State Beach campgrounds. It was on this trip that I became deathly ill from a viral sinus infection when I surfed out in front of a storm drain in PB right after it rained. I was so sick when I woke up the next morning that I couldn’t breath. Going on a tip from Erik, I called Donna Frye to ask her what to do because Erik said that Skip came down with a nasty viral sinus infection from surfing in PB. It was right around the time she was running for City Council, and asked me to come down and help her with her campaign. We had to fly out that same day, so I didn’t get to help, but I kept the connection because I knew that San Diego would be the next place I called home.

When I arrived back home, I thanked my dad for letting me stay at his place and told him I was going to move to San Diego. School let out for summer, and I spent the rest of the month giving away my belongings, and eventually packed what I could into a 24 foot Ryder truck, and pulled out of my father’s driveway in Cassopolis, MI with my Toyota Truck in tow on its own trailer. My cousin Anne Vogler was on a break from college and decided to go along with me for company. I drove all 2,500 on that trip and pulled an 18 hour shift on one of the days. My Ryder truck overheated 5 times going over the Laguna Mountains, and once I made the long stretch on HWY 8 into San Diego, I knew I was home free!

I pulled up to Tony, Jim, and Dan’s, stayed with them for about a month, Dan moved into a place with his fiancé, and I moved into his old room on Fairfield Street in Bay Park.



I've been designing and shaping boards ever since.


There's more to this story... lake surfing, ErikHolt, the GLSA, DREW MARQUIS, Jim Hoop, The South End Surf Club, Mexico… Veracruz, Puerto Escondido, the Lake surf Book, Van Starling, Skip Frye, Vince Deuer… buying a camera… filming surf sessions out front on Ocean Street… gigging with Rheanna Downey, meeting Jesse Billhour… Gerlach's influence…Steven Barilotti at Jeremy’s house... Chuck… Basically from 1999 – present… I will mention all the people involved, friendships, my book of poetry... etc... SO STAY TUNED FOLKS!!!!!!!

Earlier this year, I was inducted into the National Surfing and Wrestling Hall of Fame.

National Surfing/Wrestling
"Iron Man"
Hall-of-Fame
Many similarities exist between wrestling and surfing: strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, individuality, and self determination. Established in 1998, this "Ironman" Hall-of-Fame recognizes those athletes who have excelled through either competition, coaching, manufacturing or other contributions to both sports. Those nominated must have made a significant contribution or achieved a high level of excellence in at least one sport.

NAME SURFING What/Where WRESTLING What/Where
Frank Addleman Dewey Webber Surfboards/Jack Haley Surfbaords Redondo Beach/Seal Beach JCAA/Pacific Coast Championships 2nd/NCAA Qual El Camino College/LB State/Coac - Santa Anna College
Bob Anderson World Games 2nd/National Place Finisher Southern California/Maui National Champion/Olympic Trials Champion/Coach
Chuck Barfoot Surf Team Member/Surfboard Designer Greg Noll Surf Team, Koseff's Surf Shop, Beach Heaven, NJ High School Champion Southern Regional HS, Manahawkin, NJ
Raul Duarte Surfing Coach Golden West College, Huntington Beach, CA Coach/Wrestler Cal. State. Univ. Long Beach
Sam Dusatko Pro-Surfer/Manufacturer/Judge/Surfing Coach Santa Fe HS, CA, Sunset Beach, CA Coach/Wrestler Norwalk HS/Cerritos College, CA
Dave Falkenau Surf Coach/Shop Owner/Shaper Army-Navy Academy HS, Carlesbad, CA Coach/Wrestler Mishawaka HB, IN, Ball State Univ, IN
Bruce Gabrielson AAA Ranking/WSA Director/ National Place Finisher/Manufacturer/Coach HBSA President, Wave Trek Surf Team, Huntington Beach, CA Coach/National Place Finisher/AAU GR & FS Grand Nat Champ Southern Maryland WC/Cal. State Univ. Long Beach
John Geyer Big Wave Pioneer/Pro Windsurfer/AAA Ranking Surfboards Hawaii Surf Team Newport Beach, CA/ SOS Surf, Western AU National Place Finisher/HI AAU State Champ/AU Champ Cal. State Univ. Long Beach/US Army Wrestling Team
Sam Hammer Professional Shortboarder Dan Taylor Surfboards Surf Team, Lavallette, NJ State Qualifier Point Pleasant Beach HS
Dru Harrison National Champion Bing & Petrillo Surf Team, Hermosa Beach, CA State Qualifier Mira Costa HS
Jimmy Hogan World Champion Longboarder San Clemente, CA Varsity Starter San Clemente HS
Roger Holden Competitor/ Pioneer Designer/ Surfboard Manufacturer Island East Surfboards by Holden Manahawkin, NJ NJ State Placewinner, Coach/Level I Official Wildcat WC/ Southern Regional HS in NJ
Cy Lucas Manufacturer/Club President Seabright Surf Shop/Big Stick Surf Club, Santa Cruz, CA Coach/National Placefinisher San Jose State University/San Francisco Olympic Club
Jim Lucas Surfrider Foundation Director Team Captain, Da Bull/Greg Noll Surf Team/ Big Stick Surf Club, Santa Cruz, CA Coach/National Placefinisher Olympic WC/San Jose State University
Terry McCann Surfrider Foundation National Chairman Olympic Gold Medalist University of Iowa
Pat McGrath Surfboard Shaper/Manufacturer Island East Surfboards, Manahawkin, NJ New Jersey HS State Champion/USAW All-American Wildcat WC/Columbia University
Adam Ngelozzi Beach Patrol/Waterman Long Beach Island, NY Wrestling Coach/2x Division III National Qualifier Barnegat High School, NJ
Dan O'Cone Beach Patrol/Waterman/Surf Coach Jenkinson's Beach, NJ Wrestling Coach/3x Division III All-American/Coach Lavalette HS, NJ
Pat O'Hare Shaper, Shop Owner Cocoa Beach, FL CIF Wrestling Champion Mira Costa HS, CA
Edwin Rooney Surfing Pioneer/Lifeguard Jones Beach, NY NCAA All-American/National AAU Runner-up Syracuse University
Shannon Sofield Surf Team Member Wave Riding Vehicles
New Jersey NCAA Conference Runner-up, Varsity Coach Princeton University, 2x State GR Champion Princeton University
Dewey Weber Surfboard Manufacturer/Surfing Walk-of-Fame Pioneer Dewey Weber Surfboards, Hermosa Beach, CA 3x California State Champion Mira Costa HS

This Hall-of-Fame not only recognizes several outstanding dual sport contributors, but is also intended to raise community awareness of just how close surfing and wrestling really are.

Now that female wrestling is on the rise, we expect to have a nomination from this gender in the near future. Nominations to this list can be made at any time.

Send email with nominations, comments or questions. Nominations will be acted on by all available members of the current list solely on merits.

"Both sports require so much individual commitment. They require one to expose all their soul to all who watch. Wins and defeat are experinced alone in the public eye. Both require a certain pain tolerance and will to not give-up, whether looking at the lights while fighting off your back or paddling back out against a huge set. Keep up the good work." -- Jim Zimny

Note: this site featured in Swell.com on April 21, 2001

Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame

East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame and Museum

Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame and Cybermuseum

National Wrestling Hall-of-Fame

Everything on this page is secured and protected by U.S., Canadian, and International laws.
COPYRIGHT © 1983-2007 by David Vernon Falkenau

REGISTERED ® 1983-2007 by David Vernon Falkenau

TRADEMARKED ™ 1983-2007 by David Vernon Falkenau

SERVICE MARKED ℠ 1983-2007 by David Vernon Falkenau
Falkenau Surfboards Resin Swirl
Falkenau Surfboards Black & White
Dave at Borders, laying it down, Michgan-Style out in Encinitas, CA.
Rinna & Falkenau...
....Sioux-Iroquois Warrior... Fearless Red.....
 

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How a Lake Michigan Surfcraft...
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9/12/2008


Here's the story behind how I got my start shaping surfboards... Artisan Surf Designs Bio Section: David Vernon Falkenau Born: February 4th, 1974... [read more]
 
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